November 15th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: French 6-6.5×47 F-Classer for Aliénore

F-Class 6.5x47 Lapua Toulouse France

Today’s Sunday GunDay Story is a unique and beautiful F-Class rifle from France. This handsome rifle was first featured in our Gun of the Week Archives. This rifle was a gift from husband to wife. Because this is such a unique rifle, with a great back-story, we are reprising this “French Connection” rifle once again.

Europe has a number of capable custom arms makers, and in this article we feature one of them, Christian Salva of Toulouse, France. Here we spotlight an ultra-accurate and handsome 6-6.5×47 Lapua F-Class rifle. Built for a lady, the rifle exhibits flawless craftmanship to match its superior performance.


Alie Gets Her Gun — Thanks to Husband Aurélien

Photos and text by LONASSAC, translation by T.J.E., NRA UK
Aliénore, a charming young French lady, shares her passion for short- and long-range shooting with her husband, Aurélien. Aurélien already owns a 6mmBR PGM Ultima Ratio rifle and decided to have a rifle built for his wife so that they could shoot together. They therefore turned for help to the Christian Salva workshop, located in Toulouse in the south of France, close to their home.

SALVA Walnut Stock–Gorgeous Wood, and Great Ergonomics
Aliénore chose a superb, perfectly-grained French walnut blank for the stock. The stock is a single, solid piece of walnut, with a waxed finish to show off its fine figuring. The stock design is optimized for F-Class, prone and Bench Rest shooting. The fore-end is flat and 3.35″ (85mm) wide, slightly wider than the common 3″ used on most benchrest rifles. On the underside of the forearm is a rail to take a Parker-Hall or a Versa Pod-type bipod. The trigger guard is a custom, light alloy SALVA design. The butt plate is Anschütz-type. It adjusts vertically and can be rotated on its horizontal axis. The cheek piece is adjustable for height only — all that is needed.

Aliénore selected the F-Class Target Rifle from Christian Salva’s range of rifles, which is the one best suited to the type of shooting she wanted to do. Their club’s rifle range, near their home, goes out to 600 meters (See photos above). Unfortunately, as is usual in France, the range does not have a target pit. Members shoot prone using front benchrest-style rests, as in F-Class. The problem is that, without a proper target trench, it’s not possible have individual shots spotted and marked (as would be done in American High Power matches). However, with a good scope, in good light, shot-holes can be seen at 400m, and sometimes even at 600m — but this is rare.

When this rifle was crafted, Christian Salva was one of the few gunsmiths in France who manufactures complete rifles from front sight to butt-plate. With the sole exception of the barrel, he constructs the whole rifle, including action, bolt, trigger and stock. He also does all the bedding and chambering himself. Everything is done to his customer’s specification which, of course, can only be achieved in a small and highly specialized business.

General Rifle Specifications
The rifle was built on a SALVA hexagonal long range action with a flat base, which is set in a highly-figured French walnut stock using a bedding block. The gun is 49″ (125 cm) overall, and weighs 9 kg (about 20 lbs.), including scope. The barrel is 29″ (74cm) long, and a straight 1.22″ (31mm) in diameter. Given the weight and size of the barrel, the decision was made to secure the barreled action into the stock with a bedding block. On top of the action is an angled Picatinny rail with 20-MOA built-in to allow long-range shooting without using up the scope’s internal elevation. The rifle is currently fitted with a Nightforce 12-42x56mm BR scope held in alloy rings.

Details of SALVA Action
The rifle features a light Dural alloy right bolt, right port, single-shot action treated and coated with a champagne-color surface hardener. The action is hexagonal in shape (normal for a French action), with a flat base for improved bedding. On this particular gun, however, the action is floated, with the barreled action secured by the long barrel block. Take a good look at the photo below. Yes, the action on is fully-floated — the barrel block secures the barreled action into the wood stock. This is similar to some Benchreast heavy guns.

F-Class 6.5x47 Lapua Toulouse France

Christian Salva produces his actions from scratch, employing high-tech machinery, including CNC multi-axis mills. The advanced design allows the action to be very strong as well as light. The SALVA action is very thick and sturdy, in spite of its weight being reduced to a minimum. It can chamber cartridges from the 6mmBR size up to magnum calibers such as the 300 Win Mag. A treated steel insert is screwed into the front of the action. This is threaded to receive the barrel and machined to receive the locking lugs of the bolt. The threaded section is especially long (36mm with a 1.5mm thread) so as to ensure proper rigidity for the unit. Where the bolt lever closes, a steel insert, screwed into place with a BTR screw, prevents the steel bolt lever from wearing the softer Dural alloy of the action.

Tri-Lug Bolt with Extractor and Ejector in Lugs
The cylindrical all-steel bolt has a diameter of 0.906″ (23mm) and three (3) front locking lugs. The bolt design has BOTH extractor and ejector placed in locking lugs. Salva’s goal, in engineering the position and operation of both extractor and ejector, was to reduce side pressure on the cartridge. The extractor is designed to hold a cartridge case in place with minimal lateral displacement. The ejector is also built into one of the three lugs. [Editor’s Note: Many modern benchrest actions, such as the Stolle Panda, Stiller Viper, and some BATs employ an extractor in the lug. This is also a feature on Savage bolts and push-feed Model 70 Winchesters. However, these bolts do not have the ejector in a lug as well.]

Remarkably, the ejector has no spring, unlike most bolt designs. It should be noted that this springless ejector is designed to eliminate side pressure when chambering a round, thus keeping the round concentric in the chamber. The ejector is mechanical and will eject the case if the shooter pulls the bolt all the way back. If the shooter prefers to extract the case by hand, one simply pulls the bolt part way back. The 1.5″ (38mm) bolt lever is fairly short, but it has an oversize 30mm polymer knob to facilitate the opening and closing of the bolt.

French Gun, German Barrel — a 29″ Lothar Walther
On Aliénore’s rifle, the barrel is the only component not manufactured by SALVA in Toulouse. For the barrel, Christian Salva chose a stainless Lothar Walther, 6-groove barrel, with a 1:8″-twist for handling 105gr bullets. The muzzle is milled with an 11º slope so as to handle boat-tail VLD bullets. This German-made Walther tube has a 1.22″ (31mm) straight contour and is 29″ (74mm) in length. This long, non-tapered barrel is heavy enough that Salva decided to mount it with an alloy bedding block, about 8″ long (20 cm). Ten Allen-head screws clamp the block to the barrel, while the lower section of the bedding block is secured to the wood stock with eight screws and bedding compound.

