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Hunter Class Benchrest..time for a change?

by Al Nyhus

Thanks to Stan and Ryan for allowing me to 'blog' a bit. Basically, a 'blog' is a form of editorializing…so here we go. Might as well make my first one a dandy, right?

For the past several years, I've felt that it was time for the Hunter Benchrest Class to make some changes to encourage new shooters into what is, quite honestly, a class whose popularity is waning somewhat…at least on a National level. With a few exceptions, Hunter Class shooting has dwindled to a few participants in the East which has traditionally been one of the strongholds of Hunter shooting. In the middle of the country, interest remains strong and growing thanks to the implementation of the Two Gun Score format by the IBS. In the West, we've seen a dropoff in competitors at the traditionally NBRSA sanctioned ranges.

The reasons for this are many and varied. From the increasing age of the competitors making it hard to deal with the 6 power scope limitations, to shooters just moving on to other forms of BR competition, to the almost complete disappearance of the TCL results from the pages of Precision Shooting Magazine. But the fact remains, in my view, that we as competitors need to address this situation by the means available to us via the IBS and the NBRSA to both save and strengthen 6 Power BR shooting.

sierra varminter bullets box photo

I feel the most positive step we could make would be to drop the case capacity rule requiring IBS and NBRSA legal Hunter rifles to hold the water capacity of a 30-30. This has been defined as 45.0 or 45.5 gr. of water depending on which rule book we are reading.

By allowing the use of smaller cases, we would remove the daunting task of case forming, the making or purchasing of custom dies, and the whole element of reamers that may or may not fit the case or chamber. Are all of these things insurmountable obstacles? Certainly not…as many have been very successful at this for many years.

But for the aspiring Hunter newcomer that is looking to put one of these together, the mind numbing mix of components and case forming is akin to summiting Mt. Everest. Many just take a pass at this point, leaving the class poorer for their non participation.

To me, the salvation of Hunter Benchrest could very well be the 30BR. It offers well established reamer designs that are proven winners, great Lapua brass, simple neck up-turn-and-shoot case prep, incredible accuracy and long barrel life. Plus, most of the shooters interested in Hunter probably already have plenty of experience with the 30BR, making the transition pretty easy.

The IBS could combine Hunter and Varmint Hunter and have simply one class, called either Varmint Hunter or Hunter. The NBRSA shooters wouldn't have to change a thing on their rigs if they didn't want to. The bigger 'traditional' cases work great for those that use the 135-150 gr. bullets, so they would be at no disadvantage. None of what we've come to consider the true defining parameters of 6 Power BR shooting would change: the 2.25″ stock and the 6 Power scope.

Looking foward to your feedback on this.

Good shootin'. -Al

Published Oct 15 2007, 06:28 PM by Al Nyhus Filed under: Opinion, Benchrest Change Comments


R.G. Robinett said:

Al, I could not agree more – in fact, I proposed this very concept at the 1988 NBRSA Hunter Nationals and was nearly tarred & feathered! ;) The relative scoring potential (read FEAR) of the 6PPC in a Hunter Class (as you point out, in the IBS Varmint Hunter Class, there is no caliber restriction and no minimum case capacity) is, as displayed by scoring data, a myth. If fact, some VH participants want (ed) thirty caliber rifles "banned" from participating in the VH class: a thirty caliber rifle, regardless of capacity, needs no protection from smaller caliber and/or capacity cartridges.

I have long believed the the 10.0 Lb weight limitation, the 2.25: wide forend and the 6X scope [magnification] limit define the Hunter Class. Good luck, buddy! ;) RG October 15, 2007 7:43 PM

paul bunyan


David NMN Apple said:

I am just getting ready to wade into 6 power shooting. I am building a VH. I am at a loss to understand why the 2 classes ought to be combined. By no means take this as a negetive from me, I just want to know why, and how is it magically going to "make things better," Below are some comments from a VETEREN 6 power shooter. These are his comments, not mine but I feel, everyone should hear about the concerns of others.

