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SSAA COMPETITION - THE DISCIPLINES ISSUE

Benchrest
The importance of
by Brendan Atkinson

A
nyone who has attended a shoot- be those who compete in the Benchrest interpret their messages is what usually
ing competition, even as a spec- events, both rimfire and centrefire. With decides the winner.
tator, will have noticed various the exception of Hunter Class, Benchrest When I first started shooting Benchrest
forms of wind-indicating equip- events are all about shooting the tiniest back in 1975, we had little more than
ment placed on the range. Some may call possible group for five and sometimes 10 ‘rags on sticks’ which only told us that
them wind flags and in a few simple cases shots. Think in terms of five bullets passing yes, there was some wind blowing and
this might be accurate, but the modern through a hole at 100 yards around one- little else. In 1983, I constructed 40 indi-
indicator performs so many tasks that to tenth of an inch at times. In fact, groups cators from styrofoam in preparation for
call them a mere flag does not do justice to smaller than .060" have been shot in cen- the National Championships in Adelaide
their usefulness. trefire competition in this country - the that year. These were light, extremely
It will come as no surprise to any shooter outright world record stands at .009", shot reactive to changes and with a ribbon
that from the moment a bullet leaves the many years ago in the USA. attached would give wind direction and
muzzle and becomes a projectile, there are It is all but impossible to shoot those tiny a rough idea of intensity. We used those
a number of forces working upon it. There groups without using some sort of wind- indicators at the Para Range up until
are things such as rotational spin, yaw and indicating device. The slightest puff of wind about seven years ago.
pitch and, of course, gravity. However, the can move a bullet an alarming amount at Most of the experimentation on indi-
one force of nature that will really move a 200 yards, and this is a sport where the cator design was going on in Canberra,
bullet from its intended course is the wind winners may be separated by only tenths of where Stuart and Annie Elliott were
and with the use of efficient indicators we a thou in aggregate. To fully appreciate this, experimenting with Koreflute vanes and
can exercise some form of control over one must be a competitor or at least have propellers made from polypropylene. This
what happens on the target. Shooters often some experience of group shooting. was in the early 1980s and various designs
do this by employing a ‘holding off’ tech- It has often been said that there are were tried until they finally settled on a
nique to guide shots to the same point on a plenty of one-tenth rifles, but very few specific shape in 1994. Not unlike part of
target. This also works when shooting out one-tenth shooters. Scores shot in any the tailplane of a jetliner, these indicators
in the field. particular match are usually a fair indica- have been used all over Australia and have
The fussiest group of extreme accuracy tion of the conditions of the day. Wind been seen at all World Benchrest Champi-
shooters in the competitive sense would indicators and the ability of the shooter to onships since 1995.

26 Australian Shooter
SSAA COMPETITION - THE DISCIPLINES ISSUE

wind indicators

Right-to-left (green) conditions. Note the


red, white and blue color of prop.

As testament to their effectiveness,


shooters from the USA, UK, Germany, New
Zealand, New Caledonia, Italy, Norway,
Sweden and Finland have used their indica-
tors. Australian teams travelling overseas
to world championships have transported
Left-to-right (red) conditions. The prop is
the Elliott indicators with them and have red, white and blue.
found that the overseas competitors have
requested to buy them after the shoot.
So just what are these indicators and
how do they work? It will be essential to
refer to the photographs in this article to
understand the principles and description
of each unit.
The operating principle relies on a bal-
anced propeller mounted on two precision
stainless steel ball bearings and a Koreflute
vane that has been shaped to track the wind
direction. A central axle assembly contains a
pivot, which houses two stainless steel ball
bearings. The propeller bearing assembly
has two precision stainless ball bearings and
the tubing at the rear to support the vane.
Quartering right-to-left (green) condition shows
The polypropylene propeller is assembled a blue and white prop.
around a central rotor, which is connected
to the bearing assembly. The whole lot
then sits on an adjustable pole, which > A lull in the conditions shows the ribbon
hanging down and the prop at rest.