Proprietary SALVA Trigger
The trigger is also manufactured by SALVA in its entirety, from Christian’s own design. Overall trigger pull weight adjusts from 50-250 grams (1.8 oz. – 8.8 oz.). The SALVA trigger can also adjust for: Longitudinal trigger position (Length of Pull); Over-travel; Main travel; Second-stage pressure; and Sear engagement.

Cartridge and Load Info
The rifle is chambered in 6-6.5×47 Lapua. Aurélien starts with Lapua 6.5×47 cases. These are then necked-down to 6mm and neck-sized with a .265″ bushing. The necks are turned very slightly, to ensure neckwall uniformity, and achieve a consistent grip on the bullet. Aurélien loads Berger 105gr VLD bullets, pushed by Vihtavuori N160 powder and small magnum primers. His preferred load is 38.2 grains of N160 with a cartridge overall length (COAL) of 2.732″ (69.40 mm). With this load, muzzle velocity is 2854 fps (870 meters per second) chronographed one meter from the muzzle. [Editor’s note–this is a very mild load. The 6-6.5×47 can drive 105-grainers over 3100 fps.]

How the Rifle Shoots

Smooth Function + Great Accuracy
When firing using a front rest, the recoil of a 9 kg, 6-6.5×47 Lapua rifle is minimal and ideal for a lady. The operation of the rifle is trouble-free, even if a few rounds were initially a bit stiff on loading for the first time. Thereafter everything sorted itself out very nicely. The action of the bolt is solid and one can feel that everything is very snug and that the tolerances are properly tight.

The versatile trigger rivals the best benchrest triggers, with the additional bonus of a single- or two-stage operation. That said, with a minimum pull-weight of 50 grams (1.8 oz.) perhaps the term “two-stage” is not the best description, since it is difficult to detect a let-off point at that weight. The trigger can be set to be a very light, single-stage let-off.

The rifle is fitted with a Nightforce 12-42x56mm BR model scope. This high-magnification optic enables the shooter to see his/her bullet holes at 400 meters in good light. This is very useful when it comes to adjusting for wind. The stock’s adjustability and ergonomics allow the shooter to feel comfortable using this rifle. The Anschütz butt-plate and easily-adjustable height of the cheek piece help in that regard.

This rifle has demonstrated some impressive accuracy. Below is a group shot by Aurélien at 400 meters (437.4 yards) on C200 targets. Using OnTarget group measuring software, we calculated this 5-shot group at 0.555″ or 0.121 MOA. That’s remarkable for a gun shooting long, VLD-style bullets. At 100 meters the rifle has yielded “one-ragged hole” groups.

alie rifle 6-6.5x47 accuracy

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November 2nd, 2020

2020 F-Class National LR Championships — Hail the Champions

Ian Klemm Pat Scully F-Open F-TR Ben Avery 2020 Championship

The 2020 NRA F-Class National Championships are now complete. We hail the new Champions Pat Scully (F-Open), and Ian Klemm (F-TR). We also give congratulations to all the competitors who dueled often-tough conditions at Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, Arizona, with periods of very high winds. CLICK HERE to see all 2020 F-Class Nationals Results for all participants.

F-Open Individual Results | F-Open Team Results | F-TR Individual Results | F-TR Team Results

Top-Ranked Shooters at 2020 NRA F-Class National Championships
F-Open Top Competitors

1. Pat Scully, F-0pen Champion, 1575-73X
2. Keith Glasscock, 1575-60X
3. Tod Hendricks, 1574-83X
4. Eric Wuestenhoefer, 1572-59X
5. Tim Vaught, 1565-76X
6. Patrick Fulghum, 1564-60X
7. Ken Dickerman, 1563-64X, High Senior
8. Bret Solomon, 1562-58X
9. Emil Kovan, 1562-53X
10. Erik Cortina, 1561-70X

Christine Harris, 1543-60X, High Lady
Kaycie Blankenship, 1517-35X, High Junior
Larry Bartholome, 1541-53X, High Gr. Senior

F-TR Top Competitors

1. Ian Klemm, F-TR Champion, 1561-56X
2. Keith Trapp, 1555-47X
3. Brad Sauve, 1553-40X, High Senior
4. Luke Ramsey, 1551-42X
5. Scott Harris, 1551-39X
6. Nancy Tompkins, 1550-44X, High Lady
7. James Crofts, 1546-52X
8. Henry Rockhill, 1543-37X
9. Brian Harder, 1539-37X
10. Nick Abbott, 1535-45X

Morgan Abbott, 1495-34X, High Junior
Raymond Weaver, 1534-30X, High Gr. Senior

Ian Klemm Pat Scully F-Open F-TR Ben Avery 2020 Championship
Pat Scully (right) is 2020 F-Open National Champion while fellow team-mate Tod Hendricks (left) finished third overall, just one point back.

In tough conditions, the top shooters put on impressive performances. Competition was tight and it went down to the wire. After multiple days of shooting, F-Open Champion Pat Scully and runner-up Keith Glasscock ended up tied on points (both scored 1575), but Scully did have a huge edge in X-count with 73X vs. 60X for Keith. In F-TR, LR Champion Ian Klemm posted an impressive 6-point win. Ian also recorded high X-Count (56X) among all F-TR shooters. Phil Kelley posted: “Ian is now only the second 3-Time F-TR National LR Champ and he has won 3 of the last 4 years — an amazing run.” Phil also observed that his fellow Team USA shooters took 7 out of the top 10 F-TR places.

Overall, the “top guns” in both divisions performed amazingly well given some very tough conditions. Forum member ShootDots noted:

“On the last day I was on the line with Keith Glasscock [Second Overall] on my immediate left. I was scoring for Pat Scully [F-Open Champion]. With wind conditions that would make a brass monkey flinch, these two gents made it look easy! I have shot with some REALLY good shooters over the years [but] these two are at a different level altogether!

I do not know Ian Klemm BUT I do know how he shoots! When you are surrounded by the finest, you get a first hand view of what REAL shooting is all about. My hat is off to the winners and to those who came within a hairsbreath of them! A B-I-G hearty CONGRATULATIONS to them!”

Our Forum tech staffer Praveen (who shot F-Open) concurred, praising the top-finishing Open-class competitors, noting that 3rd-place Tod Hendricks amassed an amazing 83 Xs. Praveen posted: “Congratulations… I witnessed some really fine shooting this year while experiencing some very tough wind conditions. Pat, Keith, and Tod — hats off to you. And Tod — so many Xs!” Forum member RonatSpokane also noted Tod’s stunning X-Count: “Sheesh Tod, you’re … bogarting those Xs. With 83 Xs, more than 50% of your shots were under 1/2 MOA. In those kinds of conditions, that’s nothing short of stunning.”

