Glen

• Be Consistent--You can get different shot placement if your bench technique is not the same every shot. For Centerfire Benchrest one common problem is putting your shoulder against the stock for one shot and not the next.

• Free Recoil--Free recoil Centerfire shooters should make sure their rifle hits their shoulder squarely on recoil, not on the edge of their shoulder or the side of their arm. For Rimfire Benchrest with a good one-piece rest, a lot of shooters have success with a minimal touch. The only thing they touch is the trigger and let the gun and one piece do their job. A variation is to squeeze just the rear of the guard and the trigger. This is called pinching and can add velocity to ammunition for a barrel that likes a little extra oomph.

• Head Position--Learn to keep your head down and follow-through after each shot. Stay relaxed and hold your position after breaking the shot.

• Eyes--Learn to shoot with both eyes open so you can see more of the conditions.

• Last Row Laziness--If the last row on a target is where your score falls apart, you may be guilty of what I call "wishing the last shots in". This is a very common mistake. We just aim, pull the trigger, and do not worry about the wind flags. Probably because of fatigue or lack of concentration.

• Seating--When possible, bring your own stool so that you can sit comfortably, at a consistent height, every time you shoot.

BAGS and REST--VERY IMPORTANT

• Front Rest Wobble and Pivot--You will get vertical or horizontal stringing if the top section of the front rest is loose. Unfortunately, a lot of rests have movement even when you tighten them as much as you can. This can cause unexplained shots. A variation of this is with the Caldwell Windage tops that pivot rather than move horizontally for windage adjustment. They change the side loading on the stock as they pivot throughout their range.

• Rifle Angle--If the gun is not level, but rather angles down at muzzle end, the rifle will recoil up at butt-end, causing vertical. You may need to try different rear bags to get the set-up right.

• Front Bag Tension--Vertical can happen if the front sand bag grips the forearm too tightly. If, when you pull the rifle back by hand, the forearm feels like it is stuck in the bag, then the front bag's grip is too tight. Your rifle should move in evenly and smoothly in the sand bags, not jerk or chatter when you pull the gun back by hand.

• Sandbag Fill--A front sandbag that is too hard can induce vertical. Personally, I've have never had a rifle that will shoot consistently with a rock-hard front sandbag. It always causes vertical or other unexplained shots.

• If the channel between the Rear Bag's ears is not in line with the barrel, but is twisted left or right, this can affect recoil and vertical consistency. If the bag is off-axis quite a bit, you will get horizontal stringing.

AWARENESS of CONDITIONS and READING WIND

• Basic Wind-Reading Rule--If you do not know how to read wind flags or are very inexperienced, try to shoot your group with the flags all going in one direction.

• Look Far and Wide--Learn to look at the whole field of flags, not just the row in front of you. Many times a change quite a ways out will cause shot to go off target well before that change shows up in front of your bench.

• Don't Fear the Wind--When you realize that the wind is your friend you will become a much better Benchrest shooter. By this I mean that wind skills can separate you from other shooters who have equally good equipment. To learn how to read the wind, you must practice in challenging winds, not only in good conditions.

• Watch Wind Direction AND Velocity--Pay attention to angle changes on flags. Even though you see the same windspeed indicators, angle changes make a big difference in your scores.

• Watch While You Wait--Between courses of fire, whenever possible, watch conditions on the range. That way you will be aware of any changes in conditions since your last target and you will be mentally prepared for the new condition.

Sometimes I will spend time at a range just watching the wind. Normally there are 5 conditions in a wind cycle. I am mentally watching for two conditions that are shootable. I am looking for my preferred condition and a second condition, as a back-up. If my preferred condition goes away I have something shootable to fall back-on. I will shoot sighters during those two conditions so I will know my hold-offs. Mentally note how long a wind cycle lasts that way if there is a let up or switch you will know how long it lasts. Most new shooters make the mistake of shooting when the flags suddenly go limp. That normally means a change is coming but your flags have not responded yet. Many a good card has been spoiled by shooting during a perceived let up.

OTHER TIPS

• Use Good Quality Ammo-- So you know if a bad shot placement was the wind, a gun handling error or a tuning or accuracy issue with your gun.

• Finally Invest In Good Optics-- Nothing is less fun than a scope that will not hold point of aim. Position yourself behind the scope and have the same sight picture every time. Remember when it comes to accurate shooting consistency is king.
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I was going to write this in an article but thought I would share it here first. Credit to Speedy Gonzales for much of the bag set-up tips. Credit to Glen Hachey for teaching me about wind and a million other competitive shooting details. Credit to Steve Yauger for teaching me about rifle approach, handling and bench manner.