Shooting Rest Buyer's Guide

By: Cabela's Staff
Mark Mazour properly sights in a new rifle with the help of Cabela's New Elite Rifle Rest.

The whole idea of sighting in is to test the rifle and ammo combination and to make sure the bullet hits where the sights (iron or scope) are aiming.

Sighting in is not supposed to be a test of how well you shoot. That is called practice, and it requires a good deal more time than 20 rounds, the week before deer season opens.

To begin with, to properly sight in a rifle, you have to do it yourself. Everyone grips a gun in a different manner, places more or less cheek pressure on the stock and looks through the sights differently. In short, you can't have someone else sight in your rifle. The second biggest factor to sighting in is having a steady shooting platform. A solid bench and a quality rest are the two basic tools needed to sight in. These two items will ensure that you eliminate the most of the outside factors that hinder a rifle's performance. Once again, you are not testing yourself but the combination of rifle, load and sights.

Cabela's makes several products that make this task easy with a good selection of rests.

Mark Mazour shoots a few sub-minute groups with the Cabela's Minimizer.

Full Support Rests
Several types of rests are available for the aspiring target shooter. The most versatile is the full rest. Not only are these rests extremely stable, but they are also handy for a variety of tasks not specifically related to shooting. A full-support rest can be used for bore sighting, scope mounting and general cleaning. They can be set up on a bench, table, or prone in a field, and for an all-around rest the full support varieties are hard to beat.

The Rock

Tripod Rests
Tripod rests have long been the favorite of serious bench rest competitors in a game where the difference between winning and losing is often measure in thousandths of an inch. Quality tripod rests are either made from aluminum or cast iron and can be adjusted for elevation and forend width. Tripod rests are not as versatile as some of the other rests available, but there is a reason they are used by nearly everyone in benchrest shooting circles - they are the most solid rest for the money.

Sandbags as Rests
For years, shooters have used simple sandbags as shooting rests stacked on top of a bench but recently there have been some exciting innovations to this time-tested practice. Shooting bags may not be as steady as some rests but for a rest that is versatile and is at home on the hood of a truck, in the prairie dog fields or at a range it is hard to beat the versatility of these sand or shooting bags.

Cabela's Elite Shooting Bench

Shooting Benches
As mentioned earlier in the article, you can't effectively sight in a gun if you are not steady, and being steady starts from the ground up. Without a solid shooting bench, the best rest in the world will do very little to shrink groups. While some ranges have shooting benches (some have none or ones that are too unstable to use), there are times when you are shooting in the field or on private property where no bench facilities exist.

Tips and suggestions

Use the same ammo
All ammo shoots differently even if the bullet weights are the same. Always sight in with the ammo you are going to hunt with.

Bore sighting
If you just put a new scope on a rifle or bumped your existing scope since your last shooting session, bore sighting is a good idea. Either a conventional or laser boresighter will work, as the concept is the same. These tools simply line up the center of the bore with the center of the scope. They are far from perfect, but they will get you close enough to make final sighting easier.

Cleaning
This is a highly debatable topic, and it differs with every rifle. Generally speaking, rifles shoot different clean then when they are dirty. To what extent depends upon the particular load and rifle. Here are some suggestions. Clean the gun, then fire one or two fouling shots through the barrel. This deposits residue and removes any left-over oil (fire these shots at the target just to gather information on how much your rifle changes between a clean barrel and a dirty one - you may be in luck and find no significant difference). Then begin the sighting process. Once again, every caliber is different on how many shots between cleaning will start producing fliers and large groups. On some small bore, high velocity rifles it can be as little as 10 rounds; on others it can be as high as 50 or more. Generally try to clean around 20 shots. This is plenty to sight in with. After you are sighted in, re-clean the gun then fire two more shots as fouling rounds. With a pre-fouled rifle there should be no reason for a flier when that buck of a lifetime steps from the timber.

Don't rest the barrel
This is an important one. All of the rests Cabela's sells are designed to cradle the stock's forend. If you lay the barrel in direct contact with anything (the rest, a tree, your hand) the harmonic vibrations are disturbed, which can cause erratic fliers, large groups or shifting point of aim. Play it safe and only allow the stock to touch the rest.

Sighting in is not that difficult to do - follow these tips and use a quality bench combined with a good rest, and you are well on your way to hitting right where you are aiming, come this deer season. In addition to the pin-point accuracy, the confidence of knowing exactly where your rifle is shooting, when a big buck steps from the treeline at 250 yards, is hard to beat.