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Worse Off the Bench?


Sin-ster

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I've never really shot a handgun from the bench. Being relatively new to the platform in general, it's just not something that came up until I felt like I was good enough (freestyle) to see what my gun could do. Plus, the first time you shoot a 50 yarder in competition and have NO clue how your gun prints that far, it's a bit unsettling.

I worked up a load for my Production gun (G17, factory barrel) and got the length and velocity to my ideal point. Based on the general consensus, it should be pretty accurate. Shooting it freestyle, I can say that it is indeed an improvement over factory stuff-- and even my "bad press group" has tightened up!

So I went to shoot it from the bags at 25-ish, just to get an idea and make sure it was hitting POA at that distance. What a bleeding disaster! Without going into details, I am 100% certain I shoot better groups freestyle than I do from the bags.

I rest my forearms on the first bag, without any portion of the gun touching it. I then press the trigger guard into the second bag, resting the length across the top. I tried it resting the trigger guard on top of the second bag with no improvement; I removed the second bag entirely with similar results.

Frankly, I don't expect perfect performance as trigger control is definitely one of my weak spots. However, it doesn't make a lot of sense that I actually get WORSE from the bags. Any explanations or pointers?

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To shoot well off a bag requires just as much technique and practice as any other position. It may seem like it should be easy but it can be quite difficult for some. I used to shoot metallic silhouette and hunt with pistols so I spent a lot of time shooting from a bag to develop loads and fine tune sights.

I set my bags up in a two tier arrangement, like stair steps, so the butt rests on the lower step and the trigger guard rests on the upper level. I used to try to rest the barrel/dust cover, etc on the top bag but gas escaping from the cylinder gap on revolvers will cut the bag to pieces so I learned to use the trigger guard so I could shoot them all the same. Try to find a table/bench and stool arrangement that puts the pistol in a comfortable position and allows your arms to rest comfortably on a towel or blanket so your elbows don't get banged up. Use both hands and try to position the pistol on the bags so it maintains sight alignment on the target with very little hand contact. Use the strong hand very lightly and primarily to press the trigger. Use the weak hand to stabilize lateral pistol movement. The bags should provide all the vertical support and keep the sights aligned. You will have to find ways to align the bags like ammo boxes, wooden "shims", whatever it takes to adjust height.

Use a target with a bull that is as close as possible to the full width of the front sight at the distance you want to shoot. It makes consistent sight alignment easier. Take your time to align the sights and focus entirely on the front sight. Press the trigger with the least amount of grip possible and let the pistol recoil with very little restraint. Dry fire a time or two to be sure the sights don't move at all when the pistol snaps.

Once you master the bags you will be more confident than ever with your pistol's ability to group. It will make you a better all around shooter.

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Thanks a ton for that, Mike. There's several things you talk about that I was definitely not doing-- or even worse, doing the opposite.

I believe my target selection was a poor one as well, as it was basically a tiny little dot I was trying to balance on the center of the front post. I'll have to dig through the target folder and see if I can come up with an actual bench/zero type of target that meets the suggested criteria.

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My sandbag technique: Two ("regular" size, made from shotgun shot bags) sandbags, on top of each other. Forearms on the bench, weak hand fingers pressed into the bags, and the bottom of the frame (in frontof the triggger guard) pressed flat down on the top of the bags. And you will most likely have to adjust your weak hand's grip so that the magazine can also rest flat on the bench. When everything is right, you will have zero movement in the sights, as you smoothly release the trigger.

be

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Good stuff.

I painstakingly figured out through hundreds of freestyle rounds that my new load had indeed shifted POI. So that's a plus.

I'm excited to get out and get this problem sorted out. That is if this Tropical Storm would ever go away...

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I have to agree about having confidence in your pistol.

My local plates league has been banned from shooting steel plates indoors (long story), so a couple of smart guys in the group found us some cheap resilient alternative targets:

wacky_noodles.jpg

Going from 6" plates down to 2" wide, 6" long noodles has been challenging to say the least. No rewarding "ting" anymore. This makes calling shots an essential skill, unless you'd rather wait to see the noodle fall down.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Gave these techniques a shot yesterday and definitely saw some improvement. I've got to get a different bag set up as my current one is making my eyes cross, but that's another story!

What I do to prove the accuracy of the pistol and increase my confidence in it (and my own abilities) is to shoot random junk when I'm alone in the sand pit. People have been leaving stuff out there for years, so there's always a plastic bottle or tin can floating around somewhere. (Plus I take the junk I shoot with me, so I'm contributing to clean up as well!) I find that with no pressure and instant feedback, it's amazingly easy to make great shots. You get to the point where you're saying, "Now this one is a stretch..." and just keep getting the hits, which is a real boost to your morale.

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FWIW I bought a pistol benchrest for less than $25. I'm still struggling to get that confidence in my pistols that I used to get after sighting in my rifles. It seems to be more of a challenge for me.

One factor that became apparent immediately is that my short range vision has deteriorated since my rifle days.

It’s off to the eye doc, then back to the bench, ..... again.

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My feeling is that mastering the sandbags will improve one's ability to shoot more accurately. Once you have no doubts about what your pistol can do, you'll know the rest is up to you.

be

I've found that you need to have really good technique to shoot off bags effectively, you can't just plunk a gun down in the bags, bang away at the trigger and expect good results.

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I just tried shooting at a rest provided by the range (it's a crappy plastic material gun rest) earlier to zero my G17 too, it was a disaster too :( But when I tried shooting offhand that's when I knew my gun is perfectly zeroed, POA/POI. But I still want to try shooting off on sandbags, sounds like fun. I may try doing it this weekend :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

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