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RFC Consigliere & Concierge
12,649 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Inasmuch as you'all thought enough of my article "The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend" to make a sticky of it, I thought perhaps other articles I've written might be of interest too. So here's a second one.
If you'all find it interesting, I'll post others.

NOTES: This is the text of an article I wrote for "Precision Shooting" magazine six years ago. I no longer have the pics that went with the article. I have updated the text a little where I deemed it appropriate.
Aparently I'm too verbose. The site requires me to break this article into two threads.

MODERATOR: Much of the article is directed toward bolt action rifles. However, much is applicable to any type of action. If this is not the appropriate subforum for this article, feel free to move, or remove, it.

Hawkeye Wizard



RB 101 is a "two-semester" course designed for shooters who have little or no experience shooting rimfire benchrest matches. It is also applicable to shooters with some rimfire benchrest experience whose scores are not as high as they desire. And the basic principles taught in RB 101 should have value in a multitude of shooting disciplines.
"First semester" topics address sources of KNOWLEDGE about rimfire benchrest and provide guidelines for EQUIPMENT AND EQUIPMENT SELECTION needed to compete successfully. EQUIPMENT SOURCES for selected pieces of equipment are also included at the end of the text.
Required readings for RB 101 include this article, the second semester article which will appear in next month's Precision Shooting, and six other Precision Shooting articles that are referenced in these articles.
The goals of RB 101 are to: encourage shooters to enter the rimfire benchrest game; to reduce the learning curve of new shooters by at least 12 months; and to increase the scores of experienced shooters.


Let's assume that you're starting from scratch into the rimfire benchrest game. You need both knowledge about the sport and appropriate equipment with which to compete.
Of the two, knowledge should be your first priority. Without adequate knowledge as a basis, you'll be hard-pressed to select good equipment. Fortunately, detailed knowledge is more available than ever before.

Much detailed information is available through "Precision Shooting", back issues. You can obtain some back issues of "Precision Shooting" on EBAY.

I've never found a book dedicated to rimfire benchrest; but a number of books have been written on centerfire benchrest shooting. Most of them contain tips that would apply to rimfire benchrest as well. Two books that I have found particularly valuable are:
"Extreme Rifle Accuracy" by Mike Ratigan
"The Benchrest Shooting Primer" Edited by Dave Brennen

Much valuable information about rimfire ammunition is provided in "Rifleman's Guide To Rimfire Ammunition" by Steven Boelter.

As you would expect, the internet is an invaluable source of information. One site devoted exclusively to centerfire and rimfire benchrest competition is Benchrest Central (www.benchrest.com). Another is Rimfire Accuracy. Reading rimfire forums daily will put you in contact with some of the leading shooters in the country. However, you may find some personal animosity among the participants that occasionally makes threads on the sites seem emotionally immature.

Several organizations sanction rimfire benchrest shooting competitions. Each organization has its own rules. And, some organizations are well represented in some areas of the country, but don't sponsor many clubs in other areas. Obviously it's essential to know the rules of the various organizations, and to know which organizations sponsor matches within your commuting distance. Fortunately, the Benchrest Central homepage contains links to all of the rimfire benchrest organizations. Simply click on their icons. You will be linked directly to each of their sites where you can read the rules and find a complete list of clubs and their schedules.

All of this "booklearnin'" is necessary; but it isn't nearly as much fun as going to a match. So visit matches near you, watch, ask questions, and learn.

This article is intended to be merely an overview. It cannot provide any semblance of complete, detailed information. (To do that would require an entire book.) I've already written several articles on various aspects of rimfire benchrest shooting for "Precision Shooting". I doubt if the esteemed editor would condone the redundancy of publishing their content again within this article. So, as appropriate, I'll just refer you to my other articles for more detailed information on particular subjects.


As you read the references I've given above, you'll probably come to two conclusions about equipment. First, there is quite a diversity of opinions. Second, not all advice is good advice. With that forewarning, I'm going to give you my opinions regarding equipment. As a minimum, this section should provide you with a fairly complete list of the equipment you need to compete. Whether you accept my opinions or not is completely up to you.

First, let me make a few general comments about equipment.

While it's theoretically possible to win with cheap, used equipment, it's also theoretically possible to win the lottery. (Let me know if you do either one!!!!) Buying the best equipment from the start will certainly be more expensive. However, the resale value of that equipment will also be higher. If you buy the best and later decide to dispose of it, you probably won't have lost any more money than if you'd bought cheap equipment that you can't resell.

