How to Shoot Your Best from a Benchrest

How to Shoot Your Best from a Benchrest
Photo by Alfredo Rico

You're only as good as your weakest link; heed these to tips to make sure your shooting skills don't hinder your rifle's accuracy potential

How will you know if your rifle is capable of shooting 0.75-inch groups if you can't shoot with that level of precision? Proper benchrest shooting is a necessary evil for testing a rifle's accuracy with various loads and for zeroing scopes.

There's one thing to remember when shooting from the bench that transcends each category that we'll discuss: consistency. The rifle must held the same way, in the same wind, with the same recoil impulse for every shot. A few key elements will help us achieve the consistency we desire.  Let's explore some techniques and products that will help boost your benchrest shooting skills.


Solid Base

It should go without saying that to perform from the bench, the bench itself must be steady and sturdy. It doesn't matter who you are, you're not going to shoot tight groups from a platform that isn't rock solid: this is the reason we're shooting from the bench in the first place.

I recently built my own shooting bench constructed entirely of steel-reinforced poured concrete. Steady benches can be made of wood as well, but they don't last very long in the heat and humidity of the South. A bench carved from solid granite isn't worth a darn if you're sitting on a wobbly stool. A simple wood or metal stool is fine, so long as it doesn't flex or move as you shift your weight.

Once you have a bench that isn't blowing in the wind, it's time to rest your rifle on something solid. A pile of sandbags will do fine if you're on a budget, but they aren't ideal if you're going to be doing this type of shooting with any regularity. I'm personally not a fan of cradles or rests that hold the entire rifle. They do not allow the rifle to recoil freely, they can also affect point of impact or cause stocks to split. If you're so scared of a rifle that you need a device to hold it when you shoot, you need a different rifle.

A steady and adjustable front rest paired with a rear bag is pretty much-settled law when it comes to the best equipment for this job. The closer we can emulate the equipment used by professional benchrest shooters, the better our results will be.

Brownells sells a variety of quality rests; I use a Wichita rest and a friend shoots tiny groups with the Caldwell Rock. Find something that works for your needs and budget—the heavier the better.

Call the Wind

A full-value 5-mph wind will drift an average centerfire rifle bullet 0.5 inches at 100 yards. If you're not accounting for wind, group size can easily double even if you're doing everything else correctly. Competitors win and lose benchrest matches based on their ability to dope wind effectively.

Shooting early in the morning when winds are usually calm can help mitigate wind, but this isn't always practical. The only way to know what the wind is doing at various distances is to employ some type of visual wind indicator. Wind flags are the best option as they tell the shooter both the speed and direction of the wind. Winds can vary during the bullet's travel downrange so wind flags are often positioned at numerous points on the range.

At a minimum, a foot-long section of orange flagging tape stapled to the bottom of the target gives the shooter a general indicator of wind conditions and is far better than nothing. The best part about this technique is that you can see the tape through the scope. Ensure that the tape is at the same position for each shot, and you're in business. Where appropriate and permitted, smoke can also be used to read the wind at various distances, as practiced in this episode of Guns & Ammo TV, on Sportsman Channel.

Recommended for You


.17-Caliber Reloading Data and History for 5 Cartridges

Layne Simpson - June 05, 2019

Some history and reloading recipes on five popular .17-caliber cartridges, including the .17...


Review: Savage Arms MSR 15 LR

David Fortier - May 17, 2019

The new MSR 15 Long Range in .224 Valkyrie reaches out with authority.


Review: Performance Center-Thompson/Center LRR

Alfredo Rico - April 09, 2019

Thompson/Center and S&W's Performance Center team up to build an entry-level long-range...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Steyr Arms Announces Sniper Rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor

Scott O'Brien from Steyr Arms sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to take a look at Steyr's new tactical heavy barrel sniper rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor.

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Browning's New X-Bolt Max Long Range Rifle

Rifle Shooter Digital Staff - April 11, 2019

Browning's new X-Bolt Max Long Range rifle is an accurate rifle tailored for long range...


Thompson/Center Arms Adds Stock Options to Rimfire Line

Rifle Shooter Digital Staff - April 16, 2019

Thompson/Center Arms rimfire rifles are available with Traditional Hardwood and Flat Dark...

Shooting Tips

How to Shoot Your Best from a Benchrest

Keith Wood - August 05, 2014

You're only as good as your weakest link; heed these to tips to make sure your shooting skills...

See More Stories

More Shooting Tips

Shooting Tips

Shooting Secrets from Top Cowboy Action Competitors

Rick Hacker - April 02, 2012

The best SASS shooters reveal their firearm, ammo and accessory preferences

Shooting Tips

Does Wind Move Bullets Vertically?

Wayne van Zwoll - May 26, 2011

If you shoot into a head-wind, does the bullet slow appreciably and thus strike lower on the...

Shooting Tips

Getting Started in F-Class Shooting

Joseph von Benedikt - August 16, 2016

F-Class shooting is a terrific 'and fun 'way to test your long-range skills.

See More Shooting Tips

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.