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How to choose a Benchrest scope

In benchrest shooting, you want to get the absolute most performance out of your equipment. To that end, benchrest shooters take as many variables out of shooting as possible using rests, with some of the most expensive equipment in all of shooting sports, with the records of 0 MOA five shot groups at 300m and 2.81 inches or .28 MOA at 1000 yards.  

In this section, we will discuss long range benchrest (600 & 1000 Yard) shooting versus the shorter ranges (IBS, NBRSA competitions etc.). Shorter distances use many other scopes on this list, and it is important you can clearly see where your shot impacted the target.

High magnification scopes are generally used, and most top shooters use 20x to 50x scopes in both variable and fixed-power target models. Much of your scope choice will depend on the class of competition, as you need to follow the rules for rifle, scope, weight, and caliber.  

Less consideration is paid to the weight of the scope in the open and unlimited classes, although there are several weight classes since it will be mainly used on a bench rest or in a shooting vise as opposed to being carried.

These scopes will have detailed target style turrets with very fine adjustments of 1/8 MOA and can be among the most expensive scopes on the market.  

Reticles are often fine crosshairs to allow for adjustments and target focus without clutter. Many have an open central dot of 1/16”, 3/32” or 1/8” Minute-of-Angle (MOA).

Handloads are also a major aspect of benchrest shooting, as trying to squeeze every last bit of accuracy out of a rifle is what separates the winners and the losers. See our book on handloading your own ammunition.

Scope buying criteria

Scopes for Benchrest Long Range shooting

Mechanical precision and optical clarity are important. Fine (1/8 MOA) mechanical precision is essential for this type of shooting, and often scopes have larger adjustment ranges and therefore are more prone to issues. Choosing a quality brand name is essential for quality assurance and durability.

Magnification and optical clarity are required to get tight, “bug size” groups.

Example persona for bench rest shooting

Jacob would like to get into benchrest shooting with his grandson using a .243 rifle, handloads, and 10-50x spotting Scope. As with all firearms sports, the sky is the limit when choosing equipment. Benchrest shooting is great for kids or adults as it teaches the basics of ballistics while the gun can be locked down into a vise to ensure safety. Triggers usually among the lightest in the shooting world for the least amount of movement.

An example of a budget starter setup would be:

• Rifle .243 Remington 700

• A special stock is used for Benchrest to allow the rifle to sit flat on the rest. McMillan Stocks lead the list for the lightweight division

• Hornady Reloading Kit

• Caldwell Rock Solid front rest and rear bag.

• Spotting Scope 10-50x

Scope options:

• Weaver T-36 is his cheapest option for a dedicated benchrest scope.

• Leupold 45x Competition is known for its clear glass, great eye relief, and custom shop. Reticles and turrets are available and is one of the most popular scopes at the national level

• Nightforce Precision Benchrest is a higher end choice for those more serious about the sport.

Scope notes:

Weaver T-36: Budget Friendly benchrest scope with a fixed 36 power, low weight for saving ounces on weight restricted classes.

Competition: 1/8 MOA adjustments for the finely tuned accuracy needed in benchrest shooting. Leupold has been the gold standard for years, combined with their custom shop reticles and turrets this scope is tough to beat.

Precision Benchrest 12-42: 1/8 MOA clicks. The first variable power scope on the list for benchrest shooters. Nightforce makes great durable scopes for heavier recoiling calibers.

Sightron SIII Tactical: 1/8 MOA Sightron Benchrest scope has great glass clarity and a fine crosshair for accurate shot placement.

March Optics 8-80x56mm : The King 1/16 March Optics have great glass, 8-80 magnification allows for extreme long range precision with Secondary Focal Plane reticle allows for great views in benchrest shooting. Non-transferable warranty.

* * *

*SFP = 2nd focal plane; FFP = 1st focal plane.

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