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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September 13th, 2019

Optimize Your Aiming — Tips for F-Class Shooters

F-Class Aiming Long Range Score Shooting
The movie “The Patriot” gave us the phrase “Aim small, miss small”. While that’s a good mantra, aiming strategies for long-range competition are a bit more complicated, as this article explains…

U.S. F-Class Nationals Start Sunday, September 15th!
The U.S. Mid-Range and Long Range Nationals kick off September 15th at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, New Mexico. Here are some tips that can help F-TR and F-Open shooters aim more precisely, and achieve higher scores. F-Class ace Monte Milanuk reviews reticle choices and strategies for holding off.

In our Shooters Forum, one newcomer wanted some advice on selecting a reticle for F-Class optics. He wondered about the advantage of Front (first) Focal Plane (FFP) vs. Second Focal Plane scopes and also wondered if one type of reticle was better for “holding off” than others.

In responding to this question, Forum regular Monte Milanuk provided an excellent summary of aiming methods used in F-Class. For anyone shooting score targets, Monte’s post is worth reading:

Aiming Methods for F-Class (and Long-Range) Shootingby Monte Milanuk

600-yard F-Class TargetF-Class is a known-distance event, with targets of known dimensions that have markings (rings) of known sizes. Any ‘holding off’ can be done using the target face itself. Most ‘benefits’ of Front (first) focal plain (FFP) optics are null and void here — they work great on two-way ranges where ‘minute of man’ is the defining criteria — but how many FFP scopes do you know of in the 30-40X magnification range? Very, very few, because what people who buy high-magnification scopes want is something that allows them to hold finer on the target, and see more detail of the target, not something where the reticle covers the same amount of real estate and appears ‘coarser’ in view against the target, while getting almost too fine to see at lower powers.

Whether a person clicks or holds off is largely personal preference. Some people might decline to adjust their scope as long as they can hold off somewhere on the target. Some of that may stem from the unfortunate effect of scopes being mechanical objects which sometimes don’t work entirely as advertised (i.e. one or two clicks being more or less than anticipated). Me personally, if I get outside 1-1.5 MOA from center, I usually correct accordingly. I also shoot on a range where wind corrections are often in revolutions, not clicks or minutes, between shots.

Some shooters do a modified form of ‘chase the spotter’ — i.e. Take a swag at the wind, dial it on, aim center and shoot. Spotter comes up mid-ring 10 at 4 o’clock… so for the next shot aim mid-ring 10 at 10 o’clock and shoot. This should come up a center X (in theory). Adjust process as necessary to take into account for varying wind speeds and direction.

John Sigler F-Class

600-yard F-Class TargetOthers use a plot sheet that is a scaled representation of the target face, complete with a grid overlaid on it that matches the increments of their optics — usually in MOA. Take your Swag at the wind, dial it on, hold center and shoot. Shot comes up a 10 o’clock ‘8’… plot the shot on the sheet, look at the grid and take your corrections from that and dial the scope accordingly. This process should put you in the center (or pretty close), assuming that you didn’t completely ignore the wind in the mean time. Once in the center, hold off and shoot and plot, and if you see a ‘group’ forming (say low right in the 10 ring) either continue to hold high and left or apply the needed corrections to bring your group into the x-ring.

Just holding is generally faster, and allows the shooter to shoot fast and (hopefully) stay ahead of the wind. Plotting is more methodical and may save your bacon if the wind completely changes on you… plotting provides a good reference for dialing back the other way while staying in the middle of the target. — YMMV, Monte

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September 2nd, 2019

Grandpa Lou and the Girls Shoot F-Class Together

Grandchildren Camp Pendleton F-Class shooting range Lou Murdica

We love it when family members shoot together. It’s a great way to pass knowledge from generation to generation. Last week we featured a 10-year old boy, his father, and his grandfather who all shot a match together. Three generations! That was the young man’s first benchrest shooting match. Story HERE.

This week we are showcasing the Murdica clan. Our friend Lou Murdica was in Coastal Southern California this week. Grandpa Lou had taken two of his granddaughters to SoCal to enjoy the beach, and to shoot an F-Class match at Camp Pendleton.

Lou reports: “I took my two granddaughters (ages 12 and 14) to shoot their first-ever F-Class match! we went to Camp Pendleton yesterday and shot the 1000-yard match. This was the first time the girls had ever shot on the ground. They made me proud!”

Grandchildren Camp Pendleton F-Class shooting range Lou Murdica

Both girls shot very well as you can see from these targets. Angelina used a .284 Win rifle, while Bella used Lou’s 6.5×55 Improved. Both are top-level F-Open rigs. Lou said conditions were fairly challenging — with about 4 MINUTES of wind.

Grandchildren Camp Pendleton F-Class shooting range Lou Murdica

There were some interesting comments from Lou’s Facebook Friends:

“Lou you best quit shooting now while you can still beat them!” — Larry Bartholome (Editor: Larry B. is a past F-Class National Champion)

“Wow — just 1 point separation for the girls. Keep em in the ‘X’ girls! Good job!” — Anthony Smith

“Yea for Bella and Angelina. Such a proud grandpa!” — Kate White

All in the Family — Shooting is a Fun Hobby

Grandchildren Camp Pendleton F-Class shooting range Lou Murdica
Lou Murdica has also shot Benchrest Matches with his grand-children. This photo captures Grandpa Lou at Ben Avery Range in Arizona with more family members.

Camp Pendleton (California) Map

The Camp Pendleton USMC base is located on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego. Camp Pendleton’s range is a great place to shoot if you have the opportunity some day.

Grandchildren Camp Pendleton F-Class shooting range Lou Murdica

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August 25th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: The Color Purple — Dad’s Gift to Daughter

Erik Cortina 6.5x47 Lapua F-Class Rifle Daughter

“My daughter’s favorite color is purple, so I built her a purple rifle….”

Here’s a feel-good story about a family that shoots together, and a father who did something very special for his daughter. All fathers create things for their children, but it’s unusual to find a Dad who has the skills (and motivation) to build a top-level competition rifle for his child. Our friend, Erik Cortina, did just that. Here is the story of the lovely purple maple F-Class rig Erik built for his girl Amberleeana. We first ran this story in 2016. Now Amberleeana is a bit older and she has competed successfully with her purple rifle.

