Recently the club I belong to opened up a 200meter range that used to be for rimfire shooting only to now allow center-fire rifles. As a part of this process, they now require shooters to qualify in order to use the range with a center-fire rifle. Since I love me some long range shooting, I jumped at the chance to qualify. But…
What really disappointed me when I made it to one of the qualification sessions was that everyone was shooting off of a bench. Maybe I’m some sort of rifle marksmanship snob, but shooting off a bench rest or bipod doesn’t really seem like a demonstration of skill to me. I can lock my rifle in a vice and prove my rifle is qualified to shoot on the range, but I would rather demonstrate my ability instead of the rifle’s.
Shooting off the bench seems to be the norm these days. So normal in fact that the requirement for qualification was a 5” group at 200 meters, roughly a 2.3 minute of angle group. Most skilled shooters with a rack grade rifle and surplus ball ammunition should be capable of a 4 minute of angle group (that’s 9” at 200 meters) without the need for a bench (try prone with a sling).
If shooting from a bench was the requirement for use of the range, I think this expectation would be perfectly acceptable. Instead since prone is allowed once you have qualified, it just reinforces the fact that most people just can’t shoot a rifle these days. The majority of people qualifying showed up with some sort of .223 with a high-power scope and a bipod or shooting rest. Partly because that’s what people do these days, and partly because the requirements made it so most shooters who normally could pull off a 9” group at 200 meters from the prone position with a sling were concerned about qualifying.
Rather than play their game of shooting a scoped rifle off a rest, I took my M1 Garand. I got into a solid prone position, adjusted my iron sights based on my zero and understanding of trajectory, and proceeded to put a qualifying group on paper. I say this not because I want to show off (though I am really proud of my group!), but because I think it highlights what is wrong in the shooting world right now. To further rub it in, my wife then used the same rifle and qualified from the seated position… with a better group. I doubt that the majority of the bench rest qualifiers could achieve the same. Many seemed to have enough trouble getting a 5 inch group with their fancy rest and high-power scope.
Once, America was known as a nation of Riflemen. It was said that you would find one behind every blade of grass. Do you really think a Rifleman would need to shoot off of a bench rest? I don’t.
Want to really prove your marksmanship skills with your rifle? Do it without the rest.