Forum member Carlsbad noted that the final day was very tough: “What a match. Every day had different challenges. The last day was challenging. We had one guy clean the afternoon string on Friday and then shoot 180 in the afternoon string on Sunday. That was tough. I don’t know how guys shot high 190s in those conditions. Congratulations to Ian Klemm and Pat Scully.”

Three National Titles in Four Years for 2020 F-TR Champ Ian Klemm
Ian Klemm F-TR Ben Avery 2020 Championship

Ian Klemm has now won three National F-TR Championships in four years. Ian captured back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018, winning at Lodi, WI in 2017, and Raton, NM in 2018. Ian also finished second at the 2019 Nationals. Ian put on another great performance to win in 2020 under very challenging conditions.

Ian Klemm F-TR Ben Avery 2020 Championship

Ian Klemm Pat Scully F-Open F-TR Ben Avery 2020 Championship

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October 27th, 2020

Train for F-Class with Reduced-Size Target Centers

F-Class Target center NRA training reduced size
Ben Avery Match Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher.

The 2020 F-Class National Championships are underway right now at the Ben Avery Range in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mid-Range Championship (Oct. 25-28) concludes tomorrow, followed by the Long-Range Championship (Oct. 29 – Nov. 1). Given the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we know many F-Class shooters couldn’t make it to Nationals this year. For them, and other folks who are getting started in the sport, here are some special targets that let you train at your home range, even if it does not have target bays at 600 and 1000 yards. These special 300-yard target centers that let you duplicate the exact MOA size of the official F-Class targets, but at closer range.

2015 F-Class Championship Ben Avery
Here is the sleek, carbon-stocked .308 Win rifle Bryan Litz used to win both the 2015 Mid-Range AND
Long-Range F-TR Championship at the Ben Avery Range in Phoenix, Arizona.

These reduced-size target centers were created by Forum member SleepyGator, an F-Class competitor who needed practice targets he could use at 300 yards. There is an official reduced-distanced standard for 300-yard F-Class matches. This utilizes the NRA No. MR-63FC – F-Class Target Center which is pasted over the MR-63 target. It provides a 1.42″ X-Ring, 2.85″ 10-Ring, and 5.85″ Nine-Ring. (The dimensions of F-Class targets are found in the NRA High Power Rules, Sec. 22, part 4, page 70-71 — see sample below.)

F-Class Reduced Target Centers

CLICK HERE to Download F-Class 300-yard Target Centers (.Zip archive with three targets)

To duplicate the 300-yard target, SleepyGator has prepared a printable version of the MR-63FC Target Center, along with a pair of training targets with two bulls and five bulls. The two-bull and five-bull targets mirror the scoring rings on the MR-63FC, but they display only the innermost three rings and two rings respectively. All three targets are Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files that can be easily printed. You may need to adjust the scale (sizing) on your printer to get the dimensions exactly correct. As noted above, when printed, the 10-Ring on all three targets should measure 2.85″. This should provide some handy practice targets you can use between matches. Thanks to SleepyGator for providing these targets. You can download all three as a .Zip archive. After downloading the .Zip file, just click on the .Zip archive to extract the individual targets.

CLICK HERE to Download NRA High Power Rules with F-Class Target Dimensions

F-Class Target Paste Center

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October 22nd, 2020

2020 F-Class National Championships in Arizona NOTICE

2015 F-Class Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona James Crofts

The 2020 United States F-Class National Championships commence Sunday October 25, 2020 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix. There’s a “hybrid” format this year. For 2020, the Nationals combine both Mid-Range and Long-Range competitions in one exended mega-match. The Mid-Range U.S. F-Class Nationals take place 25-28 October 2020, with all shooting at 600-yard targets. The Long Range National Championships then run October 29 through November 1st with all matches at 1000 yards. The competition consists of two different divisions: F-Open and F-TR (Target Rifle).

CLICK HERE for 2020 F-Class Nationals Match Program »

For health reasons, F-Class Nationals competitors will be required to follow a number of important health and safety protocols. This is to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Here are the 2020 protocols as issued by the host Desert Sharpshooters club:

2020 NRA F-Class National Championships — Safety Protocols

We have had to implement several measures for the 2020 F-Class Nationals due to COVID-19. The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is owned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, a state government agency. Therefore, all state and local guidelines and measures regarding COVID-19 must be followed on the property. Unfortunately, the local guidelines include a mask mandate, among other measures. We were hoping for the measures to be relaxed as the Nationals grew closer, but that is not the case. The COVID-19 measures that must be implemented during the match are below.

COVID-19 measures for the 2020 F-Class Nationals include:

– Reduce the total number of entries to 180.
– Use every other target for a total of 45 targets.
– Food and drinks, including water, will NOT be provided or for sale.
– Only one person pulling a target.
– Wearing mask/face cover is required when 6 feet distancing cannot be obtained. This includes:

    Using the restroom.
    During all team matches, except the shooters. Only the shooter and coach will be permitted on the firing line. All other team members must be 6 feet from the shooter and coach.
    On the people movers traveling to and from the pits.
    Walking up/down the ramps/stairs at the 1000 yard line, or traveling to or from one’s assigned firing point.

– No banquet dinners.
– Award ceremony will be held each day on the firing line, with shooters in the parking lot social distancing.
– While scoring, the scorer will be at least 6 feet from the shooter.
– Shooters on the firing line will set up on each side of their assigned target marker with 6 feet separating them.
– Shooters not pulling targets, scoring, or shooting must remain off of the firing line and in their vehicles or socially distancing in the parking lot.
– Only the scoring and shooting relays will be permitted on the firing line. During pit changes, the previous scoring and shooting relays must vacate the firing line before the next scoring and shooting relays approach the firing line.
– All scores and squadding will be posted online. Those with no access to the internet can obtain their squadding on the bulletin boards on the east and west side of the building. Only one person will be permitted to be at the bulletin board at a time.
– No one is permitted to enter the Berger Building.
– Refunds will be given to those that wish to not participate in the event.

Failure of individuals to follow any of the above guidelines may result in disqualification and being asked to leave. If we do not comply with these regulations, we risk the Ben Avery Shooting Facility canceling the event without prior notice.

We would also like to remind shooters that if they are feeling sick or have any symptoms to please not come to the range, and notify us immediately at fclassnationals@gmail.com.

Ben Avery Shooting Facility Coronavirus Health Covid-19

Located on 1,650 acres in north Phoenix, BASF is one of the nation’s largest publicly operated shooting facilities. A City of Phoenix “Point of Pride,” the facility has received a five-star rating from the National Association of Shooting Ranges.