"David, everything the "they" have done to "save the 6X class" over the last 18 years has done nothing to save it. First they eliminated the requirement that the action had to be a "Commercially available" action, (no custom actions). Then they eliminated the requirement for a functioning safety. Then the NBRSA eliminated the requirement for a functioning magazine. (magazine cutout in bottom of action is still required). What this accomplished was to make the Hunter class rifles, VFS rifles with magazine cutouts, 6X scopes and 2.250″ forearms. The 6X class is still dying despite all the efforts to "save" it.

I personally believe, as I told you the other night, that the 30BR has taken the score game 1 step closer to death. I would like to see a class, for 25 and smaller caliber rifles, to bring the 6PPC back. I think 250-22X is better shooting, with a 6mm, than 250-25X is with a 30 cal. JMHO.

What say ye brothers?

R.G. Robinett said:

David and All,

I don't believe that combining the Varmint Hunter and Hunter classes (IBS) and/or removing the case capacity and caliber restrictions for (NBRSA) Hunter Class, is going to make anything "better" – just simpler.

Out here, where shooters have been (and remain) principally of NBRSA persuasion – and, with the exception of Webster City, IA, there is, practically, no VH, eliminating the caliber and case capacity restrictions could/should make the long-time foot-draggers show their hands: many state that, sans these restrictions, they would build a hunter rig: "if I could shoot a PPC, . . ." We could find out, for certain, what I already suspect – it's just an excuse – I'd rather hear, "I just don't like the concept."

Regarding the VH Class (IBS), statistics have LONG proven that there is no difference in scoring, except what is statistically probable due to greater participation in the Hunter Class, as opposed to the VH Class.

The VH class was created to allow people to shoot "Hunter" type rifles, chambered for the PPC and its ilk, while "protecting" the Hunter Class from being over-run by the 6PPC. History and statistics have proven that a false proposition: especially via a 10 # weight limit, 2.25″ forend, and 6X scope magnification limit, a good thirty needs no shield. Our matches have been regularly won by PPC fanatics . . but, then we always shoot GRAND AGGREGATES!

The equipment changes (NBRSA HUNTER CLASS), almost all of them, at the time of their introductions, upset me . . and, up to winning the NBRSA Hunter Nationals (Casper, WY,2000) I stayed pretty "traditional", shooting my trusty ol' Rem. 700 based rifles. However, at that event, there were something over 100 competitors – only three or, four of us were using "factory" produced actions – virtually ALL of the remainder were custom actions: I will state, unequivocally, that none of my custom actioned rifles shoot an iota better than a 700 Remington based rifle – but, the custom rifles ARE MUCH easier to shoot well; they're just plain "user friendly", requiring much less disturbance during a shot sequence.

By having taken the position that, "I may drive people off" , by switching to custom actioned rigs, I only handicapped myself. And, through the greatest growth period that I recall, based upon NBRSA Hunter Nationals attendance, (about 1996 through 2003) MOST "new" participants were toting custom actioned rifles: custom actions, 2 Oz. triggers, and other precision enhancing improvements ARE NOT the reason for Hunter Class decline. During that growth period, attendance went from the mid-60s to over 100 participants – precious few newbies showed up with anything but a "full blown", CUSTOM Hunter rifle.

Hunter Class is benchrest. When I showed up at my first registered Hunter event (NBRSA, Missoula, MT, 1977), with my trusty .257 Ackley Imp., paid my fees and filled out the equipment card, the match director, BIll Cote, hunted me down and wanted to return my money!

IMG 6037.jpg

He did a credible job of diplomatically explaining how out-classed my rifle was and showed me the type of rigs I'd be shooting against – I simply stated that, "I won't finish last." And I didn't; I "fell in love" with the game – the passion remains. (Note: at that event, Hunter rigs were already equipped with "synthetic" stocks and trued Rem. 700 actions, barreled with Hart and Shilen barrels – of roughly two dozen participants, I was the ONLY competitor with a REAL Huntin' rifle!)

While I have nothing specifically "against" it, I view the IBS VH Class as redundant and completely unnecessary. I'll confess to being GREEDY, when I win, I like to beat a LOT of people, not three or, four, as in contemporary VH events. Combining the Hunter and VH Classes (IBS) would simply increase the number of people competing for the goodies on a given day, while making the event less expensive (fewer awards required) for the host clubs. It's a move that makes sense – I don't see what anybody would lose.

