June 3rd, 2017

Interview with F-Class Ace Dan Pohlabel

Team Sinclair F-TR interview F-Class Reloading Load Development Training dry-fire
Team Sinclair F-Class

In response to many requests from Forum members who shoot F-Class, we are republishing this informative interview, which first appeared last summer. You’ll find many “solid good” tips that can help any long-range rifle competitor.

Dan Pohlabel is a member of the all-conquering Team Sinclair F-TR squad. This talented group of shooters hasn’t lost a team match in years. What’s the secret of Team Sinclair’s success? Well there is not one single factor. These guys have very accurate rifles, they work hard on load development, and they practice in all conditions. In this interview, Dan Pohlabel talks about F-TR competition, reviewing the hardware (and skill set) it takes to win. He offers some great tips on developing loads. You’ll find a longer version of this interview on the Sinclair Int’l website. CLICK HERE to Read Full Interview.

Q: What do you find most challenging in F-TR Shooting?
It has to be keeping up with the competition, our sport has grown so quickly with new talented shooters. Staying at the top requires having a laser of a rifle, perfect loads, near perfect wind reading, and, of course, breaking good shots.

Q: How can novice shooters improve their game?
Seek out the local F-TR shooters and go to matches with them, listen and learn. Attend team matches and offer to score for one of the teams. As a scorer, you will sit close enough to hear the coach make wind calls and see the results on the target. Through the spotting scope you will see changes in mirage and it’s the quickest way to learn the basics of wind reading. Choosing and buying equipment is relatively easy, learning to read the wind is a journey.

Q: What’s in your range bag for match days?
Rear bag, towel, shooting glasses, canned air, ear protection, data book, pen, rifle rain cover, hat, rifle tools, timer, ammo, and bug spray.

Q: What specialized gear can you not live without?

1. A good set of elbow pads. It’s hard to keep concentrating on shooting when your elbows are rubbed raw from days of competing on them.

2. Good bug spray. We shoot from the ground but our shooting mats aren’t that big. It’s hard to concentrate with bugs crawling or chewing on you.

Q: Load Development — How do you work up a load?
First, I call Derek Rodgers and get his load data, he is the best load development shooter I know! Otherwise, here is the procedure I recommend. Measure throat length with bullet of your choice, to determine how much room is left in the case. The above measurement determines what powders you can use. We use only Hodgdon Extreme powders. Shoot a ladder test, five rounds each in 0.2 grain increments, to find the accuracy node for that bullet/powder combination. Take the best two loads and do a jump test with five rounds each, test at .005″, .025″, .060″ jump. One of these groups will be significantly better than the rest, now you can tweak that measurement +/- .002” or .005” to get the best accuracy.

Test at least three different primers to determine which offers a little better ignition for your load, a 5-shot test will usually tell you which is the best. Go back and test the two best combinations in a 10-shot test at least twice, pick a cool overcast day and also a hot sunny day and compare results. Take your final “best load” back and do a “simulated match”, 20 shots, waiting at least 20 seconds between shots. If you like those results it’s probably a reliable and accurate load.

Q: What rear bag do you use?
I use a two-bag system, large bag on bottom with a smaller bag on top. I had the bags made of marine canvas, zippered and filled with plastic beads. I can adjust the amount of fill to make them a perfect height for my shooting position. Teammate Jeff Rorer uses a similar system and mine is nearly a copy of his rear bags.

Q: How often do you practice and how many rounds do you shoot per year?
In good weather I practice a couple times a week at the local range, a couple more dry-firing practices/week at home. I typically shoot between 2,000-2,500 rounds per year.

Q: How do you prepare mentally before a match?
[I do] lots of visualization — run the video in my head of what I expect to see and of my performance. I think about the correct strategy for the conditions, staying disciplined to the strategy.

Q: What do you avoid before a shoot?
No late nights or excessive alcohol. Very little caffeine in the morning. Leave your cell turned off. Avoid emotional people.

Q: What’s your procedure on a Match day?
I arrive early, get squadding card, move gear, watch wind speed/direction, check over rifle and gear, sit and relax, visualize and focus on the most important goal of the day. Most days we shoot three relays of 20 shots. It’s important to eat and hydrate continually all day. My focus and concentration are better when I snack all day with fruit and energy bars, and lots of water. While taking my turn in the pits, I try to relax and only focus on what is ahead of me and [not] what’s already happened.

