September 15th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: Back-to-Back Championship Winning .284 Win

Charles Ballard F-Open National Champion 2008 2009 .284 Win Winchester

With the U.S. F-Class National Championship running this week in Raton, NM, we thought we’d highlight a very important .284 Win rifle. This is the .284 Winchester rig that Charles Ballard used to win back-to-back F-Open titles in 2008 and 2009. Ballard’s huge success with the .284 Winchester cartridge helped make the .284 Win (and .284 Win Improveds) the dominant cartridge in F-Open competition worldwide. Enjoy this trip back in time to when the .284 Win was the “new kid on the block”.

Ballard Wins Back-to-Back F-Open Championships
In a very short span, Ballard and this rifle racked up an impressive string of performances. Ballard won the NRA Long-Range Regional, setting a new National Record in the process — 200-23X at 1000 yards. He also won the North Carolina F-Class Championship with the gun, and then captured the 2008 F-Open National Championship, followed by a second F-Open title in 2009. At the 2008 Nationals in Lodi, Wisconsin, Charles shot a 1337-65X with Berger 180gr bullets. At the 2009 F-Class Nationals, held at Camp Butner, NC, Ballard shot a 1328-62X to win his second straight National title.

Ballard’s “Purple Haze” rifle features superb components, including a BAT MB action, Nightforce 12-42 BR Scope, and a wickedly accurate 32″ Broughton barrel.

Charles Ballard F-Open National Champion 2008 2009 .284 Win Winchester
Charles Ballard always used eye and ear protection. For these photos, he removed safety glasses.

Building a Championship-Winning F-Classer

by Charles Ballard
.284 Win F-Class

This rifle project began several years ago. My purpose was to find a cartridge that would launch the high-BC, 180gr 7mm bullets at competitive velocities for F-Class competition. I also sought barrel life that would be far superior to that of a 7mm WSM or 6.5-284. I read the article on 6mmBR.com about Jerry Tierney’s .284 Winchester and the cogs began to turn. After speaking with Mr. Tierney at the 2006 US F-Class Nationals, I decided the .284 Win would be the chambering for the new gun, despite several shooters telling me I would not be able to obtain the desired velocities. Jerry said “go for it” and, as it turned out, the rifle delivered the velocity I wanted, plus extraordinary accuracy to boot. This gun has more than exceeded my expectations, winning matches and setting a new 1000-yard, single-target F-Class National Record (200-13X).

Rifle Specifications–All the Hardware
My action of choice was a beefy 1.55″-diameter, round BAT MB, Left Bolt, Right Port. I chose this action based on BAT Machine’s impeccable reputation. I also liked the fact that the MB (medium long front) action offered an extended front end. This would provide better support for a very long barrel and give more bedding surface. The action is topped with a stainless BAT tapered (+20 MOA) Picatinny scope rail. Housed in a polished, stainless BAT trigger guard is a Jewel trigger set at 5 ounces.

.284 Win F-Class

The barrel is a 32″ Broughton 5C. The chamber was cut with a reamer made for Lapua 6.5-284 brass necked up to 7mm. It’s throated for the 180gr Bergers. I selected a Broughton 5C because, as my gunsmith says, “They just shoot”. This is a 1:9″ twist, 1.250″ straight contour for 32″. Yes, that’s a long, heavy barrel, but I think the length gives me a velocity advantage. On other guns, a 32″ tube could cause the rifle to be front-heavy and out-of-balance. The stock by Precision Rifle & Tool has a 3″-longer fore-end which solves the problem. The purple .284 balances very well and tracks great.

.284 Win F-Class

Speaking of the stock, there was only one choice, a “Purple Haze” laminated F-class model from Precision Rifle & Tool. This stock features a fully-adjustable buttplate plus a removable cheek-piece with thumb-wheel adjustment. Most importantly, the stock features an extra-long, super-stiff, low profile fore-end. This design rides the bags better than any stock I have ever shot. The action area of this stock has been beefed up to house the large BAT MB action. The final component on this rifle is a 12-42×56 Nightforce BR with DD-1 reticle set in Leupold Quick Release rings.

.284 Win F-Class

.284 Win F-ClassThe Ultimate F-Open Rig
To start this project, I contacted Ray Bowman of Precision Rifle & Tool, PrecisionRifleSales.com. The first order of business was to get the action ordered, knowing how long it would take to get a BAT left bolt, right port action, plus scope rail, and trigger guard. We knew we wanted a Broughton 5C, but what twist rate? Based on the success I had shooting 210s in my 300 WSM with a “slower” 1:11″ twist we opted to go with a 1:9″ twist 7mm to shoot the 180gr Bergers. A dummy round was sent to Pacific Tool and Gauge to have a reamer ground to our specs.

Not shooting free recoil, I needed a stock that would fit me like a prone stock but track like a benchrest stock. Precision Rifle & Tool’s F-Class stock fit this bill to perfection. Ray keeps Jewell triggers in stock so the only piece left to acquire was the scope. On the old F-Class targets I would have been content with a Leupold 8-25 LRT, but on the new target a scope with 1/8-MOA adjustments and high magnification is a must. I considered the Leupold competition scopes but ultimately decided on the Nightforce BR. The variable power and unobstructed DD-1 reticle of the NF were deciding factors.

.284 Win F-ClassNOTE: Charles Ballard always employs eye and ear protection when shooting. For these posed photos, he removed his safety glasses.

Ballard’s Tips for F-Class Competition

In this section, Charles Ballard explains the basics of shooting an F-Class match, from the initial prep period to end of match. He covers sighter strategies and techniques for record fire, and he also explains, in detail, how he dopes the wind and judges hold-offs based on mirage.

.284 Win F-ClassThree-Minute Prep Period
I spend the first part of my 3-minute prep period making sure my front rest and rear bag are in-line. This insures the gun returns to the same spot after recoil. After I am happy with my set-up, I take a position similar to that of a conventional prone shooter. My face rests on the stock and my shoulder is placed firmly into the buttplate. With the Right Bolt, Left Port action, I can shoot the entire match with minimal movement. The last segment of prep time is spent trying to dope the wind.

Sighter Strategies
In a match with only two sighters, I’ll make a wind call and try to hit the center with my first shot. In matches with unlimited sighters, I generally hold dead center with a no-wind zero and use the point of impact as feedback. If I feel there is a constant condition, I will click for the wind. This allows me to use the center as my primary hold. After I get the feedback I need from my sighters it’s time to go for record.

Record Fire
After record fire begins I shoot very fast, holding off for the wind. I’ll make my wind call while the target is in the pits; if my previous shot went where I thought it would I will take my next shot as soon as the target stops. I predominantly shoot and adjust my aim based on mirage. If I have switching conditions, I will remove all wind from the scope, slow down, use the flags and mirage, still holding off. I do this because I have never had success waiting on a condition to come back.

Cleaning Procedures
I do not clean until the match is over. This means I typically shoot 120 to 150 rounds on average between barrel cleanings. I quit cleaning every relay after reading Mr. Tierney’s article, but I would still clean on Saturday night after I got home. After getting in late one Saturday night, I forgot to clean my rifle. I remembered this as I was preparing to shoot the first relay Sunday morning. At the time I was shooting a 300 WSM. Well, guess what… that relay I shot a 200-19x, and the next relay I shot a 200-17x (these scores were on the old, larger F-Class target). I found that the 300 WSM’s vertical really tightened up after about 50 rounds. The same has proven true of my .284 Winchester–vertical improves once 50 rounds are through the bore.

When I do clean, it’s simple. I use Bore Tech Eliminator on three patches, then follow with a wet nylon brush. These steps are repeated until the bore is spotless. I then push one wet patch of Eliminator through the bore and leave it.

Load Development and Accuracy Testing

My philosophy on load development differs from many shooters. I don’t primarily shoot for groups. The only goal I have is to obtain the lowest ES and SD I possibly can. Holding elevation in F-Class is crucial. Uniform velocity gives me more consistent vertical point of impact.

As we commenced load development, Jerry Tierney’s .284 Win load data posted on this 6mmBR.com gave us a good starting point. We loaded 53.0 grains of Hodgdon H4831sc and shot one round, cleaned, shot three rounds, cleaned, then shot 10 rounds and cleaned. From this point we worked up in half-grain increments until pressure signs developed at 2950 fps. Then we backed the powder charge down until the bolt lift was smooth and the primers were nice and round. [Editor’s Note: Jerry Tierney is no longer with us. We mourn his passing.]

Success: 2910 FPS with Ten-Shot ES of 7 and SD of 3
At this point I began working with different primers, neck tension and seating depth. After trying Federal 210m primers, CCI BR-2 primers, light tension, heavy tension, jamming, jumping, we settled on 56.0+ grains of H4831sc with CCI BR-2 primers. We ran about .002 neck tension with the 180s seated just touching the lands. This load gave us 2910 fps velocity with an Extreme Spread (ES) of 7 fps and a Standard Deviation (SD) of 3 fps over ten (10) shots.

NOTE: If you’re skeptical of those single-digit chron readings, click on the Video Playback screen below to view Ballard test-firing a load that delivers an ES of 5 and SD of 2 for five shots. At the end he holds the Oehler Chrono up to the camera so you can view the readout yourself. Seeing is believing!

Houston–We Have a Problem
I thought we had a load dialed-in, so I was fairly confident going to the North Carolina Long-Range State Championships. Let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. I encountered vertical, vertical, and more vertical. Turns out this was my fault. I had committed a big reloading “No-No”. I had used the ball expander in the die to neck the cases up from 6.5 to 7mm. Big Mistake! The cases we had previously used for load development were first necked-up with Ray’s expander mandrel and then run through the Redding bushing dies. Lesson learned: use an expander when necking-up the brass! This step was performed on the cases for the next match and it corrected the problem, as I lost no points to elevation.

.284 Win F-ClassSurprise–Velocities Rise, So Load Must Be Tweaked
After the NC State Champs, the gun went into hibernation for the winter. In February of 2008, NSSC held its annual winter Palma match. On Saturday my .284 was absolutely hammering, but Sunday I started noticing a hard bolt lift. Eventually, at the end of my last string, the gun blew a few primers. Luckily, however, it was still shooting very well. On the following Monday, we went back to the test bench and chrono. To my surprise 57.0 grains of H4831 was now shooting 2975 fps! That’s way too hot. At this point the barrel had 439 rounds through it. I started calling anyone I could thing of to see if they had any idea what could be causing this problem. Nobody I spoke with had ever experienced this problem until I spoke with a very knowledgeable F-Class shooter named Andy Amber.

.284 Win F-ClassAndy informed me that this had happened to him with several rifles. For whatever reason, between 100 to 300 rounds, as the barrel gets broken-in, the velocity climbs significantly.. Andy told me if I loaded back to the previous velocity, in his experience, it would stay there. Andy was spot on. My load came back together with 54.5 grains of H4831sc. The Oehler consistently gave me readings of 2892 fps to 2902 fps with an SD of 4 fps using once-fired brass. New brass gave slightly slower velocity but better numbers: ES of 7 to 9 fps, and SD of 2 to 3 fps. All this data was duplicated on several occasions. This rifle now has 554 rounds through it, but only .003″ throat erosion. The bullet was moved out .003″ to maintain position relative to the lands.

Getting Single-Digit ES: Ballard’s Loading Methods

I’m very exacting in my loading procedures. I think that’s why I’ve been able to build loads that consistently deliver single-digit Extreme Spreads with ultra-low SDs. Here’s my loading method.

Case Prep: I start with Lapua 6.5×284 brass necked up to .284 with an expander mandrel. Next I sort the cases into one-grain lots, for example 194.0 to 194.9 grains, then 195.0 to 195.9 grains, and so on. After the brass is sorted, I chamfer the case mouths with an RCBS VLD tool. Any residual lube from case expansion is then cleaned out of the case mouth with alcohol on a bronze brush. Finally all the cases are run through a Redding Type ‘S’ FL sizing die with .312″ neck bushing.

Loading Procedure: My CCI BR-2 primers are seated with a RCBS hand priming tool. Powder charges are dispensed and weighed with an RCBS ChargeMaster Electronic Dispenser, which is regularly calibrated with check-weights to assure accuracy. Then the 180gr bullets are seated using a Redding Competition Seating Die.

Processing Fired Cases: My fired cases are tumbled in walnut shell media, then cleaned off. Cases are full-length resized, but I bump the shoulders only .0005″ (one-half thousandth). After sizing, the case mouths are cleaned with a spinning bronze brush.

IMPORTANT TIP: After 3 firings I will uniform the primer pockets and anneal the case necks. I found this very important in holding good elevation (minimal vertical dispersion).

RCBS Redding Reloading

CALIBER CHOICE: The Case for the .284 Win

Comparison: 6.5-284, .284 Win, and 300 WSM
For shooters who are not sold on the .284 Winchester, I give you a real-world ballistics shoot-off. We comparison-tested a 6.5-284 rifle launching 142 SMKs at 2975 fps, a 300 WSM rifle firing 210 Bergers at 2850 fps, and my .284 Winchester shooting 180 Bergers at 2900 fps. We had three shooters and each rifle was fired simultaneously with no-wind zeros on three separate targets set at 1000 yards. The shooters then exchanged rifles and we repeated the test a couple times. The 6.5 and 300 stayed consistently within an inch of each other. But my .284, with its high-BC Berger 180s, shot inside both the 6.5 and 300 by at least 3″ every time. BC rules in the wind. I was sold!

