2019 Florida State International Benchrest Shooters Championship at Manatee Gun & Archery Club

A crisp, breezy morning on the Manatee Gun & Archery Club’s 600-yard range for the Florida IBS 600 Yard Championship.  |  TGW PHOTOS BY CARRIE RASMUSSEN

Reigning 2018 International Benchrest Shooters champion Bart Sauter once shot a 5-round group at a target 600 yards downrange that measured .311 of an inch.

Keep in mind that a sub-MOA group at 600 yards would constitute anything under 6 inches. A group under a half- inch is a super-human performance.

The champion, who’s from a small town outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky, was one of 30 shooters competing for the 2019 Florida State International Benchrest Shooters Championship, which was held Saturday and Sunday at the Manatee Gun & Archery Club.

Match director Steve Krauss told me the championship drew shooters from as far away as Wisconsin, Virginia, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the Florida weather didn’t cooperate for our out-of-town guests. It was cold and windy.

Click here to view a photo gallery of the championship.

Krauss explained to this long-range novice that the IBS is split into two divisions: Light Gun constitutes anything under 17 pounds, and the Heavy Gun division includes rifles that weigh more than 17 pounds.

I joked that a 17-pound rifle didn’t sound too light to me. It seemed like it was an old joke for these veteran shooters, but they were polite enough to smile.

The course of fire for the match sounded remarkably simple: Four targets for record, five rounds per target. The shooters are allowed 10 minutes to shoot at each target. However, they typically fire off their string quickly, once they’ve determined that the wind is right.

All of the guns are cutting-edge custom, with Remington-clone actions and high-end barrels. All were 6mm in one variety or another.  I saw a lot of Nightforce glass, but there were other scopes represented too. Krauss runs a Khales scope.

Every single round was handloaded by the shooters. Krauss said most will scoop powder onto a scale using a tweezers to get the exact load they want.

“These are real rifleman,” he said. I could not agree more.

All shooters were impressed by the new benchrest facility at the MGAC.

“The facility is up to national standards,” Krauss said. “The staff is fantastic — especially the local IBS match committee.”

Sauter is a gracious champion, with both his knowledge and his time. He answered all of my questions, and I had more than a few.

Sauter actually makes his own bullets. He owns Bart’s Custom Bullets, and more than a few competitors were using his 6mm rounds.

Watching him shoot, it’s hard to tell where the rifle stops and the man begins.

Krauss said, of course, a lot depends upon the guns and the gear the shooters use, but he explained about half of the sport requires what he calls “benchrest etiquette.”

“That’s the guy behind the trigger,” he said.

For those interested in the sport, Krauss recommended coming out for the club’s “Steel Match,” which is held the third Saturday of every month. Shooters engage a 5-inch gong rather than paper at 600 yards.

“It’s a great way to get into the sport,” he said.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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