November 6th, 2017

Fixed-Power Optics for F-Class — Testing in Competition

Optics Scope review March High Master fixed-power 48x52mm 48-power competition optic Jay Christopherson Accurateshooter.com

March 48x52mm High Master Scope — Tested in Competition

by Jay Christopherson, AccurateShooter.com Systems Admin
Using a fixed power scope on your F-Class rifle is not only effective, but can save you weight and money — key benefits when it comes to the F-Class game.

I recently tested the March High Master 48x52mm scope on my F-Open rifle in three different matches, including a Long Range Regional match in Montana and the recent 2017 US F-Class National Championships in Lodi, WI. While I’ve long been considering a fixed-power optic, it wasn’t until a recent F-TR build came in over-weight (with a large zoom scope), that I finally decided to give it a fixed-power comp scope a try. The March High Master 48x52mm saved me both weight (10.6 oz. or 300 grams) and money ($800+) compared to a top-end, variable-power March.

Across three matches and multiple conditions (including heavy mirage), I never found myself wishing that I had a variable-power scope on top of my rifle. And I never experienced issues holding rings on the target. A fixed-power scope might not be for everyone. However a serious F-Class shooter who needs to cut some weight, or save a little cash (compared to high-end zoom scope), shouldn’t be worried about being “under-glassed” with a fixed power scope such as the March HM 48x52mm. It can do the job. [Editor: Jay finished second overall in F-Open Division at the 2017 F-Class Nationals.]

The Case for A Fixed Power F-Class Optic

There’s been a thought bouncing around and growing in my head for the past few years while shooting F-Class — Why don’t more guys shoot a fixed power scope in F-Class? Nine out of ten F-Class shooters I’ve polled spend most of their time between 40 power and 50 power, regardless of the conditions. It seemed to me that a fixed power in the 40X – 50X range would be a great option.

I’ll admit, that I’ve long been an advocate of needing a variable-power scope so that I could “dial down to see the rings” on those really heavy mirage relays. There’s even been times when I’ve been successful dialing down to 35X – 25X just for that reason. But still, like most guys, I find that I rarely go above 50X and rarely below 40X – 99% of my time is spent right around 42X – 45X. Having gotten used to shooting high magnification now, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve bothered to dial down below 40X, even in very heavy mirage. But, I held on to that notion that it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

Optics Scope review March High Master fixed-power 48x52mm 48-power competition optic Jay Christopherson Accurateshooter.com

I recently built an F-TR rifle. I made a slight mistake on the weight. Fully built with my zoom scope, the rig ended up at 8.3kg (8.25kg is the limit for F-TR). That’s not much overweight, but I don’t like to be too close to the limit anyhow. There are lots of ways I could have addressed the issue, but I started thinking again about the scope. I love my current variable-power scopes, but I couldn’t help thinking that a fixed power scope in the 40X – 50X range might solve my issue nicely (and give me a chance to try something new). So I obtained a March High Master 48x52mm fixed-power scope to test. The 48X magnification falls right into my comfort zone. With its 52MM objective, the March HM matched the profile of my existing variable-power scopes nicely. Aesthetics is at least part of the goal and in my opinion, 50MM+ objective scopes look “right” on F-Class rifles. It’s also worth noting that this is the only fixed power scope that I have tried so far and that I have no affiliation with the manufacturer.

There’s the notion out there that fixed power scopes have inherently brighter sight pictures or maybe “clarity” is a better word. This may be due to there being less complex lenses and fewer parts inside. I don’t have any way to quantify that, so I’ll just say that the image clarity is excellent on the 48X March. I also found that the scope weighed 300 grams less than my variable-power scope, which brought me under the F-TR weight limit nicely, as I had hoped.

Optics Scope review March High Master fixed-power 48x52mm 48-power competition optic Jay Christopherson Accurateshooter.com

Fixed-Power Scope at 2017 F-Class Nationals and Other Matches
Because my F-TR rifle was still in load development, I decided to try out the March HM 48x52mm at a couple matches on my F-Open rifle, while I waited on a part for my F-TR rifle. I fitted the 48x52mm scope to my F-Open rifle and used it at three matches: 1) a local 600-yard mid-range match in WA State; 2) the Long Range Regional at Deep Creek in Montana; and 3) the 2017 US F-Class Nationals in Lodi, WI. I ended up using it the entire match at all three matches. With three different matches, all a few weeks apart and in different parts of the country, I got a nice cross-section of light, weather, and mirage conditions to sample. At all three matches, and even in a medium-heavy mirage situation, I never found myself wishing I could dial down the power. In fact, I never thought about variable power at all — the scope was excellent in all of the different conditions. Even with a good deal of mirage present, I never had a problem making out the rings well enough to hold on. For what it’s worth, I used the scope while shooting on two different teams that set (pending) National LR and MR F-Open team records at those matches. If I didn’t have confidence in a fixed-power scope (and the March in particular), I would never have taken a chance shooting it where a team depended on me. [Editor: In individual competition, Jay finished second in F-Open at the Nationals.]