Q: What is your favorite reloading product?
My favorite reloading product is the Sinclair Premium Neck Turning Tool with Handle, I also use the expander mandrels provided by Sinclair for sizing the brass in preparation for the turning process. Correct and repeatable neck tension begins with turning necks to a uniform thickness. Sinclair also has mandrels to size the necks after neck turning that accurately size the necks for a specific neck tension.

Q: What is your preferred scope?
The scope I find the most useful is the Nightforce Competition Scope. This scope is very light-weight, has 15-55X magnification, world-class quality glass, 10 MOA per revolution on the turrets, 1/8 moa adjustments. It’s perfect for F-Class competition.

Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the sport?
Find a local club with some F-TR shooters and ask for their help. Most shooters will be happy to take you with them to a match, listen and learn while you’re there. You may find out it’s not what you thought, or you may be hooked. If you decide to jump in, start with an inexpensive rifle. This sport is expensive and you don’t need a $5000 rifle to learn good wind-reading skills. Start with a used Savage F-TR rifle and learn the basics, shoot for a year at least before making a larger investment. The money you saved buying a used Savage rifle will help pay for your divorce lawyer, LOL.

Q: What training drills do you use?
Dry-firing the rifle at home is a good way to practice when you can’t get to the range and shoot. It allows me to practice set-up, rifle handling, and position. When I can practice at a local range, I also dry-fire between shots to increase the amount of repetitions and increase the time spent in position.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence in shooting?
Eric Bair, 2006 F-Open National Champion helped me get started and gave me great advice. Most of the shooters on Team USA and Team Sinclair help each other, nobody knows all the answers but we share what we have learned. Danny Biggs, 2008 and 2009 F-TR National Champion also helped me when I was struggling to learn some of the ranges. I learned a lot from Danny.

Permalink Competition, Shooting Skills No Comments »
May 16th, 2017

Big Rig — .338 Lapua Magnum Improved for King of 2 Miles Match


Click Image above for full-screen version

There’s a talented new team getting ready for the 2017 King of 2 Miles (KO2M) Competition in Raton, NM next month. The team features ace F-Class shooters Ian Klemm and Dan Pohlabel. Here’s a build report from X-Treme Shooting Products, which supplied the impressive XTSP action and two-stage trigger.

Big Gun for King of 2 Miles Event at Raton
XTSP: “It’s exciting — we’re getting closer to the 2017 King of 2 Miles match next month. Here are a few pictures of one of the rifles we will be shooting. Owned and built by Dan Pohlabel, it’s a .338 Lapua Magnum Improved. It has a 40° shoulder and we plan on shooting .338 Caliber 300 grain Berger OTM projectiles at around 3,100 fps.”

XTSP X-Treme Shooting Products .338 Lapua Magnum Improved king 2 miles ELR

“We started off with an XTSP .338 Magnum receiver, custom-built as a single shot with a solid bottom for stiffness. We built +60 MOA rails for each of the rifles. Of course we’re using the XTSP two-stage trigger! We added a 34″-long Bartlein gain-twist barrel which is 1.450″ at the shank tapering to 1.2″ at the muzzle. At the end we added Piercision Rifles’ 3/4 x 24 slabbed 5-Port ‘Muscle Brake’. The action is bedded in a McMillan Super Magnum stock. On top sits a Vortex Optics HD Razor in Vortex 35mm rings. We’ll have another rifle just like it shortly with the machine work by Dan Pohlabel again. That second rifle will be finished up and shot by Ian Klemm of Vortex Optics.”

XTSP X-Treme Shooting Products .338 Lapua Magnum Improved king 2 miles ELR

Here’s a file photo of a .338 Lapua Magnum Improved, alongside a standard .338 Lapua Magnum. We’re not sure about the shoulder angle on this particular example. For the XTSP project, the angle is 40 degrees (40°). Photo Courtesy LongRangeHunting.com.