You should consider all of your equipment to be one holistic system, assembled to shoot one shot at each of 25 bullseyes as accurately as possible within a limited timeframe. The system directly involved is the rifle with its tuner and tuner weights, scope, scope rings, rest(s), ammo, and windflags. Indirect, supporting components of the system include cleaning equipment and other ancillary items. You should consider every one of these components carefully. Poor selection of any component will reduce your ability to be competitive.

The list of equipment used by rimfire benchrest shooters who compete at the national level is a reasonably good indicator of what's competitive at that level. Fortunately, the American Rimfire Association website lists equipment used by competitors in their national competitions. However, when you view the lists, don't be particularly concerned about what the Winner used. Look more for equipment that is used by many of the better shooters. The ARA list includes not only the rifle's components, but also the brand of ammo used, and the name of the gunsmith who assembled the rifle --- a virtual cornucopia of information!!!!!!!!

Now let's turn our attention to all of the specific pieces of equipment that you need to compete (at least it's a complete list of all of the items that I need).

RIFLE --- Nearly all rifles are built from scratch by rimfire custom gunsmiths (or factory rifles that have had much customizing done to them by such gunsmiths). Rifles are composed of a receiver (with bolt), barrel, stock, and trigger. We really need to discuss each of these four components separately.

Based on national level equipment lists, the most popular receivers seem to be the Turbo and the Remington 40X with Anschutz, Winchester 52, Suhl, Hall, Swindlehurst, 2500X, and other custom actions also appearing with some regularity. These actions can be divided into two categories -- factory and custom. The factory receivers (Remington, Anschutz, Winchester, and Suhl) often must be reworked to eliminate the normal variations found in mass production in order for them to be suitable for benchrest accuracy. The Turbo receiver is arguably the most popular action. It is built expressly for rimfire benchrest. It is very rigid and manufactured to very tight tolerances. However, its small loading port may not be as readily loaded as other receivers. Each receiver has some advantages and disadvantages. Talk to experienced shooters and your trusted rimfire gunsmith before you select a receiver for your rifle.

Barrels from Shilen, Border, Lilja, Broughton, Mueller, and Hart are commonly found. All of these barrels are capable of winning. However, they may vary considerably from manufacturer to manufacturer in their rate of rifling twist, the shape of their rifling lands, and even the number of lands. Standard rifling twist is 1 turn in 16 inches. Some barrels have twists as slow as 1 turn in 18 inches. While this difference may not seem like much, the slower twist won't stabilize some brands of ammunition, especially in cooler climates. On the other hand, shooters in hot climates claim that with ammo it favors, a barrel with a slow twist will outshoot a faster twist barrel. Some barrels have "ratchet" rifling, utilizing lands with only one edge. Each land then tapers down on the other side to groove diameter. And some barrels have as few as two lands. All of these rifling styles have some devotees. As for myself, I'm somewhat of a traditionalist, I live in a cooler climate, and I favor barrels that like a variety of ammo. So, I use barrels with 1 turn in 16" twists and four to six rifling lands.

Stocks come from McMillan, Shenane, Stith, TM Stockworks, and a few others. Some shooters favor fiberglass or carbon stocks; others prefer wood. Each material has some advantages. Fiberglass and carbon stocks can be made physically lighter than wood stocks. And some benchrest associations have weight limits on rifles. Stock selection can have a major effect on the weight of the rifle. So make certain that you select a stock (and a barrel configuration) that will allow your finished, scoped rifle to meet the weight criteria for all competitions that you intend to enter. Fiberglass and carbon stocks are also relatively insensitive to warpage due to age or changes in humidity. And their buttstocks are often hollow, allowing you to add weight to change the balance and recoil characteristics of the rifle to suit your taste. Wood stocks, on the other hand, have a traditional beauty, and they are said to transmit less vibration during shooting, leading to better inherent accuracy.

Jewel triggers are nearly universally used. Benchrest triggers typically have pull weights of only a few ounces. So, specialized triggers are required. Few factory triggers can be set light enough.

TUNER ---As far as I can tell, approximately 100% of serious benchrest shooters have some type of tuner on their barrels. There are several brands of tuners on the market. But, they all have one thing in common -- they place significant weight ahead of the muzzle in a fashion that allows the location of the weight to be changed in very small increments. I'd suggest that you consult the rimfire benchrest forums for voluminous discussions on the subject. Then, ask your rimfire benchrest gunsmith's advice and take it.

