DIY Shooting Bench for Under $100

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I am not a bench rest shooter. I don’t have the patience for that aspect of shooting sports. But I need a shooting bench from time to time, especially when reviewing guns and getting rifles ready for hunting season. Long story short, I needed a small portable bench, and I didn’t want to spend more than $100 bucks to build it.

I rarely shoot at a public range—I prefer shooting on private land. As such, I wanted a bench that I could fit in the bed of my old Wagoneer. The table needs to be heavy enough to support guns and stand up to recoil, yet light enough that one person can set it up and transport it. Below are pictures to show how I went about building this bench. The total price for this do-it-yourself bench came in around $80.

Materials:

I didn’t buy a full sheet of plywood to make this. Most of the home improvement stores sell pieces that are cut to 2×4 feet. I used two pieces of for the top, one 23/32 and the other 15/32. That gave me an overall thickness just under 1 ¼ inch.

For the leg attachments I enlisted the help of a friend who is a welder. We used 1 ¼ inch pipe couplings that were cut on a 20-degree angle. These were then welded to a 3-inch square piece of ¼ inch plate. Any welding shop should be able to make these for you.

The legs are 1 ¼ inch pipe. I used 36-inch lengths because I wanted a tall table that I didn’t have to sit down to use. You can use any length you want. Lowes cut and threaded the pipe for me for free. I bought two 10-foot sections of pipe. It was about half the price of buying the pipe already cut and threaded.

One thing I did do that is optional is frame around the top with 1×2 pine boards. I did this to have a lip around the top of the bench to keep ammunition, pencil, notepad, etc. from sliding off the top from recoil. It took two 6-foot boards to do this.

Tools:

  1. Drill and ¼” bit
  2. Skill saw or table saw
  3. Hammer
  4. Finishing nails
  5. Wood glue

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Building a Shooting Bench

Step 1:

The first step is to glue up the two sheets of plywood. I used Original Titebond, but any quality wood glue will work. It is important to get the glue spread evenly and to make sure that the pressure applied to the two pieces is as uniform as possible.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 2

Step 2:

I used weight to clamp the two pieces together. I did put another water jug in the middle that is not in the picture. I let this set on the shop floor overnight for the glue to cure. Gluing two pieces of plywood together, if done correctly, just makes a thicker piece of plywood.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 3

Step 3

The next step is to draw out the cuts. You can make it pretty much any size you want. To fit in the back of my Jeep, I went with 24 x 40 inches. The side cuts come in six inches. That makes the back 12 inches wide. Also remember that I framed mine in with ¾ inch thick boards. This adds 1 ½ inches to the overall dimensions.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 4

Step 4

I cut the end off using a skill saw. The fence on my table saw doesn’t have enough travel to let me use it for this cut. I took my time and kept the cut as square as I could. Being a little off is not going to hurt. These aren’t the precision cuts needed for cabinet making or building a guitar.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 5

Step 5

I used the table saw for the rest of the cuts. It is more precise than the skill saw, but you can still make the table with just a skill saw. The more tools you have, the easier it becomes to do task-specific jobs. If you are a tool junkie, like me, you can use a job like this to justify adding something new to your collection.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 6

Step 6

Here is one of the leg attachments. I placed them one inch from the edges of the bench top. I simply marked the holes then drilled them with a ¼ inch bit. The flat base allows for easy drilling.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 7

Step 7

The leg attachments are laid out. A triangular pattern like this keeps the legs out of the way of your legs and helps with the stability. A triangular base is more secure than a square base. If you need additional weight, you can drill holes in the legs and hang sandbags or weights between them.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 8

Step 8

I attached the side boards with wood glue and finishing nails. I used a pneumatic nail gun, but a hammer works just as well. Be sure you leave enough room on the top of the table for your shooting rest, and be sure that your overall width and length still fits in your vehicle (if that’s an issue).

