February 12th, 2019

How to Avoid a Train Wreck at the Berger SW Nationals

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

Today is Day One of the Berger Southwest Nationals, at the Ben Avery Range outside Phoenix, AZ. There will be a 600-yard mid-range match. Many of the nation’s most talented F-Class and sling shooters will be there. But no matter what your skill level, it is still possible to make major mistakes, that can spoil the day and/or put you out of the running for the entire match.

Berger SW Nationals mid-range match
Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher.

Berger SW Nationals mid-range match

In any shooting competition, you must try to avoid major screw-ups that can ruin your day (or your match). In this article, past F-TR National Mid-Range and Long Range Champion Bryan Litz talks about “Train Wrecks”, i.e. those big disasters (such as equipment failures) that can ruin a whole match. Bryan illustrates the types of “train wrecks” that commonly befall competitors, and he explains how to avoid these “unmitigated disasters”.

Urban Dictionary “Train Wreck” Definition: “A total @#$&! disaster … the kind that makes you want to shake your head.”

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballisticsTrain Wrecks (and How to Avoid Them)
by Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics LLC.

Success in long range competition depends on many things. Those who aspire to be competitive are usually detail-oriented, and focused on all the small things that might give them an edge. Unfortunately it’s common for shooters lose sight of the big picture — missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.

Consistency is one of the universal principles of successful shooting. The tournament champion is the shooter with the highest average performance over several days, often times not winning a single match. While you can win tournaments without an isolated stellar performance, you cannot win tournaments if you have a single train wreck performance. And this is why it’s important for the detail-oriented shooter to keep an eye out for potential “big picture” problems that can derail the train of success!

Train wrecks can be defined differently by shooters of various skill levels and categories. Anything from problems causing a miss, to problems causing a 3/4-MOA shift in wind zero can manifest as a train wreck, depending on the kind of shooting you’re doing.

Berger SW Nationals
Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher.

Below is a list of common Shooting Match Train Wrecks, and suggestions for avoiding them.

1. Cross-Firing. The fastest and most common way to destroy your score (and any hopes of winning a tournament) is to cross-fire. The cure is obviously basic awareness of your target number on each shot, but you can stack the odds in your favor if you’re smart. For sling shooters, establish your Natural Point of Aim (NPA) and monitor that it doesn’t shift during your course of fire. If you’re doing this right, you’ll always come back on your target naturally, without deliberately checking each time. You should be doing this anyway, but avoiding cross-fires is another incentive for monitoring this important fundamental. In F-Class shooting, pay attention to how the rifle recoils, and where the crosshairs settle. If the crosshairs always settle to the right, either make an adjustment to your bipod, hold, or simply make sure to move back each shot. Also consider your scope. Running super high magnification can leave the number board out of the scope’s field view. That can really increase the risk of cross-firing.

2. Equipment Failure. There are a wide variety of equipment failures you may encounter at a match, from loose sight fasteners, to broken bipods, to high-round-count barrels that that suddenly “go south” (just to mention a few possibilities). Mechanical components can and do fail. The best policy is to put some thought into what the critical failure points are, monitor wear of these parts, and have spares ready. This is where an ounce of prevention can prevent a ton of train wreck. On this note, if you like running hot loads, consider whether that extra 20 fps is worth blowing up a bullet (10 points), sticking a bolt (DNF), or worse yet, causing injury to yourself or someone nearby.

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

[Editor’s Note: The 2016 F-Class Nationals will employ electronic targets so conventional pit duties won’t be required. However, the following advice does apply for matches with conventional targets.]

3. Scoring/Pit Malfunction. Although not related to your shooting technique, doing things to insure you get at least fair treatment from your scorer and pit puller is a good idea. Try to meet the others on your target so they can associate a face with the shooter for whom they’re pulling. If you learn your scorer is a Democrat, it’s probably best not to tell Obama jokes before you go for record. If your pit puller is elderly, it may be unwise to shoot very rapidly and risk a shot being missed (by the pit worker), or having to call for a mark. Slowing down a second or two between shots might prevent a 5-minute delay and possibly an undeserved miss.

