Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Inexpensive and Sturdy Shooting Bench

Perhaps one of the most important accessories involved in rifle and pistol "shootery" is a good bench rest. That being the case, I would like to present an unusually good one for my fellow shooters' consideration. It is made of common 2x4 and 4x4 lumber, plus a half sheet of 3/4" plywood, or whatever kind of thick sheeting one happens to have laying around the garage or shop. The bench depicted has been in constant use at a local gun club in my neck of the woods for many years and have never offered to loosen up in any way. Before getting into its dimensions and construction details, however, here is a general photograph of the unit we'll be discussing.


The bench above is intended for right handed shooters.
The photographs that follow depict a model made for use by left handed shooters. We'll begin with a general overview of the left handed model.


The left handed is simply the right handed model flipped over. All of the dimensions of the two models are the same regardless of orientation.

Construction Dimensions
First, a front view seems like a good place to start, so here goes:


As you can see, there is nothing sophisticated in this design at all.

Next, here is how the bench top is built:


This is how the sides are built:


Again, just flip this scene over to build a right handed model.
Now the details of the seat:


And lastly, the details of the rear bench top brace.


Construction Notes
First, note that several of the horizontal 2x4's are located on the INSIDE of the vertical 4x4's. Secondly, these benches were made before the advent of deck screws and variable speed power drills by old timers using large diameter 8D, 10D, or 12D ring shank nails (four to a joint) These are hard as the devil to pound in but won't come out even a smidge with age or use. The benches shown here are absolutely as tight as a drum to this day. However, in today's world I would use a combination of 3" and 4"-4 1/2" coated deck screws, and since I overbuild everything I do, I would also probably throw in a few galvanized 1/4" lag screws with washers.The bench tops of these units were cut from C/D grade plywood covered with a heavy coat of brushed-on Rustoleum oil-based paint. The unit depictd had its top replaced six years ago, so you can see how long the Rustoleum lasts when the bench is kept under cover.

Improvements I Would Make
For tall shooters, the seat and the bench top are a tad too close together. Tall fellows have to bend over quite a bit to get on their rifles, and in fact a lot of us carry some wooden blocks to place under our forend and butt rests just for this reason. An easy solution is simply to go ahead and build the unit as shown, but add a 2x4 on side to the parts of the horizontal structure the bench top rests on, and this should give the bench top the needed boost in height.If one needs to move the bench about his property or range, it would be easy to install a couple of horizontal 2x8 or 2x10 skids, set on their narrow sides and undercut like a ship's bow. These would be bolted to the sides of the 4x4 legs, running fore and aft. Add a couple of eye bolts somewhere on the rear of the bench and simply attach cables or chains to the eye bolts and drag the bench on its skids to the desired location with a pickup or even a lawn tractor.I would keep my bench covered with a large gas grille cover, fully understanding that wasps and other stinging critters including black widow spiders like to take up residence in such places. Still, I don't think the bench would last long if one left it uncovered.I would not allow the legs of the bench to rest on soil, which I'm sure would eat up the 4x4's fairly quickly. I would be more likely to tack a 4x4 piece of shingle material to the underside of each leg to prevent water absorption, and then use concrete pavers under each leg to keep the water-sensitive legs out of the mud.

A Final Word
As the reader can see, there is nothing sophisticated about this particular bench design at all. In fact, it comes pretty close to being a dedicated redneck affair. But, redneck or not, it can be made of the simplest and most inexpensive components with a minimum of tools and little to no carpentry skills at all. And the icing on the cake is the fact that it is one sturdy, sturdy, son of a gun.

Best wishes. JayPee

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"M1911's and M1911A1's - That Aren't" - by JP

For the past five years I have been the Match Director of our club's Vintage and Modern Military Rifle and Pistol Matches. I recently encountered a situation in which a competitor stood to lose his aggregate scores for the year in the Vintage Miltary Pistol Match competition by competing with an M1911A1 clone that wasn't true to the original Colts patents. So if you intend to shoot your M1911 or M1911A1 in competition of any kind, you might want to read on.

Our matches do not strive to send anyone to Camp Perry or the Olympics. They're local Club matches, but are conducted under a strict manual of regulations, especially concerning the match acceptance standards of certain firearms, in particular the 1911 and Hi-Power designs as used in Vintage matches. We shoot thirty round, 25 yard bullesye matches fired in three strings of ten rounds each, slow fire only, one hand or two, single or double action.

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that a number of manufacturers who produce "Milspec" M1911's or M1911A1's often produce them with sights that, while nothing to write home about, are still a considerable improvement over the stock G.I. sights. Some companies even offer models with either set of sights on them.

Our competitor, unaware of the rule, was using a Springfield M1911A1 with the upgraded service sights in Vintage pistol competition with shooters using older military pistols with the rudimentary sights found on same. This afforded him a serious advantage over his competitors, so I called a meeting of the Match Advisory Board to see what action would be appropriate. Here is our ruling:

1. While the 1911 and 1911A1 pistols were never issued to troops with the improved sights on them, the improved sights on this particular Springfield M1911A1 did not give the shooter an appreciable advantage over shooters using Beretta's, Glocks, Sigs, CZ's, etc., in the Modern Military Pistol Matches. So we ruled that despite the upgraded sights, the playing field was level and the gun could be used in competition in the MODERN Military Pistol Matches, and scores fired with it would be cumulative towards end-of-year awards.

2. But the finding was quite different when it came to the Vintage Matches. It was obvious to us that the Springfield pistol in question afforded the shooter an appreciable advantage over his competitors, who were shooting vintage pistols with "period-accurate" (i.e. crummy) military sights on them, and that therefore his pistol could only be used in the "participant" category. "Participant" scores are not cumulative, making the shooter inelegible for awards at the end of the year.

Since this gentleman was not aware of the issue and since the dummy Match Director didn't catch it until after the third match of the year, the three scores fired with his Springfield pistol so far this year were allowed to stand, which met the approval of the other competitors. But he will be using a Government Issue M1911 from here on out.

So here's the crux of the issue. Clones of the Colt Model of 1911 and 1911A1 are often not faithful to the original patents for those pistols, despite being called "M1911", "M1911A1", or having "Milspec" or "G.I." stamped on the box. While a few of these guns are faithful copies, others come with upgraded sights and some are actually clones of the Series 70 and Series 80 guns with upgraded barrels and bushings, as well as other improvements. So before you buy one of these supposed M1911 clones for competition in Vintage Military Pistol Matches, check the match rules and make sure you can compete with the gun you would like to buy. Otherwise you could be wasting your money.

Just as an aside, much the same situation exists with the sights found on Hi-Power pistols. The Hi Power has been produced with both the tiny service sights and the upgraded service sights similar to those found on the Mark III Browning Hi-Power. So if you have the improved sights on your Hi-Power or clone, you need to ask the host if your gun can be used in Vintage competition. Our rules won't allow the Hi-Power pistols to be used in Vintage pistol competition unless they have the older small sights.

Finally, our regs also have a list of approved and unapproved modifications to these guns that affect their acceptability for our matches. Generally, if the modification doesn't afford the shooter an advantage in accuracy or shootability, it is acceptable. Examples of acceptable modifications are enlarged ejection ports, extended safety and slide stop levers, beveled magazine wells, etc. But improved sights, triggers, or grip/grip frame configuration are unapproved and place the shooter into the "participant" category. Also, military firearms originally intended for use as target arms do not qualify under our rules. We strive to use the same guns issued to common troops. So again, check the regs before you modify your gun if you intend to use it in competition.

Good shooting to all,