Permalink Competition, Gunsmithing 12 Comments »
August 30th, 2015

What It Takes to Win: Tips from F-TR Ace Dan Pohlabel

Team Sinclair F-TR interview F-Class Reloading Load Development Training dry-fire

Dan Pohlabel is a member of the all-conquering Team Sinclair F-TR squad. This talented group of shooters hasn’t lost a team match in years. What’s the secret of Team Sinclair’s success? Well there is not one single factor. These guys have very accurate rifles, they work hard on load development, and they practice in all conditions. In this interview, Dan Pohlabel talks about F-TR competition, reviewing the hardware (and skill set) it takes to win. He offers some great tips on developing loads. You’ll find a longer version of this interview on the Sinclair Int’l website. CLICK HERE to Read Full Interview.

Q: What do you find most challenging in F-TR Shooting?
It has to be keeping up with the competition, our sport has grown so quickly with new talented shooters. Staying at the top requires having a laser of a rifle, perfect loads, near perfect wind reading, and, of course, breaking good shots.

Q: How can novice shooters improve their game?
Seek out the local F-TR shooters and go to matches with them, listen and learn. Attend team matches and offer to score for one of the teams. As a scorer, you will sit close enough to hear the coach make wind calls and see the results on the target. Through the spotting scope you will see changes in mirage and it’s the quickest way to learn the basics of wind reading. Choosing and buying equipment is relatively easy, learning to read the wind is a journey.

Q: What’s in your range bag for match days?
Rear bag, towel, shooting glasses, canned air, ear protection, data book, pen, rifle rain cover, hat, rifle tools, timer, ammo, and bug spray.

Q: What specialized gear can you not live without?

1. A good set of elbow pads. It’s hard to keep concentrating on shooting when your elbows are rubbed raw from days of competing on them.

2. Good bug spray. We shoot from the ground but our shooting mats aren’t that big. It’s hard to concentrate with bugs crawling or chewing on you.

Q: Load Development — How do you work up a load?
First, I call Derek Rodgers and get his load data, he is the best load development shooter I know! Otherwise, here is the procedure I recommend. Measure throat length with bullet of your choice, to determine how much room is left in the case. The above measurement determines what powders you can use. We use only Hodgdon Extreme powders. Shoot a ladder test, five rounds each in 0.2 grain increments, to find the accuracy node for that bullet/powder combination. Take the best two loads and do a jump test with five rounds each, test at .005″, .025″, .060″ jump. One of these groups will be significantly better than the rest, now you can tweak that measurement +/- .002” or .005” to get the best accuracy.

Test at least three different primers to determine which offers a little better ignition for your load, a 5-shot test will usually tell you which is the best. Go back and test the two best combinations in a 10-shot test at least twice, pick a cool overcast day and also a hot sunny day and compare results. Take your final “best load” back and do a “simulated match”, 20 shots, waiting at least 20 seconds between shots. If you like those results it’s probably a reliable and accurate load.

Q: What rear bag do you use?
I use a two-bag system, large bag on bottom with a smaller bag on top. I had the bags made of marine canvas, zippered and filled with plastic beads. I can adjust the amount of fill to make them a perfect height for my shooting position. Teammate Jeff Rorer uses a similar system and mine is nearly a copy of his rear bags.

Q: How often do you practice and how many rounds do you shoot per year?
In good weather I practice a couple times a week at the local range, a couple more dry-firing practices/week at home. I typically shoot between 2,000-2,500 rounds per year.

Q: How do you prepare mentally before a match?
[I do] lots of visualization — run the video in my head of what I expect to see and of my performance. I think about the correct strategy for the conditions, staying disciplined to the strategy.

Q: What do you avoid before a shoot?
No late nights or excessive alcohol. Very little caffeine in the morning. Leave your cell turned off. Avoid emotional people.

Q: What’s your procedure on a Match day?
I arrive early, get squadding card, move gear, watch wind speed/direction, check over rifle and gear, sit and relax, visualize and focus on the most important goal of the day. Most days we shoot three relays of 20 shots. It’s important to eat and hydrate continually all day. My focus and concentration are better when I snack all day with fruit and energy bars, and lots of water. While taking my turn in the pits, I try to relax and only focus on what is ahead of me and [not] what’s already happened.

Q: What is your favorite reloading product?
My favorite reloading product is the Sinclair Premium Neck Turning Tool with Handle, I also use the expander mandrels provided by Sinclair for sizing the brass in preparation for the turning process. Correct and repeatable neck tension begins with turning necks to a uniform thickness. Sinclair also has mandrels to size the necks after neck turning that accurately size the necks for a specific neck tension.