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics4. Wind Issues. Tricky winds derail many trains. A lot can be written about wind strategies, but here’s a simple tip about how to take the edge off a worse case scenario. You don’t have to start blazing away on the command of “Commence fire”. If the wind is blowing like a bastard when your time starts, just wait! You’re allotted 30 minutes to fire your string in long range slow fire. With average pit service, it might take you 10 minutes if you hustle, less in F-Class. Point being, you have about three times longer than you need. So let everyone else shoot through the storm and look for a window (or windows) of time which are not so adverse. Of course this is a risk, conditions might get worse if you wait. This is where judgment comes in. Just know you have options for managing time and keep an eye on the clock. Saving rounds in a slow fire match is a costly and embarrassing train wreck.

5. Mind Your Physical Health. While traveling for shooting matches, most shooters break their normal patterns of diet, sleep, alcohol consumption, etc. These disruptions to the norm can have detrimental effects on your body and your ability to shoot and even think clearly. If you’re used to an indoor job and eating salads in air-conditioned break rooms and you travel to a week-long rifle match which keeps you on your feet all day in 90-degree heat and high humidity, while eating greasy restaurant food, drinking beer and getting little sleep, then you might as well plan on daily train wrecks. If the match is four hours away, rather than leaving at 3:00 am and drinking five cups of coffee on the morning drive, arrive the night before and get a good night’s sleep.”

Keep focused on the important stuff. You never want to lose sight of the big picture. Keep the important, common sense things in mind as well as the minutia of meplat trimming, weighing powder to the kernel, and cleaning your barrel ’til it’s squeaky clean. Remember, all the little enhancements can’t make up for one big train wreck!

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February 11th, 2019

2019 Berger Southwest Nationals — This Week in Arizona

The 2019 Berger Southwest Nationals, one of the biggest (and best) rifle competitions of the year, kicks off Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at the Ben Avery Range outside Phoenix, Arizona. The big match continues through Sunday, February 17th. This match attracts the top F-Class and sling shooters in the country, along with many talented foreign competitors.

Talk to the competitors and many will tell your that the SWN is their favorite match of the year. For those in Northern states, the chance to enjoy some Arizona sunshine is a big draw, along with the quality of the competition, and the camaraderie.

berger southwest nationals Berger SWN

The Berger SW Nationals are made possible through the principal support of Berger Bullets and Lapua, both part of the Capstone Precision Group, which also distributes Vihtavuori powder and SK Ammunition in the USA. Berger and Lapua both generously donated product prizes for 2019 SWN competitors.

Berger SW Nationals

Here’s a cool video from the 2016 Berger SW Nationals. This includes drone footage of the range:

Berger SW Nationals 2019

Berger SW Nationals 2019

Berger SW Nationals Southwest Arizona

Event Schedule for 2019 Berger SWN

Wednesday, 13 February 2019, 9:00 AM
Mid-Range Match – Three 20-shot matches at 600 yards. (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Any Sight, F-Open, F-TR)

Thursday, 14 February 2019, 9:00 AM
4-Man Palma Team Match – 15 shots for record at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. (Divisions – Palma, F-Open, F-TR)

Friday, 15 February 2019, 8:30 AM – Start of Grand Agg
Individual Palma Match – 15 shots for record at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. (Divisions – Palma, F-Open, F-TR)
Swap Meet at 1000 Yard Line after conclusion of Day’s Match

Saturday, 16 February 2019, 8:30 AM
Individual 1000 Yard Matches – Two 20-shot matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
4 Man Team Match – 20 shots at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
Banquet Dinner – Approximately 5:00 pm at Indoor Range.

Sunday, 17 February 2019, 8:30 AM
Individual 1000 Yard Matches – Two 20-shot matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Any Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Any Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
Awards Ceremony at the Indoor Range.

Sling Shooters in Palma Division
There will be many Eliseo tubeguns in the hands of the sling shooters. For the Palma division, the cartridge of choice is the .308 Winchester (7.62.x51). This versatile cartridge is still capable of extreme accuracy. Never underestimate a skilled sling shooter with a good Palma rifle.

