EXTREME BENCHREST 2018
Stephen Archer reports from Arizona on an ‘extremely different’ benchrest challenge
REIGNING IN THE DESERT!
Extreme Benchrest came around again at the same time in October. Yes, it was held at the same range in Arizona, just outside Phoenix. Yes, it was organised superbly by Airguns of Arizona … and yes, there were the same courses of fire, with long-range benchrest and American field target competitions, among others, but in spite of that, just about everything was different.
BROCOCK BURSTS FORTH!
In most previous years at Extreme Benchrest, the winner of the headline 100 yards finals has shot an FX in the Pro category, but this year, all
of that changed. True, five out of the top ten finishers this year were shooting FXs – four were Impacts, the other a Crown – but no less than four Daystate Red Wolf HPs were also in the top ten. That in itself was a big change from previous years, but the biggest upset was caused by a quiet Chilean gentleman, Claudio Flores, shooting a Brocock Bantam Sniper HP.
Claudio’s final score was 215 with two bulls at 100 yards, with a Kahles scope mounted on his Brocock air rifle. That was completely outstanding shooting at 100 yards, where the 8 ring is just two inches in diameter, and the bull only half an inch across. Not only that, but the shoot was also far from windless, with unpredictable eddies and gusts swirling down from the berms that surround the range.
There was a wave of surprise and excitement among everyone when it was discovered that Claudio was the Pro class champion. Everyone had been looking for the winning air rifle to be a Daystate or FX. Claudio himself was overwhelmed at the awards presentation. I’m sure he had tears in his eyes as he received the $5,000 cheque in recognition of his triumph
The Pro class at Extreme Benchrest competitions includes any shooter who is associated with the airgun industry in any way. Also included are competitors who have placed third or higher in a previous year’s Extreme Benchrest competition. All other competitors fall into the Sportsmans’ class.
TWENTY TWO IS ON THE RISE
Another change from previous years concerned calibre. In recent years, there has been a definite trend at Extreme Benchrest for larger, but non-big bore calibres to sweep the field; .25 and .30 calibres had become more popular, and yet Claudio’s win was made with a .22 calibre Brocock.
This was part of a clear swing back to the smaller .22 calibre pellet, which had been seen to be too small to compete with the heavier calibres.
Undoubtedly, this trend was encouraged by a new prize category; the Gilbert Grand Challenge prize was to be awarded to the best-performing competitors in the 100-yard Extreme Benchrest finals using .22 calibre air rifles. This was sponsored by Gilbert Distribution in the UK, the distributor of Omega compressors outside the USA.
Ross Marshall of Gilbert Distribution was on hand to see his new prize also won by Claudio with his Brocock Bantam Sniper HR. In fact, 14 out of the top 30 contestants in the 100-yard Extreme Benchrest Pro class used a .22 calibre air rifle.
Another prize category dominated by .22 calibre air rifles was the One Gun Challenge. To compete for this challenge, the shooter was required to use the same air rifle for all of the Extreme Benchrest competitions, including the 75/100-yard Extreme Benchrest, 50-yard benchrest, American field target and speed silhouette competitions.
Here, nine out of the top ten competitors used Daystate Red Wolf air rifles. Michael Wendt, the owner of the Airgun Nation online airgun forum, was the clear winner with his .22 calibre Red Wolf. He cleaned-up in the Sniper class of the American field target competition,
as well as the Pro class for speed silhouette.
Obviously, so long as it has sufficient power, .22 calibre offers a flatter trajectory than the .25 and .30 calibre pellets. Concerns about wind affecting their flight do not seem to have materialised in practice.
Does so much success by the smaller calibre herald a long-term change among Extreme Benchrest competitors? Of course, only time will tell.
A BSA SURPRISE
Although popular with US shooters a few years back, BSA air rifles have languished out of sight from the mainstream market for some years, and this in spite of a burgeoning market for PCP airguns on this side of the Pond. So, it was extremely interesting to observe the appearance of a ‘works special’ BSA Gold Star SE, being fielded by true Brummie, Dave Mills, from the Airgun Training and Education Organisation.
