Why You Need a Strong Bench—for Shooting
A shaky bench means bad groups. Here’s one that’s steady, durable, and ready to go wherever you need it to
Back in 2013 I needed a shooting bench for Gun Nuts, the TV program. This was more of a problem than it sounds, because most shooting benches are shaky, and a shaky bench means bad groups, and the one thing you must not do for the camera is shoot bad groups.
Via Brownell’s, I found my way to Stukey’s Sturdy Shooting Benches, located in Powell, Wyoming. And when Royal Stukey says “sturdy,” he is not woofing. His benches (hereinafter referred to as SSSBs) are made on the same principle as the AK-47: There are not many parts, and those that there are, are massive. There is the top, which is made of 13 laminates of Baltic birch. On the bottom side of the Baltic birch is a triangular steel frame that incorporates three floating nut plates and screw sockets. Into this you screw three steel legs that weigh enough to double as barbells. (Three legs cope better with uneven ground than four.) The SSSB weighs over 70 pounds. How strong is it? If you go to the website (or look at the photo above), you can drink in the sight of a small GMC truck perched atop four SSSBs.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Mr. Stuckey has gone to a new finish for the Baltic birch. He was looking for something waterproof, and came up with a three-part finish consisting of a sealer, a Polyurea coat, and a top coat. The finish adds 4½ pounds to the total weight. When combined, the sealer and the Polyurea bond becomes stronger than either one is by itself.
The new finish is so impervious that a Poly SSSB top will outlast the older version by a factor of 20. You can leave one outside for 20 years and no harm will come to it. In fact, the finish is identical to that used on foam buoys that float in the Great Lakes for two decades waiting for an ore ship to sink so Gordon Lightfoot can write a song about it.
So confident is Royal Stuckey in what he’s making that he sent me a package of Poly-top test chunks with a letter that I have excerpted from below, because seldom do you get letters like this:
The sample with the outer edge is the surface that takes the most abuse when setting up…. We hit this edge with a ¾-inch round steel bar, the edge of the Bobcat bucket, and the bumper on a pickup. We also ground it on the gravel drive.
The long narrow samples are fun to put in a vise* or between two bricks to see how much harder the poly sample is to break in two. If you hit them with a hammer be careful, as the poly is pretty springy.
The wider samples are fun to hit with the ball of a ball peen hammer and both ends of a 5-pound blacksmith hammer and even a sledgehammer. Before beating them up too bad, do try to scratch them with a screwdriver or car key. It’s interesting to hit a sample with a hammer until all the wood is gone and see how the poly held up.
The small thin pieces are just fun to bend back and forth.
You have to admit that this bespeaks a certain confidence. I did all this, and had fun, but didn’t impress the Poly very much.
Maintenance? Keep some grease on the leg threads.
In addition to the improved SSSBs, Mr. Stuckey is offering heavy duty covers for the old-style tops, made by Red Oxx in Billings, Montana. You don’t need them for the Poly tops, but what the hell, it’s your money. At the very least they’ll keep the bird doo-doo off your pristine SSSB.
And Target Shooting, Inc., has created a new turret for the SSSB that allows you, when working over a prairie dog town, to rotate your rifle 360 degrees and spread death and destruction to all points of the compass. It attaches to the bench top with rubber suction cups. You put a mechanical rest on it and blaze away. The whole thing pivots on an 8.5-inch bearing, and should never shoot loose.
You can read about all this in more detail here. As you do so, pay special attention to the Leg Caddy, which is a very wise investment, the Shooter’s Seat, and the Sinclair Competition Rest, a pedestal rest of such heart-wrenching mechanical beauty that it will bring you to tears.
* Royal Stuckey spelled “vise” correctly, for which he gets high marks. “Vice” involves hookers, which are not under discussion here.