"Benchrest Kneeling"

In August I covered the kneeling positionThat was a long time ago.  Since then we’ve started cheating to make our positions more stable by making use of support.  I’m going to discuss two ways of using improvised support in the kneeling position. 

First, you’ll come upon a support that is solid, handy, and at a height that speaks to you thusly: “I’m about the right height for you to use the kneeling position.”  You will then utilize your support hand to steady the forend of the rifle by making use of one of the methods referenced in the above hyperlinked article entitled “Introduction to Improvised Support in Rifle Shooting”.  That’s pretty crazy, because I just hyperlinked to it again.

Here’s where we tweak the kneeling position.  In normal kneeling the front knee is up to support the bulk of the rifle’s weight and the rear knee is on the ground for stability.  When we use artificial support to steady the rifle, we eliminate the need for the support side knee to hold the weight of the rifle.  You could put that knee on the ground even without it mattering one iota.  So let’s just put it on the ground to see what happens.  Do you need both knees on the ground?  No.  Could your firing side knee perform some other function since we don’t need it on the ground for stability anymore?  YES!

What we’re going to use the right knee for is to stabilize the wobbly firing side arm (that bane of precise shooting from the kneeling position!).  I had thought of this a while back.  I later saw Michael Voigt teach this in season 3 of Top Shot (my one guilty pleasure) when they shot with the Sako TRG’s with 20” barrels.  It just goes to show that some things are so common sense that people will come to the same conclusion independently.

Here’s what it looks like (again, everything was done left handed this month, in deference to December being weak handed shooting month):

 

IMG_5305

Here’s an improvement that I don’t think I would have figured out had I done the work for this article shooting right handed.  I figured out a way to make this even more stable, like a “benchrest kneeling” if you will.  This is so simple it’s stupid that I hadn’t thought of it before.  The above supported kneeling uses your firing side knee to support the elbow- that’s pretty good, right?  Why not just use the knee to support the rear of the rifle stock?  Duh???!!!

 

IMG_5305

Your ability to adjust for elevation is a little more limited with Benchrest Kneeling.  If you can move the front support hand without hindrance vertically, then you’ll be able to adjust to anything.  If not, the rear knee can only go so high or so low.

This goes to show that shooting weak sided has another benefit.  You bring all your shooting experience to learning something from a new perspective.  All the principles of marksmanship that you practice will manifest themselves in ways you didn’t expect.  Being “weaker” can also help you find more efficient ways to do things.

I discovered a few things about benchrest kneeling for you.  First is that to make the best use of it you’ll want a horizontal support.  The way vertical support works, you have to hang on.  Hanging on induces a bit of wobble.  If you’re going to wobble, you might as well use regular supported kneeling, because, to be honest, benchrest kneeling is a bit of a pain.  Finding that perfect height of horizontal support (just less than the height of your knee) is like finding a unicorn.  It’s funny how I’m writing about positions that are supposed to be used with support that just happens to be there, and I go to the range and have to bring my “improvised support” with me (I’ve used a vehicle several times) or spend a long time looking for just the right thing.

Another thing I need to warn you about.  Take a look at this picture:

 IMG_5351

This was from day 2 using benchrest kneeling.  Day 1 was the day where there’s not enough daylight left and for some reason the scope isn’t adjusted the way it should be, and even if it was, I forgot to use the correct holdunder for the range I was at.  Not that I ever make mistakes.  But this was from day 2.  The red “x” denotes something bad.  You’d think that I got all of the bad stuff out on day 1.  Not so.

Looking at the picture, can you see what’s going to happen when the rifle recoils?  Let me give you a hint:  notice how the grip cap protrudes slightly.  Then notice where it is in relation to the muscle just above my knee.  Also consider what recoil is (the rifle will move back).  That made my leg stiff and sore for about 2 days, and the first day was pretty bad.

The trick to avoid sustaining an injury is to keep the knee well behind the grip cap, just in front of the rear sling swivel.  You can adjust this by altering your body angle.  This only happened on that one day, so if you do it correctly, you should be fine.

