Extreme Benchrest 2021 – Roger Lait reports back on this year’s event

Roger Lait gets invited to Extreme Benchrest 2021 in Arizona, and with multiple disciplines to shoot, multiple decisions need to be made.

It’s not very often you get asked to go to the United States to shoot in a competition is it? And it’s not very often I can find someone mad enough to think that maybe I could do well! So when I got a phone call from Airguns of Arizona asking me if I would like to attend this year’s Extreme Benchrest competition, I nearly fell off my chair. What an honour to be asked by them.

“Wow! Of course,” I said. I jumped at the chance. I love America, especially Arizona, having been there a few times before. It’s such a cool place, plus, as I am sure you can imagine, the weather is rather nice there. As for EBR, from what I know the Battle Royale of the whole contest is the 100-yard benchrest event, pellets only. I believe there is a 25-yard comp as well, and from what I hear there is a slug comp too. These sound interesting, so let’s take them one at a time.

I think the slug competition could certainly be a massive amount of fun. I’ve been using slugs for a good while now, and kind of have my head around the ballistics. I think I could maybe do OK in that discipline. 

I don’t know exactly how far out the targets are, but I’m sure they will be a good way away. That shouldn’t be a problem as I’ve been shooting slugs out to decent distances for a while. Right, that’s slugs dealt with, now the 25-yard comp – or is it 25-metre? I’m not sure, but the real question is what calibre? Should I go .177, .22 or .25? Or maybe even .30 cal?

And what gun? I have used my beloved Rapid Air Weapons TM1000 for HFT for a good while and the gun is brilliant for sure. It’s .177 and the term “tackdriver” does not even come close. 

It’ll shoot a one-hole group at 50 yards all day using JSB shorts. The gun is a world-beater according to other competitors. They are absolutely brilliant at this discipline, but this is never going to be an easy win. So while the gun can do it, can I?

Imagine being asked to go to this competition and thinking “I can do this“ but then harsh reality kicks in. What gun or guns will I need? What will I practise with? How will I practise? 

So for the slug competition it’s got to be either a Safari .30 or Safari .25. For the 25-yard comp, the RAW TM1000’s the one I am swaying towards. Or am I? And I will need to find out exactly what distance the slug comp is being shot at. I guess I can practise for that easily enough, as shooting slugs is what I do most weekends. I reckon hitting gongs out to 250 yards or so would be about right. So that’s the slugs sorted then. I think the 25-yard comp would be easy enough to train for. I should practise shooting at targets out to 30 yards in a “train hard, shoot easy” type of way.

And now what about the big one? This is shot at 100 yards and here I am a little stuck. EBR has been won using .22, .25 and of course .30 calibres, so what on earth do I go for? Which calibre will be the best? Do I go for a light and fast calibre, or one that’s heavier and slower but might buck the wind better? I have been using the .25 lately and I must be honest, I am loving this calibre a lot.

This is what Roger’s up against – he calls it 100 Yards of Hell – and he knows full well this particular part of the contest will definitely not be easy

It’s fast and heavy, so it works on all levels. Is this the one to go with? It’s looking good so far, until I get my hands on a .30 again. I do like .30, but does it ever drop! Off the top of my head I think the JSB pellets are 44 to 50 grain or so. Now that’s heavy for an airgun. It’ll be a case of trial and error to see what’s what, but it’ll be great fun finding out.

So I now have an idea what I want to shoot (sort of) and I think I know what gun to use. The pellets will of course be JSB and the slugs will absolutely be from Wildman. What glass is the next question. 

I have been using Vortex scopes for a good while now and must say I am impressed with the lenses and features. My line-up at the moment includes the Diamondback Tactical 6-24×50, which is not mad money and does the job very, very well. The glass is certainly good, but is it good enough? Enter the Strike Eagle 5-25×56. Again, the glass is very good on this scope and has over-delivered for me big time. Again, it’s not that expensive and dials perfectly.

The last one is the Vortex Viper PST Gen 2 5-25×50. Now this glass is ridiculously good and crystal clear, make no mistake about that. I guess this is why lots of Precision Rifle Series shooters use them around the world. This scope is bulletproof and dials perfectly, so is exactly what I want. Or is it? Do I need higher magnification perhaps? If I am shooting 100 yards it has to be crystal clear and has to be reliable all the time.

Oh hang on, I’ve missed something out, as EBR also includes a Field Target event. I have never done FT with a high-powered airgun, so this will be an amazing opportunity. Will I need a scope to dial for that? 

I am not sure if the targets go out to 55 yards or further. I have heard it might be 100 yards, and that’s far enough if you ask me. So I need to choose a scope that works for benchrest and FT. There is a whole lot that goes into this competition prep you know. It’s not as simple as you think. 

I need to choose carefully and make the right decisions because this could be the difference between winning and losing. I don’t want to travel all that way to be an “also ran”. What else will I need? I’m sure I have forgotten something already at this early stage, but once I get out in the field I am sure something will crop up.

Roger has a 100-yard target up on his wall for motivation, but just take a look at the size of the X ring – he swears it’s actually getting smaller!

I have heard some horror stories about that 100-yard benchrest. The wind is savage and switches constantly. Yes, there are wind markers out to aid you, but once you pull the trigger and the pellet is gone there’s nothing you can do. I’m also told there are better places to be on the firing line than others. 

I hear that if you shoot from either end the wind is awful and your pellets fly everywhere, maybe not even hitting the target – and it’s a big target! I chatted to a buddy of mine a good while back about EBR. He has done very well and has won a good few comps out to 100 yards. He gave me a bunch of advice and I will be calling him again to find out everything he knows.

A famous YouTuber, Ted Biel from Ted’s Holdover, has won it too. He did say that he got a really good bench situated almost exactly where he wanted it. This, I am sure, helped no end. He rinsed the competition, putting it down to just being excellent at wind calls, something I am sadly lacking. 

Yes, it’s windy in the UK and that’s handy for practice, but will this help when I’m in Arizona? I guess it’s time to pick a gun, scope and pellet and get out there. I shall keep you posted on my progress. Wish me luck!

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