SCOPE --- As you might expect, national equipment lists typically show some preference for Leupold scopes with good showings by Weaver, and Sightron. Shooters with bottomless billfolds opt for Nightforce and March scopes. Whatever brand you choose, I recommend a 30X to 40X fixed power scope with fine crosshairs and a 1/8 minute dot. Less than 30 power makes precise aiming more difficult. More than 40 power isn't needed and it increases the problems of mirage. The 1/8 minute dot only covers 1/16" at 50 yards; and it is more easily seen under poor lighting conditions than fine crosshairs alone.

SCOPE RINGS --- Key characteristics of scope rings are that: they must hold the scope rigidly without distorting or damaging it; they must be in perfect alignment with each other; they must be high enough to allow the scope's objective bell to clear the barrel and its eyepiece to clear the bolt handle; they must allow you to zero the scope near the middle of the scope's adjustment range; and they must not be unduly heavy. For me, Burris Signature rings have all of these characteristics. You can read about them and how I install them in my article "The One Shot Zero --- First Time, Every Time" in the July 2009 issue of PS.

AMMO --- Eley ammo is used by the vast preponderance of shooters. Lapua is the only other brand with any significant presence, and it is a far distant second. However, merely purchasing "generic" Eley ammo won't guarantee success. Eley comes in two bullet styles, flat-nosed EPS and round-nosed Semi Auto. And it comes in various grades with Tenex being the most expensive, followed by Match, and then Team. Rifleman's Guide To Rimfire Ammunition by Steven Boelter is entirely devoted to rimfire ammunition accuracy. It is well worth reading. And my article "Testing Conventional Wisdom About .22LR Ammo Accuracy" in the August 2009 issue of PS should give you additional food for thought.

REST(S) --- Rests are absolutely critical to the accuracy of the entire benchrest system. So their judicious selection is paramount. There are essentially two different styles of rests --- one piece rests, and two piece rests (where the front and rear portions of the rest are not connected). Each rimfire benchrest sanctioning organization has specific rules regarding rests. Make certain that you understand the rules for all organizations that you plan to compete under and select a rest that is legal for all of them. For a detailed discussion of types of rests and their advantages and disadvantages, see my article entitled "One- Piece Or Two --- The Great Rimfire Rest Shootoff" in the October 2009 issue of PS.

See my next thread for the rest of this article.:)

Hawkeye Wizard

RFC Consigliere & Concierge
12,649 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Rimfire Benchrest 101 Page 2

Here's the continuation of the article that I started in my last post. Hope you enjoy it.

Hawkeye Wizard

WINDFLAGS --- At major matches, windflags can be seen in a dazzling array of variations. Variations include: single or double tail; propeller or ball on the front; large tails or small; light or heavy streamers; and in all colors of the rainbow. While it may not appear so, each of these variations has advantages and disadvantages. Single tails store compactly. Double tails take up far more room. But, for me, it's much easier to read the angle of the wind on a double tail. Propellers aid in gauging the wind speed. But balls react more quickly to switches in wind direction. Large windflags can be seen at greater distances. But smaller flags have less inertia, so they react more quickly. Light streamers react to even the slightest breeze. However, a stronger wind will quickly make them stand horizontal, reducing their value as an aid to gauging wind speed. Color of the windflags isn't significant as long as opposite sides of the tails have contrasting colors and both colors are easy to see. Most windflags are designed for centerfire benchrest, where ranges are much longer than in rimfire benchrest. So, centerfire flags need to be relatively large. But, for rimfire, I like smaller, more reactive flags with small propellers, double tails, and lightweight streamers. Before you purchase your own windflags, you should go to a few matches and watch all of the windflags. As you do, keep in mind the tips I've given above. Regardless of what style you select, you'll need three to five identical flags. (Flags that aren't identical will only add to your mental confusion.) In my opinion, less than three flags don't give adequate data. More than five is confusing. Four is about right. A number of companies and individuals sell good quality windflags. Many of them advertise in the Classifieds on Benchrest Central. Others can be found through a Google search. I love my Wick's flags. Unfortunately, he is no longer in business. However, there are many other purveyors of excellent flags. Study their design and construction. I'm sure you will find a design that suits you.

WINDFLAG STANDS --- Stands come in two basic styles - tripod or step-in rods. Tripod stands are better on hard, rocky, and sandy ground. And, they're easy to precisely level. Step-in stands are lighter and more compact. I use microphone stands for my tripod stands. They are sturdy, and heavy enough that they won't easily blow over. And, they're usually less than $25 apiece at used musical instrument stores. I buy stainless steel rods at the local ACE hardware store that fit my windflag pivots. Using a file, I round the end of the rod. Then I use two radiator hose clamps to clamp the rod to the top of my stand. A piece of hard rubber between the rod and the stand keeps everything solidly in place.

