Serious benchrest choices

Some shooters prefer a bipod , but these ones are super heavy-duty

Andy McLachlan gets serious about taking a rest, as his drive to become a master of the bench shifts up a gear

Having finally started my ‘serious’ benchrest shooting campaign, I thought it might be interesting to look at a couple of the rests that some of the experienced shooters at my club use for competition purposes.

Why do we need an expensive item of additional equipment that can and often does cost more than a decent PCP target rifle? Well it’s all to do with just how steady the gun is when the trigger is released.

The same can, of course, be said for anybody wishing to achieve an accurate shot in any shooting situation, either in an outdoor competition or in the field when hunting.

Many of us who have hunted with air rifles will have appreciated just how much our accuracy can be improved when using accessories such as a bipod.

Attached to our stocks usually via a quick-release stud, these items tuck nicely away under our rifle’s forend prior to deployment, when the legs are then folded out, and we are able to usually lay prone with our guns being supported, allowing steady-as-a-rock-type accuracy, which can often increase our killing range if used sensibly.

Those of us that have used the great assistance to downrange accuracy provided by a half-decent bipod will certainly understand why having the rifle so well supported is such a massive aid to improved levels of accuracy at the target.

The bipod rests that I use also have a swivelling facility which allows the gun to be set squarely, thus reducing cant (the gun and crosshairs not being at ninety degrees) and wayward shots, even if you happen to be laid out on a sloping field margin, for example.

Not that we will be laying on the deck in camouflaged clothing at a strange angle inside a nicely heated and well-lit indoor shooting range of course! We are far more likely to be perched upon a bench with our guns supported either by our leading hands, or more usually some type of sandbag-type arrangement, which allows us to steady our aim and produce accuracy that will do our shooting combinations proud.

As I mentioned in another recent article though, serious benchrest shooters take the proper support of the shooting combination far, far more seriously than this.

Unlike me, who is currently using the primitive front sandbag and hand-supporting-the-butt method for my current benchrest shooting campaign, very often the committed benchrest shooter will elect to use a type of mega-adjustable rest that allows minuscule vertical and horizontal adjustments of the rifle’s position to assist them to get the best possible accuracy from their guns.

The Cicognani rest is an example of superb engineering and offers equally superb support, but of course this comes at a cost

The rests used by the serious benchrest community all resemble engineering works of art, and to a simple soul like me, certainly look complicated to use.

In some cases, the forend of the rifle is clamped into position on the rest, with the butt supported by a leather-clad (and expensive!) sandbag at the rear. Minor compression of the rear bag can be used for any fine adjustments of the aiming point.

What these sometimes-complicated rests do provide is an absolutely steady platform, allowing the gun to be carefully manoeuvred into position with the crosshairs resting upon that tiny 2mm bull at 25 yards. All that then remains is for the shooter to carefully let off the finely tuned trigger, for a hopefully perfect 10 X score whereby the pellet obliterates the dead centre of the bull.

So, what of the examples of benchrest engineering we see in the attached photograph? My friend and benchrest shooting mentor Jimmy O’Neil kindly took these photographs, and provided me with a brief explanation regarding the manufacturer and approximate costs.

The first example, the Varide Cicognani, costs approximately 900 euros, and was designed and manufactured in Italy. Cicognani was a champion long-range firearm shot and well-known coach in his native country, and has manufactured and repaired specialist guns for this discipline.

The benchrest equipment is manufactured by a company that builds accessories for a ‘famous Formula One brand’. It certainly looks well-engineered to me!

Another example of a high-quality rest is the type made by Sebastian (Seb) Lambang, and is manufactured in Indonesia. This is the Mini model, and has been designed to support up to 150lb of weight. No problem with a scoped-up .177 air rifle in a heavy benchrest stock then!

The unit weighs in at approximately 12lb, and uses a ‘joystick’ to allow the shooter to position the firing plane of the gun. The quality of the engineering on this item must be seen to be fully appreciated. Amazing. I am advised that the cost of one of these comes in at around the £750 mark.

As I am not a fully paid-up member of the benchrest shooting community and have never used examples of such finely engineered and clearly effective equipment, I am not qualified to comment on how well these items work.

What I can say though is that the shooters who use this specialist equipment are all good shots who would not use anything that might end up reducing their individual ability to score well on an indoor 25-yard benchrest card.

So as we can see, there is a lot of difference in cost between the price of a half-decent bipod and a good quality benchrest unit. Not that we would wish to be lumping around 10 to 12 pounds of aluminium for a bit of rabbit shooting, but if the shooter is considering the serious world of indoor benchrest shooting with an air rifle, this is the type of equipment used by many, and obviously represents a significant financial investment.

Andy’s RAW HM1000 equipped with a bipod – a ‘pod is great for field use, but doesn’t offer the fidelity needed for truly accurate benchrest shooting

Personally, I am still in the ‘front bean bag only’ camp with my own benchrest shooting. This represents the minimum financial outlay for gaining additional front-of-gun support.

It most certainly does not represent how best to ‘lock’ a gun into its optimum firing position though, and for many of us, the purchase of such serious and expensive equipment that is neither a gun nor scope means either a lottery win, or a very serious need to maximise accuracy, combined with an understanding partner regarding available amounts of disposable income. Just how important are those extra few points?

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