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 9

Step 9

Note the lip I left around the top to help keep objects from rolling off. This is completely optional, but really helpful. The first time you watch match grade ammo roll off, nose first, into the dirt, you’ll understand what I mean. And if you do anything with small parts, like scope mounts or trigger pins, you will appreciate the extra protection.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 10

Step 10

All framed in on my messy workbench. At this point, it is easy to test out layout. I decided on the square shoulders, though you could make the shape of the table any way you like. It doesn’t have to be this wide, but I wanted room for tools, and a chronograph.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 11

Step 11

The leg attachments are all mounted up. I will add lock washers to this later. The bases need to be as secure and permanent as possible. The legs themselves should screw in snug, but don’t over-tighten them, or you may not be able to get them apart in the field.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 12

Step 12

All mounted up on the bottom. When you are finishing the piece, remember to finish the bottom. If you only put finish on the top, there won’t be consistent protection against humidity, and the whole top will warp.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 13

Step 13

Leg screwed in and standing up. I used a 20-degree angle on the leg mounts for added stability. I’ll eventually cut off these screws flush with the bolts to keep them from catching on clothing or gun straps.

How to Build A Shooting Bench Step 14

Step 14

Add rifle and weights to the lead sled and we are ready to go. I brushed on a couple of coats of polyurethane finish, too. You can spray on finish or brush it. Poly is easy and protects well enough for a simple project like this. If you want to get serious about it, a thick coat of varnish would work well, too.

And that’s it. DIY. The whole thing, from planning the piece to the last coat of poly, took me somewhere around five hours. The whole bench came in under $80. There were some nails and glue that would add to the expense if I didn’t already have them. The bench does just exactly what I need it to. So get to work, whitetail season isn’t that far out. Time to get ready to get ready, if you know what I mean.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • art skillings February 8, 2015, 10:40 pm

    Looking for plans for shooter bench (all wood) everything I see has pipe legs. Are there any plans out there with wood legs?

    • Theadore Stone July 27, 2015, 11:23 pm

      Go to Home Depot, Lowes etc. they have metal plates that are made for fitting wooden legs into. The advantage is that with metal legs there is much less wear on the joint so it will hold weight longer without wobble. The other choice might be to make a Trestle table.

  • Tom June 11, 2014, 2:08 pm

    Great idea! I am in the process of building mine now. I used a scrap piece of 3/4 inch plywood and laminated on a 7/32″ sheet of exterior siding to help protect it from weather, etc. I bought screw in flanges at Lowes for the legs and will make a wedge to cant the legs 20 degrees or so. I bought a 10′ piece of 1″ galvanized pipe and they cut and threaded at no charge. Cannot beat that deal! I made my legs even longer at 40″ so I can shoot from a standing position even easier. I also have a shop stool that will rise high enough to also use it seated when I want. I noticed you did not give the inset dims from the back, so I am going with 18″ which should work. Love the idea of the side trim. Makes it look better as well as preventing the roll off issue.

    As others have noted, private lands are the best places to shoot…if you can get access. The ranges spook me, to be honest. We had a shooter killed near here, for his guns. They never caught the perp. I just do not like the looks I get when I drive up to an unmanned range when there are other shooters there. You never know…

  • Bobaloo June 9, 2014, 3:28 pm

    “Any welding shop should be able to make these for you.” – Well, so much for DIY

  • Kimbra June 9, 2014, 2:53 pm

    I love it. Those benches are great, ambi and inexpensive.

    My father owns a hundred acre plot in eastern Colorado that makes a great range because it has a rolling hill with natural backstop at the 750 yard mark. Great for Ar-15 fun. Only problem, I built one of those permanent benches and put it out there and the next thing you know, people are making it THEIR range. Posted Private Property but they leave their garbage and mess there. They even shot up the bench I built. I took it out and now I bring in my portable for range day.

  • Rod Mason June 9, 2014, 6:36 am

    Dave, here is a set of plans you might also want to try for a left/right knock down portable shooting bench made from a single sheet of plywood of your choice. Enjoy.
    https://app.box.com/s/dtjqyak0s228xfgkgme6
    This is downloadable direct from my Box account, 2.5 meg PDF.

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