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Thread: Better rifle setup and SHOOTER setup for load development from a bench?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Posts
    18

    Better rifle setup and SHOOTER setup for load development from a bench?

    I am not, at least yet, a "benchrester", but I figure I should post here on a Benchrest site in order to get some guidance on proper form and proper use of equipment when specifically doing load development shooting from a bench.


    Currently, I am an experienced shooter, but mostly handgun, and very casual and short range rifle. I am trying to learn all the necessary aspects of F-Class shooting (600 to 1000 yards) and PRS shooting, and later, maybe some Benchrest. I'm finding there is a lot to learn.


    But my greatest challenge right now is that my rifle, and my test ammunition handloads so far, appear to both perform better than I do. I have never been coached on how to set up my rifle, my accessories, and the shooting bench position for my body to achieve consistent enough results.


    Yes, "sometimes" I can shoot 5-shot groups in the .25" or .30" size range, but I shoot at least half my groups larger than that (as bad as to 3/4" currently), and that's simply not consistent enough to PROPERLY evaluate one handload versus another,. It's also not necessarily "good enough", since I am load testing at 100 yards, where F-Class shooting is done at 600 to 1000 yards! In essence, I am a big uncontrolled variable in my load testing, and since the rifle, and even the initial test loads are apparently quite good, my shortfalls are masking the true differences in performance of the different handloads.


    This is despite my conscious focus on fundamentals such as scope setup, sight picture, natural point of aim, breathing, and trigger control. One specific issue is that I don't feel totally relaxed in my shooting position, although I am certainly more relaxed than I was a few weeks ago.


    I had an epiphany a few days ago at my last range session. I was shooting my typical mix of inconsistent group sizes, and suddenly realized that I was very subtly STRAINING to get my head high enough to get the cheek weld and scope sight picture needed. In examining why, I realized I was sitting on a different chair than at my last range session.


    For the first time, I actually thought about the chairs at our club range. They are all "donated" by members, and they are all mostly different. Some are padded, some not, some good condiiton and some not, and the heights and overall dimensions vary. I grabbed a piece of scrap carpeting typically used by club members on the wooden bench tops, folded it up, place dit on the chair, and adjusted the carpet height until I could get a good cheek weld and scope sight picture without straining.


    The next several groups I fired were instantly notably smaller than the earlier ones, and also notably more consistent (although still not great! ) So, I bought a strong, adjustable stool that I will bring to the range when doing load development, and find what height seems to work best for me, and then KEEP that height consistent.


    That made me wonder what OTHER body positioning mistakes I might be making. I've never been taught how exactly to sit when at a shooting bench, what is ideal sitting height for a 5'7" shooter, how far forward or rearward on the adjustable comb is optimal, should my head be level front to back (cannot be level side to side because runs into the comb before getting the right sight picture in the scope), should my back be upright or leaned into the rifle, how far right should I be into the t-shaped bench (I am righthanded), what scope magnification is appropriate for 100 yard and later 200 and 300 yards load development shooting off a bench, etc. etc.


    I have a great F-Class buddy who advises me on a lot of shooting aspects and handloading, but he does NOT do any benchrest shooting, so he can't guide me on this. I have been advised by a number of other shooters to simply go to Benchrest forum and ask questions.


    If there is anyone here who thinks they might be able to offer some guidance, I can post details of my rifle, my available accessories, my physical build, etc. I would like to be able to do things RIGHT before I practice with bad habits that could be hard to break later.


    Jim G

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    washington.........STATE that is.
    Posts
    11,403
    In my personal journey, after many frustrating years of wondering "is it ME?, or the EQUIPMENT? or the CONDITIONS??" I decided to begin eliminating variables....

    #1- "ME"- can't do much about changing the "ME" part.

    #2- "EQUIPMENT"- I bought a Benchrest rifle. An actual, factual BENCHREST rifle. A professionally set up 6PPC

    #3-"CONDITIONS"- I could never see conditions, I knew what mirage 'was' but ??? and I knew that wind "blew bullets around" but "how much??".......because of the BENCHREST rifle, I began to actually SEE conditions. This was startling.