Scope Tracked Great and Click Values Were Right On
In terms of technical details, the scope tracked perfectly on my scope checker (there are several threads on the AccurateShooter forums regarding checking a scope for drift), which meant I felt comfortable using it at the F-Class Nationals. Critically, I spent a good bit of time working on the ocular focus (reticle focus) so that it would be perfectly set-up for my eye. I’ve found that many complaints about parallax and “soft” or “blurry” images can be traced back to the owner never taking this critical step with a new scope. Normally my scopes all have external, tactical-style turrets — the March HM 48×52 has covered turrets. I wondered how this would work for me, but again, I never thought about it while shooting. Once the covers are off, the clicks are extremely tactile and easy to read and it just never became an issue. The parallax adjustment works nicely and the scope tracked well with every adjustment I made, from 600 yards to 1000 yards.

Optics Scope review March High Master fixed-power 48x52mm 48-power competition optic Jay Christopherson Accurateshooter.com

What Could Be Improved
On the con side of things, I find the scale on the elevation turret to be a bit confusing. Most scopes I have used have an incrementing scale on the elevation (and windage) turrets, so that you can count up from zero as you dial up the adjustments. The 48X HM uses a ‘0’ that is centered on the turret travel (see photo above), so that you count down or up on the scale. Here, I would prefer a scale that bottoms out at zero (or that you can adjust to bottom out at zero) and then increments. I think it’s an easier and more consistent way to measure, but your mileage may vary. Other March scopes I’ve used have a color-coded system on the turrets which I also find a little less than useful. Again, I wouldn’t mind at all if March re-thought its system there.

The other con for me is the eye-relief. It’s middle of the road as far as other high-end scopes I’ve used, but for me personally, I still find it a bit on the short side — I would prefer more eye relief.

Save Hundreds Compared to a Premium Zoom Scope
On the plus side (from a cost standpoint), fixed power scopes are generally priced quite a bit lower than equivalent-quality, variable-power optics. The March HM 48x52mm (product # MAR1076) I tested is no exception. Bullets.com sells the HM 48x52mm for $1951.00. That’s $810 less than its variable-power relative, the March HM 10-60x52mm, priced at $2763.00. I consider the 48x52mm’s $1951 price to be very reasonable for such a quality piece of hardware.

Conclusion — High-Quality, Fixed-Power Scopes Are Worth Considering
Overall, if you find that you spend 99% of your time in the 40X – 50X range with your variable-power scope, I’d encourage you to give some thought to a fixed-power scope for F-Class. I’ve only tried one fixed-power optic — the March HM 48x52mm. But having used this excellent, fixed-power scope in several high-level F-Class competitions now, I’d have no qualms about recommending a high-grade, fixed-power optic to anyone shooting F-Class.

Permalink Competition, Gear Review, Optics 12 Comments »
February 10th, 2014

Record-Setting 7mm RSAUM Ammo from Berger SW Nationals

For top-level competitors, hand-loading is truly the “relentless pursuit of perfection”. To build ammo capable of winning major long-range matches, you’ll need the best tools — and an almost obsessive attention to detail. The bullets must be ultra-consistent, powder charge weights must be “dead on”, seating depths (as measured from base of case to ogive) must be precise, and neck-tension must be the same for every round that goes in the chamber.

When you get it all correct, when every phase of the reloading process has been carried out perfectly, then you have rounds that can set records and win world titles. So what does championship-grade ammo look like? Take a look at the photo below. This is the 7mm RSAUM ammunition used by Kenny Adams at the Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN). Kenny is the 2013 F-Class World Champion. And he was also a member of Team Grizzly which won the SWN F-Open Team Grand Aggregate, setting a new National record in the process. Does your ammo look this good?

Kenny Adams ammunition Berger Southwest nationals

Kenny’s World-Beating 7mm RSAUM Load
For his 7mm RSAUMs Kenny loads Hodgdon H4350 powder and Federal 215m primers into Nosler or Norma RSAUM brass. In the RSAUM he runs Berger 180gr Hybrid bullets seated “just touching” the lands. Kenny is very precise with his charge weights. Using a Sartorius Magnetic Force Restoration scale, Kenny tries to hold his powder charges to within 1-2 kernels charge-weight consistency.

Kenny Adams ammunition Berger Southwest nationals
Kenny Adams ammunition Berger Southwest nationals

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition 8 Comments »
September 22nd, 2012

David Bailey and James Crofts Win 2012 F-Class Nationals

The 2012 F-Class Nationals have concluded and the event was a great success. Nearly 200 shooters competed at Raton this year.