Berger 2019 SW Nationals SWN

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Packing for the Match — Protecting Precious Cargo

Forum member David Christian will be attending the Berger SW Nationals this week. He has an impressive new F-Open rig and a top-flight SEB rest to bring. David’s Open-class rifle features a beautiful laminated stock, with Borden action and Kahles optic. With rest, and spotting scope, you’re looking at $6K easy, so David has packed his gear very carefully:

Berger 2019 SW Nationals SWN
Berger 2019 SW Nationals SWN
Berger 2019 SW Nationals SWN

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February 7th, 2019

Budget Hauler — Transport Your Gear with $56 Welding Cart

Welding Cart Range Cart

Creedmoor Sports Range Cart CRC-1The Berger SW Nationals is coming up in a couple weeks. At that match, the sling shooters and F-Class competitors need to haul lots of gear from parking lot to the firing line, and then move from yardage to yardage. Along with their rifles, shooters need to bring mats, front rests or bipods, spotting scopes (with stands), rear bags, ammo boxes, log sheets, tool kits, and heavy coats (for the sling shooters).

To do the hauling, you can certainly purchase a factory-made, purpose-built cart that folds up and has all the bells and whistles. The Creedmoor Sports CRC-1 (photo right) is a proven, quality product that works great. You’ll find these used by top shooters at Camp Perry. But the Creedmoor CRC-1 cart costs $499.95. For a fraction of that price ($55.99), plus a few dollars more for do-it-yourself enhancements, you can have a heavy-duty cart that will haul all your gear just fine, though it doesn’t fold up. In the top photo is a Harbor Freight Welding Cart we saw at the Berger Southwest Nationals. This rig is carrying a rifle in hard gun case, bipod, folding chair, shooting mat, tripod, spotting scope, rear sand-bag, and ammo box — that’s a lot of gear!

Welding Cart Range CartWelding Cart Range Cart

Check out the Harbor Freight Welding Cart, item #65939. This cart is ON SALE right now for just $59.99. Overall size is 29-1/2″ L x 20″ W x 49″ H, and width between side rails is 18″. The wheels (with tires) are 20 3/4″ in diameter for smooth rolling. Consider that, if you made your own cart from scratch you could easily pay $30.00 or more just for the large-diameter wheels and axle. Do note — this cart has air-filled tires. Be sure to inflate before you go to the Range!

This Cart is now on sale for just $55.99 — GREAT DEAL!

As sold, the Harbor Freight Welding Cart can benefit from upgrades for range use. But with a few bungee cords (and some creativity), the cart can be adapted pretty easily to hauling your gun gear. If you want to enhance the basic cart, it’s easy to add plastic side-panels on the bottom unit, and fit a barrel-holding system on the cross-tube. This ensures rifles and gear won’t flop forward. (A small piece of wood under the bottom panel provides a bit of extra lift that will keep the bottom plate out of the dirt and gravel.)

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February 12th, 2018

Berger SW Nationals 2018 — Looking Back at a Great Event

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone
Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher

The 2018 Berger SW Nationals are now history. The fun, action, challenges, and rewards now pass into memories. Once again, the Berger SWN was a great shooting match — a great way to advance your shooting skills, reconnect with old friends, and enjoy warm weather. If you are a serious long-range shooter, this is definitely one of the best-managed, most rewarding matches on the planet. In 2018 the match “sold out” in a matter of hours. If you plan to go next year, watch for the registration notices. You don’t want to be left out.

Berger Southwest Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Capstone

2018 Berger Southwest Nationals Long Range Results

The SWN has three new individual champions. Congratulations to the three divisional Match Winners: Bob Sebold (F-Open), Phillip Kelley Jr. (F-TR), and Allen Thomas (Sling).

Top Five Overall – F-Open
Bob Sebold, 843-49X
Keith Glasscock, 843-38X
Jay Christopherson, 841-45X
Stephen Potter, 841-37X
James Crofts, 841-34X
Top Five Overall – F-TR
Phillip Kelley Jr., 838-35X
Ellis Berry, 837-42X
Niklas Montin, 836-35X
Peter Johns, 835-36X
Edward Shelley, 832-33X
Top Five Overall – Sling
Allen Thomas, 844-37X
Oliver Milanovic, 843-45X
Trudie Fay, 842-32X
Nancy Tompkins, 840-43X
Angus McLeod, 840-43X

View Complete SWN Match Results on McMillan Facebook Page »

Berger Southwest Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Capstone

The Berger SW Nationals are made possible through the principal support of Berger Bullets and Lapua, both part of the Capstone Precision Group, which also distributes Vihtavuori powder and SK Ammunition in the USA. Berger and Lapua both generously donated product prizes for 2018 SWN competitors.