Erik Cortina 6.5x47 Lapua F-Class Rifle Daughter

AUDIO FILE: Erik Cortina and Daughter Amberleeana Talk about the Purple Rifle. (Sound file loads when you click button).

My daughter would always tell me when I would go to a match, “Remember Dad, only Xs matter, the other stuff on the target is just there for decoration!” — Erik Cortina

A Father’s Gift: An F-Classer for Amberleeana

by Erik Cortina
My daughter Amberleeana had been wanting to shoot F-Class for a long time because I have been dragging her to matches since she was a little girl. She would come into my reloading room and watch me reload while she asked a million questions, all which I tried to answer to the best of my abilities. At age 9, she started hunting with a semi-custom rifle her grandfather gave her, a 6×47 Lapua built on a Remington 700 action with a Bartlein barrel. She has been very successful as a hunter so she decided to move to the next step and start shooting F-Class.

She shot my backup rifle before and she really enjoyed it. Here’s a YouTube video from a while back. This shows Amberleeana, at age 11, shooting at 500 yards for the very first time. You can see she does very well. (Editor’s NOTE: She is now three years older, and has completed more matches.)

After hearing about the U.S. F-Class Under 25 (U25) Rifle Team selection trials in Raton in 2016, Amberleeana wanted to try out for the U25 Team. I told her that was OK, but we had to modify the rifle she was currently using so that it could fit her better. After some consideration, I decided instead to sell that rifle and build her a brand new one.

Erik Cortina 6.5x47 Lapua F-Class Rifle Daughter

Her favorite color is purple, so I built her a purple rifle with adjustable cheek piece and butt pad. Shurley Brothers (Austin, TX) crafted the stock from maple, and then applied a purple gloss finish. We think it turned out great.

I hope that my daughter enjoys F-Class as much as I have, which will allow us to spend more time together on the range and in the reloading room.

6.5×47 Lapua Load Development
The purple rifle is chambered for the 6.5×47 Lapua cartridge. Our preliminary load work up shows great promise using Vihtavuori N140 powder, 136gr Lapua Scenar bullets, and CCI 450 primers. We tried a variety of charge weights, starting at 35.7 grains of N140 and ending up at 38.2 grains. The photo below shows an initial series of 3-shot test groups at 120 yards. What do you think is the best node? What charge weight would YOU select among these? [Editor: That final load of 38.2 grains looks very good, but we would want to check for pressure signs and repeat with 10-round strings checking for ES and SD. Also, if you go by the vertical only, the 36.0 and 36.3 loads are worth further testing.]

Erik Cortina 6.5x47 Lapua F-Class Rifle Daughter

Erik Cortina 6.5x47 Lapua F-Class Rifle DaughterPurple Rifle Specifications:
Stock: Shurley Brothers Lowrider XL stock (Maple)
(Finished by Shurley Brothers, bedded by Speedy Gonzalez)
Action: Kelbly F-Class Panda
Trigger: Flavio Fare
Barrel: Brux 32″-long, 1:8″-twist, 4-groove stainless, chambered in 6.5×47 Lapua
(Barrel work and assembly done by Erik Cortina)
Barrel Tuner: ECTuner (matches barrel contour)
Scope: Nightforce 15-55x52mm Competition
Front Rest: SEB NEO front rest
Rear Sandbag: Edgewood
Load: VV N140, 136gr Scenars, CCI 450 primers

Eric told us that he really likes that Flavio Fare trigger: “The FF trigger is outstanding. It is much smoother than a 1.5 oz Jewell trigger and more consistent as well.”

Erik Cortina 6.5x47 Lapua F-Class Rifle Daughter

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August 14th, 2019

Want to Shoot F-Class? Here’s a List of Active F-Class Ranges

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 big 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 (.XLS file, right click to “save as”)

Note — this list, now in its 20th Revision, is a treasure trove for F-Class shooters. 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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July 28th, 2019

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 3 Comments »
July 14th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 19th, 2019

Become a Better Trigger-Puller — Trigger Techniques Analyzed

trigger show bix'n andy otm tactical

Do you occasionally get completely unexplained flyers, or have a shot land straight down at 6 O’Clock, right below your point of aim? That could be caused by poor or inconsistent trigger technique. How you pull the trigger can and does affect your accuracy.

Many gun enthusiasts start with pistols. When they later start shooting rifles they may carry over some not-so-good practices acquired from shooting handguns with heavy 4 to 6-pound trigger pulls. You may want to “re-learn” your trigger techniques to get better rifle results.

Shooting Sports USA has a good article on trigger technique that offers many useful tips. That article also has many helpful illustrations, including the one shown above. Another illustration shows different types of trigger shoes (straight vs. curved) and explains how each makes a difference: “With a lightly curved trigger, the shooter’s finger can contact the trigger either high or low according to preference. Higher contact will increase the resistance.” READ ARTICLE HERE.

The article analyzes common errors, such as pulling the trigger with the very tip of the finger rather than the pad of the index finger: “Using the tip of the finger can lead to lateral pressure on the trigger, which throws off the shot.”

The article also explains that you should check your trigger regularly to make sure it is functioning properly and is not out of adjustment: “Just like any other moving part, the trigger can suffer from wear. In such a precise mechanism, tiny amounts of wear can cause major problems.”

Gary Eliseo tubegun prone rifle
The ergonomics of the Eliseo Tubegun allow a nice, straight trigger pull.

Trigger Tips

Six Suggestions for Making your Trigger Control More Consistent.

1. If your triggers are adjustable, set the pull weight appropriate to the discipline. For a hunting rifle, you don’t want an ultra-light trigger pull. For High Power, you may want a two-stage pull, while on a Benchrest rifle you may prefer a very light trigger.
2. If you have a two-stage trigger, experiment with different combinations of First Stage and Second Stage.
3. Have a friend watch you as you pull the trigger, and maybe even take a close-up video as you pull the trigger. This can reveal a variety of flaws.
4. Practice dry-firing to see if flaws in trigger technique are causing gun movement.
5. As an experiment, try pulling the trigger with your middle finger. Ergonomically, the middle finger has a more straight alignment with the tendons in your hand. This exercise can help you identify alignment issues with your index finger.
6. For stocks with adjustable Length of Pull you may want to set the LOP differently for bench shooting vs. prone or F-Class shooting.

trigger show bix'n andy otm tactical

trigger show bix'n andy otm tactical
The Bix’N Andy trigger is one of the very best you can buy. It can be fitted with a variety of trigger shoes according to shooter preference.

