A dependable rifle rest will make your target practice more enjoyable and your sight zero more reliable. However, putting together a quality homemade rifle rest is more involved than simply plunking down on any solid surface and opening fire. A well-built rifle rest will last for years and prove itself an invaluable asset to your rifle marksmanship. The materials you use do not need to be expensive, but they do need to be high quality. Otherwise, your hard work will all go for naught and your marksmanship can end up ultimately suffering.
The rifle rest surface must be clear and clean. Most marksman opt for a piece of store-cut ply board. You should sand and varnish the surface to protect it against the weather and to add a handsome appearance. This extra care and attention may be time-consuming, but the resulting quality will be high. This is the place where your arms and rifle will contact during the shooting process. Making it as comfortable as possible will directly translate into a superior marksmanship performance. This is one place where you must not skimp.
Place a cushion on the surface to help absorb recoil shock during shooting. This is important because it allows the shooter ample time to sight in without experiencing nagging discomfort. Industrial foam and rubber work well. Make sure the cushion is firmly tacked in place and covers the edges that can bruise a shooter's elbows and forearms when the rifle kicks. The cushion should not be too thick, however. An overly thick cushion can bunch and snag the forearms when sighting in. The ideal size is about a quarter of an inch. An inexpensive solution is a computer mouse pad.
The legs of the rest must be designed for either standing or sitting use. In the case of a standing rest, most shooters generally prefer a shooting rest that comes to the middle of the chest. This height allows you to naturally lean into the shot without getting into an awkward or stooped shooting position. Because a consistent shooting pose is crucial for accuracy, the importance of a natural fit cannot be overstated.
In sitting rifle rests, the dimensions are somewhat easier to determine. While each shooter's body is different, there is less room for a variance in upper body stature than in the standing rifle rest. Most sitting rifle rests are built along the lines of a high dining table. The shooting position from a sitting rest tends to be similar to prone firing because of the necessary bend in the spine to accurately sight in. The main benefit from a sitting rifle rest is that it allows overall comfort that is helpful for a shooter who needs to take more time between shots.