Firing line at 2015 F-Class Nationals at Ben Avery Shooting Facility.
2015 F-Class Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona James Crofts


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October 20th, 2020

Laser Engraving for F-Class Team USA on New Borden Actions

Borden action laser engraving

Borden action laser engravingJim Borden of Borden Accuracy/Borden Rifles is adding “something extra” to the Borden actions crafted for F-Class Team USA members. These actions feature a Team Name and Team shield thanks to modern computer-controlled laser engraving. Jim Borden posted: “Here is Tony at Endless Laser Art doing his thing. [Team members] James Crofts, Drew Rutherford, Dan Bramley, Keith Trapp here we come!”

Jim is crafting special actions for both the F-TR and F-Open Team USA squads with laser-engraved USA F-Class Team shields. There is a BRMXD-type called USA Open and a BRM-type action called USA FTR. The F-Open serial numbers start USAFOPEN01 while F-TR numbers start USAFTR01. These are offered to members of USA F-Class Teams.

Watch Laser Engraving of Borden Actions

Watch the video above to see U.S. Rifle Team shield laser-engraved on Borden actions for F-Class Team USA and F-TR Team USA.

Borden action laser engraving

Don’t Tread on Me — Laser-Engraved Ax Blade for NRL Founder
Here’s a another example of modern, computer-controlled laser engraving. Travis Ishida, one of the founders of the NRL Precision Tactical series, has obtained a laser engraving machine. This can be great for putting identifying marks on tools, metal gunstocks, motorcycle parts — basically anything where you want some words and/or graphics. We like the message Travis printed on his Ax: “Liberty or Death… Don’t Tread on Me”. Travis posted: “Finally got my laser engraver working and now I want to engrave everything in sight! This could be a lot of fun… and a little obsessive.”

Borden action laser engraving

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October 11th, 2020

SunDay GunDay: .284 Shehane Team USA Raffle Prize Rifle

Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action

This SunDay GunDay story features a stunning rifle constructed as a raffle prize to benefit Team USA members who will be traveling to South Africa in 2021 for the upcoming F-Class World Championships. Raffle tickets purchased for this F-Open rig, as well as two other rifles, will help defray expenses for Team USA members, both adults and juniors. Along with the stunning F-Open rifle featured here, there are two other great prizes: A KW Precision-built .308 Winchester F-TR rifle with Borden Rimrock action, and a Kelbly Koda Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor with Nightforce scope.

Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action

.284 Shehane F-Open Prize Rifle with Superb Components

Report by Katie Blankenship
This eye-catching F-Open rifle was crafted by Blake Barrel and Rifle in Arizona. This prize rifle features all top-of-the-line components: Borden BRMXD Action, Cerus multi-laminate stock with forearm extension, R.A.D. recoil reduction system (hydraulic-damped buttpad), Bix ‘N Andy trigger, and Nightforce Competition scope. The stainless Blake barrel is chambered for the .284 Shehane wildcat, and sports an F-Class Products tuner on the end.

Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action
Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action

If you like this rifle, you can participate in a Team USA Contest with a chance to win this beauty. Team USA is running a raffle that supports all three divisions of the United States F-Class Team: F-Open, F-TR, and Under-25. After each member sells $250 dollars worth of tickets, the proceeds go into individual accounts to pay for trip expenses such as air travel, hotel, food, entry fees, uniforms, ammunition, and other costs.

Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action

The prize drawings will be held at Ben Avery Range in Phoenix, AZ in November 2020. All winners must comply with all Federal and State laws in order to take possession of firearms. $2,500 may be awarded in place of firearm. Entrants do not need to be present to win. Winners will be announced after confirmation of legal eligibility and with consent of the winner. Raffle tickets cost $10.00 each or you can get three tickets for $25.00. CLICK HERE for prize raffle details.

About the Under-25 F-Class U.S. Rifle Team

My sister Kaycie and I are both on the Under-25 United States F-Class Team. We both started out shooting F-Class on the Wickenburg High School Rifle team. I started in 2012 while Kaycie started in 2015. We went from using loaner guns with Wickenburg to shoot the F-Class sport, to now having a couple generous sponsors and making the Under-25 United States Team.

Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action

The raffle is for three different rifles. The one featured here is the sponsored F-Open rifle built by Blake Barrel and Rifle. For this special rifle, I was actually involved in the build process at Blake Machine in Phoenix, Arizona, where I work.

Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action
Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action

How Sisters Katie and Kaycie Got Involved in Rifle Competition
Kaycie and I grew up in a family that spent a lot of quality time together in the outdoors — hunting, shooting, and fishing. With my passion for hunting (inspired by my Dad), I wanted to further my shooting skills. So, I decided to join Wickenburg High School’s Rifle Team coached by Rex Powers. Upon joining, since I was a small, 90-lb girl, some people thought I would never be a top competitor on the team — not able to compete with the bigger boys on the team. But within my freshman year of high school I was the team’s top shooter and held that spot all 4 years of high school. I developed a passion for F-Class shooting. After graduating from HS, I continued to assistant-coach the team and compete in local matches. My sister Kaycie accompanied me in 2015 and also found a love for the sport. Now a senior in high school, Kaycie is still shooting with the high school team, while earning a sport on the Under-25 U.S. F-Class Rifle Team.

What Katie Likes about F-Class Competition
F-Class shooting has given me the opportunity to meet many influential people, to travel, and to work in a specialized job that I love. This sport has taught me patience, attention to detail, and discipline. And that, in turn, has had a positive impact on many other areas in my life. Kaycie and I’ve have also met many other junior shooters who have become great friends. It’s great to have that camaraderie at matches. The community behind this sport includes many very generous people with tons of knowledge — there is such a healthy competitive atmosphere at the range.

How Young Shooters Can Get Started in F-Class
If you are interested in F-Class we highly suggest going to your local range and watching an F-Class match being held. There are so many people willing to provide knowledge and guidance to help you get started in the sport and join the fun!

The Bryan Blake Connection — How He Helps Young Shooters
I met Bryan Blake (Blake Barrel and Rifle) in early 2018 at a local mid-range Championship. At the time I was shooting a 6.5×47 Lapua with a shot-out barrel and was just there for fun, knowing my scores would be low. Bryan loaned me one of his rifles for a string and offered to loan me a gun for the upcoming October State 600-yard championships. Since then I now have my own F-Class rifle build by Blake Barrel and Rifle and now work for Bryan’s family-owned business. Bryan has helped raise my shooting to the next level with his knowledge of the sport and his dedication to encouraging young competitors.

Get Rifle Prize Raffle Tickets to Support Team USA

Blake machine Team USA Under-25 Katie Blakenship F-Class F-Open prize raffle rifle tickets Borden action
Team USA Raffle Prize Drawing will take place in November 2020.


