Water cooled bench rest rifle

Have you ever even heard of that? A water cooled, long range, bench rest rifle? Well one of these contraptions set a bench rest long distance record earlier this month in North Carolina, shooting a group of less than four inches at a thousand yards during a recent competition. From the Accurate Shooter Daily Bulletin-

This gun, built by Joel Pendergraft, produced a 10-shot, 3.044″ group that is still listed as the International Benchrest Shooters (IBS) 1000-Yard Heavy Gun record. Using this water-cooled 300 Ackley Improved, Joel shot the record group in April 2009 at Hawks Ridge, NC. This monster features a 12-twist, 4-groove Krieger barrel. Joel shot BIB 187gr flat-based bullets in Norma brass, pushed by a “generous amount” of Alliant Reloder 25 and Federal 210M primers.

pender1501 joelgun03a joelgun01


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


  • Jim

    I gotta ask… How much o you think this costs?

    • Nick

      A better question may be how much does this monstrosity weigh?

    • Joshua

      if you have to ask……

      • Jwedel1231

        …you aren’t strong enough to hold it.

  • Taofledermaus

    One of the rail gun shooters I filmed last week had an oil-cooled rifle that looked really close to that. He used water but found that oil worked better for some reason.

    • Raven

      Apparently, the French PGM series rifles (some variants, at least) have a thin layer of oil between the barrel and the distinctive finned barrel jacket to aid cooling. Not surprised about oil being a better coolant either, I’ve heard of using it in PC cooling (also better than water because it’s nonconductive). Some guys will actually build mineral oil immersion-cooled computers.

      • Swarf

        Mineral oil is also used to cool power line transformers.

        • Raven

          Oh yeah, I remember hearing that somewhere before. Makes them very interesting when they catch fire, right?

  • iksnilol

    A weapon to outcool Metal Gear.

  • BattleshipGrey

    It must not be against the rules to bolt it down to the bench. While I think this is an interesting gun, I’m not at all surprised it managed so well considering it took out all the external variables and a couple internal ones. Basically it seems that all that was left to chance was how well it was sighted in and minor differences in ammo.

    • M.M.D.C.

      There’s wind to consider, unless they have a 1000 yard indoor range. Also, humidity, rotation. Atmospheric pressure? Too fiddly for me.

      I agree, though. It does seem like a very expensive paper punching machine. I find shooting steel much more fun than shooting for itty-bitty groups on paper.

      • G0rdon_Fr33man

        Too fiddly for many. So many, in fact, that they are spending thousands on gear, rangefinders and other stuff that really takes all the skills and practice out of the equation. Boring if you ask me. To me, long range shooting is all about milling, range estimation and compensating for the factors you mentioned. Firing the round is almost secondary 🙂

      • CrankyFool

        That group of shots is noted because of its precision (spread) not accuracy (nearness to the bullseye). For this, the relevant issue is the difference from shot to shot. Given a rapid enough string of shots, I’m guessing rotation and barometric pressure would definitely not materially change, humidity would change maybe a bit, and wind would be the big thing that changes quickly.

      • BattleshipGrey

        You’re correct. When I made my comment I was considering external forces on the gun itself not the bullet, of which I wasn’t thinking of weather conditions.

    • Swarf

      Do you say that because of the three bolt heads at the front?

      Note the jam nuts. I’m pretty sure those are leveling feet for the front plate. That’s why they are in an equilateral triangle formation.

      • BattleshipGrey

        Ah, I see. So it changes my opinion only a little bit though. The gun and mount are still heavy enough that it’s hardly going to move and the shooter only has to reposition the gun/mount instead of moving the bench once.

        • Jwedel1231

          Even so, setting a world record alone should be enough to impress. People all over the world for years or decades have been doing what he did and he turned out the best performance ever recorded.

  • John Doe

    Thats a level of handloading consistency I consider personally unattainable lol

    • Blake

      This is pretty impressive pro-level loading, but with a digital scale & some practice you can do quite well for yourself. Develop a load that your particular rifle “likes” (this takes a lot of trial & error, on calm days). Once you’ve done that, get a load of of good brass & bullets & sort them by weight (this helps keep your shots from stringing & cuts down on flyers). Load all your rounds from the same tub of powder, & keep it dry. Digital scales for everything are a big help.