Permalink - Articles, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
June 6th, 2019

Neck-Turning Brass on Milling Machine with Erik Cortina

cartridge brass neck turn neck-turning milling machine Erik Cortina

Here’s the super-speedy way to turn case-necks. Our friend Erik Cortina figured out how to turn his match cartridge case-necks using his milling machine. Erik told us: “While in Raton, Mid Tompkins told me that he turns his brass on milling machine. He said he could do about 500 in two hours, so I decided to try it.”

Erik fitted a Don Nielson “Pumpkin” neck-turner to the mill, and he used a modified 21st Century case holder to secure the brass. As you can see from this video, Erik was very successful with the process. The tool spins at 1500 rpm, turning Lapua 6.5-284 cases that have been necked up to 7mm.

Video Shows Eric Cortina Neck-Turning Cases with Milling Machine:

Cartridge Brass: Lapua 6.5-284 necked up to 7mm
Lubricant: Lithium grease inside and outside of neck
Neck-Turner: Nielson Pumpkin running at 1500 RPM

It’s hard to argue with Erik’s results. Here are his turned Lapua cases, which have neck-wall thickness consistent to two ten-thousandths of an inch. Think you could do better turning manually?

cartridge brass neck turn neck-turning milling machine Erik Cortina

Some of Erik’s Facebook friends had questions about this process:

Q: Who makes the shell-holder?

Erik Cortina: I did! The shell-holder you can get from 21st Century. I Tig-welded a punch as a handle.

Q: I love the idea of working smarter not harder! Any galling issues? What are your mitigation techniques?

Erik Cortina: No issues. I use lithium grease in spray can. Makes a foam that I dip necks into.

Q: Shouldn’t either the case or the cutter be floating to allow most precise neck turning?

Erik Cortina: Up until [I tried this] I believed the same thing. I was going to build a floating case holder but decided to try rigid setup on a few cases before I built it. Results were great. Neck thickness doesn’t vary more than .0002″, which is same as when I was doing it with floating case holder on the lathe.

Q: Any problems with the Pumpkin changing the cut as it heats up?

Erik Cortina: No — there were no issues with that.

NOTE: Erik Cortina is a very skilled machinist who custom-crafted fittings used for this process. This kind of neck-turning with a milling machine may not be for the everyday hand-loader!

cartridge brass neck turn neck-turning milling machine Erik Cortina

Nielson “Pumpkin” Neck-Turner

Don Nielson Pumpkin neck turning toolThe circular orange cutting fixture on Erik’s Milling Machine is a Don Nielson “Pumpkin” neck-turning tool. Don designed this tool to be used by hand or with power. The Pumpkin boasts an eccentric mandrel that allows the cut to be adjusted easily in precise .0001″ increments. Benchresters like this as it allows for very precise control of cut depth and neck-wall thickness.

Jason C., commenting on Erik’s YouTube video stated: “I have a couple of those too. Nothing cuts like a Pumpkin. [Don Nielson] made the best cutter tool ever.” These are still available if you ask around. The photo shows Don with a case-holder mounted to a power assembly. A talented machinist and tool-maker, Don has also been a successful short- and long-range benchrest shooter, who has won NBRSA 600-Yard Championships. CLICK HERE to read about Don’s success with the 6.5×47 Lapua.

cartridge brass neck turn neck-turning milling machine Erik Cortina
Nielson Neck Turner with carbide mandrel. Photo Courtesy Butch’s Reloading.

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 2 Comments »
June 2nd, 2019

.284 Shehane — Winning Wildcat for F-Open Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.284 Shehane Henry Pasquet ibs 1000 yard championship

.284 Shehane Henry Pasquet ibs 1000 yard championship

Amazing Accuracy When Fire-Forming .284 Shehane

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

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


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

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May 20th, 2019

Stock Reborn: Second-Hand Anschutz Becomes F-Open Beauty

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.

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May 5th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: Costello Battles Storm Hannah with .300 WSM

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

Gary Costello recently won the Great Britain National League 600-yard Championship in F-Open class. Gary managed that impressive win despite Storm Hannah which caused torrential rain and 40 mph winds during the match, held at the Diggle ranges. Gary, a Forum member, reports that conditions were hellacious: “The weather was terrible, with horizontal rain and winds in excess of 40 mph. In fact, some shooters got blown clean off the target and many complete misses occurred.”

There’s a special story here, as Gary had been battling a life-threatening illness for many months. Gary told us: “This was my first National Competition since September 2018. I contracted a serious heart virus in October 2018. I was critically ill until January 2019. After undergoing treatment and 100% rest I recovered slowly, my focus was the 600-Yard Shoot in April. I am now 70% there and hopefully in another 4-6 months I hope to make a full recovery.” [Editor: Gary, we are glad you are on the road to recovery.]

In today’s Sunday GunDay story, we feature Gary’s American-crafted .300 WSM F-Open rifle. Note that Gary’s rifle has a Ezell barrel tuner and a recoil-reduction system in the buttstock. The .300 WSM does generate quite a kick with those big .30-caliber bullets.

Gary Costello’s .300 WSM F-Open Rifle

BAT M Action and Cerus Stock
This rifle was purchased from Jim Fowler (FalconPilot on the AccurateShooter Forum). This SG Rifles gun, crafted by smith Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez, is a .300 WSM with BAT ‘M’ action (with nitrided bolt) and Cerus riflestock. Gary owns two other Speedy-built rifles.

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

Gary tells us: “My BAT ‘M’ action is a multi-port so I feed with my left and it ejects on the right. Speedy has worked on the firing control and timing, and I fitted the roller-cocking piece to aid smoothness and speed.” The fluted shroud is Speedy’s signature for fire control work.

Stunning Lenzi Co-Axial Front Rest
Gary tells us this impressive joy-stick rest “is a superb piece of engineering .. made by my good friend Alberto Lenzi.” Note the large stable base, and the deluxe counter-balance weight on the front end. Gary also uses a very nice leather rear sandbag crafted by Lenzi.