.284 Win F-Class

Cost Comparison: .284 Win vs. 6.5-284
The cost of reloading the .284 Win is roughly $.07 more per round than that of the 6.5-284. The .284 uses a grain or two more powder than the 6.5-284, and 7mm bullets cost about $6.00 more per 100-count box. However, to truly compare the cost of shooting the two calibers you must figure in barrel life. My 6.5-284 barrel went south at 900 rounds. My .284 barrel now has 1,036 rounds, and by all indications it will shoot well to 3,000+ rounds. For cost comparisons sake, let’s use 1,200 rounds for the 6.5-284 and 3,000 rounds for the .284 Win. The average cost of a barrel, chambered and fitted, is $500.00. Using these figures, the barrel cost of a .284 Win is $.17 per round vs. $.42 per round for the 6.5-284. That’s a $.25 per round difference, equivalent to a 60% savings for the .284.

OK, if we now net the barrel cost savings (-$.25) for the .284 with the higher cost of 7mm reloading components (+$.07), I figure the .284 Win costs $.18 per round LESS to shoot than the 6.5-284. Over the span of 3,000 rounds, that’s a $540.00 savings.

Editor’s NOTE: These numbers are 10 years old. But the key fact is the extended barrel life of the .284 Win overcomes the increased bullet cost.

Gun Handling and Recoil
If there is a down-side to the .284 it would be recoil. Now don’t get me wrong, at 22 pounds with a decelerator recoil pad, the .284 is comfortable to shoot. The recoil difference between the 6.5-284 and the .284 is about the same as the difference between a 6x250AI and a 6.5-284. In the versatility section I will elaborate more on this subject.

Ease of Load Tuning
Despite the issues I explained in the load development section with low initial velocities on new barrels, I would say the .284 is fairly easy to tune. The barrel with which I shot my record was removed after that match so I don’t put too many rounds on it before the Nationals. The new barrel on this rifle was tested using the same load. As with the first barrel, the second barrel yielded 2775 fps with a “starter load” of 53.0 grains of H4831sc. With only 11 rounds through the new tube, I shot a 600-yard match on June 22, 2008. I loaded 44 rounds using 55.0 grains of H4831sc. This load ran at 2825 fps. After my first string this load started hammering. I shot a 200-7X with no elevation change on my last string.

Multi-Discipline Versatility
The .284 is my hands-down choice for shooting F-Class. I recently shot my first 600-yard benchrest match. I shot the .284 Win in heavy gun. In this match I found the first weakness in my beloved .284. On a bench you do notice the recoil. The 6mmBR pilots could run off five shots before I could shoot two. My groups were respectable: a four-group, 3.055″ Agg. But, the added recoil of the .284, even with front and rear rests aligned, took me off target. All this being said, if a man wanted just one caliber for F-Class, long-range benchrest, and hunting, I would still suggest the .284 Win.

WARNING: The loads stated in this article may be TOO HOT for many .284 Win rifles. Always START LOW and work up gradually in small increments, looking for pressure signs. With 7mm Sierra 175s, Hodgdon’s starting load is 52.0 grains of H4831sc.
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July 14th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: “We the People” .284 Shehane F-Open Rifle

.284 Winchester Shehane F-Open F-Class 7mm Berger Panda F-Class Blake Machine
Jason Cohen’s “We the People” patriotic .284 Shehane F-Class rifle. It has already demonstrated great promise, scoring second place in its very first match, a 3×20 at 1000 yards in Wyoming.

Rifle Report by Jason Cohen
The rifle began its life as a Will McClosky Cerus stock. I approached Will at the Berger SW Nationals about a rifle I wanted to build. I wanted to do something different — PAINT it. He said he had just the stock that I could use, and sent that to Bryan Blake at Blake Machine. I chose Bryan for two reasons — first, I have shot with him a few times at National matches and he is approachable and very helpful. Second I visited his shop during the SWN in February and liked what I observed and how he approached things. Bryan never seems to be happy with the status quo. He is always trying new ideas.

I noticed that Bryan had been adding aluminum rails to the front of Cerus stocks to lower the center of gravity and improve tracking. I asked him to modify my stock and fit it with the new forearm rails, shown in the photo below. I sent him a Panda F-Class action with a +20 MOA Picatinny rail. Bryan did all the stock work and fitted the action, rails, and RAD recoil pad. Everything turned out flawless.

.284 Winchester Shehane F-Open F-Class 7mm Berger Panda F-Class Blake Machine

The barrel is a Blake Machine 1:8″-twist finished at 32 inches. It was fitted to my action by Dale Woolum of Woolum Accuracy. Dale chambers all my barrels on all my rifles. Dale also threaded the barrel for a Woolum Accuracy tuner. This has proven to be a valuable tool in my load development. On this build, I am trying a Bix’N Andy trigger for the first time.

.284 Winchester Shehane F-Open F-Class 7mm Berger Panda F-Class Blake Machine

The 284 Shehane has a proven record of accomplishments and that is why I have chosen it. I use Lapua brass (6.5-284 necked-up), CCI BR-2 primers, Hodgdon H4350 powder, and Berger 184gr bullets. All these components have been a successful combination that has worked flawlessly in my other rifle.

.284 Shehane Load Development
Load development for me starts with each new barrel. I screw on the new barrel, fire 25 rounds of whatever I have left over and then clean it. I push out to 600 yds and do a ladder test in round-robin format. I start 0.6 grains lower than my last charge that worked. I work up from that reduced charge weight in increments of 0.3 grains. The paper tells the rest of the story. Once I get something that works well at 600 yards I go back in work around that by 0.1 grains. After that I play a little with seating depth and look for a change. I will occasionally mess with the tuner and tighten things up if possible.

.284 Winchester Shehane F-Open F-Class 7mm Berger Panda F-Class Blake Machine

About the Patriotic Paint Job
So I had the idea of painting the stock because there are so many wood stocks with clear coat these days. Unless you really get some exotic woods they all seem to blend together. I have nothing against clear-coated wood, but I wanted something different, as this was my first all-wood rifle. (For short-range benchrest, I was shooting a Bob Scoville carbon stock and Terry Leonard laminate).

We started with all white on the stock and came up with the idea of an American Flag on the buttstock. I was thinking of ribbons on the front in red and blue but we could not get the layout right. Then the idea of “We the People” popped into the head. My painter said “awesome!” and he was able to airbrush the stock with a little yellow and brown to give it that vintage paper look.

.284 Winchester Shehane F-Open F-Class 7mm Berger Panda F-Class Blake Machine

The front rest is a SEB Max (see above). I chose the Max because I was shooting Group Benchrest first then made the transition to F-Class. This rest proves to be versatile in all my shooting — Short- and Long-Range Benchrest AND F-Class. The rear bag is a Edgewood EDGEbag Gator. The gun gets transported in a Pelican Hard case when I travel. Locally, I use a Champions Choice soft bag.

Jason Jumped to Open Class after Starting with F-TR
This “We the People” rifle will be one of my primary rifles for F-Open competition. I will run it through its paces shortly and see how well it does. I have high hopes of it being an great gun. I shoot primarily local and regional matches — Colorado, Wyoming, and possibly Nebraska this summer. I will travel to the F-Class Nationals in Raton as well. I used to shoot F-TR before this and made the transition to Open last season. This is my second season shooting F-Open. 2018 was my first National event and was a learning experience for me. But I was hooked after that match.

Tips for F-Class Competitors
Get some good equipment and eliminate having issues that can be caused by budget builds. It’s OK to be frugal, but sometimes cutting corners will cause you more problems and have you chasing your tail. If you’re looking for the “recipe for success”, get a good action plus a top-tier barrel and great glass.

.284 Winchester Shehane F-Open F-Class 7mm Berger Panda F-Class Blake Machine

The .284 Shehane — Accurate and Forgiving Wildcat
The 284 Shehane is amazing, very forgiving and not temperamental. I choose this because I really did not know otherwise and was steered to the Shehane by a friend. Its proven track record helped as well. Straight .284 or Shehane — you cannot go wrong. I run a 184gr Berger at about 2850 FPS and get great brass life in my other rifles. I usually start to consider tossing the brass around 15 firings. Primer pockets start to get a little looser and the brass seems to need more sizing than the newer brass with less firings.

.284 Shehane Win Winchester F-class F-Open wildcat load development

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July 14th, 2019

Save Time and Bullets — Fire-Form with your Fouler Shots

Fire-forming fouler barrel life fouling shots

PPC Fire-formingHere’s a tip for guys who shoot the 6 PPC, 6 Dasher, 6 BRA, .284 Shehane, or other wildcat cartridges that require fire-forming. Use your fouler shots to fire-form new cases. That way your fouler shots do “double-duty” and you get your brass fire-formed without putting extra rounds through your expensive barrel.

This procedure is recommended by Joel Kendrick, the 2004 IBS 600-yard Shooter of the Year. After he cleans his barrel, Joel knows it takes two or three shots to foul in the bore before accuracy returns. When shooting his PPC, Joel uses those fouler shots to fire-form his new brass. Joel explains: “I like to have relatively new brass always ready. By fire-forming a couple cases after each barrel-cleaning during a match, by the end of the weekend I’ve got a dozen or more freshly fire-formed cases to put into the rotation. If you do this with your fouler shots you get your fire-forming accomplished without using up any extra barrel life.”

This not only saves barrel wear, but it saves you trips to the range for the purpose of fire-forming. We thank Joel for this smart suggestion. For those who do not have a dedicated barrel for fire-forming, this should help keep your round-count down. Note: With this fouler fire-forming routine, you should ALWAYS do the fire-forming with the SAME POWDER you load for your match ammo. Joel currently works as the Supplier Quality Process Engineer for MMI-TruTec, a company that offers barrel surface coatings that can further extend your barrel life.

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June 2nd, 2019

.284 Shehane — Winning Wildcat for F-Open Competition

7mm .285 shehane improved f-class f-open caliber cartridge chambering

High-BC 7mm Bullets7mm (.284) remains the caliber to beat in F-Class Open Division (though some shooters have had success with .30-Cal short magnums.) With a standard .284 Winchester, or better yet, a .284 Improved, you can drive the high-BC Berger 180gr and 184gr bullets to competitive velocities.

The straight .284 Win is an excellent cartridge, quite capable of winning F-class matches. However, in most barrels, it can’t push the 180s at 2900-2950 fps velocity levels*. A lot of barrels will top out at about 2850 fps. That’s where the .284 Shehane comes into play.

The .284 Shehane is a slightly modified wildcat that retains the same 35° shoulder as the parent case. However, by blowing the sidewalls out 0.010″, the .284 Shehane picks up about 3.3 grains of extra case capacity. That enhancement makes a BIG difference. The extra boiler room is enough to drive the 180s at 2900-2950 fps with H4831sc. With N560 or Reloder 17 you can go even faster.

Norm Harrold Won 2018 F-Class Open Division Nationals with .284 Shehane Rifle
F-Class Open F-Open Norm Norman Harrold Champion Championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico 284 Shehane Berger Bullets

Norm Harrold (above) won the 2018 USA F-Class Nationals shooting a .284 Shehane. Norm’s F-Open rig features a McMillan Kestros ZR stock and Bartlein barrel chambered for the .284 Shehane, which has a bit more case capacity than a standard .284 Winchester. Norm loaded Berger 184gr 7mm bullets in Lapua brass. Norm revealed his load in an Erik Cortina YouTube Video.

F-Class shooter Erik Cortina notes that the .284 Shehane has a velocity edge over the straight .284 Win because it holds more powder: “The Shehane has more capacity than the .284 Winchester. Ryan is using 54.0 grains simply as a fire-forming load. Typical load for a Shehane is around 57.0 grains of Hodgdon H4831 SC.” By blowing the sidewalls out 0.010″, the .284 Shehane picks up about 3.3 grains of extra case capacity. That enhancement makes a BIG difference. The extra boiler room is enough to drive the 180s at 2900-2950 fps with H4831sc, with long barrels.

Forum member Jim Hardy has shot the .284 with great success. He tells us: “In my humble opinion, the .284 Shehane is the best balanced long-range round there is — bar none. Here is why:

You have to shoot a 30 Cal Magnum with a 240gr bullet to equal the performance of most 7mm chamberings with the 180 Berger VLD. With the .284 Shehane, you have a .308 bolt face, medium action, and Lapua brass. You use less powder than the 7 mags, and have great accuracy and ballistics even while fire-forming. The .284 Shehane shoots inside the 6.5 AND the straight .284, the .300 WSM, and the .300 Win Mag with less recoil. What is not to love about the 284 Shehane? It is a no-brainer for long range — F-Class or Prone or 1000-yard Benchrest.”

Scotland’s Grant Taylor. who used the .284 Shehane to finish third at the 2009 F-Class Worlds in England says the .284 Shehane is “very accurate with superb vertical spreads at 1000 yards. [This] caliber… has awesome accuracy. I’m getting 2930-2950 fps with spreads in the 3-5 fps range. I use Hodgdon H4831sc powder, CCI BR2 primers, and pointed 180gr Bergers.”

.284 Shehane Shines in 1K Benchrest Competition Too
The .284 Shehane has won in Benchrest as well as F-Class competition. In 2013, Henry Pasquet won the IBS 1000-Yard Nationals shooting a .284 Shehane. Henry’s Championship-winning rig is shown below. Note the 5″-wide fore-end which is not legal for F-Class. Henry also runs a combo tuner/muzzle-brake.

.284 Shehane Henry Pasquet ibs 1000 yard championship

.284 Shehane Henry Pasquet ibs 1000 yard championship

Amazing Accuracy When Fire-Forming .284 Shehane

7mm .285 shehane improved f-class f-open caliber cartridge chambering

If you look at that 5-round group you might think it was shot with a 6 PPC or maybe a 6mmBR. But no, this was done with heavy 180gr Berger Hybrid bullets and the .284 Shehane. In fact, this impressive sub-quarter MOA group was shot while fire-forming with a very well-worn barrel! Gun builder Ryan Pierce of Piercision Rifles explains: “Here’s a 5-shot 0.191″ group at 100 yards with my .284 Shehane fireforming loads. This barrel has 2200 rounds through it. It had 2000 as a straight .284 Win and then I set it back to .284 Shehane to form brass with. [The load was] 180 Hybrids with 54.0 grains of H4831 SC.”