Congrats to the new F-Class National Champions: David Bailey (F-Open) and James Crofts (F-TR). Bailey amassed a 1283-59X score to edge F-Open runner-up Bob Sebold (1282-59X) by a single point. Note that Jim and Bob, both AccurateShooter Forum members, had the same X-count. Bob’s excellent X-count placed him ahead of Jim Murphy (1282-50X), who captured third place along with F-Open High Senior Title. High Lady Shooter was Michelle Gallagher with a 1274-51, while Danny Biggs, a past National Champion, was High Senior with 1273-46X.

Forum member James (‘Jim’) Crofts took the F-TR crown with a truly dominating performance. Jim’s 1272-47X was a full six points and 11 Xs ahead of runner-up (and 2011 champ) Jeff Rorer, who finished with 1266-36X. In third-place overall, was High Senior Daniel Pohlable (1264-42X). In fourth overall, was the High Lady shooter Trudie Fay (1259-45X).

james croft f-tr f/tr national champsionship f-class

Jim Crofts really deserves praise for his marksmanship at Raton. Jim’s F-TR Score of 1272-47X would have ranked him 13th in the F-Open division, ahead of dozens of skilled shooters running ballistically-superior cartridges. In his .308 Win, Jim ran Berger 200gr Match Hybrids at 2600 fps with Hodgdon Varget. Jim’s winning F-TR rifle featured a 30″ Brux barrel and Precision Rifle & Tool (PR&T) stock. And take note — Jim’s barrel had over 3000 rounds though it by the end of the match. Jim wants to thank Ray Bowman at PR&T for smithing a great rifle and providing sponsorship.

CLICK HERE for Complete F-Class Nationals Results with Match by Match Scores

James Crofts F-TR ChampionInterview with Jim Crofts
We had a chance to talk to Jim by telephone this morning, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for us….

AccurateShooter: Is this your first big win? How did you feel receiving the trophy as National F-TR Champion?

Jim: I won the Berger SW Nationals earlier this year, but this is my first-ever National Championship. I was very relieved once it was over because there were many great shooters right behind me.

AccurateShooter: Did you run any new hardware at the Nationals? Did you alter your load any?

Jim: This is the same combination that I’ve used all year long. I went back to my old faithful PR&T-built rifle and my old faithful load and everything works. I still anneal my cases every firing. You will find this helps maintain consistent bullet seating and it helps lower your extreme spread.

AccurateShooter: Shooters from your neck of the woods have now won the F-TR division two years running — Whats the secret?

Yes, with my win we’ve had back to back F-TR National championships for North State X-Men club members. Jeff Rorer, last year’s F-TR champ [and 2012 runner-up] shoots with us at a local level. That’s who I’ve been chasing since last year’s National Championship. When you shoot against quality competition every week, it makes you strive for perfection.

AccurateShooter: How were conditions during the week? Raton can be windy…

Jim: Actually, conditions were moderate most of the week. However, on the last day, it was calm during the first match, but in the second match it got to be very tricky. There were changes in velocity and angles — I had a hard time keeping up with the velocity changes in the last match.

AccurateShooter: How has the FTR game changed in the last couple years? Is it more competitive than ever before?

Jim: The sport is growing and it’s getting tougher, that’s for sure. This year we had 91 competitors in F-TR. It went up from about 60 last year to 91 this year — a 50% increase. And the competition is really getting tight in F-TR. Not only are the numbers of shooters growing, but the quality of the competition is getting higher every year.


Also at the F-Class Nationals this year, some Eliseo Tubeguns made an appearance. Shown below are Linda Shehan (Team Australia) and Warren Dean (Team USA) with their GC-1 FTR rigs at the nationals. These tubeguns feature actions by Rod Shehan, with an Adam Davies bipod on the left, and Sinclair F-Class bipod on the right.

Eliseo Tubegun

Permalink Competition, News 5 Comments »
September 21st, 2012

F-Class Nationals at Raton — Reports from Shooters

Breaking News: We’re informed that Forum Member James Crofts (aka “VA Jim”) has won the F-TR division of the F-Class Nationals, shooting a .308 Win rifle with Precision Rifle & Tool stock. Read more about Jim Crofts HERE.

The F-Class Nationals are underway right now at the Whittington Range in Raton, NM. Conditions have been fairly challenging. On Day 1 of the individual championship, forum member Steven B (aka “Sleepygator”) reports that: “The winds later in the day were a little tougher. The tailwind caused some vertical to those unfortunate enough to shoot the third match at the little end.” F-TR shooter James Crofts shot amazing well on Day 1, recording 446-17X. Crofts outscored not only all other F-TR shooters, but he beat all but one of the F-Open “hot rod” shooters, Mark Walker (who posted a 446-19X). When an F-TR outshoots nearly the entire F-Open field, that’s newsworthy. Well-done James. Forum member Mark H. (aka “Hunsucker”) observed: “I personally know for a fact how much Jim [Crofts] practices and how hard he works.”