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

Riflescope — Prototype March 10-60×56 High Master
Gary Costello’s company is the European distributor for March Scopes. Gary was testing this scope as it has a new temperature-tolerant lens system to be released later this year

Gary Costello England UK F-Class .300 WSM Win Short Magnum Speedy BAT Action SG Rifles

.300 WSM Load Details — H4350 with Berger 215gr Hybrids
Gary was shooting pointed Berger 215gr Hybrid bullets in Norma .300 WSM cartridge brass. The powder was Hodgdon H4350 with Muron KVB7 primers. Gary say his load runs around 2850 fps, and is very accurate. To demonstrate, here is a three-round, 100-yard test target, with a group measuring in the ones. Pretty impressive for a big bullet and a short magnum cartridge.

Gary Costello F-Class Great Britain UK .300 WSM Speedy

Gary Costello F-Class Great Britain UK .300 WSM Speedy

The UK has some wonderful places to shoot. This photo was taken at Blair Atholl in the Highlands of Scotland. Gary says “This is one of my favorite ranges and probably the hardest range to shoot in the UK. Due to the topography of the range you have to alter elevation as well as wind for pick-up and let-off. They say ‘Diggle Ranges Bark’ but Blair Atholl Bites!”

Blast from the Past — At Blair Atholl Ranges in Scotland

Gary Costello Blair Atholl Scotland Ranges

One of Europe’s very best F-Class competitors, Gary is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Here he is at the Blair Atholl Ranges in Scotland after a major victory a few seasons back. Gary says: “Blair Atholl, in the Estate of Blair Castle, is very scenic. The range is very tricky and is known as the hardest range in the UK to shoot due to the location of the targets cut into the hillside and valley. When the wind is at full value you often have to add one-half MOA elevation to every 1 MOA of wind. So thinking wind and elevation every shot is very difficult. I won this match some time ago and I do not recall the score. However it was a decisive win, and all matches in the competition were held at 1000 yards.” Gary was using a different rifle, but it also was a .300 WSM with a BAT action. His load was Hodgdon H4831 with Berger 215gr Hybrids, Murom primers, and Norma brass.

GB 600-Yard Championship — Gary’s Shot-by-Shot Report

The event was the first GB National League event of the year, our only short range (600-yard) match. This is actually one month later than usual in hope the weather would be better, sadly that wasn’t the case!

I won the Championship, five points clear of runner-up Ian Boxall. My final score was 241-18V out of a maximum of 250. The course of fire was reduced due to Storm Hannah on Saturday. It was decided by our committee that for safety we should shoot under cover (Diggle has a 600-yard covered firing point). The goal was to get at least one match to allow the competition to continue on the Sunday.

When I saw the condition and the flags I decided I needed to shoot as quick as possible as wind speed and direction were changing in seconds….

So I shot like stink only watching one flag and the other targets and my shot indication on the target screen. My first sighter was a score One left (a FIVE on the U.S F-Class target). But after adjusting, my second sighter was a One right — so there were pick-ups and let offs of about FIVE MOA!

I split the difference and went for score, my first shot was a Four (Nine on USA target) which I then adjusted on and held accordingly for the rest of the string using the other targets as indication and the one flag I had identified, it went pretty well.

Day Two (Sunday) weather was completely different, much better with no rain. We were first up at 0900 and the winds were light with subtle changes. This was a two sighters and 20-shot match, I started well with two V sighters which were converted, my partner Richard Sharman also had a good start and we proceeded through the string shooting Vs and Fives until Richard’s shots started to not register, this happened three times so it was decided I would continue and Richard would shoot again on another target. This caused a lot of delay and disruption. I had lost my path and wind, due to the delay I was allowed a non-convertible sighter which was a Three. It took two further shots to get back into the swing and I then recovered and ended the shoot with a 97-10V.

For the Final Match, the wind had picked up and was causing quite a few lost points and curses. I knew I was three points clear going into this Final Match so I had to play it real safe not to drop shots and lose critical points. I favored a left 4-5 Ring hold so not to get caught on the pick-ups. I use the March MTR-2 reticle, on 40X this reticle is subtended at exactly one-half MOA and brackets the F-class target perfectly. I was not concerned about the V bull at this time, the plan paid off and I dropped two points only.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Gear Review, Shooting Skills 5 Comments »
April 28th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: The Modern .308 Win F-TR Rifle

F-TR Rifle laminated stock X-Ring Borden Action SEB Joy-Pod
A carpet is used up front for smoother tracking with the Joy-Pod’s flat, ski-style feet. The arms of the Joy-Pod were painted to match the stock. The rear bag features low-drag material on the ears.

On Sundays, we feature notable rifles that exhibit fine craftsmanship, quality components, and noteworthy shooting accessories. Today we are featuring an F-TR (F-Class Target Rifle) rig that showcases the types of components, and accessories used by top F-TR competitors — including a coaxial bipod and Labradar Chronograph. If you’re considering getting started in the F-TR game, take a close look at this modern F-TR build from Forum member DM.Oakes.

F-TR Rifle laminated stock X-Ring Borden Action SEB Joy-Pod

Modern F-TR Rig with Borden Action, Krieger Barrel, and SEB Joy-Pod
This handsome .308 Win F-TR rig features a smooth-running Borden BRM action, 30-inch 1:10″-twist Krieger barrel, and an X-Ring Laminated Wood stock. Up front is a coaxial “Joy-Pod” joystick bipod. This is a state-of-the art, wide footprint bipod used by many competitors at the Worlds in Canada. The long joystick allows the “driver” to quickly adjust both elevation and windage in a smooth, continuous motion. The Joy-Pod can be adjusted so it will hold setting during the shot — you don’t have to “hard-hold” the joystick. Many shooters let the joystick slide through their fingers as the rifle moves back on recoil. With a little practice (and careful placement of the rear sand-bag), the tracking is excellent and you can slide the gun right back to point of aim after each shot.

Action: Borden BRM
Trigger: Blue-printed Jewell BR
Barrel: Krieger 30″ / 4-Groove / 1:10″ twist (.30 Cal)
Chamber: .308 Winchester with 0.170 Freebore
Stock: X-Ring Laminated F-Class
Scope: Nightforce 12-42x56mm Competition
Potential Name: Blue Thunder

F-TR Rifle laminated stock X-Ring Borden Action SEB Joy-Pod
This F-TR rifle is shown during load testing with a LabRadar chronograph.