*Some exceptional barrels chambered in straight .284 Win can reach 2900 fps with the 180s. Ryan Pierce has a 32″ Brux barrel that is delivering 2900 fps with the straight .284. However, Ryan acknowledges that his velocities are not typical: “A lot of .284 Win barrels top out at around 2850 fps with the 180s”.

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January 30th, 2019

Hydro-Forming, Annealing, Neck-Turning by DJ’s Brass

DJ's Brass Restoration Service

Don’t have time to neck-turn hundreds of cases? Don’t want to invest in your own annealer? Want to try a Dasher or 6 BRA but don’t like the hassle of fire-forming? Then give Darrell Jones at DJ’s Brass a call at 205-461-4680. He can handle all the difficult brass forming/brass restoration chores efficiently and affordably. And Darrell’s turn-around time is typically very fast.

Hydro-Forming News — .284 Shehane, 6 PPC, 6 BRA, 6 Dasher and More
NEW for 2019! Darrell also just got a custom hydro die for the .284 Shehane, a wildcat based on the .284 Winchester. This is a very popular option for F-Open Shooters. He is also doing a ton of fire-forming for the 100/200 benchrest crowd, hydro-forming 220 Russian into 6 PPC. And he tells us “Those guys in Montana are keeping me very busying hydro-forming the 6BR Ackley (6 BRA). NOTE: Darrell offers Free Annealing with hydro-forming services, which starts at $60 per 100 cases.

Bench Source Annealing machineWith the price of premium brass topping $1.00 per case for popular match cartridges, it makes sense to consider annealing your brass to extend its useful life. You don’t want to chuck out brass that costs a buck a case (or more)! Forum member Darrell Jones offers a full range of brass prep, brass forming, and brass restoration (annealing, ultra-sonic cleaning) at very affordable prices. Starting at just $20 per 100 cases ($25/100 for magnum cases), Darrell’s company, DJ’s Brass, will anneal your used brass using the impressive Bench-Source annealing machines. Annealing plus ultrasonic cleaning starts at $35 per 100 cases ($45 for magnum cases). For a bit more money Darrell can also uniform the primer pockets and chamfer the case necks.

Custom Neck-Turning Services
Another great service DJ’s Brass provides is precision neck-turning. Darrell can neck-turn any size case to your specified neck-wall thickness. The price starts at $60.00 per hundred for standard cases or $75.00/100 for magnum size. And if you’ve got a bucket of brass to neck-turn, that’s fine with Darrell — he recently neck-turned 1500 pieces of brass for one customer!

DJ’s Brass can process everything from .17 Fireball all the way up to the big magnum cases. And the job gets done quickly. Darrell normally offers a 10-day turn-around. For most jobs, Darrell tells us, he gets the processed brass to the Post Office within three business days. For more info, visit DJsBrass.com or call Darrell Jones at 205-461-4680. IMPORTANT: Contact Darrell for shipping instructions BEFORE sending any brass for processing. ALL BRASS MUST BE DE-PRIMED before you send it.

DJ's Brass Restoration Service

• Anneal Case Necks Only ($20.00/100 normal or $25.00/100 magnum)
• Ultrasonic Cleaning, Check Necks, and Annealing ($35.00/100 normal or $45.00/100 magnum)
• Full Service: Uniform primer pockets, Chamfer case mouths, Ultrasonic cleaning, Anneal case necks (Starting at $60.00/100 call for quote)
• Neck Turning or trim-to-length Custom Order Service (Starting at $60.00/100 for standard cases and $75.00/100 for magnums)
• Hydro-Form Specialty cases (such as Dasher) $0.60 (sixty cents) each minimum of 100 pieces plus actual return shipping cost
• Expand Case Necks and Anneal brass (Call for Price)
• Create False Shoulder for Fire-Forming (Call for Price)

Hydro-Forming Cartridge Brass

Hydro-forming by Darrell costs $0.60 per case with 100-ct minimum. All hydro-formed cases are annealed at no extra charge after the forming process. After hydro-forming, Darrell can also neck-turn the case for an additional charge (call for combined quote). In addition to the 6mmBR-based cases shown below, Darrell can now hydro-form 6PPC cases from .220 Russian brass, and he also offers .284 Shehane.

hydroforming hydro-form Dasher 6mmBR PPC Darrell Jones

With Darrell’s hydro-forming service you don’t have to buy any special dies or other equipment. Darrell says: “Simply send me the brass you need or have it dropped-shipped to me along with a fired case that has not been sized. If you need formed brass for a new build (gun not yet fired), let me know and I will size the brass to fit within .001″ of a PT&G GO gauge.”

DJ’s Brass Offers Specialized Custom Services
Darrell tells us: “At DJ’s Brass, we can handle all your brass refurbishing needs. From ultrasonic cleaning to custom annealing for specific wildcat cartridges. We can expand your necks from .22 caliber to .30 caliber and anneal shoulders for consistent bump-back. We can turn your case-necks and trim the brass to your specs. For some cartridge types, I can pre-form cases to assist in fire-forming a wildcat cartridge. We also remove the carbon build-up in muzzle brakes. Don’t lose your accuracy by having carbon build up and close off the clearance required for the most accurate bullet release through a muzzle brake.” Note: Extra charges apply for neck-turning and neck expansion operations, or specialized cartridge-forming operations. Please call Darrell at 205-461-4680 for special services pricing.

DJ's Brass Restoration Service

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
January 1st, 2019

The Modern F-Open Rifle — Action, Stock, Optics, and Cartridge

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Emil Kovan is one of the top F-Class shooters in the world. He won the 2014 United States F-Open Championship, and finished second in F-Open Division at the 2016 Canadian National F-Class Championship in Ontario. He is a great shooter and a great gun-builder as well.

The Anatomy of a Modern F-Class Open Rifle

Report by Emil Kovan
Kovan Match Rifles LLC, www.matchrifles.com

“What are the best components for an F-Open class rifle, and why?” That’s a question that I get asked all the time and will try to answer in this article. Two months ago, I was contacted by Duane, a gentleman I met at the 2015 F-Class Nationals. He was interested in building a rifle with the new Master Class Low Profile F-Open Stock, created by Carl Bernosky and Alex Sitman of Master Class Stocks.

I have known Alex Sitman for many years, and use his stocks exclusively, but was not very familiar with his new Low Profile F-Open stock. After a brief conversation with Alex, I placed an order, and had the stock inletted and bedded at my shop in a month. My first impression was “Wow that’s a long stock” — the forearm is significantly longer than on the original Master Class F-Class prone stock. I bolted the barreled action in, and squeezed the end of the forearm and barrel together, the stock flexed a little bit, but not as much as other designs that I have tested. I think that’s due to having “more meat” in the receiver area. The full stock depth continues farther forward that on some other “low profile” designs. That makes the stock stiffer in the vertical plane, reducing the hinging effect forward of the action. The stock was finished in gloss black per the customer’s request. Interestingly, I found that the multiple layers of paint and clearcoat stiffened the stock up quite a bit.

CLICK IMAGE below for full-screen version
.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Low Center of Gravity Tames Torque
Compared to the original Master Class F-Open stock, the barrel sits about an inch lower. Lower center of gravity equals less torque, and that is very important when shooting heavy bullets in fast twist barrels. Another significant improvement is that the toe of the stock is flat and parallel to the forearm. I added a 3/4″ track rail in the rear, and milled the underside of the fore-end to create two parallel “rails” in the front to help the stock track better.

One of the biggest reasons why I like Master Class stocks, is the pistol grip. I don’t shoot “free recoil” and a comfortable pistol grip is super important to me when selecting a stock. The new Master Class Low Profile stock shares the same grip as the old model. This allows the stock to accommodate either a “hard hold” style or a more free-recoil style of shooting — whatever the rifle’s owner prefers. This design versatility is one reason I recommend Master Class stocks. Shooters may experiment with either shooting style to find what suits them best.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Cartridge Choice — A 40° .284 Win Improved
Duane decided to have the barrel chambered for my 284 KMR IMP (Improved) wildcat. What is .284 KMR IMP and why choose it over the straight .284 Winchester? Improved by definition means “made better”, I took a great cartridge, and modified it to increase capacity, reduce pressure, and increase brass life.

There are many “improved” variants of the original .284 Winchester: 7mm Walker, .284 Shehane, .284 Ackley and so on. My version, the 284 KMR IMP, shares the .010″ blown-out sidewalls of the .284 Shehane, but I have further increased the case capacity by changing the shoulder angle from 35 to 40 degrees. The 284 KMR IMP allows you to almost match magnum cartridge velocity in a standard-bolt-face action. If you want to run 180gr-class 7mm bullets over 2900 FPS, it is cheaper and more convenient to have a barrel chambered in 284 KMR IMP than to spend $650 for a magnum bolt.

Tuning Loads for the .284 Win Improved Cartridges
The 284 KMR IMP seems to have two nodes, one around 2820 fps and other at 2940 fps. My match load clocks at 2935 fps with single-digit ES. Note –I selected that load based on accuracy, NOT raw speed. A lot of novice (or hard-headed) shooters make the mistake to push their cartridges to the max, and disregard more accurate loads at lower velocity.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

The sport of F-Class is rapidly growing, and the equipment used is improving constantly. I remember that only few years ago, an F-Open rifle that could shoot sub-one-inch of vertical at 300 yards was considered competitive. Now, we are pursuing sub-one-inch vertical at 600 yards! It takes a great rifle to approach that goal, but it is also up to the shooter to learn and experiment as much as possible in order to achieve success.

Dies for an Improved .284 Win Cartridge
One of the biggest challenges in campaigning a wildcat cartridge has been obtaining great dies. When searching for custom dies, it almost seems like that the odds are stacked against us. The most common problem is wait-time — custom die orders can take months to be completed. Also, most custom die makers want you to send them two or three cases, each fire-formed three times. I find that funny because if could somehow properly size the cases for three fire-forming cycles, I would not need a sizing die.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Custom-made dies should size the case just right, but sometimes the die’s internal dimensions are slightly off, and this leads to problem number two: dies sizing too much (or even worse) too little. I had a one “custom” die that would not size the bottom of the case enough. This made the extraction of fired cases very difficult. I feel that the best option (if available) for shooters interested in wildcat chambers is to have their gunsmiths make the dies. I offer that die-making service in addition to barrel chambering.

BAT Machine “M” Action
Duane decided to use a BAT M action for this rifle, and I think that he could not have made a better choice. We are blessed with many good match-quality receivers: Barnard, BAT, Borden, Kelbly, Nesika, and Stiller just to mention a few. These are all very well-made and suitable for F-Class. Among BAT Machine Co.actions, I like BAT models M, MB, and 3LL best. I prefer these because because of their size (large bedding footprint) smoothness, timing, options available, and last but not least visual appearance.

Trigger: I recommend and use Jewell triggers. Other good options are: Kelbly, CG Jackson (good 2-Stage) Anschutz (best 2-Stage for Bat and Kelbly actions), Bix’N Andy, and David Tubb.

Barrel: Duane made another good choice here. He decided to go with a Brux 1:8.5″-twist, 4-groove cut-rifled barrel. If you look at the F-Class and Long Range benchrest equipment lists, you will see that cut-rifled barrels are currently dominating. Many records have been shot with both button-rifled, and cut-rifled barrels. I have shot both, and prefer cut-rifled barrels. I am not saying that button-rifled barrels are not capable of shooting as well as cut-rifled barrels, but on average, in my experience, four out of five cut-rifled barrels (from top makers) will shoot well, vs. three out of five buttoned barrels. YMMV, but this is what I’ve observed.

Brux Barrels is not the only company that produces very accurate cut-rifled barrels. We know that Krieger, Bartlein, Satern, and Hawk Hill Custom all make fine cut-rifled barrels as well.

Scope: Duane’s rifle was fitted with a Nightforce 15-55x52mm Competition scope with DDR-2 reticle. This optic is ultra clear, reasonably lightweight (28 oz.), super reliable, and has 1/8 MOA clicks — what you want for long range F-Class competition. In this 15-55X NF model, I like the DDR-2 reticle best, because fine cross hairs (FCH) are hard to see in heavy mirage. The DDR-2 has a heavier horizontal line, with a center dot. March scopes are also very popular and very well-made.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Thanks for reading, and keep ‘em in the middle…

Emil Kovan F-Class competition bio photoEmil Kovan Competition History:

– 2014 F-Class Open National Champion

– 2016 F-Class Open Canadian Championship, Silver Medal (tied for first on score)

– 2015 F-Class Open National Championship, Silver Medal

– F-Class Open National Championship Teams, 2015, 2014, 2013, Shooting Team Member

– Over 15 wins in Regional and State Championships in Palma, F-TR, F-Open

– 2013 U.S. National Team Member

– 2017 U.S. National Development Team Member

Permalink - Articles, Competition, Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
September 26th, 2018

Hail the Champions: 2018 F-Class Nationals at Raton, NM

F-Class NRA Nationals National championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico Ian Klemm Norm Harrold Team Grizzly Team Lapua
The winning Klemm clan. Ian Klemm won his Second Straight F-TR National Championship last week. Here he is with parents Karen and Ken Klemm. Father Ken also competed at the Nationals, shooting great in both individual and team events.