On day 3 of shooting with benchrest kneeling, I finally was able to get 10 rounds off and into a single target, though I was not pleased with the results:

 Sako75bR kn lh 2.9

This was reminiscent of the worst vertical stringing I have experienced with this rifle.  Google Earth says that the range was just over 140 yards, which makes the group 2.9 MOA.  I hadn’t thought it was quite that far; my guess was 120. I checked the torque on my action screws when I got home.  I had set the torque at 35 inch pounds prior to shooting the previous 20-40 rounds.  When I checked it after the above group they were at about 20 inch pounds.  Gotta love a wood stock, especially in the winter, when it freezes and thaws on a daily basis.

I spent some time thinking about the crappy group.  Here’s what I came up with.  I didn’t call any of my shots that bad, and I’m usually pretty accurate at calling my shots.  What I did notice while shooting was that my new zero, which is this,

 

LEUPOLD-VX-3-3_5-10x50-CDS-Rifle-Scope-Duplex-Reticle-111827-Pic2

 

makes it difficult to tell where exactly to plant the tip of the upper thick post in a black diamond that appears to be the same width as the post.  A 12 o’clock hold would have been a bit more precise.  Secondly, my rifle is known for vertical stringing.  Thirdly, I was shooting left handed.  Fourth, I was testing a new position.  Fifth, because my rifle is not super accurate, my load testing was not super extensive.  I picked a load that seemed to be OK without being super hot.

To sum up the variables, they would be:

1.    The new position.
2.    Inaccurate rifle.
3.    Left Handed.
4.    Weird and unfamiliar zero.
5.    Unknown absolute accuracy of the ammunition.

I decided to shoot this with the Remington 700 .308 and Federal Gold Medal 168 grain ammunition with a 100 yard zero.  That brings the variables to this:

1.    The new position.
2.    Inaccurate rifle.
3.    Left Handed.
4.    Weird and unfamiliar zero.
5.    Unknown absolute accuracy of the ammunition.

I also decided to shoot it right handed as well, because I want the best for you, even though December is Weak Sided Shooting Month.  That brings the variables tested to this:

1.    The new position.
2.    Inaccurate rifle.
3.    Left Handed.
4.    Weird and unfamiliar zero.
5.    Unknown absolute accuracy of the ammunition.

I sure hope you appreciate all the trouble I go to so you have an accurate test.

Here’s what happened on a balmy 30° day with plenty of fog at 100 yards:

Benchrest Kneeling Left Handed:

 

Benchrest Kneeling L 2point 5moa
2.5 MOA

Benchrest Kneeling:

Br Kn R 2point3 point9
2.3 MOA.  Without those three little guys (those guys, I wouldn’t worry about those guys) the group is 0.9 MOA, but it’s really still 2.3 MOA.

What about the regular supported kneeling?  It’s pretty much as good.

Left handed:

Supp Kn LH 2point1
2.1 MOA

Right Handed:

Supp Kn rh 2point4
2.4 MOA, but I was trying to make a happy face smoking a cigar, plus I have a bridge I want to sell you.

Remember when I said that I didn’t call the shots of the first group (REALLY BAD VERTICAL STRINING) as bad as they were?  I didn’t call any of these more than a half inch out of the black!  That leads me to believe that my calls in this position are faulty for some reason.  I don’t know what to make of it, because I’m used to my calls being pretty much right on.

My conclusion is that these two positions are for all intents and purposes, capable of the same level of accuracy.  I think that with some work, benchrest kneeling still has the capability to be more accurate, but it’s a real pain in the rear to shoot from.  Supported kneeling is a little more user friendly, but still needs to be practiced with, because it’s not super intuitive.

So the name, “benchrest kneeling” is pretty indicative of its potential accuracy, which is about halfway between using a bench and kneeling, if not a little bit closer to the benchrest (but then, what else would you expect from the mind of a genius?).

Good luck.  Vaya con Dios, señor.

2 thoughts on “"Benchrest Kneeling"

  1. For what it’s worth – your first group I would attribute to breathing more than anything. I fire during the 2-3 second respiratory pause after exhaling. When I get a vertical string with no significant windage issues, it is typically due to my being inconsistent about when I pull the trigger during my breathing cycle.

    I’ll pass on your left-handed groups…most people I’ve seen are lucky to hit paper shooting left-handed.

    • It’s possible that it was breathing. I’m not going to rule it out, but it’s pretty consistent with how that rifle and I have been shooting regardless. I shoot during the respiratory pause, and wasn’t doing anything different with the Remmy than the Sako. I’m not going to call it a total equipment problem until I dial in some other shooting issues. We’ll see.

      Thanks for posting and for reading.

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