Reply To: Why do folks like benchrest competitions?
Although your question seems almost rhetorical, it is an excellent one nonetheless, since answering it on a deeper level would reveal very much that bench-rest shooting to determine a rifle’s true accuracy potential isn’t as easy as it seems. Yes, it might appear like the shooter has a very minor part to play in this type of shooting, and that all it takes is merely pulling the trigger when environmental factors and conditions are permissive (e.g., wind, shooting angle, distance, etc.). However, the plain answer is this: it certainly is not. In fact, it is the reverse; it is the person behind the trigger who is required to play a huge part in the process when it comes to making a precision shot.
On the surface, bench-rest shooting does require the elimination of human input as much as possible—to prevent any errors—since the goal is to enable the rifle to naturally and uninhibitedly do its own thing. And by achieving this, there is the need to incorporate the use of proper bench-rest equipment to stabilize the rifle. Despite these measures, though, there yet exists the much-required guidance and skill of the operator. No matter how good and of high quality the shooting equipment and how expensive and state-of-the-art the rifle is, no amount of these things is going to impress you with one-hole precision or net you world-class competition scores (if that’s your thing) if the shooter does not have the fundamental skills to precisely place his shots. Before anything else, it is the rifleman’s expertise that needs to be correctly administered.
I posted an article on this and another forum related to bench-rest shooting before. One of the ideas I shared in the article was the importance of consistency. Perhaps as you have probably heard and read many times, in order to shoot accurately, off-hand or bench-rest, consistency is vital. Relative to the importance of consistency, there is a key element that I associate it to in the article, and that is consistency needs to also be felt. Because the primary goal is to replicate the shooting position of the gun and shooter every time, such consistency needs to include a sort of self-established personal standard shooting position, or what I like to call, PSSP. It is a position that I have established as the default position and in which the rifle shoots with consistent accuracy. For me, it is much easier to know if my technique and shooting position is a PSSP (whether I am shooting off-hand or bench-rest) when I have perceptive involvement. What I mean by this is that I need to be able to have that feeling when I know my rifle and I have reached the point wherein I am ready to pull the trigger because everything just feels (and not just seems) right. This way, I am able to differentiate between my PSSP and the “off” position. In essence, it is easier to predict where my pellets are going to land once I have the sensation of me and my rifle being at the correct state. This is perhaps why some expert shooters have advised learners to “feel the shot.” I personally agree with that notion.
Take it however you wish, but I find that I am more accurate when shooting in the off-hand position with respect to what I have just stated above. While it is true that a good way of testing a rifle for its true accuracy potential is by bench-rest shooting it, the shooter must take great care in making sure that everything is, here’s that word again: CONSISTENT; that is, how the gun is benched, what rest points have to be on what spot on the rest(s), that the same pressure is being exerted (or none at all) on the gun and or rest, etc. Not just seeing to it that these things are executed well, I am much more capable of making the confirmation by feeling that they are being applied and executed consistently also.