» Full LabRadar Field Test/Review by Ray Gross

If you are considering purchasing a LabRadar Chronograph system, we strongly suggest you read the very thorough and informative LabRadar Review by Ray Gross, past Captain of the USA F-TR team. Ray notes: “It takes me about 3 minutes to set up [my LabRadar] at the range. Because there are no downrange screens, I do not have to hold up other shooters on the range like I would when setting up a traditional chronograph. The convenience alone will mean that I will use it more often than my old chronograph. Every time I take it out, I enjoy it a little bit more.”

Bart Sauter Ray Gross LabRadar Benchrest Review Chronograph Bench tripod

Permalink - Articles, Competition, Gear Review 2 Comments »
April 7th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: State-of-the-Art .284 Win F-Open Rifle

David Christian F-Class F-Open .284 Win winchester competition match rifle John Masek Borden action Brux Barrel

We know our readers like accurate rifles — the more accurate the better. You guys also love really great craftsmanship and state-of-the art componentry. To satisfy that lust for amazing, accurate rifles, we’re starting a new feature — Sunday GunDay. We’ll try to do this a couple Sundays a month, provided we have some great candidates. For our first Sunday GunDay feature, we are presenting a stunning .284 Win F-Open match rifle owned by David Christian of Team Borden/Brux/Lapua. This impressive rig is as good as it gets in the F-Open game. The write-up is by David’s friend, Forum member F-Class John.

David Christian F-Class F-Open .284 Win winchester competition match rifle John Masek Borden action Brux Barrel

Tips For Competitors from David Christian

1. Tracking is Really Important. I learned this lesson from Bill Brown. Make sure your rifle is tracking exactly on your bags. If you slide the gun back and forth and it does not line up on your original aim point, something is out of alignment with you rear bag or mat and needs to be adjusted.

2. Wind Calls — Be Brave. Don’t be timid with your wind calls. It is better to err with a slight over-correction, rather than miss a change entirely.

3. More Data is Good. Keep track of as much data as you can so that you can learn from it. For example I shoot as much as I can with my chrono and track my load speeds so that I can tell if I am drifting out of my node.

David Christian’s .284 Win F-Open Rig

Report by F-Class John
Here’s match rifle that’s as handsome as it is effective (and accurate!). In its first-ever tournament, this impressive rig took 8th place overall in F-Open at the 2019 Berger Southwest Nationals. This .284 Win hammer was wielded by David Christian, the newest member of Team Borden/Brux/Lapua. David built this .284 Winchester around a Borden BRMXD action with black PVD coating and a Jewell BR trigger. What I found fascinating is that David had built all of this before ever being approached for the team. When I asked him how that worked out, he simply said he picked the components he liked the best and knew would do the job. It was just the universe in action that he’s now on the team that matches his gear and he’s certainly not complaining that he gets to represent them now.

David Christian F-Class F-Open .284 Win winchester competition match rifle John Masek Borden action Brux Barrel

David uses a custom-contour 32″-long Brux 1:8.5″-twist barrel that tapers from 1.35” to 1.25” because he likes the extra stability and weight it brings. It’s all mounted in an amazingly-crafted Cerus Stock (Speedy Gonzales “Spear of Destiny” design). While Will McCloskey built the stock, it was finished to perfection by Devin Wiggett and mounted by Terry Wright of Right Rifle in Oregon. You might also notice that the buttstock features a R.A.D. recoil system which adds the final touch to the system.

Stunning Laminated Maple/Cherry/Walnut/Wenge Cerus Stock
When asked what people comment on when they see his gun, David says it’s the stock, hands down. Having handled this gun myself, I have to agree and believe me when I say the pictures don’t do it justice. The exterior forearms are torrified Maple while the core is made up of Brazilian Cherry, Walnut, and African Wenge wood. It makes for an ultra-strong stock with stunning beauty to match.

David Christian F-Class F-Open .284 Win winchester competition match rifle John Masek Borden action Brux Barrel

David currently tops this beauty with a Kahles K1050 10-50x56mm scope featuring the MOAK reticle. David really likes the 20 MOA per revolution dial as well as the top-mounted parallax adjustment. This is especially helpful for him as David shoots left-handed. Most scopes have a left-side parallax knob which is difficult for him to use during a match.

David Christian F-Class F-Open .284 Win winchester competition match rifle John Masek Borden action Brux Barrel

You can’t have a rifle this good-looking and functional without riding on the right gear. David uses a Protektor DR Bag and a SEB Special Edition NEO coaxial front rest. All told it took nearly six months to get all the parts delivered and assembled but he looks at that as a short term loss and a long term gain. Using Erik Cortina’s load development methods with Berger 180gr Hybrid Target or 184gr Hybrid Target bullets and quality Lapua brass, David has achieved some amazing results. Here’s a representative target from a recent match. That’s mighty fine shooting!

David Christian F-Class F-Open .284 Win winchester competition match rifle John Masek Borden action Brux Barrel

If you want to “hit the ground running” in the F-Open game, this wouldn’t be bad setup to emulate and if you see David at a match, he’s always more than happy to talk to you about it.

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April 6th, 2019

Improve Your Shooting Skills with Multi-Discipline Training

Michelle Gallagher Cross Training

Guest Article By Michelle Gallagher, Berger Bullets
Let’s face it. In the world of firearms, there is something for everyone. Do you like to compete? Are you a hunter? Are you more of a shotgun shooter or rifle shooter? Do you enjoy running around between stages of a timed course, or does the thought of shooting one-hole groups appeal to you more? Even though many of us shoot several different firearms and disciplines, chances are very good that we all have a favorite. Are we spreading ourselves too thin by shooting different disciplines, or is it actually beneficial? I have found that participating in multiple disciplines can actually improve your performance. Every style of shooting is different; therefore, they each develop different skills that benefit each other.

How can cross-training in other disciplines help you? For example, I am most familiar with long-range prone shooting, so let’s start there. To be a successful long-range shooter, you must have a stable position, accurate ammunition, and good wind-reading skills. You can improve all of these areas through time and effort, but there are other ways to improve more efficiently. Spend some time practicing smallbore. Smallbore rifles and targets are much less forgiving when it comes to position and shot execution. Long-range targets are very large, so you can get away with accepting less than perfect shots. Shooting smallbore will make you focus more on shooting perfectly center shots every time. Another way to do this with your High Power rifle is to shoot on reduced targets at long ranges. This will also force you to accept nothing less than perfect. Shoot at an F-Class target with your iron sights. At 1000 yards, the X-Ring on a long range target is 10 inches; it is 5 inches on an F-Class target. Because of this, you will have to focus harder on sight alignment to hit a center shot. When you go back to the conventional target, you will be amazed at how large the ten ring looks.