Australian Shooter 27
SSAA COMPETITION - THE DISCIPLINES ISSUE
fits into a steel spike that has been driven blue, and are extremely wind sensitive to on the propeller. If it moves further around
into the ground. any air movement. The colors will identify to 11 o’clock, one will see only a red prop.
With the propeller folded to the instruc- the angle of any wind change. If we use the These subtle wind changes are what
tions, the unique colors will not only give clock-face method, a wind from the left at destroys tiny groups and cause shooters
wind speed, but also direction, or if you 9 o’clock is 90 degrees to the shooter and to say that they swore nothing changed
like, angle and velocity. A brilliantly colored will show a red vane and all three colors of when they fired. It did, of course, and the
sailcloth tail is attached to the rear of the red, white and blue will be visible on the propellers would have indicated it.
vane and several colors are now available, propeller. However, if the wind changes Having the best wind indicators and
depending upon what sort of contrast is
required against the range backdrop. A lurid
purple-pink seemed to work well against
angle to 10 o’clock, there will still be a red
vane, but only red and white will be seen
being able to read them is a huge
advantage, but if you don’t place them >
the dry Belmont Range backdrop at the
Harry Madden shoot.
The Koreflute vanes are green on one
side and red on the other. On the range
a left-to-right wind will show red and a
right-to-left wind is green. This is more or
less an agreed international standard, but
there are always some who want to go the
other way. The curved fluoro-yellow shaped
sailcloth tails are designed to swing like a
pendulum and will not flip over and around
the support pole like surveyors tape will,
even when wet.
The key to reading these indicators lies
within the colors of the propeller. They
have three colors, being red, white and
Severe right-to-left conditions at a recent
Portland, Victoria, shoot. Note that one
indicator has been blown off the vertical
and therefore cannot be relied upon to
give an accurate reading.

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28 Australian Shooter
SSAA COMPETITION - THE DISCIPLINES ISSUE
on the range correctly, they are useless. One person sets up a rifle on sandbags looks through the riflescope and advises
The indicators must be as near to the at the benchline and the other one takes on the height of each unit. Usually, three
bullet’s flight as possible. The only way the indicators downrange. It is permissible or four are required for 100 yards and five
to achieve this is to place them out in a to set up indicators so they are able to or six for 200 yards. Most importantly, the
line from the muzzle to the target. This be seen through the bottom of the rifle- special bubble level tool is used to set the
is a two-person job, preferably using two- scope, but they must be below the actual posts perpendicular. Any windflag design
way radios for easy communication. The target area. For WBC and NBRSA matches must have a perpendicular pivot.
distances at which they should be set will (overseas only) they cannot be higher Shooters are required to rotate across
depend upon the range topography, but as than the bottom edge of the target frame. the benchline - usually four moves in a five-
a general rule, we put them at 10, 35, 60 Starting with the furthest indicator, one target match - and 25 to 30 indicators will
and 90 yards for shooting at the shorter person works back towards the benchline, be required to cover the whole range. This
yardage of 100 yards. while the other person at the benchline number can be accomplished by combining
more of the same flags from other owners.
It is generally conceded by competi-
tive Benchrest shooters that the Elliott
wind indicators are about the best ones
going at the moment and a partnership has
been formed with Barry Edgley (Custom
Benchrest) to help streamline production.
Demand from all over the Benchrest world
has hastened this decision.
Quality costs money and a combo kit is
available which will give the shooter five
indicators, adjustable poles and all neces-
sary accessories for a complete row which
will go out to 200 yards. This is priced at
$570 and if cared for properly, could give

.
a lifetime of service. Check them out at
After hammering the support spike into the The tool is in place and the bubble must www.BenchRestTraining.com for more
ground, it must be checked with the bubble tool be dead centre. information.
to ensure that it is perpendicular to the ground.

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