Dave explained to me that this air rifle was built as a special by the British manufacturer especially for trial at Extreme Benchrest 2018. It was based on a regulated .177 calibre Gold Star R10 SE – at least, that’s what was marked on the breech – but the gun was actually in .25 calibre. Dave also explained that the gun had a fluted, .25 calibre barrel – the first fluted barrel ever manufactured by the company, he said, mated with an air stripper at the muzzle. The power level was 37.5 ft.lbs,, a good starting point for the US market in this calibre.
The red, white and blue laminate stock looked very good and ideal to advertise the country of origin, but a factory-fitted shroud/ silencer would be required for success in the US market, as BSA obviously must know.
Again, time will tell if this is the precursor for a new BSA attempt on the US market. Personally, I hope that it is a good sign because I believe the brand could be successful over here with the right pricing, marketing and sales strategies.
A NEW FX WILDCAT
FX Airguns were also using Extreme Benchrest for a stealth launch of a new model, the .30 calibre version of the Wildcat bullpup, first announced at the 2018 IWA show back in March.
This new model has a longer barrel than the smaller calibre Wildcats – 700 mm, in fact, combined with an externally adjustable regulator. The regulator on this 30 calibre FX Wildcat is on the right side of the gun, just above the buttstock, and adjustment is undertaken with an Allen key.
FX was promising availability of this new 30 calibre FX Wildcat in the USA in November.
The white magazines are just prototype parts – final shipments will feature black anodised magazines, I was told.
Of course, the new 30 calibre FX Widcat has the FX Smooth Twist X barrel. Jon from FX Airguns USA was shooting 46.3 grain FX BOSS pellets through the gun and was scoring well when I watched him. Fredrik Axelsson and the full FX team were present at Extreme Benchrest, as always. They’re great shots, too!
Fredrik himself placed third in the 100-yard Extreme Benchrest final with a 30 calibre FX Impact. That gun, together with another Impact, was among the $25,000-plus worth of goodies raffled at the final prize-giving ceremony. There was a ton of people trying to win that gun, believe me!
AMAZINGLY, IT RAINED!
Yes, you’re right – Phoenix, Arizona is in the middle of a desert, or at least it’s supposed to be. In fact, there was a huge, continuous downpour of rain on the Saturday. The area gained about one third of its annual rainfall in less than 12 hours!
This also was completely unprecedented for Extreme Benchrest. Normally, the issue is the roasting sun and 100ºC-plus temperatures. Competitors usually struggle to stay hydrated by chugging endless bottles of ice-cold water, but not this time.
Humourously, from a British perspective, I heard several locals say that they had never shot in the rain before. It was a completely new experience for them. Just imagine that! The rain failed to disrupt serious airgun shooting, though. The considerable professionalism and efficiency of the Airguns of Arizona team was demonstrated yet again as they failed to let, for them, apocalyptic and unimaginable weather conditions deter the competition, and the day ran only about 15 minutes behind schedule. That, too, was impressive!
As always, there was a surprising number of Brits present. At least half a dozen of us were at Extreme Benchrest for 2018, and Tony Belas was back with the Daystate team. In spite of all the changes, there are some things that remain the same. Maybe that British influence is why we ended-up with the rain this time.
Shooting the American field target competition among the huge Saguaro cacti.
This was an unusual surprise for many of the local competitors and spectators!
Claudio Flores was overwhelmed to win the 100-yard Extreme Benchrest Pro class championship.
Fredrik Axelsson (left) and Justin Welsh applaud Claudio Flores (right) on receiving his prize.
Former champ, Shane Kellar from AoA was in very serious contention shooting a Daystate Red Wolf.
The new .30 calibre Wildcat emerged from its case for the first time in public.
The speed silhouette competition always draws large crowds of spectators.
Dave Mills shooting the ‘works special’ BSA Gold Star SE.