WINDICATORS --- Windicators are wind reading devices that pivot back and forth perpendicular to the bullet's line of flight. They only read crosswinds, so they won't help when winds are primarily headwinds or tailwinds. But when the wind is crossing, Windicators are very valuable. I have Windicators that clip onto my windflag stands. They are compact to transport. And, I can simultaneously focus on a flag and its associated Windicator. Unfortunately, they aren't manufactured any longer. However, other brands of free-standing Windicators are still available. They have good reputations; but, I don't have first-hand experience with them. Many of them advertise in Precision Shooting and on the Benchrest Central website.
If you don't use Windicators, you'll probably want to modify your windflags to help you estimate wind speed (more about this topic in the Second Semester).

WINDFLAG BOX --- Your windflag box should contain your windflags and everything else that goes down range. That way, you need only walk down once. As a minimum, it should hold (and protect) your delicate windflags, a stapler with extra staples, windflag leveling blocks, and a level for your targets. The size box you'll need is primarily dictated by your choice of windflags. I use a clear plastic tote with a smaller plastic box pop-riveted to one end of the bottom. The small box holds my stapler, staples, wedges, and target level. Four PVC tubes pop-riveted to the end hold my Windicators. And a piece of PVC pipe pop-riveted across the top is my carry handle.

STAPLER WITH EXTRA STAPLES --- My Craftsman Easy Fire stapler will imbed staples easily, even into plywood. I like it!!! (Be sure that you have lots of extra staples. I'm always surprised at how quickly I run out.)

WINDFLAG LEVELING BLOCKS --- It's important that your windflag stands are exactly vertical because horizontal windflags will feel less drag and be more sensitive. If you use tripod windflag stands, you'll need some way to level them. 2"X4" boards cut at 30 degree angle work very well. Include one for each windflag.

TARGET LEVEL --- It's absolutely essential that you put up your targets exactly level. So you'll need some kind of line level. (More about this in the second semester.)

EQUIPMENT BOX --- Your equipment box should contain everything that you might need at the bench.

FEET FOR REST --- These are thin steel discs with a countersink in the middle and rubber on the bottom. Using them under the feet of your rest, you won't have to pound the rest into the bench top. The discs are particularly valuable if you're using the rear leg screw of a two-piece rest for elevation adjustment from bull to bull. They make tracking of the elevation adjustment much more uniform.

WIND RECORD BOOK --- Making a wind record book and using it to shoot in the wind are far too complex to explain here. Fortunately, I've already written an extensive article on this subject. I suggest that you read "The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend" in the February 2009 issue of PS.
(New Note: When I shot IR 50/50 with it's 30 minute relays, I had time to record wind conditions in a book I made for that purpose. The 20 minute relays of ARA and the 15 minute relays of ABRA may not allow recording in a book. In those disciplines, you may have to memorize your hold offs.)

CHAMBER SAFETY FLAG --- Most organizations require bolt removal. I hate it!!!! Being "slightly" uncoordinated, there's always a chance I might drop my bolt. Or, it might pick up some dirt off the bench. Or, being "slightly" senile, I might forget my bolt at the range some day. I always ask the match director if I can use a chamber flag instead of removing my bolt. I use chamber flag whenever it's permitted. Just buy a dozen from the Civilian Marksmanship Program and put one in each gun case. Then, you'll always have one with you.

RUBBER BANDS FOR ELEY OPENED BOXES-- Eley ammo is good; but their boxes, once opened, are poor. The lids just don't want to stay on. Rubber bands are necessary to keep lids on previously opened boxes.

AMMO BOX --- During the match (or practice) you need to focus solely on your windflags and shot execution. Any distraction from that focus is a problem. Cartridges in factory boxes are difficult to grasp. Before match day, I transfer my cartridges to an MTM .22 rimfire cartridge box. It holds 100 rimfire cartridges with plenty of room to grasp each of them. It also holds two extra factory boxes of cartridges. That's plenty for any match. (I refill my ammo box from the two factory boxes after each target.) And the MTM boxes comes in several colors, so you can color code them for various guns and their favorite ammo. Any of the large retailers of firearm accessories carry a variety of MTM boxes, including the rimfire boxes.