    I immediately found that I can shoot a whole hang-of-a-lot better than I thought I could..... in fact, take "ME" out of the picture most of the time, or at least take my body out of the picture. The brain is a different story! The meat can hold a gun and poke a hole, but the decision-making process needed work, needs work, every day. But the mind-boggling revelation was, WITH A BR RIFLE, I COULD SEE CONDITIONS!!!! I now have many BR rifles. And I live where I can and do shoot whenever the whim strikes. And on any given day, when I need to sort stuff out I grab up a KNOWN BR Rifle with a KNOWN load (or at least starting load) and within minutes I KNOW what my expectations are for that particular day.

    And when I bring in a new shooter, or teach, or try "help" someone, the FIRST THING I DO is put them behind an accurate rifle, a Benchrest Rifle.


    SO......for me, having a true BR setup is not only important, it's imperative. I, personally know for an absolute fact that if I had to "keep only one rifle" it would be my HV 6PPC built by Jim Borden. I had to SELL OTHER GUNS to get it, but it definitively answered my nagging questions.

    I term this "establishing a baseline".

    I think you need a baseline.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Ca.
    Posts
    954
    I agree with all of the above that was posted and your comment about not wanting to develope bad habits. For myself being totally comfortable and being completely relaxed has been a big positive to my own competitive benchrest shooting. That and allot of practice time for me is very important as is learning to read and then being able to adjust to the various wind and mirage conditions. To the point of being 100% confident in shooting all of the various conditions that I see and also learning when not to squeeze the trigger. So I would also recommend that you use a very nice set of wind flags and I use four also when just shooting at 100yds.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Posts
    674
    you are mixing a lot of disciplines...STOP
    pick one and work on it PERIOD.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Posts
    18
    Thanks, guys! I appreciate the inputs.

    But rsmithsr: I hear you, when you say to not mix multiple disciplines at once, but the way I am see, mixing disciplines and skillsets seems unavoidable for multiple reasons.

    First, every one of the 3 types of shooting I have mentioned - F-Class, PRS, and Benchrest - requires multiple disciplines and skillsets in order to be successful, and many of the disciplines and skillsets required are common to all 3, with just different variants and emphasis for each of the 3. For example, they ALL require at least the following:

    - Good ammunition, which means that good handloading skills and recipes are needed. It is true that PRS requires less precision in the handloads than F-Class and Benchrest. But why would I want to learn and make habitual merely "acceptable" handloading processes and skills, when I know that the FIRST type of shooting I want to do is F-Class, which, along with Benchrest (which will come later) requires GREAT ammunition to be successful in it?

    - Identical or at least very similar "fundamental" shooting skills: proper body posture, proper rifle & scope setup, natural point of aim, proper sight picture, proper hold, proper trigger control, breath control, etc.

    - Good wind understanding and reading, and proper reaction to it

    - Good knowledge of ballistics, and how wind conditions and differences in range are to be properly compensated for

    - F-Class and Benchrest, despite their differences, also have a LOT in common. In fact, F-Class is often referred to as "Belly Benchrest". In fact, I can see already that these 2 sports have MANY of the same basic skillsets and habits.

    Now, it's true the 3 types of shooting also each require some DIFFERENT disciplines and skillsets. For examples:

    - The front rest is very different for each of the 3: Semi-portable rest or "advanced" bipod for F-Class (e.g. Rempel, SEB, or at least Sinclair), Harris or Atlas bipod and "bag" for PRS, and very elaborate and heavy front rest or "leadsled" for Benchrest

    - The "hold" also needs to be adapted to the differing needs for the 3, and even within each of the 3, there are proponents and critics for holds ranging from "free recoil" to "hard hold".

    - PRS requires good and quick range estimation and proper reaction to it, whereas in F-Class and Benchrest the range is known. But the range, whether known or unknown, has to be properly compensated for both ballistically and via wind management

    IF I was trying to become a "contender" competitor in any one of the 3 sports, I can see that a personal training program should ideally encompass only the knowledge and skillsets needed to succeed in that specific sport.

    But, I am not aspiring to be a "match winning champion" in even ONE of the sports, let alone 3. And for good reasons: My age, my eyesight, my need, and want, to have a family life outside of shooting, etc. But I DO want to (a) DO all 3, and (b) do well enough to enjoy myself, and (c) not need to stress about "winning" anything. i.e. I want to learn, and enjoy myself doing so, AND not spend a fortune on 3 specialized firearms that I will not ever be good enough to actually NEED.

    So, I intend to identify first the skillsets and consistent habits common to all 3, focus on those first, and then branch into the specific skillsets and habits of each of the 3 AFTER that. That way, I am building a solid foundation of fundamentals that I can then "layer onto" with more specific skills and habits.