Q: What is your preferred scope?
The scope I find the most useful is the Nightforce Competition Scope. This scope is very light-weight, has 15-55X magnification, world-class quality glass, 10 MOA per revolution on the turrets, 1/8 moa adjustments. It’s perfect for F-Class competition.

Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the sport?
Find a local club with some F-TR shooters and ask for their help. Most shooters will be happy to take you with them to a match, listen and learn while you’re there. You may find out it’s not what you thought, or you may be hooked. If you decide to jump in, start with an inexpensive rifle. This sport is expensive and you don’t need a $5000 rifle to learn good wind-reading skills. Start with a used Savage F-TR rifle and learn the basics, shoot for a year at least before making a larger investment. The money you saved buying a used Savage rifle will help pay for your divorce lawyer, LOL.

Q: What training drills do you use?
Dry-firing the rifle at home is a good way to practice when you can’t get to the range and shoot. It allows me to practice set-up, rifle handling, and position. When I can practice at a local range, I also dry-fire between shots to increase the amount of repetitions and increase the time spent in position.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence in shooting?
Eric Bair, 2006 F-Open National Champion helped me get started and gave me great advice. Most of the shooters on Team USA and Team Sinclair help each other, nobody knows all the answers but we share what we have learned. Danny Biggs, 2008 and 2009 F-TR National Champion also helped me when I was struggling to learn some of the ranges. I learned a lot from Danny.

Permalink - Articles, Competition, Shooting Skills 1 Comment »
October 4th, 2013

Pohlabel FLEX Bipod Struts Its Stuff at Raton

raton flex bipod pohlabel F-TR F-t/rMany styles of bipods were used by F-TR shooters at the F-Class U.S. Nationals and World Championships recently held in Raton, NM. Most featured angled arms — either left/right arms or parallel pairs of arms on either side. With such designs, vertical height is controlled by adjusting the angle of the arms (and hence the distance between the feet). Widen the track and the gun goes down; narrow the track and the gun goes up. One bipod design, Dan Pohlabel’s FLEX Bipod, was very different than the norm. On the FLEX, there are no angled arms — the main blade is a solid piece of metal. Each leg has independent control for height via adjustable “feet” on either ends of the main piece. A ratcheting locking lever controls the cant.

raton flex bipod pohlabel F-TR F-t/r

Click photo below for full-screen version
raton flex bipod pohlabel F-TR F-t/r

Monte Milanuk, who tested an early version of the FLEX Bipod, explains: “The FLEX bipod is a very simple design — no Mariner’s wheel for vertical adjustment, no joystick head, no changing width as it goes up and down. And the FLEX bipod is very light (as are most, these days), but also very durable. An added bonus is that it breaks down very flat for airline travel. Once I take the feet off, remove the ratchet lever (with screw), the whole bipod nestles very nicely in the bottom layer of foam in my gun case (with cuts for the head etc. in the foam). If someone bashes the case hard enough to damage what is essentially a plate of spring steel, then I’ve got bigger worries.”

Monte likes the FLEX Bipod, but notes that it works best if you lean into the gun when shooting: “Not everyone wants a bipod that slides around like a hog on ice. Some people manage to get things tracking straight back and forth, almost like it was constrained by a front rest. Personally, I have a hard time doing that in a repeatable fashion. While the FLEX Bipod shoots quite well with a [loose] hold, it was designed for those of us who like to ‘lean’ into the gun a bit. Quite literally, the idea is that you get the feet to dig in slightly, and push against the rifle butt with your shoulder and the bipod will ‘flex’ or bow forward slightly. It is one of those things that sounds wonky until you try it. It may take a few times to get a feel for it, but once you do, it is surprisingly repeatable.”