      My Dad has his 26″ Ruger .243 stainless varmint bolt gun shooting 1/2″ 5-shot groups at 200yds from a bench (albeit on calm days with lots of sandbags), & it’s unmodified other than the addition of a bipod & scope. I’ve seen him vaporize a crow sitting in a field with that thing at ~500yds on the first shot.

      If you’re meticulous & you use good clean sorted brass & bullets (in this case, Hornady & Berger), it’s really not that complicated; it just takes time, patience, & practice, practice, practice (he’s been handloading for 50 years)…

      • Bobb

        There’s a big difference in going from a .5 MoA gun to a .15 MoA gun

        • Jeff

          And a bigger difference between 200 and 1000 yards.

        • Blake

          Completely agree, but a .5MoA gun is already “enough” to do incredibly satisfying things like whacking varmints @500yds. & getting .15 MoA requires years of practice with a .5MoA gun :-).

        • J.T.

          1/2″ at 200 yards would be .25 MoA.

  • Edeco

    There’s no pump or radiator is there?

    • Iggy

      If he’s firing a single-shot bolt action fast enough for water circulation to become a consideration I’d be rather impressed,

      It’s already probably overkill.

  • Blake

    Exercise for the reader: would an aluminum sleeve with cooling fins (e.g. like a big amplifier heatsink) work as well or better?

    BTW from what I can tell (& for what is more typical of “benchrest” rifles) those knobs rest on the table (thus “benchrest”) & serve to microadjust the position of the rifle & prevent it from moving (along with a bunch of canvas bags filled with lead shot). Correct me if I’m wrong…

    • FarmerB

      Cheek weld??

    • NDS

      It’s not parallax – and height over bore for your optic only really matters in the first hundred yards or so.

  • Tassiebush

    I need one next to my BBQ

  • guest

    ridiculous and stupid from one point of view, but then again no “regular” rifle will ever have that tight group at that range. I guess means to an end.

  • Brocus

    the lack of any details about that water cooling in your short blurb and the linked sites is a letdown

  • RICH

    Wow ! ! ! Great job Joel……

  • Bench-resters truly are neckbeards.

    Not necessarily a complaint.

  • Dracon1201

    This just goes to show how far you can go to wring out accuracy. Everyone scraps for that extra .1-.2 shrink. This is an extreme end. Perhaps this shows the true practical limitations of ballistic technology.

  • Geoffry K

    But he MISSED the center of the target!

    If you can’t hit what you’re aiming at, what good is the group size?

    • PKSebben

      Name of the game’s precision, not accuracy 🙂

    • Jwedel1231

      3 clicks under the caps of the scope and it is now 10 one-shot kills at a thousand. What’s your point?

  • Martin Grønsdal

    Is this to have same barrel temperature on each shot?

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Seems like a particularly unsatisfying way to shoot.
    I suppose he still had atmospheric variables to consider but basically its a machine that punches holes in static targets.
    I cant see spending the time and money on something I cant even get the satisfaction of lifting up to my shoulder.

    • Swarf

      I have no idea if this is actually the case, but everything I see in that picture, excluding the action itself, would be build-able by a skilled person with fairly inexpensive, non-specialized tools– I’m talking tables saw, router table type stuff– and a McMaster-Carr account.

      Were it me, the joy would come from the building, milling and tuning, not the 1/2 hour of shooting the final group.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Hey, to each his own im just saying for the amount of time and money spent to build that thing I would rather have a nice precision rifle I can actually take out into the woods.

  • LackeyOfLove

    I’m fascinated by these five-figure machines. Hard to call them “guns” even, but it’s impressive how precise the operators get them.

  • MisterTheory

    Man, that woman looks so sad. While we should be able to pursue our desires, this guy has a compulsion. Even the music sounds like something tragic. He made me depressed more than anything.

  • Adam

    Come to a Aussie Fly shoot…. 500 meters at a fly… 1 shot…..