Royal Stukey is if nothing else, old school. He describes himself as a crippled old cowboy—something I can certainly relate to—just trying to earn a living. He proudly proclaims on his website, “Stubbornly made in the USA for over a decade,” and like a lot of cowboys, there is no room for compromise. There’s a right way; a wrong way; and his way, and no matter what he does, it will be done his way.
He has been making a portable shooting bench for years, starting during his days in Alaska. A lot of us have made a portable shooting bench—I’ve made at least eight or ten—but I’ll be that no one makes a shooting bench the way that Royal does. All you need is a chunk of plywood and some scrap pipe for legs. Set it up; throw something on it to rest your gun; grab a plastic bucket for a seat and have at it. Nope, nope, that just won’t do, according to Royal.
Starting at the bottom, the legs on Stukey’s Shooting Bench are made from schedule 40 pipe—and not just any schedule 40 pipe will satisfy him. No, he found a supplier whose pipe has a minimal weld seam because that seam will get in the way of the collar the pipe eventually will have to slide into. Legs are cut to length on a band saw; then he fabricates the ends—one for the foot side; another that will have a Grade-8 bolt welded on the inside to screw the leg into the socket on the underside of the bench top. When he finishes welding the ends, each end is chucked up in a lathe and the weld is beveled to give a beautiful machined finish.
The collars are lathe bored to a slip fit. He welds a short piece of collar to each leg to serve as a stop for the leg as it is threaded into the socket. That socket has a patented floating nut in it to automatically center the leg into the socket every time it is assembled. The sockets are welded at an angle to an angle-iron frame. Most of us who would build such a frame would be content to cut it with a torch or plasma cutter if we had one, grind it clean and weld it up. Nope, nope, Royal will have none of that. The angle iron gets rough cut on his band saw and then he wants a 60-degree angle on the back end so he mounts the angle iron into a fixture he made and mills the surfaces to be welded in a Bridgeport mill.
That leg assembly gets screwed to a top made from Baltic birch plywood. For those not familiar with Baltic birch plywood, it is a plywood made in Europe with very thin layers of veneer, so thin that each is saturated with the bonding resin used to lay up the plies. It is used a lot in fine cabinetry—primarily because it has no voids—and, of course, it is about twice as expensive as normal AC plywood. The bench tops get a clear, baked-on epoxy finish. Underneath, the metal is powder coated black.
Can your portable shooting bench do this?
Without a doubt, these benches are the sturdiest portable shooting benches extant. How sturdy is that? Witness the photo of a GMC pickup sitting on four benches. Note the legs have no lower support to prevent splaying. It is not needed.
Now Royal may be a crippled old cowboy and a country boy, but he sure ain’t dumb. He knows what materials cost, and he knows what his time is worth. He doesn’t give these benches away—even to broken-down old gun writers. A lot of money for a shooting bench to be sure, but on the other hand, it’s the last shooting bench you’ll ever have to buy. To see the bench up close and the other accessories that he offers—all the very best money can buy—go to http://shootingbenches.com/index.html.
The Absolute Best Portable Shooting Bench: 2015 by Dave Campbell