LINK for Raffle Tickets Page (All 3 Prize Rifles) »

Kaycie and I are proud to represent our country in the 2021 F-Class World Championships. We appreciate your support for F-Class Team USA by purchasing raffle tickets. You can purchase tickets on the webpage linked above. NOTE: When tickets are purchased through that page, the funds will go directly towards travel expenses Kaycie and I will incur going to the 2021 World F-Class Championships.

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September 15th, 2020

Great Book: Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting II

Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics Modern Advancements Volume 2 II testing pre-order

If you buy one book about Long Range Shooting, this should be it. Based on sophisticated testing and research, this 356-page hardcover from Applied Ballistics offers important insights you won’t find anywhere else. Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting – Volume II, the latest treatise from Bryan Litz, is chock full of information, much of it derived through sophisticated field testing. As Chief Ballistician for Berger Bullets (and a trained rocket scientist), author Bryan Litz is uniquely qualified. Bryan is also an ace sling shooter and a past F-TR National Champion. Moreover, Bryan’s company, Applied Ballistics, has been a leader in the Extreme Long Range (ELR) discipline.

AUDIO FILE: Bryan Litz Talks about Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, Volume 2. (Sound file loads when you click button).

Volume II of Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting ($39.95) contains all-new content derived from research by Applied Ballistics. Author Bryan Litz along with contributing authors Nick Vitalbo and Cal Zant use the scientific method and careful testing to answer important questions faced by long range shooters. In particular, this volume explores the subject of bullet dispersion including group convergence. Advanced hand-loading subjects are covered such as: bullet pointing and trimming, powder measurement, flash hole deburring, neck tension, and fill ratio. Each topic is explored with extensive live fire testing, and the resulting information helps to guide hand loaders in a deliberate path to success. The current bullet library of measured G1 and G7 ballistic coefficients is included as an appendix. This library currently has data on 533 bullets in common use by long range shooters.

Bryan tells us that one purpose of this book is to dispel myths and correct commonly-held misconceptions: “Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting aims to end the misinformation which is so prevalent in long range shooting. By applying the scientific method and taking a Myth Buster approach, the state of the art is advanced….”

Bullet Dispersion and Group Convergence
Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics Modern Advancements Volume 2 II testing pre-order

Part 1 of this Volume is focused on the details of rifle bullet dispersion. Chapter 1 builds a discussion of dispersion and precision that every shooter will benefit from in terms of understanding how it impacts their particular shooting application. How many shots should you shoot in a group? What kind of 5-shot 100 yard groups correlate to average or winning precision levels in 1000 yard F-Class shooting?

Chapter 2 presents a very detailed investigation of the mysterious concept of group convergence, which is the common idea that some guns can shoot smaller (MOA) groups at longer ranges. This concept is thoroughly tested with extensive live fire, and the results answer a very important question that has baffled shooters for many generations.

Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics Modern Advancements Volume 2 II testing pre-orderPart 2 of this Volume is focused on various aspects of advanced hand-loading. Modern Advancements (Vol. II) employs live fire testing to answer the important questions that precision hand loaders are asking. What are the best ways to achieve MVs with low ES and SD? Do flash hole deburring, neck tension, primer selection, and fill ratio and powder scales sensitivity make a difference and how much? All of these questions are explored in detail with a clear explanation of test results.

One of the important chapters of Part 2 examines bullet pointing and trimming. Applied Ballistics tested 39 different bullet types from .224 through .338 caliber. Ten samples of each bullet were tested for BC in each of the following configurations: original out of the box, pointed, trimmed, pointed and trimmed. The effect on the average BC as well as the uniformity in BC was measured and tabulated, revealing what works best.

Part 3 covers a variety of general research topics. Contributing author Nick Vitalbo, a laser technology expert, tested 22 different laser rangefinders. Nick’s material on rangefinder performance is a landmark piece of work. Nick shows how shooters can determine the performance of a rangefinder under various lighting conditions, target sizes, and reflectivities.

Chapter 9 is a thorough analysis of rimfire ammunition. Ballistic Performance of Rifle Bullets, 2nd Edition presented live fire data on 95 different types of .22 rimfire ammunition, each tested in five different barrels having various lengths and twist rates. Where that book just presented the data, Chapter 9 of this book offers detailed analysis of all the test results and shows what properties of rimfire ammunition are favorable, and how the BCs, muzzle velocities and consistency of the ammo are affected by the different barrels.

Chapter 10 is a discussion of aerodynamic drag as it relates to ballistic trajectory modeling. You will learn from the ground up: what an aerodynamic drag model is, how it’s measure and used to predict trajectories. Analysis is presented which shows how the best trajectory models compare to actual measured drop in the real world.

Finally, contributing author Cal Zant of the Precision Rifle Blog presents a study of modern carbon fiber-wrapped barrels in Chapter 11. The science and technology of these modern rifle barrels is discussed, and then everything from point of impact shift to group sizes are compared for several samples of each type of barrel including standard steel barrels.

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September 7th, 2020

New Hybrid-X Front Rest from 21st Century Shooting

21st Century Shooting Hybrid-X front rest f-class benchrest swingarm coaxial

Introducing the Hybrid-X Shooting Rest
The new, patent-pending Hybrid-X front rest from 21st Century Shooting is a true hybrid between a joystick and a traditional “wheel” rest. Windage (left/right point of aim) changes are made via a control stick that extends back to the shooter. This control stick travels on a horizontal plane. Elevation is controlled through a knob on the end of the control stick, OR a large, traditional wheel on the post. So you have TWO elevation control options — the Big Wheel or the smaller knob on the end of the control rod.

The entire central assembly of the rest is mounted on a circular plate that is mounted in the base plate. This central assembly and plate is called the Target Acquisition System or “T.A.S”. This allows the user to easily self-align the rifle and rear bag by simply loosening a few levers. Self-alignment will help minimize set-up time and improve repeatability by eliminating binding of the rifle in the shooting bags. In addition, this will allow for rapid windage adjustment if needed to acquire a target. This really is an important advancement — you can simply place the rest on bench or ground, and then use the T.A.S. function to get perfect target alignment. No more trial and error placing the rest multiple times to get the correct orientation to the target.

21st Century Shooting Hybrid-X front rest f-class benchrest swingarm coaxial
 
The Hybrid-X design team tells us: “Smooth operation and ease of control are what this rest represents. The utilization of a ball screw plus bearing block provides glass-smooth elevation adjustment. And the elevation is stable.” Guys, this is important. Unlike some joystick rests which move when you release the joystick, on the Hybrid-X, the cradle holding your rifle does not “droop” when you release the Hybrid-X control stick. Repeatability from shot to shot is provided by the rock-solid platform and the fact that elevation does NOT change when you let go of the control stick.

