February 2nd, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Nat’l Champion F-Open Rifle and Cerus Twin

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

With the Berger Southwest Nationals commencing this week, we thought our readers would appreciate a showcase of two impressive, state-of-the-art F-Open match rifles. The first, show above, is the .284 RAHM (40° .284 Win Imp) with which Brian Bowling captured the 2019 F-Class Open Division Long Range National Championship. The second rifle belongs to barrel-maker Bryan Blake. Like Bowling’s rifle, Blake’s rig features a low-profile Cerus stock, but with purple highlights. Both rifles have 6-groove, cut-rifled barrels from Blake Barrel & Rifle and both sport Nightforce scopes.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Twin World-Class F-Open Rifles

Report from Bryan Blake of Blake Barrel & Rifle
We had been producing gun barrels for about 1.5 years prior to the 2019 NRA Long Range F-Class Nationals. Brian Bowling started shooting our 7mm barrels in May of 2019. Bowling and I are both on the Rutland team, Team Cerus, which has seven members. Bowling and I received the first Cerus XL stocks from Cerus Rifleworks in August of 2018. The stock was a very straight design.

With our barrels, these F-Open rigs can shoot! In 2018, Brian Bowling and I had the only two clean scores for the first match at the 1000-yard team NRA Nationals. In spring of 2019, I worked with Will of Cerus Rifleworks to see if we could come up with a lower center of gravity design to enhance what was already the straightest stock out there. We developed the Cerus XR stock which features stepped metal rails on the fore-end. I cut my XL Cerus stock and designed the rail system attached to the sides of the fore-end. Bowling’s stock (with black rails) was the second XR in the shooting world. On his very first weekend match at 600 yards he shot a 200-20X with the new XR stock and Blake 7mm 1:8.5″-twist barrel. He was using Berger 184gr 7mm bullets.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

In 2019, at the NRA F-Class Long-Range Nationals, Brian Bowling won the F-Open National Championsship with a strong performance. He finished with a ton of Xs, three points ahead of the second place competitor. Before Brian’s impressive victory, we were told by many top shooters that a 6-groove barrel has never won any F-Class Mational event, and hypothetically never would. Well with Brian Bowling’s excellent shooting and reloading capabilities, we achieved a feat many said couldn’t be done.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Bowling’s Championship-winning rifle features a Bat Model B action in the Cerus XR stock. His Blake barrel is chambered for the .284 RAHM wildcat cartridge. This is a 40-degree (40°) version of the .284 Winchester. The .284 RAHM has a straighter case body compared to the original .284 Win.

We built Bowling’s rifle, doing everything except the final clear finish. We can do that work, but were short on time for the Nationals last year. We are proud of the chambering work we do and the quality of our bedding jobs.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Bryan Blake’s F-Open Rifle — the Purple XR

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

The Purple XR-stocked gun I shoot was built in August of 2019, right before the 2019 NRA F-Class Nationals. The natural wood is complimented by highlights finished with a bright purple metallic epoxy resin that Will from Cerus dreamed up. For this rifle we mated a BAT 3LL action with Blake barrels (switch-barrel configuration). Up front the fore-end rails are painted purple “plum crazy” to match the purple resin. The purple XR is finished with automotive “high solids” clear-coat, and block-sanded for a smooth, flawless look.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Blake’s Rifle is a Switch Barrel — 7mm and .30 Caliber
This Purple XR was set up to be a switch barrel rig, with both a 7mm BBM and a .30 BBM*. These BBM wildcats are based on shortened and straightened .300 WSM with a 40-degree shoulder. On my purple XR rifle as well as Bowling’s rifle, we employ Nightforce optics and load Berger bullets. These are the only glass and projectiles we use in our rifles.

The Purple XR is extremely accurate. Check out this 2.6″ group, shot at 1000 yards during a club match at the Ben Avery Range in Arizona. Yes, that is 1/4-MOA at 1K! Many folks would be very happy with that group at 600 yards. At 1000 yards it is remarkable. No, the rifle can’t do that every time. But this does demonstrate that the Purple XR is a tack-driver. CLICK HERE to see a 3.9 inch, 15-shot group at 1000 yards on the F-Class target (150-15X).

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

About Blake Barrel and Rifle — History and Barrel-Making Process
Blake Barrel and Rifle was re-launched in 2018. The business was actually started by my grandfather, Robert Blake, in 1966. In 1969 my grandfather stopped doing gunsmithing and making single-point cut-rifled barrels. He transitioned to doing industrial work, and less work for the public. After all those years he and my father, Dave Blake, kept the barrel-making equipment in storage. They kept the gun-drilling machines in the shop as they used them to drill long, deep holes in anything from aircraft parts to electric motor rotors.

In 2012 we got the diamond single-point, sine-bar rifling machine out of storage, along with the Pratt and Whitney double-spindle reaming machine. We then completely rebuilt and updated the equipment. We modified the gun-drill to be a counter-rotating drilling system. What that means is the drill spins at about 20% of the rotational speed, and the barrel at 80%. The counter-rotation keeps the drill on the center axis of the barrel more precisely than just rotating the barrel, or just rotating the drill. We are able to consistently drill holes in our barrel steel (primarily 416R) that at the end of a 33.25″ blank that is only .005″ off of center axis.

We then ream the barrels to be .0004″ below desired finish bore size. After the reaming process we mandrel-hone the bores to be .0001″ below finish bore size. This process eliminates reamer marks in the barrel bore. Therefore very minimal lapping is needed after rifling to remove any tooling marks. We then rifle the barrel to any twist rate we like. With a fine lap after rifling, the barrel has no tooling marks and all surface metal is flowing in the direction of the twist of the rifling.

* 7mm BBM stands for “Blake Bramley Magnum”. Dan Bramley and I developed that cartridge together in October of 2017. The .30 BBM is the “Blake Barrel Magnum”, which I developed in May of 2018.

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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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November 21st, 2018

Handsome .284 Win F-Class Rig with Polished Borden Action

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle
Note the owner’s name, “S. Limbourne” was engraved on the bolt release (and trigger guard, see below).

Who doesn’t like a spectacular figured-wood stock, particularly when it is combined with a superb custom action and a tack-driving barrel. Here’s some eye candy for Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This is a custom .284 Winchester F-Class Open division rig created by gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez for competitive shooter Scott Limbourne. The handsome Bacote wood figured stock comes from Cerus Rifleworks, while the action is a polished Borden RBRP BRMXD. Two Brux 1:9″ twist barrels were chambered for the project, both finished at 32″. The stock is also fitted with a R.A.D. Recoil System. This rig has top-of-the-line hardware all around.

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Action: Borden BRMXD – Polished
Rail: 20 MOA Polished
Chambering: .284 Winchester
Trigger: Jewell BR – Blueprinted
Barrel: (2x) Brux 32″ 1:9″ Twist
Stock: Cerus F-Open in Exhibition Grade Bacote
Recoil System: R.A.D. System
Extras: Carbon Fiber Tunnel Plate, Custom Engraving Work on Action, Trigger Guard, and Bolt Release.

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

Speedy Thomas Gonzalez F-Open F-Class .284 Winchester 284 win custom rifle

You’ll find more impressive rigs on Speedy’s Facebook Page. If you’d like a superb custom rifle like this, call Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez at 972-672-6630, or send email to: speedy.godzilla [at] msn.com.

SPEEDY GONZALEZ
9023 HUEBNER RD. STE 102
SAN ANTONIO, TX 78240

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