The 2018 F-Class Nationals recently concluded at Raton, NM. The event was well-attended, with excellent turn out for both the Mid-Range and Long-Range cycles. The weather was variable, with wet but very calm conditions to start the 1000-yard match, resulting in new F-TR and F-Open National Records being set for 20-shot strings.

Long-Range F-Nationals Results | Mid-Range F-Nationals Results

Congratulations to the new F-Class Champions. Ian Klemm shot great to win the F-TR National Championship. This was the second straight F-TR title for Ian, who also won at Lodi, Wisconsin in 2017.

F-Class NRA Nationals National championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico Ian Klemm Norm Harrold Team Grizzly Team LapuaIt was a family affair this year for the Klemm clan. Ian’s father, Ken Klemm, finished third among High Masters, and also nailed the highest score among ALL shooters in the 1000-Yard F-TR team match. Well done father and son! Mike Plunkett finished second, while also setting a new F-TR record, 200-16X, also matched by Ray Gross.

Winning F-TR Rifle and Load:
Ian Klemm’s winning .308 Win featured a Kelbly Panda action, 30″ Bartline 1:10″-twist barrel, and McMillan X-IT left-hand stock. Ian used a Vortex 15-60X52mm Golden Eagle scope (as did runner-up Ted Plunkett). Ian loaded Berger 200.20X Hybrid bullets in Lapua brass with Vihtavuori N140 powder and CCI BR4s. MV is 2680 FPS.

F-Class NRA Nationals National championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico Ian Klemm Norm Harrold Team Grizzly Team Lapua

Ian, who won his first title last year in Lodi, Wisconsin, said this year was tougher. To travel down to New Mexico and win at Raton was very satisfying — as I had to come from behind.” Ian told us: “This Championship was especially difficult as a particularly strong challenger [and new 1000-yard record-holder] Mike Plunkett had earned an early lead and I would have to make up 6 points in the final day to win. Fortunately, the Range at Raton saved some of its most challenging conditions for the final match of the championship. This gave me the right amount of wind to work with. The Vortex Golden Eagle HD scope showed the mirage I needed in order to make timely wind-hold decisions.”

F-Class NRA Nationals National championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico Ian Klemm Norm Harrold Team Grizzly Team Lapua

In the F-Open division, Norm Harrold of Team McMillan shot great from the start, topping the field to win the F-Open division. Tom was shooting a .284 Shehane cartrdige in the new McMillan Kestros stock. Our buddy Erik Cortina interviewed Norm in this video, starting at 00:15:

Interview with F-Open Champ Norm Harrold at 00:15:

Team Competition Champions

In Team competition, Team X-Men won the 1000-Yard F-TR Team Title, with a 1568-61X score. Members shown are: Alan Barhardt, Tracy Hogg, Ian Klemm, Ken Klemm, Matt Schwartzkopf, Phil Kelley (Captain), James E Crofts (Coach). In second place was Team McMillan with 1553-53X: Paul Phillips, Derek Rodgers, Jeff Rorer, Brad Sauve, John Droelle (Captain), Ray Gross (Coach).

F-Class NRA Nationals National championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico Ian Klemm Norm Harrold Team Grizzly Team Lapua

In F-Open Division, Team Grizzly won the 1000-Yard Team Championship with a 1580-81X score, edging runner up Team Lapua-Brux-Borden by two points (1578-81X). Here are the team members, with Grizzly President Shiraz Balolia top left and coach Trudie Fay in the middle.

F-Class NRA Nationals National championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico Ian Klemm Norm Harrold Team Grizzly Team Lapua
Team Grizzly: Shiraz Balolia, Emil Kovan, David Mann, John Myers, Trudie Fay (Coach).

Team Pierce Engineering won the F-TR Mid-Range Team event. Team members included: Doug Boyer, Josh Moore, Richard Nixon, John Roethlisberger, Coach Tom Majewski.

Team Lapua-Brux-Borden captured the F-Open Mid-Range Championship with a strong performance. Team “LBB” shot well, to earn a second straight Mid-Range National Title, and grab second (Silver) at Long Range. Team member Jay Christopherson praised his team-mates and also gave credit to his rivals: “Team Grizzly was outstanding for the LR Open Gold”.

F-Class NRA Nationals National championship 2018 Raton NM New Mexico Ian Klemm Norm Harrold Team Grizzly Team Lapua
Team LBB: Jay Christopherson, Erik Cortina, Tom Hendricks, Pat Scully, Coach Bob Sebold.

Permalink Competition, News, Shooting Skills No Comments »
March 5th, 2018

Accurate Cartridges — The .284 Shehane, an Improved .284 Win

F-Class Reloading .284 Winchester Win Shehane Accuracy

If you look at that 5-round group you might think it was shot with a 6 PPC or maybe a 6mmBR. But no, this was done with heavy 180gr Berger Hybrid bullets and the .284 Shehane, an improved version of the .284 Winchester. In fact, this impressive sub-quarter MOA group was shot while fire-forming with a very well-worn barrel!

Gun builder Ryan Pierce of Piercision Rifles explains:

Here’s a 5-shot 0.191″ group at 100 yards with my .284 Shehane fireforming loads. This barrel has 2200 rounds through it. It had 2000 as a straight .284 Win and then I set it back to .284 Shehane to form brass with. This was the first five rounds through it after I cleaned it after the last match. [The load was] 180 Hybrids with 54.0 grains of H4831 SC.

Ya, I figured why not I had some old barrels laying around so I just chopped 2″ off the back and 1″ off the front and chambered it up as a Shehane. Had 1000 pieces to fireform and didn’t want to do all that on a brand new barrel.

My fireform loads are going 2765 FPS. I have a 29″ barrel also though since it’s a setback. Once you get it formed I would push it faster than that or I wouldn’t even bother with the Shehane. My old straight .284 load at 2890 fps had ES spread in single digits for 10 shots. I figured if I get it up to 2935-2950 fps that will be a point or two saved in a several day match.

.284 Winchester Shehane Reamer Print PT&G

Fellow .284 Shehane shooter Erik Cortina notes that the .284 Shehane has a velocity edge over the straight .284 Win because it holds more powder: “The Shehane has more capacity than the .284 Winchester. Ryan is using 54.0 grains simply as a fire-forming load. Typical load for a Shehane is around 57.0 grains of Hodgdon H4831 SC.” By blowing the sidewalls out 0.010″, the .284 Shehane picks up about 3.3 grains of extra case capacity. That enhancement makes a BIG difference. The extra boiler room is enough to drive the 180s at 2900-2950 fps with H4831sc, with long barrels.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Reloading 1 Comment »
June 13th, 2017

Best F-Class Cartridge Choices For Mid-Range and Long-Range

F-Open F-TR F-class competition cartridge guide comparison Emil Covan

Cartridge Choices for F-Class Competition

By Emil Kovan
Kovan Match Rifles LLC, www.matchrifles.com

There are hundreds of cartridge types capable of winning in F-Open. For F-TR you can shoot either the .223 Rem or .308 Win, but you have many load options. This article will focus on proven choices, currently used by the top F-Class shooters in the world. Our discussion will analyze cartridge selection based on the four different F-Class sub-disciplines: Open Mid-Range, Open Long-Range, F-TR Mid-Range, and F-TR Long Range.

F-Open F-TR F-class competition cartridge guide comparison Emil Kovan
Click image to view full-screen photo.

Mid-Range F-Open Cartridges

For starters, a .300 WSM is certainly capable of winning mid-range matches but it is not ideal. So what is ideal, and why? F-Class Mid-Range matches usually are usually shot at 300, 500, or 600 yards — or all three. At those distances the 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges rule. In moderate conditions, the 6mm Dasher is unbeatable. Its low recoil along with its super grouping ability and good ballistics make it my number one choice for Mid-Range.

Best bullets for the 6mm Dasher are: Vapor Trail 103gr, Berger 105 Hybrid, 108 BT, and 105 VLD (hunting). Best powders are: Varget, H4895, and Reloder 15.

Choices for Mid-Range in Tougher Conditions:
We all know that conditions are not always “moderate” that’s why something a little bit bigger will save you a “Nine” or two. The 6.5X47 Lapua was designed for 300-meter competition, but as soon as it was released, it was adopted by F-Class, benchrest, and tactical shooters. It offers great ballistics with very low recoil and big “accuracy window”. Lapua makes great brass for it (no surprise there) and Berger makes great bullets: 130gr VLD, 140gr VLD, 140gr Hybrids. Best powders in most barrels are Varget and H4350, I don’t use double-based powders such as Reloder 17 and the Vihtavuori N500 series because of their unpredictable performance day to day (greater temp sensitivity).

The 6.5X47 Lapua necked down to 6mm is also a great option for mid range matches. I was able to easily get 3200 fps with 105 hybrids and H4350.

Choice for Long-Range F-Open Competition

In Long-Range F-Open Class (out to 1000 yards), the big, high-BC bullets rule. If I had to pick one cartridge for F-Class (both mid- and long-range) I would pick the .284 Winchester or one of its variants. The .284 Win is currently dominating in F-Open competition. It offers great barrel life, it is super-easy to tune and its recoil is very manageable. The best bullets for it by far (in my opinion), are the Berger 180 Hybrids. But Sierra’s new 183gr MK bullet (with factory-uniformed meplats) seems to perform very well as does the Berger 180 VLD. Best powders for the .284 Win are H4350 and H4831SC.

F-Open F-TR F-class competition cartridge guide comparison Emil Covan

Long-Range Only F-Open Cartridge
As much as I like the .284 Win, for long-range competitions I like the .300 WSM even more. If you look at a .300 WSM and a 6mm Dasher side by side, they appear almost identical in geometry — the .300 WSM looks like an “super-sized” Dasher. Both cartridges are currently the “darlings” of long-range benchrest due to their extraordinary grouping ability and huge “node’’ windows. Big accuracy windows allow loads to perform well in different conditions and geographical locations. That’s obviously very important if you travel to compete. The .300 WSM loaded with Berger 215gr or 230gr Hybrids is very tough to beat at long range, and it is currently my number one choice.

The 7mm RSAUM is another outstanding long-range round. It resembles a 6BR on steroids and it is almost as easy to tune. Best bullets for it are Berger 180gr Hybrids, 195gr EOLs, and Sierra’s 183gr MatchKing. Best powders for the 7mm RSAUM are: H4350, H4831SC, and VV N160.

Top Caliber/Bullet Combos for F-TR

In F-TR competition, the choice is clear — a .308 Win throated for Berger 185gr BTLRs and 200gr Hybrids will win in mid-range AND long-range comps. Many championships have been won, and many records set with those two bullets in the .308 Win. To quote Danny Biggs (a two times FTR National Champion) “The 185 BTLR is the best bullet for .308 Win ever made”.

The Berger 215gr Hybrids have been used to win many competitions including recently the 2015 F-Class Nationals. Bryan Litz won both the Mid-Range and Long-Range 2015 Championships using 215s. Bryan’s rifle is shown below:

Bryan Litz F-TR 2015 National Championship rifle

I recommend chambers throated for the 185/200 grain projectiles over the 215/230 grain bullets. The reason is that if you have your barrel throated out for the 215s or the 230s, you could have a “slow” barrel and max out on pressure before the desired velocity is reached. Optimum freebore for the 230s is too long for the 185/200s, so you would be limited to using only 215/230gr bullets in that barrel.Furthermore, the recoil increase with heavier bullets is substantial, causing the rifle to be more difficult to shoot.

.223 Remington Cartridge Diagram.223 Rem — Not A Competitive Option
I would stay away from the .223 Remington. On paper the 90gr VLD will shoot inside most .308 Win loads even at a 1000 yards. But in reality, on average, the .223 Rem, regardless of what powder/bullet combo is used, cannot compete with the .308 Win. [Editor: The equipment lists at major F-TR matches will confirm Kovan’s conclusion here.]

Conclusion (and Other Options)
This article covers only the (currently) most popular cartridge/bullet combos for F-Class (F-Open and F-TR). As I said in the beginning, many cartridge types are capable of winning but are not listed due to their low popularity, case design, or lack of quality components. All of the above information is based on my personal experience and it is meant to help new shooters choose the right cartridges for F-Class matches. Thanks for reading and good luck — Emil Kovan

Emil Kovan F-Class competition bio photoEmil Kovan Competition History:

– 2014 F-Class Open National Champion

– 2015 F-Class Open National Championship, Silver Medal

– F-Class Open National Championship Teams, 2015, 2014, 2013, Shooting Team Member

– Over 15 wins in Regional and State Championships in Palma, F-TR, F-Open

– 2013 U.S. National Team Member

– 2017 U.S. National Development Team Member

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition 5 Comments »
February 25th, 2017

Henry’s Hammer — State-of-the-Art .284 Shehane for 1K BR

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

We’ve been giving a lot of coverage to tactical rigs and gas guns lately, so we though it was time to showcase a purebred, state-of-the-art 1000-Yard Benchrest rig. This article features the impressive .284 Shehane Light Gun used by Henry Pasquet to capture the 2013 IBS 1000-yard Nationals.

With a 5″-wide “hammerhead” front and a special 3″-wide bag-rider plate in the rear, this 17-lb rig is ultra-stable in the bags, and tracks like a dream. In this story, Henry explains his set-up plus his processes for loading super-accurate ammo. Every long-range shooter can benefit from some of tips revealed here. And F-Class guys — if you’re shooting a .284 Win-based case in F-Open you should definitely read Henry’s precision reloading advice.

EDITOR: Guys, there is a ton of solid gold information in this article — take your time and read it carefully.