The FLEX bipod’s designer, Dan Pohlabel, offers these instructions:
The bipod feet are shipped loose. Note there is a left foot and a right foot. Determine the balance point of your rifle and mount the bipod approximately two inches forward of that point. You may want to move it further forward after shooting. Experiment with its placement to minimize movement of the bipod. When setting up, first grab each foot and ‘dig’ them in to the shooting surface, dirt, gravel, grass, carpet — it doesn’t matter. After making sure each foot has a hold, raise or lower the bipod to your target and use the cant adjustment to level your rifle. Loading the bipod with your shoulder is the preferred method of position. For more info, visit Kreativ-Solutions.com or email flex-bipods [at] kreativ-solutions.com .

raton flex bipod pohlabel F-TR F-t/r

raton flex bipod pohlabel F-TR F-t/r

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 1 Comment »
February 8th, 2013

New FLEX F-TR Bipod from Dan Pohlabel

Report by Monte Milanuk
With the proliferation of wide bipods for competitive F-TR shooting, we’ve seen a lot of cool gear hitting the market. Whatever you can imagine, someone is either building now, or working on prototype plans. One new design that seems to have stayed under the radar thus far is the FLEX bipod by Dan Pohlabel.

Flex bipod Dan Polabel Milanuk

The FLEX bipod’s designer, Dan Pohlabel, offers these instructions:

The bipod feet are shipped loose. Note there is a left foot and a right foot. Mount them as shown in the diagram above. Determine the balance point of your rifle and mount the bipod approximately two inches forward of that point. You may want to move it further forward after shooting. Experiment with its placement to minimize movement of the bipod. When setting up, first grab each foot and ‘dig’ them in to the shooting surface, dirt, gravel, grass, carpet — it doesn’t matter. After making sure each foot has a hold, raise or lower the bipod to your target and use the cant adjustment to level your rifle. Loading the bipod with your shoulder is the preferred method of position. Contact me with any FLEX bipod questions you may have: danielp123 [at] earthlink.net.

The FLEX bipod is a very simple design — no Mariner’s wheel for vertical adjustment, no joystick head, no changing width as it goes up and down. And the FLEX bipod is very light (as are most, these days), but also very durable. I haven’t actively tried to destructively test it, but so far it’s held up to being tossed in the back of the truck, hauled around to the range and everywhere else in between. It definitely has not been ‘babied’ in any way, and it’s not noticeably any worse for wear. An added bonus is that it breaks down very flat for airline travel. Once I take the feet off, remove the ratchet lever (with screw), the whole bipod nestles very nicely in the bottom layer of foam in my gun case (with cuts for the head etc. in the foam). I’m definitely not worried about it in there. If someone bashes the case hard enough to damage what is essentially a plate of spring steel, then I’ve got bigger worries.

Flex bipod Dan Polabel Milanuk

This view (below) shows a bit of the adjustment controls. Each leg has independent control for height, and there is a ratcheting locking lever that controls the cant. Instead of being directly centered like most other designs I’ve seen, this one is off-set a little, allowing a fair amount of movement without allowing it to completely ‘flop’ over to one side. (By contrast, using other bipod designs, I’ve had guns literally flip over as they tipped over too far.) Also having the tilt control relatively close/tight to the bore of the gun helps with the stability as well.

Flex bipod Dan Polabel Milanuk

Inventor Dan Pohlebel developed the FLEX bipod for use in his native Ohio, where apparently grassy firing lines are the norm. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I seem to encounter concrete or gravel more often, which is why I usually place a mat under the bipod to keep it from sinking in too far. On Dan’s newest models, the “feet” have teeth to give better traction on hard surfaces such as the hard-pack clay/dirt (beneath a skim layer of gravel) that you’ll find at Raton, NM.

Why would you want more traction? Well, not everyone wants a bipod that slides around like a hog on ice. Some people manage to get things tracking straight back and forth, almost like it was constrained by a front rest. Personally, I have a hard time doing that in a repeatable fashion. While the FLEX Bipod shoots quite well with a [loose] hold, it was designed for those of us who like to ‘lean’ into the gun a bit. Quite literally, the idea is that you get the feet to dig in slightly, and push against the rifle butt with your shoulder and the bipod will ‘flex’ or bow forward slightly. It is one of those things that sounds wonky until you try it. It may take a few times to get a feel for it, but once you do, it is surprisingly repeatable.

Flex bipod Dan Polabel Milanuk

The system does have a few quirks to it. Personally, I wish the rail attachment had a ratchet lever like the pivot control. Currently you need a separate tool to take the bipod on/off the gun. Also, the FLEX bipod seems to work better mounted somewhat further back than other designs. Some experimenting may be necessary to find what works best. Then again, we all need more trigger time….

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 3 Comments »