Master benchrest rifle shooting—video!

Hey sharpshooters, here’s a “how to” video on benchrest rifle shooting—mastering the precision rifle, close up!

I took this two-minute video at a registered NBRSA (National Benchrest Shooters Association) match at the Fairchance rifle range in Pennsylvania

—of me shooting a 0.373” group at 200 yards

—that’s under two-tenths inch Minute of Angle.

Watch the video—now that’s how it’s done!

Seven shooting tips from the video

Here are seven shooting tips to watch for in this video.  Practice these tricks to improve your precision benchrest rifle skills:

  1. Line up the rifle so the front rest is in line with the stock—the gun should return to battery in a straight line, easily and consistently.  I hold my aiming point on the record portion of the target for speed, but some shooters steer down to the sighting target between shots.
  2. Get behind the gun so the rifle recoils into your shoulder.  If you’re not squarely behind the gun, you’ll push the stock and bag sideways with each shot.
  3. Position you head so you have a clear sight picture without being too close to the scope.  Move your seating height if you’re leaning too far over the gun, which can lead to a nasty “half-moon” gash in the forehead.
  4. Keep your head down behind the rifle while you’re shooting.  I need to look up periodically due to poor vision in my left eye, but when I start to shoot my head and body remain consistently behind the gun.
  5. Properly sized brass loads and ejects smoothly; in the video you can see me opening the bolt with my index finger.  If your bolt is hard closing and opening, the rifle will cant in the rest.  It’s hard to rise to the top of your game while wrestling with the gun.  A hard opening bolt is also a sign of excessive pressure—stop shooting and reduce your load immediately.
  6. You don’t need to shoot quickly to win benchrest rifle matches.  Smooth is fast.  When you see a condition that will hold for several seconds, get your shots downrange without dawdling or second-guessing yourself and you’ll shoot smaller aggregates.
  7. Continuing with the safety theme, ensure you wear hearing and eye protection.  I know, in this video it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do”, but seriously, if a piece of brass separates you could find your face in the line of hot gases and debris.  I’ll make a point of wearing eye protection in future videos to demonstrate safety.

Five precision benchrest rifle shots on record

Here’s the target I shot during the video, which snagged me fourth place in the match (out of 89 competitors).

Benchrest rifle target shot in a calm tail wind - 0.373" 5-shot group at 200 yards
0.373″ 5-shot group at 200 yards, 6ppc, 67 grain boat-tail

My About Us page mentions that George and I have limited resources and time, and often go to shoots anticipating the need to troubleshoot equipment on the fly.

This was our first match of the season and it was no exception.  But we went with the expectation to blow out the cobwebs before the Super Shoot.

I finished 17th in that yardage, and a respectable 29th in the 2-gun (both Light and Heavy Varmint classes).

Not a bad start for the 2016 season!

Shooting in the wind

Benchrest rifle target shot in a three o'clock wind - 0.509" 5-shot group at 200 yards
0.509″, 200 yd

The wind challenged everyone over the week-end of short-range benchrest shooting.  Bullets were pushing out one full Minute of Angle (MOA), which is two inches at 200 yards.

In the target on the right, I was aiming at the bottom of the middle ring, or at six o’clock on the mothball.  In the three o’clock full condition blow, the bullets were landing on the far left edge of the record.

You can still shoot a good target in the wind!  This one measured 0.509″, about a quarter inch MOA.

Some shooters were making windage adjustments while others, like me, chose to take the chance that the wind would quieten during the seven-minute match (where you could ‘run’ five shots in a calm condition—which is what I did in the video).

Or worse, the wind could reverse completely, which happened periodically during the two days of shooting.  This could leave you sighted on the wrong edge of the target.

Benchrest rifle target shot in a nine o'clock wind - 0.545" 5-shot group at 200 yards
0.545″, 200 yd

After a cold front blew through that’s exactly what happened, in the last two matches of the day.  I didn’t change my aiming point, and you can see the shift in the point of impact on the target.

Notice how the point of impact is angled down and to the right in the nine o’clock blow, but slightly up and to the left in the three o’clock condition.

I give a brief overview of this in my blog post on reading the wind.


Almost four inches of bullet travel at 200 yards—that’s tough sledding to pull off the < 0.2” aggregate needed to win!

Precision benchrest rifle shooters are serious competitors!

Did I mention this was a qualifier for both the U.S. and Canadian World Benchrest Teams?

Sure, it wasn’t the only qualifier—you could shoot poorly, or skip it altogether and make up the points at another competition—but there are limited opportunities to qualify in the season before the Worlds, held every odd year.

So the stakes were high, as usual, for the highly-competitive benchrest crowd.

Sharpshooters stay tuned!

The full results of the Fairchance benchrest shoot will be posted on this website shortly.

Stay tuned for more, the Super Shoot is fast approaching!

P.S. If you have a second, I’d love you to leave me a comment, and share this article with your followers! (It’s just below).

Vera Carter with her benchrest rifle at a competition.