TIMER --- Knowing how much time you have left in a match is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL! It is impossible to focus on wind conditions and shot execution if you're wondering how much time is left. An ordinary kitchen timer is fine as long as it has large, easy to read digits and counts in minutes and seconds.

INK PENS --- Carry at least two pens. Record the date, weather, gun, ammo, and wind conditions on every practice and match target.

TOOL KIT --- For me, the Chapman screwdriver kit is light, compact, and fills the need nicely.

PRACTICE TARGETS --- If you're going to practice as if it were a match, you'll need practice targets exactly like match targets. Fortunately, the benchrest associations sell them. Just check their websites and buy several hundred.

HAWKEYE BORE SCOPE --- An expensive, but absolutely essential, item if you really want to know the condition and cleanliness of your bore. Hawkeyes are sold in a variety of lengths and diameters. For .22 rimfires, the 17" Deluxe Focusing model in a hard case works very well.

CLEANING ROD W/JAG --- My choice definitely flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but I like a .17 cal Dewey rod. It's stiff enough to push the patches that I use. And it gives me lots of clearance within the bore. However, it may not be long enough for some rifles. Any rod needs to push the patch clear out of the tuner. Otherwise, sooner or later, you'll leave a patch in there. My second choice, if I need a longer rod, is a .20 cal Dewey rod.
(NEW NOTE: I still like the .17 cal Dewey. However, I have since gone to one piece stainless steel .20 cal Ivy Rods made by Dennis Phillips.)

BORE GUIDE --- I can't think of a simpler, but more misused device. "Everyone" recommends them. (It's almost a mortal sin to clean without one!) But most bore guides do more harm than good. Let's think about this for a moment. The purpose of a bore guide is to prevent your cleaning rod from rubbing on the lands of our rifling. The guide will only provide that protection if its inside diameter is a slip fit over your rod's outside diameter. If you can push a patch through your bore guide, its OD is far too big to prevent the rod from rubbing on your bore.
(New Note: I use a two-piece bore guide. The outer piece fits closely into the receiver. The inner piece fits closely into the outer piece and closely around the cleaning rod.)

PATCHES --- Patches, although seemingly simple and cheap, are vitally important. They must not be too big, or too small. They must fit just right WITH YOUR CLEANING JAG. If they are too big, you risk bending your cleaning rod and rubbing your delicate bore with it. If they're too small, they won't clean effectively. Military surplus patches (Swab, Small Arms Cleaning, NSN 1005-912-4248) fit my Dewey .17 cal jag perfectly. They can be found at most gun shows.

LEAD CLEANING CLOTH --- Effectively removes the nasty lead/carbon ring at the front of your barrel's chamber. You can read much more about them in "Inspecting and Cleaning Rimfire Bores", PS December 2008.

TOOTHBRUSH --- Cleans the bolt face, breech face, and inside the tuner.

COTTON CLOTH --- A piece of old cotton t-shirt wrapped around the toothbrush cleans out the tuner.

LIGHTER FLUID --- Two ounce triggers are delicate. A little oil or dirt can cause them to malfunction. If they malfunction, cleaning them out with lighter fluid can often rectify the problem.

SUPER LUBE --- Use it to lube the bolt cam path and the striker cam path. ACE Hardware stores carry it.
(New Note: Use Super Lube sparingly and don't let it get into the firing pin channel where it might slow down firing pin fall.)

MINIMAG 3 WATT LED FLASHLIGHT --- If you can't see it, you can't clean it. Hence, the value of the flashlight and the magnifying headband listed below.

OPTIVISOR MAGNIFING HEAD BAND --- Magnifying glasses in a headband. They can be tilted up out of the way or tilted down to magnify small parts and close work. I like the #5 magnification.

"DO or DO NOT. There is no TRY" Jedi Master Yoda

Congratulations. If you've done the "outside reading" that I recommended, you've now successfully completed the first semester of RB 101.

Ron Elbe


Most of the products and companies that I've mentioned in this article are recognized worldwide and can be readily found through a Google search or among the sources listed in Benchrest Central. And, I've already listed some other sources in previous PS articles that I've referenced herein. However, some products are sold by individuals or very small companies that might be difficult to locate. I've listed some of those sources here. It's possible that other companies produce similar products, but I haven't dealt with them yet.