Michelle Gallagher Cross Training

Also, most prone rifles can be fitted with a bipod. Put a bipod and scope on your rifle, and shoot F-TR. Shooting with a scope and bipod eliminates position and eyesight factors, and will allow you to concentrate on learning how to more accurately read the wind. The smaller target will force you to be more aggressive on your wind calls. It will also help encourage you to use better loading techniques. Nothing is more frustrating than making a correct wind call on that tiny target, only to lose the point out the top or bottom due to inferior ammunition. If you put in the effort to shoot good scores on the F-Class target, you will be amazed how much easier the long-range target looks when you return to your sling and iron sights. By the same token, F-Class shooters sometimes prefer to shoot fast and chase the spotter. Shooting prone can help teach patience in choosing a wind condition to shoot in, and waiting for that condition to return if it changes.

Benchrest shooters are arguably among the most knowledgeable about reloading. If you want to learn better techniques about loading ammunition, you might want to spend some time at benchrest matches. You might not be in contention to win, but you will certainly learn a lot about reloading and gun handling. Shooting F-Open can also teach you these skills, as it is closely related to benchrest. Benchrest shooters may learn new wind-reading techniques by shooting mid- or long-range F-Class matches.

Michelle Gallagher Cross TrainingPosition shooters can also improve their skills by shooting different disciplines. High Power Across-the-Course shooters benefit from shooting smallbore and air rifle. Again, these targets are very small, which will encourage competitors to be more critical of their shot placement. Hunters may benefit from shooting silhouette matches, which will give them practice when shooting standing with a scoped rifle. Tactical matches may also be good, as tactical matches involve improvising shots from various positions and distances. [Editor: Many tactical matches also involve hiking or moving from position to position — this can motivate a shooter to maintain a good level of general fitness.]

These are just a few ways that you can benefit from branching out into other shooting disciplines. Talk to the other shooters. There is a wealth of knowledge in every discipline, and the other shooters will be more than happy to share what they have learned. Try something new. You may be surprised what you get out of it. You will certainly learn new skills and improve the ones you already have. You might develop a deeper appreciation for the discipline you started off with, or you may just discover a new passion.

This article originally appeared in the Berger Bulletin. The Berger Bulletin blog contains the latest info on Berger products, along with informative articles on target shooting and hunting.

Article Find by EdLongrange.

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March 17th, 2019

Like Father Like Son — Emil Praslick IV Shoots First Rifle Match

father son emil praslick iii iv 3 4 f-tr .223 rem factory ammo x-count USAMU

Here’s a great “feel-good” story. You’ve probably heard of Emil Praslick III. He’s considered one of the best rifle coaches and wind readers on the planet. Now retired from the military, SFC Praslick served with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) as coach and instructor for many years. He also coached many USA rifle teams in international competition.

father son emil praslick iii iv 3 4 f-tr .223 rem factory ammo x-count USAMU

Well Emil has a son, who carries on the family lineage as Emil Praslick IV (EPIV). Young Emil just shot his first rifle competition, an F-TR event. Remarkably, the young man, just 12 years old, Beat “pops” in the final match of the day by four Xs. Well done!

Father Emil reports: “Took my son, Emil IV, who just turned 12, to his first rifle match today. He shot F-TR at 600 yards with a .223 Rem bolt rifle, factory 77 grain ammunition, and bipod. He had a blast, and in the last match, beat his old man by 4 Xs shooting the same setup. Great day, today.” Referring to EPIV, father Emil added: “He’s got the bug! If I start hand-loading for that rifle, he might be dangerous!”

Here are some comments from Facebook friends:

“Literal chip off the old block! Well done EPIV and his coach, EPIII” — Kelly H.

“That’s awesome!” — SFC Brandon Green (USAMU), 3-time Nat’l High Power Champion

“You are learning a new phase to your coaching playbook. One that has the potential for the very best memories. Good on you and best wishes!” — Kent Reeve

“I think you will find Emil, that shooting with your kids, and watching them ‘get it’ and their performance improve match to match, will be more satisfying than anything else you’ve ever done on a range. For you especially that will be significant, but I think that it will still hold true.” — Lance E.

“Good shooting young man. [Father] Emil… better get used to being beat by those young eyes. Been in your shoes.” — Tracy Hogg

“Emil… Tell your son you hate reloading. Teach him how and then tell him if he doesn’t have enough ammo he can’t shoot because you don’t have enough time to load your own and ammo is too expensive to buy! Congratulations and thank you for helping Amanda so much!” — Paul Elsenboss (father of USAMU shooter Amanda Elsenboss)

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March 14th, 2019

F-TR Champion Shares Winning Secrets in Vortex Video Podcast

Ian Klemm Vortex podcast F-Class F-TR shooting skills

Ian Klemm, 2017 F-TR USA National Champion, is one of America’s top F-Class shooters, both shooting individually and in team competition. Ian is known for his consistency, smooth gun handling, and an uncanny ability to shoot well even in the toughest wind conditions. In this Vortex Video, Ian and fellow long-range shooter Niles Richardson, reveal some of their competitive secrets, and wind-reading techniques. This video focuses primarily on F-Class competition but Ian and Niles also talk more broadly about the myriad factors that contribute to rifle accuracy. Topics include: match strategies, wind and mirage reading, barrel harmonics, bipods, and optics.

Vortex Nation Podcast Episode 57 Summary
From Vortex: Our original intent was to have just a podcast about the sport of F-Class shooting, but when you get these brainiacs (Ian Klemm and Niles Richardson) talking about their obsession… er… “Hobby” you better believe it’s going to turn into a full on long range shooting information assault to the brain. Fact of the matter is, in F-Class, the only thing that matters is long range accuracy – and when we say “Accuracy”, we’re talking about sub-MOA groups on paper at 1000 yards with .308 Wins. Every single aspect of an F-Class competitor’s game is completely dialed in for long range accuracy.

We talk about the guns, their bipods, wind, mirage, barrel harmonics and the special scopes F-Class competitors need for their rifles. Ian even goes so far as to tell us how much his rifle has moved prior to the bullet leaving his 30-inch barrel. Just a simple equation involving acceleration, terminal velocity, moment of inertia of the rifle and coefficient of friction of the bipod and rifle on the ground.