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehaneYes old dogs can learn new tricks. Just five years ago Forum member Henry Pasquet (aka “HenryP”) got started in 1000-yard benchrest shooting. He was 66 at the time. Henry worked hard, learned fast, and pursued accuracy with a vengence. That all paid off when Henry won the 2013 IBS 1000-yard Nationals this summer, finishing as the Two-Gun Overall National Champion. Henry was kind enough to talk about his rifle, his reloading methods, and his strategy for success. In fact, Henry was eager to share “everything he knows, so that other guys can fast-track their learning process”. Henry told us: “I want to share every lesson I’ve learned, so that other guys can improve their game and enjoy the sport more.” Henry also wants to encourage other senior shooters: “If you pay attention to details (when reloading), and get a good rifle with a good barrel, age is not a handicap. With a good set-up, older guys can compete with anyone out there. This is one sport where you can be a champion in later life.”

Click on Rifle Photos to View Full-screen Versions

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q&A with Henry Pasquet, IBS 1000-Yard National Champion

Q: First, do you have any advice for older shooters getting started in their golden years?

Henry: You’re never too old. In this sport, you can excel even in your 60s, 70s and beyond. At this stage in life, we now have the time and money to get good equipment and rifles. Plus, our years of work experience help us to think, analyze, and thereby make progress. In this game, we older guys can definitely compete on a par with younger shooters.

HARDWARE

Q: Tell us about your Nationals-winning rifle and bench gear. Is there anything unique about your hardware that gave you an edge?

Henry: At the Nationals, I used my 17-lb Light Gun for both Light and Heavy Class. This rifle has a 1.55″, round BAT LP/RE action, fitted with a Bartlein barrel chambered for the .284 Shehane (an improved version of the .284 Winchester). The barrel was near-new; this was the first time I had used it this year. A great barrel and great batch of Berger 180gr VLDs all made a difference. Jay Cutright chambers my barrels. Jay’s metal-work is so precise that I can screw any barrel he’s chambered to any BAT action I own. The laminated stock was modified by Tommy Shurley from a standard 3″-wide fore-end to a 5″-wide True-Trac with an adjustable 3″-wide rear plate. It’s not pretty but it tracks like a Heavy Gun stock. Tommy made my other stocks as well.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Protektor sand bag 3M material IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehaneOn top is a Nightforce 12-42x52mm Benchrest scope with CH-3 reticle. I used a Fulghum (Randolph Machine) front rest with an Edgewood bag made with the low-friction 3M material. In the rear I use a special-order Protekor rear “Doctor” bag with ears spaced 3 inches apart. The rear bag also has the new 3M material on contact surfaces (photo at right).

Q: During the Nationals, at the last minute you switched guns. Why did you go from a 6mm Dasher to a 7mm Shehane?

Henry: I had planned to use my Light and Heavy Dashers, but after placing the Dasher on the ready line, decided to switch to the .284 Shehane. It was still early in the morning and I felt that the heavier bullets would be easier to see against the berm. The Dasher had actually been giving tighter groups under perfect conditions, but seeing the impact is important.

Q: Tell us about the combined tuner/muzzle brake on some of your barrels. How does this improve rifle performance and how do you set the “tune”? Do you tune the barrel to the load?

Henry: I use a tuner or tuner/brake on every barrel. I started with Time Precision tuners. Art Cocchia advised getting a load with a good known accuracy node with minimum extreme spread, which controls vertical. Do not go for the hottest loads, which just reduces brass life. Then use the tuner and tune the barrel to the load. The .284 Light Gun needed a muzzle brake and tuner. I had a local gunsmith cut a thread on the muzzle brake for a tuner I got from Sid Goodling. (Eric Bostrom developed an almost identical unit at the same time. I use Eric’s tuner/brakes on all my new barrels.) Just before Nationals, I tried going up and down one marker. Down one mark cut the group in half! Think how much range time (and barrel life) that saved me. Using a tuner is easier than messing around changing loads and tweaking seating depths. Tuners definitely can work. Last year I shot a 3.348″ 10-shot group at 1000 with my .284 Win Heavy Gun fitted with a Time Precision Tuner.

IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall muzzle brake tuner .284 shehane

Q: What are the advantages of your stock’s 5″-wide fore-end and 3″-wide rear plate? Is there a big difference in tracking and/or stability? Does the extra width make the rifle easier to shoot?

Henry: I had true Heavy Guns with 5-inch fronts and 3-inch rears. They tracked well. I felt the same result could be had with a Light Gun. I talked two stock makers into making them. I initially had the standard rear stock until Tommy Shurley and Mike Hearn came out with an adjustable rear plate. The stocks track perfectly. You can see your scope’s crosshairs stay on the target the whole time and push the rifle back for the next shot. There is no torquing (gun wobbling) when cycling the bolt. Us old guys need all the help we can get. I am getting rid of my 45-pound Heavy Guns and replacing them with Light Guns with heavy barrels.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q: Some people say the .284 Shehane is not as accurate as the straight .284 Winchester. You’ve proved them wrong. Why do you like the .284 Shehane? More speed, less pressure?

Henry: The reason I rechambered my 7mm barrels to .284 Shehane was not velocity, pressure, or brass life. It was all about bolt lift. My straight .284 almost required me to stand up to eject brass. I damaged an extractor and had to send the bolt back to BAT. With the .284 Shehane, my bolt cycles like there is no case to eject.

Reloading Methods

Q: People want to know about your load and your loading methods. What can you reveal?

Henry: For my .284 Shehane at the Nationals, I loaded 52.5 grains of Hodgdon H4350 and Federal BR-2 primers behind Berger 180gr VLDs. I usually anneal the brass each winter. I have used the same brass for years. I use Redding bushing dies, apply Imperial sizing wax, resize, wipe off wax, clean and uniform the primers pockets using the RCBS Trim Mate Case prep center, then apply Imperial dry neck lube with a bore mop.

K & M arbor seating force dial gaugeTo dispense powder, I use a RCBS ChargeMaster set 0.1 grain below my desired load and then weigh them on a Sartorius GD-503 magnetic force restoration scale to get identical charges. I use a K&M Arbor Press with seating force gauge when seating the bullets with a Wilson inline die. My “target” seating force on the K&M dial is 20-23 units for Dashers and 35-40 units for the .284 Shehane. I put any variables aside for sighters. I do not weigh brass, bullets, or primers. My bullets were so consistent that I did not sort by bearing surface. I did trim the Berger VLDs to the shortest bullet length with a Hoover Trimmer, and then pointed the meplats just enough to close them with a Whidden pointer. I sort my bullets to 0.005″ overall length, rejecting about five percent.

Q: What kind of precision are you looking for in your reloads? Do you trickle to the kernel? Does this really help reduce extreme spread?

Henry: I try to keep my charge weights consistent to one kernel of powder. I use the Omega powder trickler with a Sartorius GD-503 lab-grade balance to achieve that. For accurate dispensing, put very little powder into the Omega so you can drop one kernel at a time. Single digit ES (Extreme Spread) is the goal. This does make a difference at 1000 yards. If you get the same push on the same bullet with the same neck tension, good things are going to happen.

Q: You believe consistent neck tension (i.e. grip on the bullet) is really important. What methods are you using to ensure consistent bullet release?

Henry: I apply Imperial dry neck lube to the inside of my case-necks with a bore mop. The K&M arbor with seating force gauge shows the need to do this. If you put a bullet into a clean case, it will be jerky when seating the bullet. You may see 40 units (on the K&M dial) dropping to 20, then slowly increasing pressure. I explained to a friend that not lubing the neck is like overhauling an engine without lubing the cylinders. Smooth entry gives the bullets a smooth release.

Barrel Cleaning

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion Carb out Carb-out WipeOut .284 shehaneQ: You go 60-80 rounds between cleaning and the results speak for themselves. What is your barrel cleaning procedure? Do you think some guys clean too often or too aggressively?

Henry: I cringe when I see people wearing out their barrels with bronze brushes between relays. I clean my barrels at the end of each day when I get home. I shot my best-ever 1K Heavy Gun group (3.348″) at day’s end after 60 to 80 rounds. After trying other solvents, I have gone back to Wipe-out’s Carb-Out and Patch-Out products. I use about four patches of Carb-Out, let it sit a few minutes, then use one stroke of a nylon brush followed by Patch-Out until the barrel is clean. I use a bore mop to clean inside the chamber, then some Break Free LP on the bolt followed by bolt grease on the lugs and cocking part. I use a bore guide when anything goes down the barrel.

Shooting Skills and the Learning Process

Q: Henry, you can shoot long-distance on your own property in Missouri. How important is practice, and what do you do during a typical practice session?

Henry: I can shoot 1000 yards on my farm. I have a concrete bench using a slab from a yard furniture place on concrete blocks. Two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood hold four IBS targets. I never practice. I only test, keeping a notebook with all the info. I do most of my testing at 300 to 500 yards, shooting off my deck so I can see my shots immediately.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q: How much of your success do you credit to really accurate rifles, versus superior shooting skills?

Henry: I do not consider myself another Carlos Hathcock or some master marksman. I am an average 1000-yard shooter, but I do work hard getting the most out of my rifles. Four other people have shot their first 1000-yard matches with my rifles, including my wife, and all of them won relays! I loaned my Dasher to another shooter two years ago and he got second at the 600-yard Nationals. Others will tell you that the rifle must be “on” to win. If your barrel or bullets are average, don’t expect to perform above average in competition.

Q: What you do enjoy most about long-range benchrest shooting? What are the attractions of this sport?

Henry: The sport offers good people and a real challenge. 1000-yard shooting keeps us all humble, but we still keep trying to see how good we can do. I am thankful for Robert Ross providing the only match location that I can shoot regularly.

Q: Henry, you have been a Forum member for many years. Have you learned important techniques from other Forum members and other shooters?

Henry: I have followed the AccurateShooter Forum since 2008. At my age I am not good at computers. I copied and analyzed many articles, especially on the .284 and the Dashers. Without AccurateShooter.com, I would probably still be shooting double-digit (10″+) groups at 1000 yards, and I sure wouldn’t have my name on a National Championship trophy.

Q: You are in your 70s now and have only been shooting competitively for a few years. How did you get so good so fast? How did you manage to beat shooters who are decades younger?

Henry: I had 20/10 vision when I was young, but am down to only 20/20. I have been interested in long range shooting for a long time including ground hog hunting. I went to some VHA jamborees also. In 2008, I went to the Williamsport Benchrest School with a friend from Pennsylvania, John Haas. We would compare notes frequently. I bought a BAT three lug from Tom Mousel in Montana. We also compared notes and made each other better. At IBS matches I studied other shooters’ equipment and techniques. I tried some, accepting some and rejecting some.

Here’s my advice:
Always be ready to learn something new. If it makes sense, try it. I would also encourage other older shooters not to quit. Stick to it. You can make enormous progress in a few seasons.

Permalink - Articles, Competition, Gunsmithing 1 Comment »
October 7th, 2016

Is the .284 Shehane Inherently Accurate? You Better Believe It

F-Class Reloading .284 Winchester Win Shehane Accuracy

If you look at that 5-round group you might think it was shot with a 6 PPC or maybe a 6mmBR. But no, this was done with heavy 180gr Berger Hybrid bullets and the .284 Shehane, an improved version of the .284 Winchester. In fact, this impressive sub-quarter MOA group was shot while fire-forming with a very well-worn barrel!

Gun builder Ryan Pierce of Piercision Rifles explains:

Here’s a 5-shot 0.191″ group at 100 yards with my .284 Shehane fireforming loads. This barrel has 2200 rounds through it. It had 2000 as a straight .284 Win and then I set it back to .284 Shehane to form brass with. This was the first five rounds through it after I cleaned it after the last match. [The load was] 180 Hybrids with 54.0 grains of H4831 SC.

Ya, I figured why not I had some old barrels laying around so I just chopped 2″ off the back and 1″ off the front and chambered it up as a Shehane. Had 1000 pieces to fireform and didn’t want to do all that on a brand new barrel.

My fireform loads are going 2765 FPS. I have a 29″ barrel also though since it’s a setback. Once you get it formed I would push it faster than that or I wouldn’t even bother with the Shehane. My old straight .284 load at 2890 fps had ES spread in single digits for 10 shots. I figured if I get it up to 2935-2950 fps that will be a point or two saved in a several day match.

.284 Winchester Shehane Reamer Print PT&G

Fellow .284 Shehane shooter Erik Cortina notes that the .284 Shehane has a velocity edge over the straight .284 Win because it holds more powder: “The Shehane has more capacity than the .284 Winchester. Ryan is using 54.0 grains simply as a fire-forming load. Typical load for a Shehane is around 57.0 grains of Hodgdon H4831 SC.” By blowing the sidewalls out 0.010″, the .284 Shehane picks up about 3.3 grains of extra case capacity. That enhancement makes a BIG difference. The extra boiler room is enough to drive the 180s at 2900-2950 fps with H4831sc, with long barrels.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition 5 Comments »
August 31st, 2016

Anatomy of the Modern F-Open Rifle

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Emil Kovan is one of the top F-Class shooters in the world. He won the 2014 United States F-Open Championship. Earlier this month Emil finished second in F-Open Division at the 2016 Canadian National F-Class Championship in Ontario. Emil actually tied Open-class winner Shiraz Balolia for overall score AND “V”-count, but Emil was awarded second on the tie-breaker.

The Anatomy of a Modern F-Class Open Rifle

Report by Emil Kovan
Kovan Match Rifles LLC, www.matchrifles.com

“What are the best components for an F-Open class rifle, and why?” That’s a question that I get asked all the time and will try to answer in this article. Two months ago, I was contacted by Duane, a gentleman I met at the 2015 F-Class Nationals. He was interested in building a rifle with the new Master Class Low Profile F-Open Stock, created by Carl Bernosky and Alex Sitman of Master Class Stocks.