Tru-Kote Precision Products
224-B Kitchen Lane
White Post, Va 22663
[email protected]

Civiliam Marksmanship Program
1401 Commerce Blvd
Anniston Al. 36207
[email protected]
Open Bolt Indicators, Part Number 244 (Unit of Issue -- 12)

Phone: 800-741-0015
Item # 255-005-000AA[/COLOR]

RFC Consigliere & Concierge
12,649 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Rimfire Benchrest 101 Page 3

Inasmuch as I started this article in two previous threads, I felt obliged to finish it here.


In the first semester of RB 101, we identified key sources of knowledge and listed all equipment needed to compete. In this semester, we will learn how to make small, but important, modifications to our equipment. And we'll learn the basics of equipment tuning, practice, pre-match preparations, shooting the match, and post-match tasks. Again, we'll reference previous articles to provide detailed explanations of key topics.


MODIFY YOUR WINDFLAGS --- Your windflags will be more sensitive if their pivots are exactly plumb. The easy way to plumb them each time you set them out is to install a bubble level on the top of each pivot with double sided tape. Installing the level on top of the pivot will minimize its inertial effect. It won't significantly slow the responsiveness of your flag. Then, if you use tripod stands, merely slip a tapered board under the low foot of the tripod until your flag is plumb. If you use "step-in" stands, you'll just have to keep the rod vertical as you step it into the ground.

MAKE A LEVEL FOR YOUR TARGETS --- Any kind of bubble line level will work. But, it's very handy to be able to hang the level on the target as you staple the target up. Otherwise, stapling up a level target takes three hands. Fortunately it's easy and inexpensive to make such a level. Simply Super Glue a line level onto the lid of a plastic Eley ammo box. Then paint the area of the lid that's behind the bubble with white paint for improved visibility.

INSTALL A LEVEL ON YOUR REST --- The level must show you when the rest's surface that interfaces with the rifle's forearm is exactly level side to side. If your front rest is a sandbag, set your rifle firmly into it. Then adjust the leveling feet on the rest until the bottom of your rifle's forearm is exactly level. (Hold a level up against the bottom of the forearm.) Then you can glue a line level against any handy surface on your rest and it will be level with your front sandbag.

LEVEL YOUR RIFLE'S SCOPE --- Read "The One Shot Zero......First Time, Every Time!" in the July 09 issue of PS. The zeroing procedure detailed in that article is fine for most shooters. But, it isn't quite good enough for benchrest. After you've installed your scope as the article recommends, you need to EXACTLY level your scope on the rest. This needs to be done at the range. Here's how.

First put up a LEVEL rimfire benchrest target. Use your target level to make sure that the target is exactly level. Now set up your rest and level it side to side. Put your rifle on the rest and look through the scope. If the horizontal crosshair EXACTLY intersects a row of bulls, you're done. If not, loosen the scope rings and rotate the scope until it does. Now you should be able to run the rifle back and forth across a row of bulls using only the windage adjustment in your rest. You should also be able to adjust the windage knob on your scope without any effect on the reticle's elevation. If not, something's wrong. Perhaps the target or the rest isn't exactly level. The goal is to be able to shoot across a row of bulls without having to make an elevation adjustment. Or shoot down a row of bulls without making a windage adjustment. When you can do that, your rifle and mount set up is ready.


"TUNING" VERSUS "PRACTICE" --- "Tuning" and "practice" are two entirely different things. Too many shooters confuse the two; and, therefore, never get the best results from either.
Tuning is optimizing the performance of your equipment. It is selecting the most accurate brand and lot of ammunition. It is adjusting your rifle's tuner. It is balancing your windflags for maximum sensitivity. Tuning is typically done under the most benign environmental conditions. Tuning is done with no time limits. Some tuning activities can be completed without going to the range. And, some tuning activities need be done only once.
In contrast, practice is learning to get the highest possible match score from your equipment and yourself. Practice is doing EXACTLY what you'll do on match day. It is setting up all of your equipment exactly like you'll do on match day. It is shooting under the same time limits, at the same targets that you'll use in a match. It should often be done in adverse environmental conditions so that you will be emotionally prepared for those conditions on match day.

PRACTICE --- Practice must be done exactly like a match. No shortcuts. Use the same equipment. Take the same mental approach. Use the same preparations. Set up your equipment in exactly the same order. Set each piece of equipment in exactly the same place on the bench. Shoot at official match targets. Execute the shots exactly as you would in a match. Shoot under the same time limits. Record the date, gun, tuner setting, ammo brand and lot number, weather and wind conditions, and score on each of your targets. Then analyze your shooting as I describe in "What Can Your Targets Tell You?" in the May 2008 PS. Analyzing your targets will help you decide how to improve your equipment and/or your skills to most improve your future scores.

