Benchrest is a precision rifle shooting discipline where shooters aim to put five or 10 shots into the smallest possible group on paper targets placed at 50m, 100, 200 and 300 yards. Groups are measured from the centre to the centre of the two widest shots in a group. Rifles are fired from rests, comprising a front rest to support the fore-end and a rear sandbag to support the rifle’s butt. Benchrest includes 10 main classes within this discipline, with the differences largely determined by rifle weight and calibre.
Benchrest rifle shooting is all about placing five or 10 shots into the smallest possible group size at various ranges. This sport originated in the United States around 1947 and came to Australia in the 1950s, with the first benchline thought to be at the old Baulkham Hills Range near Sydney. The sport has grown significantly over the years, with competitions in every state and National Championships held every year for the various Benchrest classes. SSAA Australian Team shooters have competed in the Oceania, Pacific Regional and World Championships.
View the World Benchrest Shooting Federation Championship manual, World Benchrest Shooting Federation Official rule book, and World Benchrest Shooting Federation Official rule book rimfire competition for international rules.
Firearms and Classes
There are 10 main classes within Benchrest, four of which are centrefire rifle group shooting classes, two are rimfire group shooting classes and four are Hunter Class ‘application’ or score shooting classes. In Hunter Class, there are competitions for both rimfire and centrefire rifles and it is a requirement that these rifles have a safe trigger mechanism and triggerguard.
Experimental/Unlimited Benchrest is a centrefire class, which requires shooters to fire 10-shot groups, while all other classes fire five-shot groups. There are no rifle weight restrictions, but the length of the barrel must not be less than 457.2mm (18″). A safe trigger mechanism must be used and the rifle may be fired from any type of rest.
Heavy Benchrest is a centrefire class in which the maximum total weight of the rifle including a telescope must not exceed 6.123kg (13lb 8oz). The stock width must not exceed 76.2mm (3″) at any point and the length of the barrel must not be less than 457.2mm (18″). There are no restrictions on scope power. A safe trigger mechanism must be used and the rifle must be shot from restricted rests, such as sandbags at the front and rear.
Light Benchrest is a centrefire class in which the maximum total weight of the rifle must not exceed 4.763kg (10lb 8oz). The rifle must otherwise meet the specifications of the Heavy Benchrest class.
Sporter Benchrest is a centrefire class in which the maximum total weight of the rifle must not exceed 4.082kg (9lb). The rifle must otherwise meet the specifications of the Heavy Benchrest class.
.22 Rimfire Benchrest Rifle
.22 Rimfire Benchrest Rifle includes a Light and Heavy class, with both allowing the use of any rimfire rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge. In the Light class, the total maximum weight of the rifle including a telescope must not exceed 3.515kg (7lb 12oz), the stock width must not exceed 57.15mm (2.25″) at any point, and the scope power is restricted to 6x magnification. In the Heavy class, the total maximum weight of the rifle including a telescope must not exceed 6.350kg (14lb). In both classes, the rifle must otherwise meet the specifications of the Heavy Benchrest class.
Centrefire Hunter Class
Centrefire Hunter Class includes a Light and Heavy class, with both allowing the use of centrefire rifles. In the Light class, the total maximum weight of the rifle must not exceed 4.536kg (10lb) and the stock width must not exceed 457.2mm (3″) at any point. The rifle must have a functioning magazine that will hold two or more cartridges that can be fed, chambered and made ready for firing and extracted solely by the bolt in the normal manner. Scope power is restricted to 6x magnification and the rifle must be fired from restricted rests only. In the Heavy class, the maximum total weight of the rifle must not exceed 6.35kg (14lb) and the rifle must otherwise meet the specifications of the Heavy Benchrest class.
Rimfire Hunter Class
Rimfire Hunter Class includes a Light and Heavy class, with both allowing the use of .22LR rimfire rifles. In the Light class, the total maximum weight of the rifle must not exceed 3.515kg (7lb 12oz) and the stock width must not exceed 57.15mm (2.25″) at any point. In the Heavy class, the maximum total weight of the rifle including a telescope must not exceed 6.35kg (14lb) and the rifle must otherwise meet the specifications of the Heavy Benchrest class.
Targets, Scoring and Matches
Targets and scoring
All Benchrest targets have an application section and a sighting section. On group shooting targets, the two areas are divided by a line through the centre of the target. There is no restriction on the number of ‘sighter’ shots that may be fired. On Hunter Class score targets, there are five scoring roundels and a specific sighting target, which is identified by a line around it. The sighter for Fly Shooting is a metal plate set near the scoring target and only three sighting shots are allowed per target.