Here, near the Lower Dakota Territory, (the middle of nowhere to many), when (about 1999) we began conducting IBS registered events, we initiated the "TWO GUN" format (a GREAT IDEA, provided by [the late] Dan Hackett) – we based this upon a Grand Aggregate 6X score, combined with a GRAND AGGREGATE HV score. Once the IBS recognized and began recording a TWO GUN AGG RECORD, our 6X attendance mostly Hunter, but some VH) has gone ever upward: our average attendance for the 6X classes equals and often surpasses the numbers generated at the IBS score Nationals: the attendance "fix" lies in monkeying with the format(s), not the equipment.

I am told that at the last WebsterCity (Boone Valley Ike's) event (I was gone huntin'), my long-time pal, Terry Meyer, won the TWO GUN, shooting a pair of PPC rigs: one a VH deal and of course, the other his beloved LV rifle. I think he'd have gotten more satisfaction via beating ALL of the 6X competitors (I believe 20+ of them), as opposed to the two who contested the VH Class.

As an outsider, looking in, I see the [attendance] problem as too many events scheduled too close together – both chronologically and geographically. Here, in the Wilds, tournaments are events: people plan their vacations around them. In discussing the IBS and NBRSA 6X Classed together, I am somewhat distracted – these are similar, but different arguements.

However, I could not be more opposed to caliber / case-capacity restricted classifications. RG October 21, 2007 10:21 PM

Al Nyhus said:

David…welcome to Six Power BR shooting…you're going to enjoy it.

David, your record in the VfS ranks is incredible. What made you decide to try Six Power shooting and why did you decide to build a VH gun over a Hunter rig?

Thanks for your time. -Al October 22, 2007 8:33 PM

george coleman said:

i'm building a hunter gun this fall.

i may be the only guy in my area ( KY ) to shoot one in a match. but hay at lest i'll finish at the top of my class LOL.

i think the guy's at buckcreek will fall in and build one after i take the plunge .

jim campbell one of the buckcreek menbers shot in hunter class for years and won alot so i hear. i'm sure he will build one. October 26, 2007 11:28 AM

Dick Grosbier said:

My friend Al you wrote:

"The IBS could combine Hunter and Varmint Hunter and have simply one class, called either Varmint Hunter or Hunter."

Actually rather than "combine" I think IBS should "return" to what was their original Hunter Class which was any cartridge. I started shooting IBS registered matches in Hunter Class with my 6 BR in 1983.

Randy you wrote:

"The VH class was created to allow people to shoot "Hunter" type rifles, chambered for the PPC and its ilk, while "protecting" the Hunter Class from being over-run by the 6PPC."

Actually the Var Htr class was created to have a place to put us 6 BR ,and 6 PPC Hunter class shooters when an attempt was made to get IBS and NBRSA back together. KL Miller who runs the IBS shoots at York PA says it was made to keep the 30′s out of the PPC BR class and limit it to 6mm's but I never heard that till 20 years later.

Dick October 27, 2007 8:07 PM

R.G. Robinett said:


Thank you for the corrections. The connection to the attempt to re-unify the two organizations, thus separating the rifles into classes based upon the calibers/capacities, in order to have similar Hunter Class rules, was over my head. I must confess to having believed all along, that, for Hunter Rifle competition, BRs PPCs .222s, etc never were legal: I stand corrected. And appreciative of the history lesson.

Still, I remain opposed to sepatate classes which are based upon caliber and/or case capacity. Cursed with the burden of this yoke, the VH Class has languished for more than decade now . . . and Hunter Class isn't doing much better. Combining the two makes sense: for proof, one need only review the excellent IBS Score Statistics, which cover a considerable time-span.

RG October 28, 2007 2:00 PM

Al Nyhus said:

Dick, thanks for the historical perspective.

I didn't realize the VH class came about because of the attempt unifying the IBS and NBRSA. Thanks for posting this. -Al