PRACTICE PROCEDURE BEFORE THE FIRST SHOT --- Always do everything in the same order. Develop an efficient, habitual system that you can repeat easily. Such a habitual system will prevent distracting problems on match day.
Here's my system:

1. Carry everything to the bench.

2. Set out your windflags. Most benchrest organizations require that the tops of your flags be lower than a line from the top of the bench to the bottom of the target backer. Set your flags as high as is allowed. (You want them as close to the bullet's line of flight as possible.) Some shooters recommend placing windflags on the upwind side of your line of sight to the target. They contend that it's important to see wind changes BEFORE the changes reach the bullet's line of flight. I would agree as long as you can still see the flags when you're in firing position.

3. Put up a level target. I'm one of the few shooters who hangs his targets vertically. (Just habit, I guess.) Nearly all shooters hang their targets horizontally so that the sighters are on the left or right rather than on the top. They would rather use their windage adjustment to get back to a sighter during a match. While at the target, look back at the windflags to see if any need to be relocated. If so, move them as you go back to the bench.

4. Take everything you need out of the equipment box and put it in its proper place on the bench (ammo box, wind record book, timer, feet for rest, sandbag powder, ear plugs, etc).

5. First, place your rear bag in exactly the position that you want it. Then, set up and level your front rest, pointed exactly at the target. (Don't forget to put your disc feet under your rest's feet.)

6. Adjust the windage and elevation adjustments on the rest to the center of their travels.

7. Set the rifle on the rest with bolt out or safety flag in. Remove the covers from your scope's lenses and adjustment turrets. Adjust the feet of the rest so that the crosshairs of the scope are in the center of the target. This will assure that you have adequate travel in the rest to shoot all of the bulls. Double check to assure that your rest is still level left-to-right.

8. Settle the rifle firmly in the rest. Then, slide the rifle back and forth in the rest until it returns to the same point of aim consistently.

9. Using the rest's adjustment knobs, move the scope's crosshairs to a spot in the center of the target above the sighter bulls (or to the right of the sighter bulls if you hang your target horizontally).

10. Watch your flags for at least five minutes to determine the predominant wind conditions and at least one or two other conditions that you consider acceptable to shoot.

11. Put your ear plugs in and your shooting glasses on.


1. Start your timer.

2. Insert your bolt or remove your safety flag.

3. Rapidly shoot four to six shots on the target (but off of your sighter bulls) to warm the rifle. As you do this, watch the bullet points of impact to make sure that they are settling into a small group.

4. Shoot sighters in the predominant condition and at least one "good" condition. You need to shoot sighters in the predominant condition, even if it isn't the best condition because the predominant condition is the one you might have to shoot if time is running out on you. Then shoot sighters in one or two conditions that you WANT to shoot. If you can pick one good condition that lasts for extended times, you won't need to shoot and memorize another condition now. Shoot sighters until you are confident that you know the points of impact associated with your chosen conditions. Record the average point of impact and its associated wind condition in your wind record book. By now, it's likely that 4 to 6 minutes will have elapsed since you started your timer. Don't worry. You still have plenty of time to fire your twenty five record shots, even in the short twenty minute ARA matches.

5. Shoot your record bulls. As you shoot, maintain a mental awareness of where each shot impacted compared to where you expected it to impact. Use this ever-expanding mental data base to continually refine your point of aim. If the conditions which you selected for your sighters go away, simply stop shooting and wait. While you're waiting, check your timer and do a quick mental calculation to see how much leeway you have left. Then watch other flags upwind of you so that you can foresee when you will be able to shoot again. If the condition doesn't come back within a reasonable time, select a new condition, shoot sighters and record the results. Then go back to your record bulls.


1. Look through the scope and adjust your crosshairs to the point of aim for the wind condition that you intend to shoot. If you have a good rest that will hold your rifle on exactly the point of aim that you selected, you won't need to look through your scope again. (If your rest won't do that, you need a better rest!) Now you can simply sit up and watch your wind flags. When they show your chosen condition, SHOOT. Memorize the wind conditions at exactly the time the rifle fired. For all other forms of target shooting, you're taught to know exactly where your crosshairs are when the gun fires. But, in benchrest, you already know where the crosshairs are pointed. In benchrest, it's most important to know exactly where your wind flags are when the rifle fires.