    I hope that makes sense to you.

    Jim G

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Posts
    674
    not true
    the center of an f class target is SEVEN TIMES the area of the center of a br target(600 yard)
    big difference in ammo requirement.
    same story for each.
    trying to learn 3 at one time will not work out well. lots of money spent, little return

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    SE Nebraska
    Posts
    425
    Hello. Just my 2 cents worth...and you'll probably give me some change back.

    All the things mentioned are important pieces to the precision puzzle. It is obvious that you care, which is a huge part of the battle. Don't lose that. As long as you care, you'll figure out the answers to your questions. This will not answer your question directly, I simply want to make sure you are not missing any bigger pieces that have to come first before your questions can be answered. If this is "old news" to you - my apologies.

    1st penny: - In my opinion; no pieces are more important than being able to read the conditions. (no matter which discipline you pick) Not paying attention to conditions leads to a very frustrating cycle when it comes to changes in the area of .2" Many times, people spend incredible amounts of time trying to get that .2 (or smaller) out of their equipment yet give up .4 because they do not pay attention to the conditions. A mirage board and two or three wind flags will really help with your consistency.

    2nd penny: In your quest remember; precision is not always linear. Linear would be the times where you learn something and it won't get any better. (Your example) would be the height from the bench your stool should be. Again, once you got it - you got it. By the way, I use a rope with a sharpie line on it. Super easy to carry and fast to check.
    Many things, however, are not always linear. For example: You learn something called "A". "A" allows you to learn "B". Once you get good at "B" that allows you to do "A" even better. It is a cycle that probably never ends. A good example of this is condition reading. Once you get decent at reading conditions you will be able to "see" how the small changes in your set up affect your tune. The better your tune, the better you will be able to see the small changes in conditions. It is a positive snow ball effect.

    Again, if this is already common knowledge, my apologies. This website might be of interest to you. https://www.ctdshooting.com

    Stanley

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Posts
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by rsmithsr View Post
    not true
    the center of an f class target is SEVEN TIMES the area of the center of a br target(600 yard)
    big difference in ammo requirement.
    same story for each.
    trying to learn 3 at one time will not work out well. lots of money spent, little return
    At this point in my learning, I am NOT trying to learn "all about benchrest". I just want a few pointers right now about how to best set up my rifle and myself when shooting groups to test handloads. I'm asking because until I get some good pointers on those "ergonomic" issues, some of my human errors will be as big or bigger than any differences between 2 loads being compared. For example, if the group size difference between 2 loads is only 1/8", but my shooting technique makes errors larger than that, I will have trouble seeing the actual difference that the 2 different loads caused.

    I am also not spending any additional money in doing this focus on ergonomic factors right now. I have to test the handloads anyway. I am merely adding more time and effort to setting up both me and my rifle and its accessories. And the time and effort is not a burden; I ENJOY exploring how to make my shooting better.

    Jim G

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    washington.........STATE that is.
    Posts
    11,403
    Quote Originally Posted by JimGnitecki View Post
    Thanks, guys! I appreciate the inputs.

    But rsmithsr: I hear you, when you say to not mix multiple disciplines at once, but the way I am see, mixing disciplines and skillsets seems unavoidable for multiple reasons.

    First, every one of the 3 types of shooting I have mentioned - F-Class, PRS, and Benchrest - requires multiple disciplines and skillsets in order to be successful, and many of the disciplines and skillsets required are common to all 3, with just different variants and emphasis for each of the 3. For example, they ALL require at least the following:

    - Good ammunition, which means that good handloading skills and recipes are needed. It is true that PRS requires less precision in the handloads than F-Class and Benchrest. But why would I want to learn and make habitual merely "acceptable" handloading processes and skills, when I know that the FIRST type of shooting I want to do is F-Class, which, along with Benchrest (which will come later) requires GREAT ammunition to be successful in it?

    You're not getting my message.....You simply CANNOT recognize "good ammunition" nor "good handloading techniques" until you have in your hands a truly BR Grade rifle. This entire rationale of yours all looks good, rational, reasonable, well-reasoned........... It's not. Simply put, IT'S NOT. I spent 20yrs with non-BR rifles and just a few shooting sessions with REAL accuracy re-set my entire outlook.

    - Identical or at least very similar "fundamental" shooting skills: proper body posture, proper rifle & scope setup, natural point of aim, proper sight picture, proper hold, proper trigger control, breath control, etc.