I have known Alex Sitman for many years, and use his stocks exclusively, but was not very familiar with his new Low Profile F-Open stock. After a brief conversation with Alex, I placed an order, and had the stock inletted and bedded at my shop in a month. My first impression was “Wow that’s a long stock” — the forearm is significantly longer than on the original Master Class F-Class prone stock. I bolted the barreled action in, and squeezed the end of the forearm and barrel together, the stock flexed a little bit, but not as much as other designs that I have tested. I think that’s due to having “more meat” in the receiver area. The full stock depth continues farther forward that on some other “low profile” designs. That makes the stock stiffer in the vertical plane, reducing the hinging effect forward of the action. The stock was finished in gloss black per the customer’s request. Interestingly, I found that the multiple layers of paint and clearcoat stiffened the stock up quite a bit.

CLICK IMAGE below for full-screen version
.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Low Center of Gravity Tames Torque
Compared to the original Master Class F-Open stock, the barrel sits about an inch lower. Lower center of gravity equals less torque, and that is very important when shooting heavy bullets in fast twist barrels. Another significant improvement is that the toe of the stock is flat and parallel to the forearm. I added a 3/4″ track rail in the rear, and milled the underside of the fore-end to create two parallel “rails” in the front to help the stock track better.

One of the biggest reasons why I like Master Class stocks, is the pistol grip. I don’t shoot “free recoil” and a comfortable pistol grip is super important to me when selecting a stock. The new Master Class Low Profile stock shares the same grip as the old model. This allows the stock to accommodate either a “hard hold” style or a more free-recoil style of shooting — whatever the rifle’s owner prefers. This design versatility is one reason I recommend Master Class stocks. Shooters may experiment with either shooting style to find what suits them best.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Cartridge Choice — A 40° .284 Win Improved
Duane decided to have the barrel chambered for my 284 KMR IMP (Improved) wildcat. What is .284 KMR IMP and why choose it over the straight .284 Winchester? Improved by definition means “made better”, I took a great cartridge, and modified it to increase capacity, reduce pressure, and increase brass life.

There are many “improved” variants of the original .284 Winchester: 7mm Walker, .284 Shehane, .284 Ackley and so on. My version, the 284 KMR IMP, shares the .010″ blown-out sidewalls of the .284 Shehane, but I have further increased the case capacity by changing the shoulder angle from 35 to 40 degrees. The 284 KMR IMP allows you to almost match magnum cartridge velocity in a standard-bolt-face action. If you want to run 180gr-class 7mm bullets over 2900 FPS, it is cheaper and more convenient to have a barrel chambered in 284 KMR IMP than to spend $650 for a magnum bolt.

Tuning Loads for the .284 Win Improved Cartridges
The 284 KMR IMP seems to have two nodes, one around 2820 fps and other at 2940 fps. My match load clocks at 2935 fps with single-digit ES. Note –I selected that load based on accuracy, NOT raw speed. A lot of novice (or hard-headed) shooters make the mistake to push their cartridges to the max, and disregard more accurate loads at lower velocity.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

The sport of F-Class is rapidly growing, and the equipment used is improving constantly. I remember that only few years ago, an F-Open rifle that could shoot sub-one-inch of vertical at 300 yards was considered competitive. Now, we are pursuing sub-one-inch vertical at 600 yards! It takes a great rifle to approach that goal, but it is also up to the shooter to learn and experiment as much as possible in order to achieve success.

Dies for an Improved .284 Win Cartridge
One of the biggest challenges in campaigning a wildcat cartridge has been obtaining great dies. When searching for custom dies, it almost seems like that the odds are stacked against us. The most common problem is wait-time — custom die orders can take months to be completed. Also, most custom die makers want you to send them two or three cases, each fire-formed three times. I find that funny because if could somehow properly size the cases for three fire-forming cycles, I would not need a sizing die.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Custom-made dies should size the case just right, but sometimes the die’s internal dimensions are slightly off, and this leads to problem number two: dies sizing too much (or even worse) too little. I had a one “custom” die that would not size the bottom of the case enough. This made the extraction of fired cases very difficult. I feel that the best option (if available) for shooters interested in wildcat chambers is to have their gunsmiths make the dies. I offer that die-making service in addition to barrel chambering.

BAT Machine “M” Action
Duane decided to use a BAT M action for this rifle, and I think that he could not have made a better choice. We are blessed with many good match-quality receivers: Barnard, BAT, Borden, Kelbly, Nesika, and Stiller just to mention a few. These are all very well-made and suitable for F-Class. Among BAT Machine Co.actions, I like BAT models M, MB, and 3LL best. I prefer these because because of their size (large bedding footprint) smoothness, timing, options available, and last but not least visual appearance.

Trigger: I recommend and use Jewell triggers. Other good options are: Kelbly, CG Jackson (good 2-Stage) Anschutz (best 2-Stage for Bat and Kelbly actions), Bix’N Andy, and David Tubb.

Barrel: Duane made another good choice here. He decided to go with a Brux 1:8.5″-twist, 4-groove cut-rifled barrel. If you look at the F-Class and Long Range benchrest equipment lists, you will see that cut-rifled barrels are currently dominating. Many records have been shot with both button-rifled, and cut-rifled barrels. I have shot both, and prefer cut-rifled barrels. I am not saying that button-rifled barrels are not capable of shooting as well as cut-rifled barrels, but on average, in my experience, four out of five cut-rifled barrels (from top makers) will shoot well, vs. three out of five buttoned barrels. YMMV, but this is what I’ve observed.

Brux Barrels is not the only company that produces very accurate cut-rifled barrels. We know that Krieger, Bartlein, Satern, and Hawk Hill Custom all make fine cut-rifled barrels as well.

Scope: Duane’s rifle was fitted with a Nightforce 15-55x52mm Competition scope with DDR-2 reticle. This optic is ultra clear, reasonably lightweight (28 oz.), super reliable, and has 1/8 MOA clicks — what you want for long range F-Class competition. In this 15-55X NF model, I like the DDR-2 reticle best, because fine cross hairs (FCH) are hard to see in heavy mirage. The DDR-2 has a heavier horizontal line, with a center dot. March scopes are also very popular and very well-made.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Thanks for reading, and keep ‘em in the middle…

Emil Kovan F-Class competition bio photoEmil Kovan Competition History:

– 2014 F-Class Open National Champion

– 2016 F-Class Open Canadian Championship, Silver Medal (tied for first on score)

– 2015 F-Class Open National Championship, Silver Medal

– F-Class Open National Championship Teams, 2015, 2014, 2013, Shooting Team Member

– Over 15 wins in Regional and State Championships in Palma, F-TR, F-Open

– 2013 U.S. National Team Member

– 2017 U.S. National Development Team Member

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Gunsmithing 3 Comments »
March 5th, 2016

Shooting with a Wind Coach — F-Open Teamwork Demonstration

F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mm

Editor’s Comment: All long-range competitive shooters should watch this excellent video — whether you shoot with a team or as an individual. Three cameras were used so you can watch the shooter, the range flags, and the target simultaneously. After a discussion of scoring, the actual shooting starts at the five-minute mark in the video. Under the guidance of wind coach Gary Rasmussen, former U.S. F-Class Open Team Captain Shiraz Balolia shoots 100-7X for ten shots, following Gary’s wind calls. Shiraz is the President of Grizzly Industrial

Team Shooting with a Coach
F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mmShiraz tells us: “We come across a lot of shooters who have never shot under a coach. This video was produced to give shooters a basic understanding of shooting with a coach and the importance of releasing a good shot. In a team setting, you basically leave all the decision-making to the coach and aim where you’re told to aim. I’ve worked with Gary many times and it shows in the comfort level we have with each other. The coach plots the shots or a plotter advises the coach of any grouping that is not centered.”

Watch Gary Call the Wind and Shiraz Shoot 100-7X for Ten Shots

For best viewing, click the YouTube settings button to watch in 720p or 1080p HD (high definition).

Shiraz was shooting a 7mm F-Open rig: “My .284 Shehane rifle takes about 10 to 12 shots to settle down and that is probably why we made several scope adjustments while shooting. It is a great caliber and a step up from a straight .284 Winchester. The wind was relatively calm, but sometimes that slow wind with subtle angle changes can be very deceiving.”

F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mm

The video was shot the first week of May 2013 at a range in Custer, WA located about 20 miles from Bellingham, Washington. The production team included Shiraz Balolia, Gary Rasmussen, three cameramen, and a target puller. Big Thanks to Grizzly Industrial for providing the camera crew and post-production talent.
Permalink - Videos, Competition, Shooting Skills 5 Comments »
February 26th, 2016

1000-Yard Benchrest State of the Art .284 Shehane

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

The IBS 2016 Long-range shooting season is starting soon, so we thought our readers might enjoy learning about a state-of-the-art 1000-Yard Benchrest rig. This article features the impressive .284 Shehane Light Gun used by Henry Pasquet to capture the 2013 IBS 1000-yard Nationals. With a 5″-wide “hammerhead” front and a special 3″-wide bag-rider plate in the rear, this 17-lb rig is ultra-stable in the bags, and tracks like a dream. In this story, Henry explains his set-up plus his processes for loading super-accurate ammo. Every long-range shooter can benefit from some of tips revealed here. And F-Class guys — if you’re shooting a .284 Win-based case in F-Open you should definitely read Henry’s precision reloading advice.

EDITOR: Guys, there is a ton of solid gold information in this article — take your time and read it carefully.

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehaneYes old dogs can learn new tricks. Just five years ago Forum member Henry Pasquet (aka “HenryP”) got started in 1000-yard benchrest shooting. He was 66 at the time. Henry worked hard, learned fast, and pursued accuracy with a vengence. That all paid off when Henry won the 2013 IBS 1000-yard Nationals this summer, finishing as the Two-Gun Overall National Champion. Henry was kind enough to talk about his rifle, his reloading methods, and his strategy for success. In fact, Henry was eager to share “everything he knows, so that other guys can fast-track their learning process”. Henry told us: “I want to share every lesson I’ve learned, so that other guys can improve their game and enjoy the sport more.” Henry also wants to encourage other senior shooters: “If you pay attention to details (when reloading), and get a good rifle with a good barrel, age is not a handicap. With a good set-up, older guys can compete with anyone out there. This is one sport where you can be a champion in later life.”

Click on Rifle Photos to View Full-screen Versions

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q&A with Henry Pasquet, IBS 1000-Yard National Champion

Q: First, do you have any advice for older shooters getting started in their golden years?

Henry: You’re never too old. In this sport, you can excel even in your 60s, 70s and beyond. At this stage in life, we now have the time and money to get good equipment and rifles. Plus, our years of work experience help us to think, analyze, and thereby make progress. In this game, we older guys can definitely compete on a par with younger shooters.

HARDWARE

Q: Tell us about your Nationals-winning rifle and bench gear. Is there anything unique about your hardware that gave you an edge?

Henry: At the Nationals, I used my 17-lb Light Gun for both Light and Heavy Class. This rifle has a 1.55″, round BAT LP/RE action, fitted with a Bartlein barrel chambered for the .284 Shehane (an improved version of the .284 Winchester). The barrel was near-new; this was the first time I had used it this year. A great barrel and great batch of Berger 180gr VLDs all made a difference. Jay Cutright chambers my barrels. Jay’s metal-work is so precise that I can screw any barrel he’s chambered to any BAT action I own. The laminated stock was modified by Tommy Shurley from a standard 3″-wide fore-end to a 5″-wide True-Trac with an adjustable 3″-wide rear plate. It’s not pretty but it tracks like a Heavy Gun stock. Tommy made my other stocks as well.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Protektor sand bag 3M material IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehaneOn top is a Nightforce 12-42x52mm Benchrest scope with CH-3 reticle. I used a Fulghum (Randolph Machine) front rest with an Edgewood bag made with the low-friction 3M material. In the rear I use a special-order Protekor rear “Doctor” bag with ears spaced 3 inches apart. The rear bag also has the new 3M material on contact surfaces (photo at right).

Q: During the Nationals, at the last minute you switched guns. Why did you go from a 6mm Dasher to a 7mm Shehane?

Henry: I had planned to use my Light and Heavy Dashers, but after placing the Dasher on the ready line, decided to switch to the .284 Shehane. It was still early in the morning and I felt that the heavier bullets would be easier to see against the berm. The Dasher had actually been giving tighter groups under perfect conditions, but seeing the impact is important.

Q: Tell us about the combined tuner/muzzle brake on some of your barrels. How does this improve rifle performance and how do you set the “tune”? Do you tune the barrel to the load?

Henry: I use a tuner or tuner/brake on every barrel. I started with Time Precision tuners. Art Cocchia advised getting a load with a good known accuracy node with minimum extreme spread, which controls vertical. Do not go for the hottest loads, which just reduces brass life. Then use the tuner and tune the barrel to the load. The .284 Light Gun needed a muzzle brake and tuner. I had a local gunsmith cut a thread on the muzzle brake for a tuner I got from Sid Goodling. (Eric Bostrom developed an almost identical unit at the same time. I use Eric’s tuner/brakes on all my new barrels.) Just before Nationals, I tried going up and down one marker. Down one mark cut the group in half! Think how much range time (and barrel life) that saved me. Using a tuner is easier than messing around changing loads and tweaking seating depths. Tuners definitely can work. Last year I shot a 3.348″ 10-shot group at 1000 with my .284 Win Heavy Gun fitted with a Time Precision Tuner.

IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall muzzle brake tuner .284 shehane

Q: What are the advantages of your stock’s 5″-wide fore-end and 3″-wide rear plate? Is there a big difference in tracking and/or stability? Does the extra width make the rifle easier to shoot?

