EX­TREME BENCHREST 2018

Stephen Archer re­ports from Ari­zona on an ‘ex­tremely dif­fer­ent’ benchrest chal­lenge

Airgun World - - Contents - Stephen Archer is the Pub­lisher of Hard Air Magazine, the US-based on­line air­gun magazine. http://www.hardair­magazine.com.

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.

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