On Day 2, conditions became trickier at the end according to Forum member Greg Taylor: “Day 2 started out very like Day 1, except a bit warmer. Winds were relatively forgiving, especially for Raton. That is until the third match. The last match of the day, winds were absolutely wicked, ranging from 1-2 mph, up to 10-11 mph, from SE/S. Scores for many dropped predictably.”

Close Competition in F-Open
F-Open leaders after Day 2 are: F-Open Leaders after Day 2: Bob Sebold with 886-39X, David Bailey with 885-44X, and Mark Walker with 885-37X. This is a tight battle — the top ten places in F-Open are separated by 6 points.

CLICK HERE for Official Scores from F-Class Nationals

Team Sinclair Secures F-TR Team Win
In F-Class Team competition earlier this week, Team Sinclair secured a victory in the F-TR division with a combined score of 1561-48X. The team is coached by Raymond Gross, and shooters are Paul Phillips, Derek Rodgers (Captain/shooter), Jeff Rorer and Brad Sauve. Phillips declared: “Ray did a great job coaching for both spirit of America and nationals. Brads rifle shot half the national record and jeff and mine were the other half. Great work from the whole team. Very tough competition. FTR is getting very very competitive now.”

Permalink Competition 1 Comment »
January 6th, 2012

Members of 2013 F-T/R Team USA Selected

This Report was submitted by Darrell Buell, F-T/R Team USA Captain

The F-Class World Championships are just over a year and a half away. In the past four years, much has changed in the F-T/R game. Most noticeably, participation has increased greatly. We had 60 shooters at the 2011 Nationals in Lodi compared to 19 shooters in 2007. The level of competition has risen as well. There was a mere 3% spread in scores for the top 30 places this year. That’s tighter than it has ever been since I started keeping statistics. The top 15 spots had only a 2% score spread!

F-T/R Team USA Selection Process
With many more shooters and a higher level of competition, selecting the 2013 American F-T/R team was especially difficult. There were many qualified applicants to choose from. The selection criteria have not changed over the years. All of the 40+ applicants’ qualifications were dumped into a matrix to get sorted. The initial sort was done by examining the best data I have that compares all of the shooters side by side, i.e. Nationals scores. More weight was given to those times when I could compare shooter vs. shooter on the same relay, when they were facing the exact same conditions. From there, we used modifiers for International Team experience, and other factors. 50 million calculations later, a ranking was developed. This ranking was used to set the Roster List below.

USA F-T/R Team Roster:

Team Staff:

Captain: Darrell Buell
Vice Captain: Mike Miller
Head Coach: Mid Tompkins
Coach: Steve Cunico
Adjutant: Kathy Buell

Team Members:
Jeff Rorer
John Hayhurst
John Chilton
Chris Ozolins
John Weil
Dale Carpenter
Derek Rodgers

Team Members (cont’d):
Philip Kelley
Warren Dean
Brad Sauve
Paul Phillips
Monte Milanuk
Lane Buxton
Sierra Scott

As with past Teams, this roster will be used for the next four (4) years for International Competitions of every description. These events include (but are not limited to): 2013 F-Class World Championships in Raton, NM; 2013 South African International Matches in Bloemfontein; 2013 Stars & Stripes Challenge 2013; Creedmoor Cup; USA vs. Europe, and others.

Reserve Team Spots
The sharp-eyed will notice that I may seem to be a couple of shooters short. I am reserving a couple of spots to be named after the 2012 Nationals in Raton, in case other shooters are absolutely on fire this year, and would be good additions to the Team.

F-T/R Team USA Sponsors
As with past Team campaigns, the financial challenges (especially for the travel) will be considerable. I am absolutely committed to taking the very best Team I can field, regardless of finances. To this end, some outstanding sponsors are helping take some of the burden off the individuals: Berger Bullets, Nightforce Optics, Surgeon Rifles, Hodgdon Powder, Lapua, Kowa, and Redding Reloading. Many thanks to these and other sponsors for their continuing support.

Permalink Competition, News 2 Comments »
March 30th, 2010

F-Class Nationals — Complete Scores/Standings Now Available

We just got the complete F-Class Nationals match results from Jim O’Connell of the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center. Jim provided two (2) MS-Word documents, one for F-Open and the other for F-TR. Jim added: “Thanks to the California Grizzlies (target pullers) for all their work and helping to make the Saturday and Sunday shoots more enjoyable. Thank you all for your support of the Folsom Shooting Club and we hope to see you at future matches.”

DOWNLOAD 2010 Nationals F-Open Scores
DOWNLOAD 2010 Nationals F-TR Scores

Charles Ballard

Permalink Competition, News 1 Comment »