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March 14th, 2019

XIT Strategy — Candy Apple Red McMillan-Stocked F-TR Rig

F-TR McMillan Fiberglass stocks Michigan Phoenix Bipod SEB Joy-Pod

On Facebook recently we saw an F-TR rig belonging to Team Michigan F-TR Shooter Dale Lucy. This features a Pierce action and a McMillan XIT stock, customized with an eye-catching Candy Apple Red paint finish. Kelly McMillan observed: “I like seeing what a shooter does to make his stock fit his personality. Dale sanded off the texture and then gave his stock a high-gloss Candy Apple Red paint job — beautiful.”

F-TR McMillan Fiberglass stocks Michigan Phoenix Bipod SEB Joy-Pod

Dale wrote: “I recently purchased a second XIT stock so that I would have an exact copy as my backup rifle, I painted this one candy red over a black and gold marble base coat.” Dale praised McMillan for helping his team: “Thank you for your sponsorship of the Michigan F-TR team, we really appreciate it. I can attest that since I started to use your stock (XIT), my scores have improved significantly. I placed 10th at the Nationals last fall, and was the 8th place Master at the 2019 Berger SWN. In contrast I finished 10th from the bottom at the 2017 BSWN.” — Dale Lucy, SW Michigan

F-TR McMillan Fiberglass stocks Michigan Phoenix Bipod SEB Joy-Pod

Gear Upgrade for F-TR Bipods

F-TR McMillan Fiberglass stocks Michigan Phoenix Bipod SEB Joy-Pod

Here’s a smart upgrade that can improve the tracking and stability of your F-TR competition rifle. And better tracking can translate to higher scores. Kreativ Solutions offers a $55.00 Pivoting Feet Kit for the Phoenix Bipod. Kreativ’s pivoting feet are also offered for the SEB Joystick Bipod for $125.00.

F-TR McMillan Fiberglass stocks Michigan Phoenix Bipod SEB Joy-Pod

F-TR McMillan Fiberglass stocks Michigan Phoenix Bipod SEB Joy-Pod

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March 12th, 2019

Transformer — Stunning F-TR Rig Built from Factory Varmint Rifle

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics
This rifle started life as a factory Remington VSSF in .204 Ruger. With new stock, new barrel, and other upgrades it is now an ultra-accurate .223 Rem competition rifle.

Flames in the Snow…

Forum Member Brandon Schlund (aka “Bois Blanc Boy”), photographed this handsome flame-themed F-TR rifle against the snowy background of Michigan’s Bois Blanc Island. Brandon posted this to our long-running Pride and Joy Rifle Forum thread. He notes: “This is my first F-TR build, which started out as a stock Remington .204 Ruger. I had the action blue-printed, firing pin was bushed by Speedy, and I had a new bolt handle and knob installed by John Pierce.” This rifle is now fitted with a 3-groove Pac-Nor 1:6.5″-twist barrel chambered in .223 Remington to shoot the 90gr Bergers. Other components are: Kelbly KTS stock, Phoenix bipod, and Sightron 8-32x56mm SIII scope. Brandon says: “It took a long time to get this gun where it is now but I’m truly happy with it!” Here’s the “before” photo:

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics

The Transformation — F-TR Comp Rig Made from Rem .204 Ruger Varminter
This rifle started out as a “plain Jane”, factory Remington VSSF II. I shot it on varmint hunts in factory configuration. Then I decided to transform the rifle into a .223 Rem F-TR gun. As the .204 has the same bolt face as a .223 made sense to go in that direction since I would be able to use the gun for varmint hunting as well as F-TR.

While I had shot some F-Class matches with my dad (Joe Schlund aka Bench on AccurateShooter) it wasnt much. When we did a PD hunt in Wyoming I primarily shot my .204 but I decided I wanted a cartridge that could reach out a little further and also do double duty — competition and varminting.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics
CLICK HERE for full-screen photo.

The first step in transforming this rifle was selecting a barrel. We ordered a Pac-Nor, 1:6.5″-twist, 3 groove, 30.5″ heavy Palma contour. This was then chambered with a PTG .223 ISSF reamer with 0.169″ freebore to run the .224 caliber heavies. I went with Pac-Nor because both my father and my brother Mark (aka Labrador2 on AccurateShooter) owned Kelbly-built F-TR rifles with the same barrels. Mark and my father couldn’t be happier with the results. Pac-Nor has great customer service along with a short wait time.

I sent the barrel and the factory Remington 700 action down to Kelbly’s where they did the chambering and cut the threads. While Kelbly’s had my action I had them blueprint it. A Kelbly KTS stock with the three-way buttplate and adjustable cheek piece came next. After getting behind Dad’s rifle and Mark’s gun there was no reason to look any further. With all its adjustments, the KTS stock fits very comfortably.

Loading for the .223 Rem with H4895 and 90gr Bergers
As a .223 Rem, this rifle has proven very accurate — it’s a bullet-hole cutter at 100 yards (low twos easy). Our best load is with Hodgdon H4895, 90gr Berger VLDs, CCI BR4 primers. This load is running at about 2835 FPS but YMMV (remember this is a LONG 30.5″ barrel). The Bergers are loaded .008″ into the lands with base-to-ogive of 2.035″.

Our loading technique may be tedious — with lots of sorting and measuring. But brother Mark, father Joe, and I all enjoy the steps. Our three .223 Rem match guns all love the same load which makes loading much easier. Believe it or not we use a Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive ammo plant, which is great when loading for three guns. Our consistency is fantastic with run-out a mere .001-.0015.

We also turn necks and weigh our primers. Does neck-turning and primer weighing really make a difference? Who knows but we try to eliminate more variables since we have to the time to do it, and we actually enjoy the procedures.

Pierce Engineering Installed Action and Modified Bolt
Being from Michigan, Pierce Engineering has done a lot of work for my family’s guns. For this project the Pierce team bedded the action and glued in a single-shot follower. The stock bolt handle/knob was too short for comfort in the KTS stock. Pierce added a longer handle and tactical knob to the bolt. I then installed a .223 Rem Lapua case base into the knob.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics
The complete .223 Rem rifle ready to shoot F-TR, as fitted with 8-32X56mm Sightron and Phoenix Bipod, weighs 17 pounds, 15 ounces.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip HydrographicsFlame Graphics by Camo Creek Hydrographics
After the action was bedded by Pierce, the stock was sent to Camo Creek Hydrographics in Fenton, Michigan. I selected a flame-style design which Camo Creek applied through hydro-dipping. The stock went back to Pierce’s shop, which applied three coats of clear over the entire stock. The clear-coating really enhanced the flame graphics.

