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.
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.
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