Benchrest Update

Benchrest update 2022.

It has been three years since benchrest shooting was formally adopted as the third SWEFTA discipline, and since then the arrival of covid-19 has adversely affected both our normal club activities and the planned competition programme. The take up of BR has also been somewhat delayed due to the pandemic.

The current state of BR across the region is that West Devon and Dartmoor are fully involved, Duchy has just completed the construction of a superb new 25 metre range with six benches, Purbeck has a new dedicated BR facility nearing completion, and Ashcombe is still a work in progress. Shebbear, whose involvement in benchrest shooting predated the other SWEFTA clubs by several years, continues to practice 20-yard indoor BR under NSRA rules.

It is worth reiterating at this point that it was never intended that BR, due to space and time considerations, should become part of the established FT/HFT competition calendar. It will continue to remain primarily a club-based activity.

My own club, Dartmoor, has recently completed its fourth year of BR competition. We shoot 9 rounds between March and October. On match days competitors are divided into groups of three, each group then shoots three evenly spaced details – every member is required to use a different bench for each of the 3 cards.

Each individual match is decided upon actual points scored, but the eventual winner of the series is determined by the best 6 percentage scores – this method takes account of the different weather conditions encountered during the season. The arrangement works very well for us, in every year so far, the winning scores have been separated by just a fraction of one percent. West Devon and Dartmoor have also enjoyed a series of ‘home and away’ matches this winter, and as most clubs will have limited space for permanent benches these small inter club competitions are probably the way forward.

A few of the region’s FT shooters have expressed the view that BR is a waste of time, as it’s too easy. Anyone who believes that has obviously never completed a full 3 card outdoor benchrest match.

Outdoor air rifle BR, shot under world rules, is a fascinating extreme precision sport. Consistently high scores require a combination of flawless technique, the ability to judge the strength, direction, and character of the prevailing wind and/or air currents, and to unerringly apply the correct degree of compensation to the point of aim. Finally, the shooter must have absolute confidence in the equipment chosen.

A maximum outdoor air rifle card score of 250:25x has never been recorded in any national or international competition. At the 2019 world championships, held in South Africa, the winner of the LV class (12 ft lb) was 15-year-old Robyn Crabb. She achieved a score of 734:20x. So perhaps it’s not ‘too easy’ after all.

It would be great to see more clubs and individuals shooting benchrest in 2022. If the Dartmoor model were universally adopted it would be ideal, but I am aware that

some would find this arrangement difficult or even impossible. The important thing is to get involved. If the SWEFTA BR rules are adhered to (these can be found on the website) a degree of flexibility can be accommodated.

Ideally three cards shot per round, but not necessarily on the same day. If scores are sent to me by the end of each month, I can post updates to a regional league table on the SWEFTA website.

The intention is to hold a shoulder-to-shoulder match at the conclusion of each season, where the best shooters from participating clubs can compete for the title of SWEFTA benchrest champion. The winner’s name to be added to a perpetual trophy.

As well as being totally inclusive, formal benchrest shooting is a particularly useful addition to any club in that it can provide an opportunity for members who may find FT or HFT too physically demanding, but still wish to compete – a condition which will eventually affect us all. It can also be a very useful wet weather alternative, allowing competitive shooting to take place when courses are waterlogged.

Please feel free to contact me for further information. Malcolm Elliott, BR secretary. (MalcolmDOTElliott357@aol DOT com)

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