Firing Pin Bushed by Speedy
I sent the bolt to Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez to have the firing pin hole bushed as otherwise the load could crater the primers pretty bad. Knowing I’d be shooting heavy-weight .22-Cal bullets with a stout load this was a good idea. Speedy also cut his trademark grooves into the bolt shroud which looks amazing. His work is top notch! There is zero cratering now, even with the hottest of loads.

Competition Components — 8-32x56mm Sightron and Phoenix Bipod
For an F-TR rig you need a quality high-magnification optic and a premium, wide-base bipod. I installed a 8-32x56mm SIII Sightron. This was another easy choice because of the attractive price and because my family has four other Sightrons that work great.

I installed a fore-end Picatinny rail to attach a Phoenix Bipod. I extended the Mariners wheel handles by adding short sections from an aluminum arrow shaft. This lets me adjust elevation without stretching forward. I also installed a Calvin Elite Timney Trigger set at 6 ounces.

How much did this all cost? Brandon tells us “I have roughly $2500 into the rebuild of the gun from a .204 Ruger to the .223 Rem.”

Bois Blanc Island in Michigan
Here on Bois Blanc Island we don’t have many amenities, but we do have the ability to shoot 550 yards at our local gravel pit on state land. It’s snow-bound right now as you can see. But later in the year this will be our close-to-home training center.

Brandon .223 Rem F-TR Pac-Nor PacNor Varmint Remington VSSF John Pierce Hydro-dip Hydrographics

Winter at Bois Blanc Island, Michigan — Here’s the gravel pit where we can load test during
warmer weather. When I took this photo, it was a “balmy” 10-degree day.

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February 20th, 2019

Berger 2019 Southwest Nationals Report

2019 Berger Southwest Nationals SWN Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona Lapua Capstone F-Class

The 2019 Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) are history. It was a great event, with challenging conditions. Forum member Matt Peetz reports: “This year was one of the best — the toughest competitors battling for position in some tough conditions. You never knew how the day was going to end up.” For detailed results and more photos, visit the Desert Sharpshooters Facebook Page.

2019 Berger Southwest Nationals SWN Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona Lapua Capstone F-Class

This Berger SWN brings together sling shooters and F-Class competitors in one of the most popular rifle matches of the year, and definitely the biggest match West of the Mississippi. We congratulate the three divisional champions: Curtis Gordon (Sling), John Myers (F-Open), and Keith Trapp (F-TR)

2019 Berger Southwest Nationals SWN Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona Lapua Capstone F-Class

Keith Trapp won the F-TR division at the Berger SWN with the best overall Aggregate for the week. Keith’s name will be placed on the SWN Nightforce Perpetual Trophy overall. Fellow F-TR Shooter Luke Ramsey won the Berger Trophy for the 600-yard Individual Agg. Phil Kelley said: “It was pretty cool to see good friend Keith Trapp win it all. Our little Butner Club matches just make me smile. That’s 3 SWN champions riding in the same car many days.”

F-TR Top Three
Keith Trapp, 1227-44X; Peter Johns, 1224-40X; Ian Klemm, 1222-51X
(Special Mention: Fritz Braun, 1220-58X, High Senior)

F-Open Top Three
John Myers, 1244-71X; Stephen Potter, 1241-69X; Cody Richardson, 1241-62X
(Special Mention: Sixth Overall and F-Open Palma Match Winner, AccurateShooter System Admin Jay Christopherson, 1239-61X)

Sling (Palma) Top Three
Curtis Gordon, 1241-67X; Kent Reeve, 1241-52X; Oliver Milanovic, 1240-68X
(Special Mention: Tom Whitaker, 1232-55X, High Grand Senior)

2019 Berger Southwest Nationals SWN Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona Lapua Capstone F-Class

F-Open Team Results
Winner: Team Lapua-Brux-Borden, 2375-137X
Alphabetical Order: Jay Christopherson, Erik Cortina (Shooter/Captain), Tod Hendricks, Pat Scully, Bob Sebold (Coach); David Christian (Alt), Steve Harp (Alt)

Second Place: Team Grizzly, 2374-109X
Shiraz Balolia (Shooter/Captain), David Mann, John Meyers, Emil Kovan, Emil Praslick III (Coach)

Berger SW Nationals

F-TR Team Results
Winner: Team Texas, 2359-111X
Otis Riffey, Jason Peel, David Parck, Greg Barkley, Randy Littleton, Skip Barkley (Captain), Peter Johns (Coach)

Second Place: Team USA Freedom, 2345-108X
Ian Klemm, Wade Fillingame, Alan Barnhart, Fritz Braun, Kent Reeve (Captain); James Crofts (Coach)

Sling Team Results
Winner: Blazing Saddles, 2347-108X
Thomas Thompson, Andrew Wilde, Mike Kelley (Shooter/Captain), Oliver Milanovic (Shooter/Coach)

2019 Berger Southwest Nationals SWN Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona Lapua Capstone F-Class Sling Team Texas Blazing Saddles

Gary Eliseo said: “Congratulations to team Blazing Saddles — Mike Kelley, Tom Thompson, Andrew Wilde, and Oliver Milanovic winners of the gold medal in the team event of the 2019 BSWN matches. Well done!”

Berger SW Nationals Ben Avery

Second Place: Team U.S. National Black, 2346-107X
Steffen Bunde, Tony Miller, Yvonne Roberts, Jerry Iliff (Shooter/Captain), Yvonne Roberts (Shooter/Coach)

Friends in Life and on the Podium

2019 Berger Southwest Nationals SWN Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona Lapua Capstone F-Class

Congratulations to Allen Thomas and Gary Eliseo who both shot great in the “Any Rifle” class, a subdivision of the sling division. Both men were shooting Eliseo Chassis Rifles with Pierce Engineering’s new Gen 2 short-cycle Ultra slick actions. Gary noted: “I’m honored to share the podium with my friend and teammate Allen Thomas (first place ‘Any Rifle’) and me (second place ‘Any Rifle’) winners at the 2019 BSWN matches.

Berger SWN southwest nationals

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