Competitors try to shoot the required number of shots into the smallest possible group spread on each target and the five groups are added together to form an overall aggregate, which decides the finishing order of the competitors. Groups are measured with devices that can identify the exact centre of the two widest shots. The ultimate would be to put five or 10 shots into one single bullet hole. However, in 60 years of Benchrest shooting, this has never been done, although many have come very close. The target backer systems in use at registered matches ensure that the correct number of shots have passed through the scoring target.
Hunter Class is shot for a score out of a possible 250 points at each yardage. There are five scoring targets on each card and five of these targets are shot. Many shooters have achieved a ‘possible’ of 250 points, but each target has a tiny dot within the 10-ring, which is referred to as a ‘10x’. This is used to decide the winner and so far, no-one has shot 250 .25x. The times allowed for each target are the same as for group shooting.
Courses of fire
For all Benchrest group shooting matches, there are five targets shot at each range. The majority of matches are shot at 100 and 200 yards – the distances and group sizes are expressed in imperial measurement in Australia. For the first five-shot group of a class or after a change of distance, 10 minutes shall be given to complete firing – all other groups have a seven-minute time limit. For 10-shot groups, as in the Experimental/Unlimited Benchrest class, the time limits are 15 and 12 minutes.
Benchrest shooting as an accuracy discipline continues to grow, not only in the number of participants, but also in the variety of classes and matches available. Indeed, in 2010, two new matches, International Rimfire Benchrest (IRB) and Fly Shoot, were added to the rule book and official event calendar. From June 2017, the Fly Shoot received the same status of a separate SSAA discipline.
International Rimfire Benchrest
International Rimfire Benchrest (IRB) allows the use of .22LR rimfire rifles. The total maximum weight of the rifle must not exceed 6.35kg (14lb) and the scope power is unlimited. The match is shot at 50m for score, with a 25-bull target being shot over 30 minutes from the bench. A match comprises three targets.
IRB is affiliated with the World Benchrest Shooting Federation (WBSF), which manages Benchrest at the world level and of which Australia was a founding member. The WBSF now includes more than 30 member countries.
SSAA Benchrest International Team Selection Criteria
There are two selection methods for SSAA International teams:
- Invitational Team:
The National Board or President may appoint and approve an Invitational or Presidents Team. The selection of this team may be done with advice from the National Coaching and Discipline Supervisor and National Discipline Chairman.
- Selection Criteria:
The National Discipline Chairman submits a Team selected according to the Selection Criteria to the National Board for approval. The selection is based on merit and must be approved by the National Board.
To qualify for a SSAA International Team a person
- must be a current financial member of SSAA
- must be eligible for, or, hold a valid Australian passport or have an exemption from the SSAA Inc on our Australian nationality requirement.
See other details in the document “SSAA Inc Information and General Requirement for SSAA Team Members” as approved by the SSAA Inc Board.
Discipline Selection Criteria
Selection will be based on a disciplines Annual National Championship, with competitors from a minimum of two SSAA State and Territory Associations.
Selection will be based on the top twelve placings at a disciplines Annual National Championship in the core match or matches and/or the match or matches relevant to the international competition to be contested.
The core match or matches and/or match or matches relevant to the international competition will be determined for each Discipline. Contact the National Discipline Chairman for this information.
Any Annual National Championships may be used as a selection shoot. If a disciplines Annual National Championship is held six months before the scheduled date of an international event, that National Championship will be used as the selection shoot. If a disciplines Annual National Championship is held less than six months before the scheduled date of an international event, the National Championship of the previous year may, with approval, be used as the selection shoot. Any variation to this requires approval by the National Coaching and Discipline Supervisor or National President or Board.
There is no guarantee that a SSAA Team will be sent to an international event.
All SSAA International Teams are subject to the approval by the National President or Board and discipline funding.
A competitor can notify the National Discipline Chairman if they wish to be considered for selection as soon as possible and no later than two weeks after the finish of the National Championships. If notification wasn’t given a competitor must indicate their acceptance or rejection of their team position within two weeks of being officially informed of their eligibility by the National Discipline Chairman. Any variation to this requires approval by the National Coaching and Discipline Supervisor or National President or Board
The Team Selections should be completed by the relevant National Discipline Chairman as soon as possible after their Annual National Championship and submitted to the National Board for approval.
All Team Members selected according to the Discipline Selection Criteria must be approved by the SSAA National Board before the selection process is complete.
Approved by the SSAA National Board on 18 November 2018, for implementation on 1 January 2019