Henry: I had true Heavy Guns with 5-inch fronts and 3-inch rears. They tracked well. I felt the same result could be had with a Light Gun. I talked two stock makers into making them. I initially had the standard rear stock until Tommy Shurley and Mike Hearn came out with an adjustable rear plate. The stocks track perfectly. You can see your scope’s crosshairs stay on the target the whole time and push the rifle back for the next shot. There is no torquing (gun wobbling) when cycling the bolt. Us old guys need all the help we can get. I am getting rid of my 45-pound Heavy Guns and replacing them with Light Guns with heavy barrels.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q: Some people say the .284 Shehane is not as accurate as the straight .284 Winchester. You’ve proved them wrong. Why do you like the .284 Shehane? More speed, less pressure?

Henry: The reason I rechambered my 7mm barrels to .284 Shehane was not velocity, pressure, or brass life. It was all about bolt lift. My straight .284 almost required me to stand up to eject brass. I damaged an extractor and had to send the bolt back to BAT. With the .284 Shehane, my bolt cycles like there is no case to eject.

Reloading Methods

Q: People want to know about your load and your loading methods. What can you reveal?

Henry: For my .284 Shehane at the Nationals, I loaded 52.5 grains of Hodgdon H4350 and Federal BR-2 primers behind Berger 180gr VLDs. I usually anneal the brass each winter. I have used the same brass for years. I use Redding bushing dies, apply Imperial sizing wax, resize, wipe off wax, clean and uniform the primers pockets using the RCBS Trim Mate Case prep center, then apply Imperial dry neck lube with a bore mop.

K & M arbor seating force dial gaugeTo dispense powder, I use a RCBS ChargeMaster set 0.1 grain below my desired load and then weigh them on a Sartorius GD-503 magnetic force restoration scale to get identical charges. I use a K&M Arbor Press with seating force gauge when seating the bullets with a Wilson inline die. My “target” seating force on the K&M dial is 20-23 units for Dashers and 35-40 units for the .284 Shehane. I put any variables aside for sighters. I do not weigh brass, bullets, or primers. My bullets were so consistent that I did not sort by bearing surface. I did trim the Berger VLDs to the shortest bullet length with a Hoover Trimmer, and then pointed the meplats just enough to close them with a Whidden pointer. I sort my bullets to 0.005″ overall length, rejecting about five percent.

Q: What kind of precision are you looking for in your reloads? Do you trickle to the kernel? Does this really help reduce extreme spread?

Henry: I try to keep my charge weights consistent to one kernel of powder. I use the Omega powder trickler with a Sartorius GD-503 lab-grade balance to achieve that. For accurate dispensing, put very little powder into the Omega so you can drop one kernel at a time. Single digit ES (Extreme Spread) is the goal. This does make a difference at 1000 yards. If you get the same push on the same bullet with the same neck tension, good things are going to happen.

Q: You believe consistent neck tension (i.e. grip on the bullet) is really important. What methods are you using to ensure consistent bullet release?

Henry: I apply Imperial dry neck lube to the inside of my case-necks with a bore mop. The K&M arbor with seating force gauge shows the need to do this. If you put a bullet into a clean case, it will be jerky when seating the bullet. You may see 40 units (on the K&M dial) dropping to 20, then slowly increasing pressure. I explained to a friend that not lubing the neck is like overhauling an engine without lubing the cylinders. Smooth entry gives the bullets a smooth release.

Barrel Cleaning

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion Carb out Carb-out WipeOut .284 shehaneQ: You go 60-80 rounds between cleaning and the results speak for themselves. What is your barrel cleaning procedure? Do you think some guys clean too often or too aggressively?

Henry: I cringe when I see people wearing out their barrels with bronze brushes between relays. I clean my barrels at the end of each day when I get home. I shot my best-ever 1K Heavy Gun group (3.348″) at day’s end after 60 to 80 rounds. After trying other solvents, I have gone back to Wipe-out’s Carb-Out and Patch-Out products. I use about four patches of Carb-Out, let it sit a few minutes, then use one stroke of a nylon brush followed by Patch-Out until the barrel is clean. I use a bore mop to clean inside the chamber, then some Break Free LP on the bolt followed by bolt grease on the lugs and cocking part. I use a bore guide when anything goes down the barrel.

Shooting Skills and the Learning Process

Q: Henry, you can shoot long-distance on your own property in Missouri. How important is practice, and what do you do during a typical practice session?

Henry: I can shoot 1000 yards on my farm. I have a concrete bench using a slab from a yard furniture place on concrete blocks. Two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood hold four IBS targets. I never practice. I only test, keeping a notebook with all the info. I do most of my testing at 300 to 500 yards, shooting off my deck so I can see my shots immediately.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q: How much of your success do you credit to really accurate rifles, versus superior shooting skills?

Henry: I do not consider myself another Carlos Hathcock or some master marksman. I am an average 1000-yard shooter, but I do work hard getting the most out of my rifles. Four other people have shot their first 1000-yard matches with my rifles, including my wife, and all of them won relays! I loaned my Dasher to another shooter two years ago and he got second at the 600-yard Nationals. Others will tell you that the rifle must be “on” to win. If your barrel or bullets are average, don’t expect to perform above average in competition.

Q: What you do enjoy most about long-range benchrest shooting? What are the attractions of this sport?

Henry: The sport offers good people and a real challenge. 1000-yard shooting keeps us all humble, but we still keep trying to see how good we can do. I am thankful for Robert Ross providing the only match location that I can shoot regularly.

Q: Henry, you have been a Forum member for many years. Have you learned important techniques from other Forum members and other shooters?

Henry: I have followed the AccurateShooter Forum since 2008. At my age I am not good at computers. I copied and analyzed many articles, especially on the .284 and the Dashers. Without AccurateShooter.com, I would probably still be shooting double-digit (10″+) groups at 1000 yards, and I sure wouldn’t have my name on a National Championship trophy.

Q: You are in your 70s now and have only been shooting competitively for a few years. How did you get so good so fast? How did you manage to beat shooters who are decades younger?

Henry: I had 20/10 vision when I was young, but am down to only 20/20. I have been interested in long range shooting for a long time including ground hog hunting. I went to some VHA jamborees also. In 2008, I went to the Williamsport Benchrest School with a friend from Pennsylvania, John Haas. We would compare notes frequently. I bought a BAT three lug from Tom Mousel in Montana. We also compared notes and made each other better. At IBS matches I studied other shooters’ equipment and techniques. I tried some, accepting some and rejecting some.

Here’s my advice:
Always be ready to learn something new. If it makes sense, try it. I would also encourage other older shooters not to quit. Stick to it. You can make enormous progress in a few seasons.

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January 13th, 2015

Using the Giraud Power Trimmer — Smart Video from Erik Cortina

Forum member Erik Cortina recently launched his own YouTube Channel dedicated to precision reloading and accurizing. Erik’s videos demonstrate the proper use of specialized reloading tools and provide helpful hints. Erik’s latest video is about the “mother of all brass trimmers”, the Giraud powered case trimmer. Erik says: “It you do volume reloading… this is the only trimmer to get. It not only trims to length but it also chamfers your case mouth inside and out.” In his video, Erik offers some very clever and useful tips that will help you get the most from your Giraud.

The Giraud trimmer is very precise. When set up correctly, it can trim brass with amazing consistency. In the video, Erik trims 5 pieces of brass in 15 seconds (6:32 mark). He then measures all five with precision calipers (7:00-8:08). All lengths are exact within .0005 (half a thousandth). Erik notes that the Giraud trimmer indexes off the case shoulder. As long as you have fire-formed brass with consistent base-to-shoulder dimensions, you should get very consistent trim lengths.

The secret to the system is a 3-way cutting head. This cutter can be swapped in and out in a couple minutes with wrenches provided with the kit. Erik has three different heads; one each for 6.5mm, 7mm, and .30 caliber. The video shows how to adjust the cutting heads to match caliber diameter (and to get the desired amount of inside/outside chamfer).

This is a manufacturer’s photo showing an older model.
Erik Cortina Meplat Giraud Case Trimmer YouTube Video Lapua

To trim and chamfer cases, you simply insert them nose-first into the cartridge-specific case-holder. Erick offers a smart tip — He uses a die locking ring to position the cartridge holder (3:15). This can be locked in place. Erik says die locking rings work much better than the hex-nuts provided by Giraud (with the hex-nut, one must re-set cut length each time you change case-holders.)

Erik Cortina Meplat Giraud Case Trimmer YouTube Video Lapua

The Giraud can be used in either horizontal or vertical modes. Erik prefers to have the trimmer aligned vertically, allowing him to push cases down on the trimmer head. But the trimming unit has twin sets of rubber feet, allowing horizontal or vertical orientation.

Erik Cortina Meplat Giraud Case Trimmer YouTube Video Lapua

Improved Case-Holder Made with Chamber Reamer:
For his .284 Shehane, Erik had to create his own case-holder (Giraud does not make one for that wildcat cartridge). Erik used his chamber reamer. To his surprise, Erik found that the brass was easier to trim in the custom case holder (compared to the Giraud-made spring-loaded holders). With a perfect fit, trimming and case extraction went more smoothly and the process was easier on his hands. (See 9:00-10:00). Based on Erik’s experience, you may want to create your own custom case-holder.

Trim Bullet Meplats Also
With a special bullet-holder fitting and meplat cutter head, the Giraud power trimmer can be used to trim bullet meplats. Trimming meplats can help make the Ballistic Coefficents of a batch of bullets more consistent. Uniforming meplats is also often done as a first step in the process of “tipping” bullets to improve BC.

Erik Cortina Meplat Giraud Case Trimmer YouTube Video Lapua

Giraud Power Trimmer

Permalink - Videos, Reloading, Tech Tip 8 Comments »
August 20th, 2014

Championship F-Class Form — Shiraz Shows How It’s Done

Shiraz Balolia F-classAt the Canadian F-Class Championships last week Shiraz Balolia won the F-Open Individual Championship, and Shiraz was a member of the winning Team USA America Match Team, and the winning USA 4-man F-Open team. If you want to see how a world-class F-Open pilot works his magic, check out this video. After a discussion of scoring, the shooting starts at the five-minute mark in the video. Under the guidance of wind coach Gary Rasmussen, Grizzly Industrial President Shiraz Balolia shoots 100-7X for ten shots, following Gary’s wind calls.

NOTE: Shiraz shot with wind coaches in the team matches at the Connaught Range in Canada. However, during the individual championship matches he had to make his own wind calls, dialing windage corrections or holding off as he saw fit. It wasn’t easy. Shiraz told us: “It’s been a while since I had 5 1/2 minutes of left wind on my .300 WSM and was holding left 3+, then holding right 3 1/2 just two shots later!”

Pair Firing in Canada
According to Shiraz, “One thing that was different about the Canadian Nationals was that they were pair fired. One shoots, other scores, other shoots, and so on. With this slower, pair method of shooting, every shot can be in a different condition. Unlike the USA Nationals where a guy can rattle off the whole string in less than 4 to 5 minutes in one or two conditions, you would be hard pressed to get off two or three shots each in five minutes. This is the way the next World Championship is going to be shot — with pair firing.”

Watch Gary Call the Wind and Shiraz Shoot 100-7X for Ten Shots

For best viewing, click the YouTube settings button to watch in 720p or 1080p HD (high definition).

Team Shooting with a Coach
F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mmShiraz tells us: “We come across a lot of shooters who have never shot under a coach. This video was produced to give shooters a basic understanding of shooting with a coach and the importance of releasing a good shot. In a team setting, you basically leave all the decision-making to the coach and aim where you’re told to aim. I’ve worked with Gary many times and it shows in the comfort level we have with each other. The coach plots the shots or a plotter advises the coach of any grouping that is not centered.”

At the Canadian Championships, Shiraz used a .300 WSM. In this demo video, Shiraz was shooting a 7mm F-Open rig: “My .284 Shehane rifle takes about 10 to 12 shots to settle down and that is probably why we made several scope adjustments while shooting. It is a great caliber and a step up from a straight .284 Winchester. The wind was relatively calm, but sometimes that slow wind with subtle angle changes can be very deceiving.”

F-Class Open Team shooting with Shiraz Balolia at 700 yards .284 7mm

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October 7th, 2013

How to Win at 1000 Yards — IBS National Champ Tells All

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehaneYes old dogs can learn new tricks. Just five years ago Forum member Henry Pasquet (aka “HenryP”) got started in 1000-yard benchrest shooting. He was 66 at the time. Henry worked hard, learned fast, and pursued accuracy with a vengence. That all paid off when Henry won the 2013 IBS 1000-yard Nationals this summer, finishing as the Two-Gun Overall National Champion. Henry was kind enough to talk about his rifle, his reloading methods, and his strategy for success. In fact, Henry was eager to share “everything he knows, so that other guys can fast-track their learning process”. Henry told us: “I want to share every lesson I’ve learned, so that other guys can improve their game and enjoy the sport more.” Henry also wants to encourage other senior shooters: “If you pay attention to details (when reloading), and get a good rifle with a good barrel, age is not a handicap. With a good set-up, older guys can compete with anyone out there. This is one sport where you can be a champion in later life.”

Click on Rifle Photos to View Full-screen Versions

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q&A with Henry Pasquet, IBS 1000-Yard National Champion

Q: First, do you have any advice for older shooters getting started in their golden years?

Henry: You’re never too old. In this sport, you can excel even in your 60s, 70s and beyond. At this stage in life, we now have the time and money to get good equipment and rifles. Plus, our years of work experience help us to think, analyze, and thereby make progress. In this game, we older guys can definitely compete on a par with younger shooters.

