Knockdown Shooting Bench from kosterknives.com
I found a good design for a shooting bench made from a single sheet of plywood on the web. It requires a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" plywood, and I chose pressure treated at near $45. It also requires some 1" to 1.5" screws and wood glue. So I spent around $50 thus far. If I paint it, I will spend a bit more.
- 4x8 3/4" plywood (treated) $40-$45
- Box of 1" to 1.5" screws $5.
- Wood glue $2
For the project I needed some tools. First, I need to build sawhorses from kit with brackets. $65 to $70 for 3 sawhorses (4'wide by 31" high)
- 3 sawhorse bracket kits $30
- Box of 8 penny nails (8d) $5
- 6 - 8' 2x4's (treated) $30
Tools needed for making sawhorses.
- Skill saw or hand cross cut saw.
- Carpenter pencil
- Tape measure.
- Rasp file or grinder with grinding wheel or cutting wheel might work.
- Small hammer.
Tools needed for drawing shooting bench.
- Carpenters pencil
- Giant Sharpe
- Tape measure
- Tri square
- Framing square
- Drafting squares and circle tool
- Drafting compass
- 4' straight edge if possible
- 1' ruler marked in inches down to 16th inch
Tools needed for cutting out the pieces and assembly.
- Jig saw with good wood blade.
- Sawzall or router might work, as well.
- Small skill saw or any circular saw could help with straight line areas.
- Drill Motor with bit just larger than jig saw blade for corners and slots also small bits for drilling pilot holes and counter sink holes.
- Phillips screw driver bit for drill motor for screwing a few pieces to the seat.
- Rasp file or grinding tool.
- Sanding tool or sand paper if you want to sand edges.
Materials needed for target frames around $100 or less.
- 8' steel T Post. 8 - 10 $7 ea.
- Chicken wire 24"x25' $12
- Tie straps and wire for tying chicken wire to post.
- Horizontal pieces for making the frame a box shape. These will be tied with wire to the vertical post. I used bamboo sticks.
Tools needed for putting up target frames.
- Steel fence post pounder.
- Side cutters or wire cutters.
- Pliers for twisting wire.
4 Target Frames (2-3 hour $100 project)
First, I'll start with the target frames. I sized them for 2' wide by 3' tall human silhouette targets that I get for $1 each. In our case here, the pond dam was 60 yards long. There is a very steep and nice hill on the opposite side as a natural back stop. The pond dam curved in such a way that I was able to place each target frame so that all of them could be seen from the firing position, without one being in front of the other. Frames were placed at 20, 40, 50, 60 yrds. Not 30 yrds. because there was a hole in the dam where water had overflowed the dam and washed it out. I may put one there once I fill that hole. However, all one needs to do to have a 10 yrd and 30 yrd target is move forward 10 yrds. For bow target, we have a pillow rag filled type target and its very easy, now that I have these frame setup to move it back and forth to accurate ranges of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 yrds. I simply pounded the post in 2 for each frame and 2' apart. The post might hit rock or otherwise become crooked during pounding. I simply bent the post by pulling on it to straighten it after I attained the proper depth. They bend quite easily.
Next, I used other pieces to form horizontal frame parts that were longer than 2'. They stick out on each side a little. I used garden stakes that were for tomatoes, but any straight piece of wood or anything would work. I wired them to the T-Post and measured to try to get the proper width of 2' top and bottom. This made a 2'x3' box frame. Next I wired a 2'x3' piece of chicken wire to each frame. To put up a target simply use duct tape on the back side to stick the target to the tape through the chicken wire. It works well. All in all, it took me a few hours to put up the target frames. The pond dam was very tough to pound the post in to. I would pound for a while, then go back to a previous frame to do something, then go pound some more.
3 Sawhorses (2 hour $70 project)
Sawhorses are pretty simple with the metal brackets. There are a couple of notes though. First, a 2x4 didn't fit in the bracket leg slots. I had to use a rasp file to campher or round the edges so that it would fit. I cut 3 legs from one 8' 2x4. 32 inches each. This made a saw horse about waist high for me or 31 inches or so. There is a chart on the box for the brackets that tells you how long the legs need to be to have given height. Waist high is typically about right. The single nail on each side for the top horizontal member is a bit flimsy. I am considering drilling holes for more nails and reinforcing it a bit. I made the top rail 4' long which is a standard width for many materials such as the plywood I would cut for the shooting bench.
Shooting Bench (6 hour $45 project)
Drawing (3 hours)
First thing to do is to draw the pattern on the plywood. If you had a CNC router machine and had the plans programmed in, it would be snap to cut out. Otherwise with rulers, tapes, straight edges, squares and compass tools you can draw it up in about 3 hours. It took me 15 minutes for seat, 15 for back leg, 30 for front leg, 1 hour for table top, 45 minutes for main connector, and 15 minutes for two small pieces. I used the pencil for making guidelines and lightly tracing where the pieces were at. I only used the giant felt sharpe when I knew it was right. Even at that, I made a couple of mistakes that had to be scribbled out and moved a little. A drafting compass would have helped with drawing the curves on the table top and the front leg. However, I free-handed the curves fairly well. Dad taught me a trick growing up when doing carpentry. Using pen or pencil mark distances with crows foot mark. Always start each toe at the point you are marking. In this way, you will not accidentally choose the wrong end of the mark when drawing up lines. Its easy to mismeasure, so check and double check, and look for where things just don't look right, then go back to plans and recheck distances. Dad also taught me to use factory cut edges whenever possible when measuring.