21st Century Shooting Hybrid-X front rest f-class benchrest swingarm coaxial
The entire center section of the rest rotates as one unit for fast, perfect alignment to target.
 
Key Features of New Hybrid-X Shooting Rest
 
1. Weight of rifle is not a factor in ease of controls due to the use of ball screws/bearing blocks in the post.
2. Windage range is more than you would ever need — more than other rests on the market.
3. Elevation is not lost from shot to shot even if you release control stick.
4. Total weight of Hybrid-X prototype is 28 pounds.
5. Designed, machined and built in the USA!

21st Century Shooting Hybrid-X front rest f-class benchrest swingarm coaxial
 
How does it work? Very well indeed! The folks at 21st Century report: “Everyone that has shot off this rest so far is blown away with the repeatability, smoothness, and the ease of the controls.” The innovative Hybrid-X rest is Patent Pending, and is 100% made in the USA. Priced at $1950.00, the Hybrid-X is in production now. You won’t see it (yet) on the 21st Century website, but you can email or call (260) 273-9909 to order. Currently, expect a 60-day wait from time of order to delivery. The rest includes a front bag.

21st Century Shooting Hybrid-X front rest f-class benchrest swingarm coaxial

Field Test of New 21st Century Rest in Competition

Report from F-Class Competitor Bret Solomon
I would like to first start out by saying “Thank You” to all the persons involved at 21st Century Shooting for getting me this new rest. I used the new rest for the first time on Friday, August 7, 2020 for a team match in The Michigan State Long Range Team Match Championship. My team took first in the F-Open Division and I had a very quick learning curve with the rest. Saturday, I again used the rest for the Michigan Long Range/F-Class Regional individual matches. We shot one match and called the rest of the day due to weather concerns. Sunday we came back for three matches.

21st Century Shooting Hybrid-X front rest f-class benchrest swingarm coaxial

As the day progressed, the winds came up and starting switching considerably more and I put the new rest to work. I was able to concentrate on wind switches, feeling very confident that the gun was staying where I put it in the rest and on target. Adjustments were very smooth and I was able to shoot multiple shots with no elevation changes. The controls are in a position where you can get behind the gun and not have to reach out for changes. Yes the rest performed great — I was able to come from behind to take a one-point win in the F-Open Division. I believe the new rest from 21st Century Shooting made a significant difference for me. In the future, I hope the Hybrid-X rest will help advance my shooting game.

Once again, thank you to 21st Century Shooting for a great addition of technology, innovation, craftsmanship, and customer service to the shooting community. — Bret Solomon

21st Century Shooting Hybrid-X front rest f-class benchrest swingarm coaxial

Permalink Competition, Gear Review, New Product, News 2 Comments »
August 15th, 2020

RetroMOD Project — Old eBay Rimfire Stock Reborn for F-Open

Anschutz 1411 stock gunsmithing project wood work palma rifle f-class F-Open stocking

Here is an interesting project by one of our Forum members. Martin C. (aka “Killick”) modified an Anschutz 1411 Match 54 rimfire prone stock to become a comfortable, great-tracking F-Class Open Division Stock. No Killick didn’t sacrifice a perfectly good rimfire rifle for this project — he bought the Anschutz stock by itself on eBay, then transformed it…

Killick explains: “This project started about seven years ago. I bought the Anschutz prone stock on eBay and whittled it a bit into a Palma rifle with a Barnard action and block and a Doan Trevor cheek piece and scope rail. Then about two years ago I decided to re-task the stock/action assembly into an F-Open rig. With more whittling, gluing, sanding, body fillering, sanding, filling, sanding, more sanding…and sanding, forming, priming, sanding, painting, waiting, painting, painting…painting and before you know it, Bob’s your uncle.”

Here is the eBay-sourced Anschutz 1411 stock, with new high-gloss blue finish, as initially modified for use in Killick’s centerfire Palma rifle. Looks nice!

Anschutz 1411 stock gunsmithing project wood work palma rifle f-class F-Open stocking

Next step was the addition of a 3″-wide wood fore-end for F-Open duties with front rest:

Anschutz 1411 stock gunsmithing project wood work palma rifle f-class F-Open stocking

Anschutz 1411 stock gunsmithing project wood work palma rifle f-class F-Open stocking

Almost done here… just needs priming and final painting:

Anschutz 1411 stock gunsmithing project wood work palma rifle f-class F-Open stocking

Here is Killick’s completed F-Open rifle with its much-modified Anschutz stock now finished in fire-engine red lacquer. This image shows the detail of the grip and customized cheekpiece.

Anschutz 1411 stock gunsmithing project wood work palma rifle f-class F-Open stocking

To learn more, visit Killick’s Anschutz Stock F-Class Project Thread on our Shooters’ Forum.

Permalink Competition, Gear Review, Gunsmithing No Comments »
August 12th, 2020

Go Low: Extreme Low-Profile F-TR Rifles from Pierce Engineering

F-TR Scoville Stock F-Class Rifle

One recent trend in F-TR competition is the use of low-profile, benchrest-type stocks shot with a light hand-hold and little or no face contact. For this method of F-TR shooting to work, you need the right equipment, and practice a “minimalist” shooting technique. One of the pioneers in this style of F-TR shooting is action-maker John Pierce of Pierce Engineering. Above you can see John shooting one of his F-TR rifles at the 2015 Canadian F-Class Championships. Note the straight-line stock and see how the adjustable bipod is set quite low to the ground (in fact the bipod’s arms are almost straight out).

F-TR Scoville Stock F-Class Rifle

Members of the Michigan F-TR Team, including Bryan Litz, have used similar rigs with success. Bryan said it took a while to adapt his shooting technique to this kind of rig, but there is a pay-off. Armed with a Pierce-built F-TR rifle, Bryan won his first-ever F-TR Match. Bryan explains the technique he uses when shooting this kind of rifle:

“Coming over from sling shooting, I knew there would be unique challenges to F-TR which I wanted to learn prior to (not during) a major tournament. I learned a new shooting position which doesn’t involve drawing the right knee up. For F-TR I get more straight behind the gun rather than at an angle. I found that the rifle shoots best with very light cheek, shoulder and grip pressure, approaching free recoil. This is how Eric Stecker shot his similar rifle into second place in the SW Nationals [with high X-Count by a large margin]. I learned the rifle’s sensitivity to different bipod and rear bag supports, and found the best buttplate position to allow the rifle to track and stay on target after recoil. This set-up shot best with a mostly free-recoil approach, that means ‘hovering’ over the comb, rather than resting your head on the stock. This took some ‘getting used to’ in terms of neck and back muscle tone. These are the kind of details I think it’s important to focus on when entering a new discipline.”