HARDWARE

Q: Tell us about your Nationals-winning rifle and bench gear. Is there anything unique about your hardware that gave you an edge?

Henry: At the Nationals, I used my 17-lb Light Gun for both Light and Heavy Class. This rifle has a 1.55″, round BAT LP/RE action, fitted with a Bartlein barrel chambered for the .284 Shehane (an improved version of the .284 Winchester). The barrel was near-new; this was the first time I had used it this year. A great barrel and great batch of Berger 180gr VLDs all made a difference. Jay Cutright chambers my barrels. Jay’s metal-work is so precise that I can screw any barrel he’s chambered to any BAT action I own. The laminated stock was modified by Tommy Shurley from a standard 3″-wide fore-end to a 5″-wide True-Trac with an adjustable 3″-wide rear plate. It’s not pretty but it tracks like a Heavy Gun stock. Tommy made my other stocks as well.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Protektor sand bag 3M material IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehaneOn top is a Nightforce 12-42x52mm Benchrest scope with CH-3 reticle. I used a Fulghum (Randolph Machine) front rest with an Edgewood bag made with the low-friction 3M material. In the rear I use a special-order Protekor rear “Doctor” bag with ears spaced 3 inches apart. The rear bag also has the new 3M material on contact surfaces (photo at right).

Q: During the Nationals, at the last minute you switched guns. Why did you go from a 6mm Dasher to a 7mm Shehane?

Henry: I had planned to use my Light and Heavy Dashers, but after placing the Dasher on the ready line, decided to switch to the .284 Shehane. It was still early in the morning and I felt that the heavier bullets would be easier to see against the berm. The Dasher had actually been giving tighter groups under perfect conditions, but seeing the impact is important.

Q: Tell us about the combined tuner/muzzle brake on some of your barrels. How does this improve rifle performance and how do you set the “tune”? Do you tune the barrel to the load?

Henry: I use a tuner or tuner/brake on every barrel. I started with Time Precision tuners. Art Cocchia advised getting a load with a good known accuracy node with minimum extreme spread, which controls vertical. Do not go for the hottest loads, which just reduces brass life. Then use the tuner and tune the barrel to the load. The .284 Light Gun needed a muzzle brake and tuner. I had a local gunsmith cut a thread on the muzzle brake for a tuner I got from Sid Goodling. (Eric Bostrom developed an almost identical unit at the same time. I use Eric’s tuner/brakes on all my new barrels.) Just before Nationals, I tried going up and down one marker. Down one mark cut the group in half! Think how much range time (and barrel life) that saved me. Using a tuner is easier than messing around changing loads and tweaking seating depths. Tuners definitely can work. Last year I shot a 3.348″ 10-shot group at 1000 with my .284 Win Heavy Gun fitted with a Time Precision Tuner.

IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall muzzle brake tuner .284 shehane

Q: What are the advantages of your stock’s 5″-wide fore-end and 3″-wide rear plate? Is there a big difference in tracking and/or stability? Does the extra width make the rifle easier to shoot?

Henry: I had true Heavy Guns with 5-inch fronts and 3-inch rears. They tracked well. I felt the same result could be had with a Light Gun. I talked two stock makers into making them. I initially had the standard rear stock until Tommy Shurley and Mike Hearn came out with an adjustable rear plate. The stocks track perfectly. You can see your scope’s crosshairs stay on the target the whole time and push the rifle back for the next shot. There is no torquing (gun wobbling) when cycling the bolt. Us old guys need all the help we can get. I am getting rid of my 45-pound Heavy Guns and replacing them with Light Guns with heavy barrels.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q: Some people say the .284 Shehane is not as accurate as the straight .284 Winchester. You’ve proved them wrong. Why do you like the .284 Shehane? More speed, less pressure?

Henry: The reason I rechambered my 7mm barrels to .284 Shehane was not velocity, pressure, or brass life. It was all about bolt lift. My straight .284 almost required me to stand up to eject brass. I damaged an extractor and had to send the bolt back to BAT. With the .284 Shehane, my bolt cycles like there is no case to eject.

Reloading Methods

Q: People want to know about your load and your loading methods. What can you reveal?

Henry: For my .284 Shehane at the Nationals, I loaded 52.5 grains of Hodgdon H4350 and Federal BR-2 primers behind Berger 180gr VLDs. I usually anneal the brass each winter. I have used the same brass for years. I use Redding bushing dies, apply Imperial sizing wax, resize, wipe off wax, clean and uniform the primers pockets using the RCBS Trim Mate Case prep center, then apply Imperial dry neck lube with a bore mop.

K & M arbor seating force dial gaugeTo dispense powder, I use a RCBS ChargeMaster set 0.1 grain below my desired load and then weigh them on a Sartorius GD-503 magnetic force restoration scale to get identical charges. I use a K&M Arbor Press with seating force gauge when seating the bullets with a Wilson inline die. My “target” seating force on the K&M dial is 20-23 units for Dashers and 35-40 units for the .284 Shehane. I put any variables aside for sighters. I do not weigh brass, bullets, or primers. My bullets were so consistent that I did not sort by bearing surface. I did trim the Berger VLDs to the shortest bullet length with a Hoover Trimmer, and then pointed the meplats just enough to close them with a Whidden pointer. I sort my bullets to 0.005″ overall length, rejecting about five percent.

Q: What kind of precision are you looking for in your reloads? Do you trickle to the kernel? Does this really help reduce extreme spread?

Henry: I try to keep my charge weights consistent to one kernel of powder. I use the Omega powder trickler with a Sartorius GD-503 lab-grade balance to achieve that. For accurate dispensing, put very little powder into the Omega so you can drop one kernel at a time. Single digit ES (Extreme Spread) is the goal. This does make a difference at 1000 yards. If you get the same push on the same bullet with the same neck tension, good things are going to happen.

Q: You believe consistent neck tension (i.e. grip on the bullet) is really important. What methods are you using to ensure consistent bullet release?

Henry: I apply Imperial dry neck lube to the inside of my case-necks with a bore mop. The K&M arbor with seating force gauge shows the need to do this. If you put a bullet into a clean case, it will be jerky when seating the bullet. You may see 40 units (on the K&M dial) dropping to 20, then slowly increasing pressure. I explained to a friend that not lubing the neck is like overhauling an engine without lubing the cylinders. Smooth entry gives the bullets a smooth release.

Barrel Cleaning

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion Carb out Carb-out WipeOut .284 shehaneQ: You go 60-80 rounds between cleaning and the results speak for themselves. What is your barrel cleaning procedure? Do you think some guys clean too often or too aggressively?

Henry: I cringe when I see people wearing out their barrels with bronze brushes between relays. I clean my barrels at the end of each day when I get home. I shot my best-ever 1K Heavy Gun group (3.348″) at day’s end after 60 to 80 rounds. After trying other solvents, I have gone back to Wipe-out’s Carb-Out and Patch-Out products. I use about four patches of Carb-Out, let it sit a few minutes, then use one stroke of a nylon brush followed by Patch-Out until the barrel is clean. I use a bore mop to clean inside the chamber, then some Break Free LP on the bolt followed by bolt grease on the lugs and cocking part. I use a bore guide when anything goes down the barrel.

Shooting Skills and the Learning Process

Q: Henry, you can shoot long-distance on your own property in Missouri. How important is practice, and what do you do during a typical practice session?

Henry: I can shoot 1000 yards on my farm. I have a concrete bench using a slab from a yard furniture place on concrete blocks. Two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood hold four IBS targets. I never practice. I only test, keeping a notebook with all the info. I do most of my testing at 300 to 500 yards, shooting off my deck so I can see my shots immediately.

Protektor bag benchrest rifle Light gun IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Q: How much of your success do you credit to really accurate rifles, versus superior shooting skills?

Henry: I do not consider myself another Carlos Hathcock or some master marksman. I am an average 1000-yard shooter, but I do work hard getting the most out of my rifles. Four other people have shot their first 1000-yard matches with my rifles, including my wife, and all of them won relays! I loaned my Dasher to another shooter two years ago and he got second at the 600-yard Nationals. Others will tell you that the rifle must be “on” to win. If your barrel or bullets are average, don’t expect to perform above average in competition.

Q: What you do enjoy most about long-range benchrest shooting? What are the attractions of this sport?

Henry: The sport offers good people and a real challenge. 1000-yard shooting keeps us all humble, but we still keep trying to see how good we can do. I am thankful for Robert Ross providing the only match location that I can shoot regularly.

Q: Henry, you have been a Forum member for many years. Have you learned important techniques from other Forum members and other shooters?

Henry: I have followed the AccurateShooter Forum since 2008. At my age I am not good at computers. I copied and analyzed many articles, especially on the .284 and the Dashers. Without AccurateShooter.com, I would probably still be shooting double-digit (10″+) groups at 1000 yards, and I sure wouldn’t have my name on a National Championship trophy.

Q: You are in your 70s now and have only been shooting competitively for a few years. How did you get so good so fast? How did you manage to beat shooters who are decades younger?

Henry: I had 20/10 vision when I was young, but am down to only 20/20. I have been interested in long range shooting for a long time including ground hog hunting. I went to some VHA jamborees also. In 2008, I went to the Williamsport Benchrest School with a friend from Pennsylvania, John Haas. We would compare notes frequently. I bought a BAT three lug from Tom Mousel in Montana. We also compared notes and made each other better. At IBS matches I studied other shooters’ equipment and techniques. I tried some, accepting some and rejecting some.

Here’s my advice:
Always be ready to learn something new. If it makes sense, try it. I would also encourage other older shooters not to quit. Stick to it. You can make enormous progress in a few seasons.

Henry Pasquet IBS 1000 yard Nationals champion two gun overall .284 shehane

Permalink Competition, Reloading 1 Comment »
November 27th, 2010

Results from Arizona and California Long-Range Championships

Over the past couple of weeks, State Long-Range Championships were held in California and Arizona. Many of the best shooters in the Western States were in attendance. In both CA and AZ, State titles were awarded in both High Power and F-Class disciplines.

California Range Coalinga

California State Long-Range Championship, November 6-7, 2010
On November 6th and 7th, the California Long-Range Championship was hosted at the Coalinga Range. In the High Power division, Trevor Hengehold shot a brilliant match to finish first, and win the Championship, with a 795-36X score. Jim O’Connell was second with 783-37X which also earned him the High Senior Title. Dennis Flaherty had the next highest score (779-30X), and just two points behind Dennis was Gary Eliseo with 777-24X.

In the F-Class Division, Jerry Tierney, shooting his new 7mm RSAUM, won the championship with a 790-36X Score. Hot-shooting Brenda Hill took second with 780-31X, and Peter White was third with 773-19X. Though he had almost no time to practice with his RSAUM prior to the match (it was chambered the weekend before), Jerry was delighted with the gun’s performance: “This is the most accurate long-range rifle I’ve ever shot. And that’s saying a lot. I did get some load development help from Danny Biggs, who uses the same cartridge.” Jerry was shooting the new 7mm Berger 180gr “hybrid” bullets, with sorted Remington RSAUM brass, CCI BR2 primers, and Hodgdon H4831sc powder. The bullets were seated about 0.015″ off the lands and Jerry told us his load was running “real close to 3,000 fps”.

F-Class Jerry Tierney

Jim O’Connell Reports: “Congratulations to Trevor Hengehold and Jerry Tierney, the two new State Champions (High Power and F-Class). Trevor started out in front and never looked back. Jerry posted some good scores on Sunday to come from behind for his victory. This was the last of the Big Coalinga matches for 2010. We get started early in 2011 with the State Fullbore Match in February (26-27) and the State Palma Match in March (5-6). We are planning on awarding F-Class titles at all the State prone Championships (Fullbore, Palma, and Long Range) in 2011.”

Arizona Long-Range Championship, November 20-21, 2010
At the Ben Avery Shooting Facility outside Phoenix, many of the best shooters in the Western states congregated last weekend for the season-ending Arizona Long-Range Championship. Conditions were challenging but the top competitors managed to master the switchy winds and post high scores. In the High Power Division, the match winner and new AZ State Champion is Rick Curtis. Congrats to Rick! Curtis finished with an impressive 986-45X Grand Agg, after posting a 591-24X Iron Sights Agg, and a 395-21X “Any Sights” Agg. Eddie Newman, the High Senior for the match, posted the next highest Aggregate score, a 985-37X. Phil Hayes also shot a 985 but with 34Xs. Middleton Tompkins followed Hayes with a 979-36X. Peter Church was next with a 974-43X (second highest X-Count), and our Contributing Editor German Salazar finished with 973-34X.

F-Class Erik CortinaIn the F-Class Division, twenty-one shooters vied for honors. In F-Open, Texan Erik Cortina won the Championship with an impressive 972-17X. Charles Gooding was close behind with a 970-27X. Charles had high X-Count among all F-Class shooters. Freddy Haltom, shooting as a “Expert” had the third-highest score, an impressive 962-25X. Next in line was Tony Mangold with 944-19X.

F-Open Champ Cortina offered this report: “I was able to pull it off last weekend and win the Arizona State LR F-Open Championship at Ben Avery. The winds were strong and switching, making it very challenging! We ended up shooting 5×1000 instead of 6×1000 as scheduled. On Sunday, we only shot two strings as the third was canceled because of rain. I was shooting my .284 Shehane with 180gr Berger VLD bullets. My winning gun is a switch barrel 6.5×47 Lapua / .284 Shehane built by Mark Pharr of Tumbleweeds Custom Rifles. This Lawton 7500-actioned gun is the same rifle I used to set Club Records at the Bayou Rifle Club in Houston: 600-49X at 300 yards, and 595-34X at 1000 yards.”

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