Cutting (2.5 hours)
Next I used a jigsaw to cut out the pieces. I'm not totally sure the blade that I was using was best for this job. It did seem to go slow. After I had cut out a few pieces I noticed this dial on the jig saw that said "0, I, II" I set it to II and it seemed to cut faster. I didn't pre-drill holes at corners but it might have made cutting corners easier. I did pre-drill a hole for the slots that were not on an edge but inside on the table. The way I did the corners was simply to keep nibbling with the jigsaw blade until I cut out the material so that I could make the turn. It took us 2.5 hours to cut out the pieces. This could have been faster if I'd used the skill saw or some circular saw for the straight lines. I would think that a small battery powered skill saw might be ideal. Also, Gary and I were cutting at the end after dark. A better light than the cap light I had might have been good. If I were on the wrong side of the blade a shadow was cast making it hard for Gary to see where the line was exactly.
Assembly (30 minutes)
We pieced it together to see how it fit together and it was a snap. I placed the seat in its position and sat down on it. Felt fine. However there are 4 blocks, 2"x4", that I had cut out, which needed to be fastened to the seat to form groves that fit around the frame of the bench. These hold the seat steady in a position so that it won't move left or right or slide out. I measured where the blocks needed to go and drew boxes on the seat underside. I would place a block and drill pilot holes with 1/8th inch drill bit. I then took a larger 1/4 inch drill bit and made a small depression to fit the screw head. I think they make special bits for this. Very light pressure is needed or you will punch on through and make a hole that is too big for the screw. Next I put the screwdriver bit in and drilled the screws in, after I had spread wood glue on the bottom of the block. To fit the seat back on the bench pull the back leg down an inch or so to insert the seat and then push it back up to fit snugly. The next thing we noticed is that the table top on the right (for right handed shooters) left (if left handed shooters) was a bit too springy. I decided to take scrap and cut out a 1" strip to go on both sides of this side of the table. I glued and screwed them in place. That did the trick, its plenty strong now.
This bench is designed to be used by left or right handed shooters. To reverse, simply take the table off and flip it. Take the front leg off and flip it. There is a small pieces in the middle that supports the table which also must be flipped. I next moved it to our shooting range and tested it. When I first tried it, I thought it was designed wrong. I had to lean way too far forward, it seemed. It felt like, in a sitting up position, the table top should have been closer to me. After I shot a few shots with my crossbow I realized its design is for sniper style shooting. You should make a fist with your forward hand and if possible grip a sand filled sock. Place this under the muzzle or stock somewhere far forward. This controls up and down micro movements of the front sight. Pulling the stock firmly into your shoulder this bench is just right.
Note that this bench is made to be taken down and put up with ease. You can take it apart and lay it in a pickup bed or trunk of a car, so that it doesn't use much space. It might even fit behind the seat in a pickup. One problem I noticed with this bench, while shooting, was that if I pushed down too hard on the rearward part with my elbow, the table top would raise up and come loose from the front leg where the slot is at. I found myself constantly pushing it back on the leg. Something has to be done about this and I'm not sure exactly what just yet. A simple metal U shaped clip could be made. A slot cut in the front table leg just thick enough to accept the metal clip and the clip sized so that it just fits snugly over the table top edge. Of course, if you intended for this table to remain at the range forever, you could just use some plumber's tape or whatever and fasten it permanently. But then it wouldn't be reversible. We did later discovered by accident that if you put a sand bag on the front of the table just over the notch it is enough to hold it down. The table was fine also until we put a rifle in a shooting brace. Then again a little trouble with springiness. We now see a need to make a leg to hold up the table on the right rear (right handed shooter) or left rear (left handed shooter). It wouldn't take much for example a 3" wide piece of plywood also made to fit in a small slot.
Last note about our shooting range. I bought a $25 tool box to keep various targets in, as well as Allen wrenches, small jeweler screw drivers and tools needed in adjusting and working with sights and scopes. I also keep duct tape in it. Duct tape works great for covering up shot holes in targets as well as taping targets to the frame. It might be good to get various colors of duct tape or masking tape.
Barnett Rope Cocking Device
As a bonus I'll tell you about this rope cocking device. It cost between $10 and $20. There are other brands as well. It effectively gives you 1/2 pull force needed to cock a crossbow. For example in my case a 150 lb pull is 75 lbs on each side. With the rope cocking device it is now less than 40 lbs on each side or 40 lb draw. You hook each handle on each side next to stock and pull the cord around the butt of the stock. You can put your foot through the loop and pull or simply with mine put the butt of the stock against my stomach and pull both handles until it latches. It makes practicing with a crossbow pleasurable.