Bench shooting is one of my most favorite pastimes. Here’s what I look for in a bench gun. First and foremost is accuracy at whatever range I’ll be shooting. There many standards out there. Given the various limitations at our local range, I mostly shoot at 25 and 50 meters. As I’ve mentioned recently, the max distance I have in my yard is 20 meters but I still get in some great trigger time. So for me, a bench gun needs to be 1-hole accurate at 25 meters, not across 5 shots or 10, but across 25. To achieve that level of consistency there are some other attributes that are critical.
If a gun is not comfortable to shoot, it’s not going to work for a bench gun. I’ve shot many airguns that were accurate and for 5 or 10 shots, they are not bad to shoot. But when you have to put 25, 50, or 75 shots down range, it needs to be comfortable. This usually means some measure of adjustability. For me, it’s about scope position. It needs to be at the right height and back far enough so that I can get a comfortable cheek weld without fatigue. It’s important that everything lines up for each shot to maximize repeatable accuracy.
After the ergonomics, it’s all about the trigger for me. If the trigger it too stiff, it can cause you to pull or push your shot. A fraction of a push or pull at the bench equals a serious drop in your score at range. Ideally I want a distinct 2 stage trigger. That’s just my preference; others may want a single stage trigger. The reason I like a 2 stage trigger is that the first stage prepares me for the shot. I know that the next ounce of pressure is going to fire the rifle. It’s probably all in my head, but it’s what works for me and what I prefer.
How the rifle is stabilized is very important. If the gun is not rock solid then it takes a lot more work to achieve those one-hole groups. A LOT more work. I’ve used several different rests and bipods, all to varying success. If the rifle has a properly ridged bi-pod that sits level, then that’s my preference. I’ll use a bag under the buttstock to provide the rear support. There’s always the option to use a lead sled, but, and again this is just MY opinion, that makes things almost too easy. There needs to be some human factor and skill to it. Again, please don’t start throwing fruit, it’s just my opinion. In some regards, and if you want to compete, you’ll need to be aware of the rules governing the class in which you plan to participate. Some groups allow single piece rests, i.e. lead sled, and some require 2 piece rests. Make sure that you practice with what’s required and be aware that there are these distinctions.
Some may ask why I put optics here at the bottom of the list? Well, it’s because if the rest of the gun doesn’t match up, then the scope isn’t going to matter. There are a few features that I look for when picking a scope for a bench rest airgun. First, is that it needs to be very clear at all magnification levels. Generally speaking, this is going to top out the magnification at 16x, at least on my budget for a scope. I have scopes that go up to 32x, but the light transfer at that magnification is so low that it’s really not usable. Just because a scope says 6x-24x on the side, does not mean that it’s going to be practical at 24x. I’d rather a crystal clear and bright 16x, than a dim 24x. The other part of the scope that’s important is the reticle. It has to be very thin and clearly defined.
I love it when it all comes together
For me, and if I’m honest it came as a very big surprise, the new Benjamin Armada provides nearly everything I want in a bench rest airgun. It has an adjustable, comfortable stock. Shooting 25 shots or 250 shots is not an issue, it’s that comfortable to me. The trigger could be a little lighter, but the stability of the rifle on the included bi-pod overcomes that issue for me. I can work the trigger without the rifle shifting, which is what I’m really looking for. Next is the stability. With the bundled bi-pod and a simple rear bag for support, the rifle is extremely stable not just at 25 meters, but also 50 and even 100 yards. And then there’s the optic. It’s a side focus, 4-16×56 mil-dot scope with 30mm tube. It fits all the right criteria for me. What’s most impressive is that this rifle performs out of the box. You don’t need to buy anything else other than pellets to see great, consistent accuracy.
Most recently I took it out for some long range testing at 50 and 100 yards. At 50 yards, all 10 pellets create a large hole in the target. At 100 yards, the rifle groups consistently about the size of a baseball. When you take into account the price point of the new Armada Standard, it’s hard not to consider it one of the better options for back yard bench rest shooting bliss!