    Again, simply cannot be established until you absolutely KNOW what real accuracy is.

    - Good wind understanding and reading, and proper reaction to it

    You cannot see the wind.....YOU CANNOT SEE THE WIND!!! ......... without a BR rifle. Then, and only then can you build your skillset to compensate.


    - Good knowledge of ballistics, and how wind conditions and differences in range are to be properly compensated for

    "Knowledge" isn't acquired this way. Until you're actually IN A RACE CAR, everything you can learn is immaterial. Richard Hammond, the only licensed racing driver on Top Gear UK once spent two days, and they recorded an episode where ALL HE HAD TO DO is drive an F1 Lotus around the track for two laps. He never got it done. I'm telling you that "ballistics" are completely meaningless without accuracy and that accuracy MUST be experienced for one to advance beyond attendee.

    - F-Class and Benchrest, despite their differences, also have a LOT in common. In fact, F-Class is often referred to as "Belly Benchrest". In fact, I can see already that these 2 sports have MANY of the same basic skillsets and habits.

    Now, it's true the 3 types of shooting also each require some DIFFERENT disciplines and skillsets. For examples:

    - The front rest is very different for each of the 3: Semi-portable rest or "advanced" bipod for F-Class (e.g. Rempel, SEB, or at least Sinclair), Harris or Atlas bipod and "bag" for PRS, and very elaborate and heavy front rest or "leadsled" for Benchrest

    - The "hold" also needs to be adapted to the differing needs for the 3, and even within each of the 3, there are proponents and critics for holds ranging from "free recoil" to "hard hold".

    - PRS requires good and quick range estimation and proper reaction to it, whereas in F-Class and Benchrest the range is known. But the range, whether known or unknown, has to be properly compensated for both ballistically and via wind management

    IF I was trying to become a "contender" competitor in any one of the 3 sports, I can see that a personal training program should ideally encompass only the knowledge and skillsets needed to succeed in that specific sport.

    But, I am not aspiring to be a "match winning champion" in even ONE of the sports, let alone 3. And for good reasons: My age, my eyesight, my need, and want, to have a family life outside of shooting, etc. But I DO want to (a) DO all 3, and (b) do well enough to enjoy myself, and (c) not need to stress about "winning" anything. i.e. I want to learn, and enjoy myself doing so, AND not spend a fortune on 3 specialized firearms that I will not ever be good enough to actually NEED.

    So, I intend to identify first the skillsets and consistent habits common to all 3, focus on those first, and then branch into the specific skillsets and habits of each of the 3 AFTER that. That way, I am building a solid foundation of fundamentals that I can then "layer onto" with more specific skills and habits.

    I hope that makes sense to you.

    Jim G
    Read replies in bold above..... and I could tell stories for hours about BR guys who've thrown together a rifle for the fun of it, or been goaded into it, or one where a guy is delivering a customers deer rifle and gets taunted into shooting "with the real men" in a POS or F-Class type match.


    AND..... even more hours worth of stories about shooters making claims on the innertube and being invited to a BR Match.

    It ain't perty....

    You wanna' learn how to shoot? Get a BR rifle.

    period.

    Sell it when you're done, part it out, trade it for your POS or F-Class gun of choice, but you will absolutely NEVER know accuracy without having fired an accurate rifle.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Posts
    41
    This is worth a read. I heard he is a pretty good bench shooter.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Posts
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo View Post
    Hello. Just my 2 cents worth...and you'll probably give me some change back.

    All the things mentioned are important pieces to the precision puzzle. It is obvious that you care, which is a huge part of the battle. Don't lose that. As long as you care, you'll figure out the answers to your questions. This will not answer your question directly, I simply want to make sure you are not missing any bigger pieces that have to come first before your questions can be answered. If this is "old news" to you - my apologies.

    1st penny: - In my opinion; no pieces are more important than being able to read the conditions. (no matter which discipline you pick) Not paying attention to conditions leads to a very frustrating cycle when it comes to changes in the area of .2" Many times, people spend incredible amounts of time trying to get that .2 (or smaller) out of their equipment yet give up .4 because they do not pay attention to the conditions. A mirage board and two or three wind flags will really help with your consistency.