Bryan’s Pierce-built F-TR rig is a tack-driver: “I can certainly vouch for this set-up! In [a 2015] mid-range State Championship in Midland, MI, I shot my Pierce rifle into first place with a 598-44X (20 shots at 300, 500 and 600). Once you get used to the positioning and way of shooting these rifles, they just pour shots through the center of the target.”

Pierce F-TR Rifles with Scoville Stocks
Shown below are three complete Pierce F-TR rifles, along with a barreled action for comparison. The carbon-fiber/composite stocks are built by Bob Scoville. These Scoville stocks are very light, yet very strong and very stiff.

F-TR Scoville Stock F-Class Rifle

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May 29th, 2020

Recoil Reduction System for F-Class Rifles — Bump Buster

Bret Solomon Speedy Thomas Gonzalez hydraulic recoil reduction F-Class F-Open accurateshooter.com

Many of our Forum members have expressed interest in a recoil-reduction system for prone F-Open competition rifles shooting heavy bullets from powerful cartridges. A .300 WSM shooing 200+ grain bullets can definitely take its toll over the course of a match. One system that has been used with considerable success is the hydraulic “Bump Buster” recoil system. This definitely reduces the pounding your shoulder gets during a long match. To illustrate this system, we’ve reprised an article on Bret Soloman’s F-Open rifle from a couple years back. Watch the Videos to see the Bump Buster in action.

Bret Solomon Speedy Thomas Gonzalez hydraulic recoil reduction F-Class F-Open accurateshooter.comOn his Facebook page, Hall-of-Fame shooter and ace gunsmith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez unveiled an impressive new F-Open rifle built for Bret Solomon. The rifle features Speedy’s new low-profile F-Class stock.

Bret’s gun is chambered for his 300 Solomon wildcat, shooting heavy 210gr bullets, so it can can be a real shoulder-buster, without some kind of buffer. The stock is fitted with a Ken Rucker’s Bump Buster hydraulic recoil reduction system to tame the recoil. The Bump Buster was originally designed for shotguns and hard-hitting, big game rifles. It is interesting to see this hydraulic buffer adapted to an F-Open rig.

Here you can see Bret shooting the gun, coached by Nancy Tompkins and Michele Gallagher:

Bret’s gun features a stainless Viper (Stiller) action, barrel tuner, and an innovative Speedy-crafted wood stock. Speedy says this stock design is all-new: “It is a true, low Center-of-Gravity F-Class stock, not a morphed Palma stock merely cut out on the bottom”. See all the details in this short video:

Stock Features: Glue-in or Bolt-In and Optional Carbon Pillars and Cooling Ports
Speedy explained the features of the new stock design: “Terry Leonard and I started working on an F-Class version of his stocks last year during the F-Class Nationals and came up with what he and I consider the first true low-CG stock in the sport. As you can see by the videos, there is very little torquing of the stock during recoil. I add the carbon fiber tunnel underneath the forearms to save Terry some time. This bonds very well to his carbon fiber skeleton within the stock adding addition stiffness to the forearm to support the heavy barrels found on the F-Class rigs.

We are playing with both glue-ins like we benchresters use and bolt-ins as well. The rifles on the videos are glue-ins. Bret just took delivery today of his first bolt-in employing carbon fiber pillars and the first Leonard stock ever to have cooling ports.”

Need for Recoil Reduction Follows F-Class Trend to Bigger Calibers and Heavier Bullets
In recent years we have seen F-Open competitors move to bigger calibers and heavier bullets in pursuit of higher BC. There is no free lunch however. Shooting a 210gr .30-caliber bullet is going to produce much more recoil than a 140gr 6.5mm projectile (when they are shot at similar velocities). Does this mean that more F-Open shooters will add hydraulic buffers to their rigs? Will a recoil-reduction system become “de rigueur” on F-Open rifles shooting heavy bullets?

Our friend Boyd Allen observes: “You may imagine that shooting a short magnum, or even a .284 Win with heavy bullets, involves a fair amount of recoil, and in the prone position this can be more than a little wearing. It can in fact beat you up over the course of a match. Some time back, Lou Murdica told me about having a hydraulic recoil absorbing device installed on one of his F-Class rifles, chambered in .300 WSM. Lou is shooting heavy (210-215gr) bullets so the recoil is stout. According to Lou, the hydraulic recoil-reduction system made all the difference.”

Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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May 23rd, 2020

2020 Berger Southwest Nationals Equipment Lists

2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

The best F-Class and Sling shooters in the nation compete each year at the Berger Southwest Nationals at the Ben Avery range in Arizona. Walk down the firing line and you’ll see the absolute “best of the best” in equipment — from $3500 optics to $2000 stocks and $400 triggers. Berger SWN shooters have some of the best equipment you can buy. In this game, where just 1 or 2 points can separate first from third place (considering X-Count), it’s important to have top-flight equipment. That means a custom action, custom barrel, and high-end stock or chassis system.

Matt Schwartzkopf, a range supervisor at Ben Avery, and member of the USA F-TR Team, has collected comprehensive gear reports from the 2020 Berger SW Nationals. Matt has created charts showing competitors’ choices for Actions, Barrels, Stocks, Riflescopes and Spotting Scopes. In addition, Matt has compiled bullet choice data for all classes and Cartridge rankings for F-Open Division.

There is a discussion of the 2020 SWN Gear Selection in our Shooters’ Forum. CLICK HERE to follow that Forum thread. Many top SWN shooters, including past F-Open National Champion Larry Bartholome, have contributed to this Forum discussion about gear options.

ACTIONS Listed by Division (Sling, F-TR, F-Open)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

ACTIONS by Brand (Combined Listing — All Divisions)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

BARRELS by Brand (Combined Listing — All Divisions)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

BULLETS by Brand (Combined Listing — All Divisions)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

CARTRIDGE BRASS by Brand (Combined Listing — All Divisions)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

POWDER by Brand (Combined Listing — All Divisions)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

STOCKS by Brand (Combined Listing — All Divisions)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

RIFLESCOPES by Brand (Combined Listing — All Divisions)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

SPOTTING SCOPES Listed by Class (Sling, F-TR, F-Open)
2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

Cartridge Selection in F-Open Division

In addition, Matt produced an interesting listing of cartridge/caliber types for the F-Open division. This is helpful because cartridge choice is unrestricted in the F-Open class. By contrast, the F-TR division is limited to .223 Remington (5.56×45) or .308 Winchester (7.62×51). You can see that the .284 Winchester (and variants) currently dominate F-Open.