2. Pull the trigger gently straight to the rear.

3. After the rifle fires, reload BEFORE you push the rifle forward into battery. That way, you won't disturb the rifle's position in the rest as you reload. Take all sighter cartridges from the left side of your MTM ammo box. Take all record cartridges from the right side of the ammo box. That way, when you've fired 25 record cartridges, you'll know that you haven't forgotten any bulls. If you take a cartridge from the record side of the box and then use it to shoot a sighter, take the next cartridge from the sighter side to replace it.

4. Develop a reloading procedure that is fast and minimizes disturbances to the rifle on the rest. (Hint: Push the bolt forward, chambering the cartridge, by pushing with your thumb on the rear of the bolt shroud. Then lock the bolt using the bolt handle.)

5. Return the rifle forward into battery. (If the crosshairs aren't very close to the previous point of aim, you have an equipment or technique problem.)

6. Adjust the rest to move the point of aim (POA) to the desired POA on the next bull. As you do so, you can simultaneously glance at the last bull to assure that the impact was where you expected it. If not, you can "fine tune" your POA on the next bull to compensate.

7. After you've fired all 25 record cartridges, look back over your target to make certain that each bull has one hole in it.

"CHASERS" VS "WAITERS" --- There are two styles of shooters -- those who "chase conditions" and those who "wait for conditions". Shooters who chase conditions tend to shoot at a fairly constant rate. They guess the appropriate point of aim for whatever condition exists at the time they are ready to shoot. Shooters who wait for conditions use their sighters to select one to three conditions that they want to shoot. Then they wait for those conditions during the match. They tend to shoot far more sporadically than those who chase conditions. Admittedly, waiting for your condition to return, while your timer counts down, can be hard on the nerves. But, in my experience, chasing conditions results in far lower scores than waiting for conditions.
I wait!
I describe how to wait for conditions in "The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend", PS, February 2009.


Your goal the day before each match is to give yourself absolute, realistic confidence that you and your equipment are ready. Confidence will allow you to focus during the match and score to the best of your ability.

PREPARE YOURSELF EMOTIONALLY --- Review "The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend", particularly the section on the mental aspects of shooting.

PREPARE YOUR EQUIPMENT --- Make a list of everything you take with you to a match. Tape the list to the lid of your equipment box. Check it before every match. Pile everything you'll take in one place.

CALL AHEAD --- Make sure the match is still scheduled. Double check the starting time. Determine your departure time so that you arrive at the match at least an hour before the match is scheduled to start.


As soon as you arrive at the range, register and get your targets and bench assignment. Then, immediately begin to prepare for the match exactly as you did on practice days.
Notice that this is the shortest section in the article. That's because match day is easy. It's just another "practice" day. You should do everything exactly as you have practiced. If you have practiced well and prepared adequately, your mind will be free to concentrate on reading the wind and executing each shot.

Your match scores should be comparable to your practice scores. If not, your practice is inadequate, or your mental response to match shooting is self-defeating.


CHECK YOUR TARGETS BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE --- Scorers make mistakes. Your targets must be posted for your inspection for a short period of time before the scores are finalized. During that time, check each bull for obvious scoring errors. Then check the mathematics.

TAKE YOUR TARGETS HOME AND ANALYZE THEM --- We discussed analyzing targets under "PRACTICE" above and in the article that I referenced there ("What Can Your Targets Tell You?" May 2008 PS).

DO ALL NECESSARY EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE --- You may need to wait until you get home to do your maintenance. But, don't put it off until the night before the next match. Do it while you remember what you noticed at the match that needed maintenance.
Clean your rifle AS NEEDED. You'll have to decide for yourself how many rounds you can fire before the rifle begins to lose accuracy.
When it does need to be cleaned, remember that the bore is the most important component of your rifle. I explained my bore cleaning procedure in "Inspecting and Cleaning Rimfire Bores", PS, December 2008. I recommend that procedure to you. After your bore is clean, clean the bolt face, the breech face of the barrel, and the inside of your tuner. Grease the bolt cam path and the striker cam path with Super Lube. Using your Mag-Lite, inspect the breach face and inside of the receiver for debris and stray lint from your patches. Wipe off the exterior with WD-40. Unless you can think of some other maintenance that needs to be done, you're finished with the rifle.
Next, refill / refit everything including your MTM ammo box, stapler, etc.

Congratulations. You've completed Rimfire Benchrest 101. I've tried to pass along knowledge that took me three years of mistakes and mediocrity to accumulate. Hopefully, I have saved you some of that effort.

Your "final exam" is the scores that you will shoot. Your "diploma" is the fun you'll have, and the friends you'll make.


Ron Elbe
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