    2nd penny: In your quest remember; precision is not always linear. Linear would be the times where you learn something and it won't get any better. (Your example) would be the height from the bench your stool should be. Again, once you got it - you got it. By the way, I use a rope with a sharpie line on it. Super easy to carry and fast to check.
    Many things, however, are not always linear. For example: You learn something called "A". "A" allows you to learn "B". Once you get good at "B" that allows you to do "A" even better. It is a cycle that probably never ends. A good example of this is condition reading. Once you get decent at reading conditions you will be able to "see" how the small changes in your set up affect your tune. The better your tune, the better you will be able to see the small changes in conditions. It is a positive snow ball effect.

    Again, if this is already common knowledge, my apologies. This website might be of interest to you. https://www.ctdshooting.com

    Stanley
    Thank-you, Stanley. I have been trying to learn about wind, have read and watched videos on it, and now have a Kestrel 2500 to check whether my guesses are correct. I have not yet run into Mirage at our range on Vancouver Island, but I'm sure that will change. I HAVE learned that you can use Mirage to help you confirm the direction of the wind.

    Jim G

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Posts
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by alinwa View Post
    Read replies in bold above..... and I could tell stories for hours about BR guys who've thrown together a rifle for the fun of it, or been goaded into it, or one where a guy is delivering a customers deer rifle and gets taunted into shooting "with the real men" in a POS or F-Class type match.


    AND..... even more hours worth of stories about shooters making claims on the innertube and being invited to a BR Match.

    It ain't perty....

    You wanna' learn how to shoot? Get a BR rifle.

    period.

    Sell it when you're done, part it out, trade it for your POS or F-Class gun of choice, but you will absolutely NEVER know accuracy without having fired an accurate rifle.
    Sigh. I doubt my wife would tolerate me buying ANOTHER rifle.

    And I don't want to shoot ONLY Benchrest. I just at this point in time want some pointers on good body and rifle ergonomic setup. That's all this thread was intended to get.

    Jim G

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Posts
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by 1911Nut View Post
    This is worth a read. I heard he is a pretty good bench shooter.
    Yes, everyone has told me it is excellent. Unfortunately, it is also unavailable at this time (I looked on Google very extensively a few days back), unless a guy wants to pay a specialty book collector shop $400 for a used copy. No kidding.

    It's also maybe a bit date by now, as it was published around 2008 or 2010.

    I also found a table of contents for it somewhere using Google, and there is only one VERY brief section on setting up your shooting environment. I don't think he really covered ergonomics.

    And yeah, "pretty good bench shooter" alright!! A long and highly distinguished career, and even his wife was darn good at it.

    Jim G

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    1,426

    Sugestions

    Thanks for your interest in a fun sport. I am confident that you can figure it all out. I came here from many years of Tactical Pistol.
    I hooked up with a seasoned Benchrest shooter with many years of of competition experience. Thats important. You canít teach a person how to hit if youíve never played baseball.( just saying)

    I bought a used Benchrest Rifle from this same shooter who later became a good friend and mentor. I also bought all of the necessary equipment(Used) from this same shooter.

    Get to know some of the local Benchrest shooters in your area. If possible, go to a Benchrest match. Observe and take pictures of equipment set up. Ask the same questions youíre asking here. I have yet to meet a Benchrest shooter that is reluctant to share some of his/her secrets to success. The forum is probably not the best place to find answers about table manners.(Equipment set up)

    Its an undeniable fact. The more you shoot, the more you learn.


    Glenn
    Last edited by Chism G; 06-17-2021 at 11:31 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Posts
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by Chism G View Post
    Thanks for your interest in a fun sport. I am confident that you can figure it all out. I came here from many years of Tactical Pistol.
    I hooked up with a seasoned Benchrest shooter with many years of of competition experience. Thats important. You canít teach a person how to hit if youíve never played baseball.( just saying)

    I bought a used Benchrest Rifle from this same shooter who later became a good friend and mentor. I also bought all of the necessary equipment(Used) from this same shooter.

    Get to know some of the local Benchrest shooters in your area. If possible, go to a Benchrest match. Observe and take pictures of equipment set up. Ask the same questions youíre asking here. I have yet to meet a Benchrest shooter that is reluctant to share some of his/her secrets to success. The forum is probably not the best place to find answers about table manners.(Equipment set up)

    Its an undeniable fact. The more you shoot, the more you learn.


    Glenn
    I'll ask around to see if we have any Benchrest shooting going on here on Vancouver Island. I am currently unaware of any, but then up until now I haven't been looking for it either.

    Jim G

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