2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

2020 Berger Southwest SW SWN Nationals gear list equipment actions barrels stocks bullets scopes

Permalink Competition, Gear Review 1 Comment »
May 5th, 2020

What’s Wrong with This Picture — Look Carefully

Bisley Range Deer England Centre UK Wildlife F-Class
Click image to zoom full-screen.

What’s wrong (or right?) with this picture? Does the “F” in F-class refer to “Fauna”? Look carefully at this Bisley Range photo taken by Australian R. Hurley while looking downrange through his March 8-80X scope. The photo was taken in 2015 at the Bisley National Shooting Centre in the UK.

The Story Behind the Photo
British shooter T. Stewart reports: “I was there when this photos was taken. All I can say was that Mr. Hurley was firmly reminded that should said deer accidentally jump in front of his bullet … he would spend five years ‘At Her Majesty’s Pleasure’.”

“That morning we had five deer moving across the targets, literally blocking the V-Bull. Since we were on the 900-yard Firing Point, and elevated for such, obviously the bullet would pass well above them. But they do NOT move or flinch at the noise or passing bullets since they are not hunted on the Bisley Ranges. Earlier this year we saw a herd of 20 or so deer grazing slowly across the Range.”

More Fauna Findings…
Apparently Bisley is not the only place were “the deer and the antelope play”. In Canada, on the Connaught Ranges near Ottawa, Ontario, shooters often encounter a variety of wildlife. William McDonald from Ontario says: “Animals are a common sight on the Range. Along with deer we see geese, turkeys, and coyotes on a daily basis.”

Likewise, E. Goodacre from Queensland, Australia often sees ‘Roos on his home range: “I shoot at Ripley, Australia, and shooting is regularly interrupted by kangaroos. Our last silhouette match was delayed by an hour while 30 ‘Roos dawdled across — silly buggers!”

R. Hurley wasn’t the first fellow to view deer through his F-Class rifle’s scope. After seeing Hurley’s photo from Bisley, B. Weeks posted this image, saying: “Been there, done that!”

Bisley Range Deer England Centre UK Wildlife F-Class

Permalink Competition, News, Optics, Shooting Skills 4 Comments »
April 8th, 2020

Lights, Camera, Actions! — Video Tour of Kelbly’s Shop

Kelbly's Panda Action gunsmithing video barrel stock bedding

Want to see new-born Pandas? No, not the furry kind — rather Stolle Panda actions produced with state-of-the-art CNC machinery. If you’ve ever wondered how precision benchrest, long-range, and tactical rifles are built, check out video from Kelbly’s. You’ll see actions finished, barrels chambered and crowned, pillars installed in stocks, barreled actions bedded, plus a host of other services performed by Kelbly’s gunsmiths and machinists.

If you’re a fan of fine machine-work, this video should be both informative and entertaining. You can see how precision gun work is done with 21st-Century technology. Tip of the hat to Ian Kelbly and crew for producing this excellent video visit to the Kelbly’s production center.

Click Volume Control to Activate Sound for Kelbly’s Video:

Kelbly's Panda Action gunsmithing video barrel stock bedding

Permalink - Videos, Gunsmithing, New Product 4 Comments »
March 19th, 2020

Getting Started in F-Class — Target Shooter Magazine Article

Vince Bottomley Target Shooter F-Class F-Open F-TR

A while back, our friend Vince Bottomley in the UK wrote an excellent article for Target Shooter Magazine. Vince offers “solid-gold” advice for new F-TR and F-Open shooters. Vince reviews the cartridge options, and offers suggestions for a shooter’s first (and hopefully affordable) F-Class rifle. Vince also reviews various bipod choices for F-TR and discusses optics options (from $300 to $3000).

Here’s a short sample from the Target Shooter Magazine article:

Getting Started in F-Class by Vince Bottomley
As membership secretary of a large club, one of the questions I’m frequently asked – “What’s the best way to get started in F-Class?” My club has an F-Class shoot every couple of weeks at ranges from 300 to 1000 yards and, not surprisingly, it’s very popular.

F-TR or Open Class?
From a shaky start way back in 2004, the F-TR Class is now proving as popular as Open Class and, at GBFCA League shoots and club shoots, many shooters choose to start with a 308, shooting off a bi-pod – in other words F-TR. In Open Class, the 7mm WSM soon established itself as the “must have” cartridge – if you wanted to win but, the WSM’s appetite for barrels eventually brought another 7mm cartridge into play – the 284 Winchester. This 50-year-old stalwart was revived a decade or so ago as the 6.5-284 and indeed this cartridge found some favor with F-Class pioneers – before the potency of the WSM was discovered. If you don’t mind shelling out for a couple of barrels per year (barrel life is about 750 rounds with the WSM) go for the 7mm WSM but, if you require a decent round-count, then opt for the .284 Win and learn to read the wind a bit better!

Scopes for F-Class
If you will be shooting 1000 yards then I would recommend at least 32 power and preferably a variable – like the 8-32. The cheapest “usable” scope in this range is the Sightron. It’s a great scope for the money and at under $900 (in the USA) it’s half the price of its nearest competitor. It’s also light – at 1.5 lbs – and there are some great reticles for the F-Class shooter – like the LRMOA.

Vince Bottomley Target Shooter F-Class F-Open F-TR

Read Full Article on Target Shooter Magazine Website.

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March 15th, 2020

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 fire-forming 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

Our friend 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.”

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Reloading 1 Comment »
February 20th, 2020

Where You Can Shoot F-Class Matches — 100+ Ranges Listed

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

F-Class shooting (both F-Open and F-TR) is one of the fastest-growing forms of rifle competition. Each season many new shooters hit the line and attendance at the major F-Class matches increases every year. But if you’re new to the game, you may ask “Where can I shoot an F-Class match?”. Well, Forum member Rod V. (aka Nodak7mm) has compiled a useful list of 112 ranges throughout the USA where F-Class matches are held. With venues from Alabama to Wyoming — you should find an F-Class program not too far from home. The list, in Excel spreadsheet format, provides range locations and weblinks (where available). Click the link below to download the F-Class Range List (.xls file):

Download F-Class Range List, Revision 20 (12/24/2015) (.XLS file, right click to “save as”)

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

Note — this list, now in its 20th Revision, is augmented regularly, but info is still being gathered. No claim is made that the list is comprehensive. But it still covers the the lion’s share of the important F-Class venues nationwide. If you know of a range that should be added to the list, please post the location on our F-Class Range List Forum thread. Rod will update the list as new range info is received. Rod writes: “Range information is wanted and welcomed. I would like your help on collecting specific info on Clubs/Ranges where known F-Class matches are held.” Here’s a partial sample from Rod’s list:

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

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December 8th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: 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, 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 »
December 3rd, 2019

F-Class — Best Cartridge Options 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 2 Comments »
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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