Berger Southwest Nationals Berger Lapua Capstone

Today’s Champions… And Tomorrow’s New Talent

Here is the Sling Winner, Allen Thomas, with Bill Gravatt, President of Capstone Precision Group. (Bill was formerly the President of Sinclair International).

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

Bob Sebold, of Team Lapua/Brux/Borden also won the individual F-Class SWN Title. He’s definitely one of the nation’s top F-Open pilots.

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

There were a dozen or so talented juniors competing at the Berger SW Nationals. Some of the youngsters posted scores that would put the “old guys” to shame. We definitely expect to see some of these young shooters standing on the podium at future Berger SWN events. We asked them to strike a “cool pose” and the Harris boys delivered…

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

Berger SW Nationals Gallery — Parting Shots

Does this competitor know something we don’t know. Perhaps he is testing a new “Stealth” rifle stock from McMillan. Or maybe this is some kind of Zen body/mind melding practice. We do advocate “dry firing”, but that normally involves holding a real rifle…

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

Look carefully and you’ll see quite a lot reflected in this SWN competitor’s shooting eyewear. Can you identify the type of rifle?

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

Michelle Gallagher — She’s probably smiling at an ‘X’ — or maybe she just nailed a tough wind call. The SW Nationals is a great event because of the hard work and dedication of talented folks like Michelle.

Berger Southwest Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Capstone

Can you name all the pieces of hardware in this image? We see at least a dozen. Don’t forget the little items like the bubble level and mirage shield.

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

How do you anchor a SEB MINI coaxial rest in under ten seconds? With MAXI feet of course! These over-size hooves belong to shooter Mark Fairbairn, a very tall, MAXI-sized Australian. Who needs to pound those F-Class feet into the ground with a mallet when you can simply “stand and deliver”.

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

We think some competitors came to Ben Avery just for the great Barbecue lunches — well that plus the great weather and the amazing prize table. Everyone goes home a winner in one way or another.

Berger Southwest Nationals food barbecue BBQ

Texas gunsmith Richard King showed us the biggest rifle action we’ve ever seen. This 13-lb monster is the BAT .50 BMG Action. Honestly it was HUGE — with the bolt fully extended it was the size of your forearm (to the finger tips). Richard joked “This weighs almost as much as an F-TR rifle (before optic) all by itself”.

Berger Southwest Nationals Bill Gravatt Capstone

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August 27th, 2017

Berger Southwest Nationals 2018 — Registration Opens

Berger Bullets SWN SW Nationals Southwest Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona

Registration has opened for the 2018 Berger Southwest Nationals at the Ben Avery Range in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a GREAT match, the best in the West by far. The match runs February 5-11, 2018. By all means, attend if you can. The Grand Agg filled up last year, so we recommend you register soon.

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Berger’s SWN team reports: “Registrations for the 2018 Southwest Nationals open on Sunday, August 27th, at 6:00 am (PST). CLICK HERE for the Match Program (it is also available on the Desert Sharpshooters website and Berger Bullets website). We are also moving to an online registration this year, and entry fees will be paid online. Please note that due to our capacity limitations, each stage of the match is listed as a separate event. Please be sure to enter each of the stages you plan to participate in. This will allow us to include as many people as possible. If you have any questions, send email to michelle.gallagher [at] bergerbullets.com.”


2018 SWN Match Program PDF | 2018 SWN Online Registration

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Rekindle Old Friendships and Meet New Friends
Some shooters come to to the SW Nationals for the swag (the prize table is amazing). Others come for the sunshine (think warm 75-85° weather). And even more folks come to try out their shiny new toys and to test their skills against the nation’s best shooters.

But we’d say the number one reason most folks make the pilgrimage to Ben Avery every year is the camaraderie — the chance to connect with friends, rekindling connections that may go back decades. Fundamentally, then, the Berger SWN is about the people. For many of us, this is the only time of the year when we get a chance to meet fellow shooters from distant corners of the USA (and other nations).

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Compete Against the Best
If you want to test your mettle against some of the best shooters in the world, get yourself to Ben Avery in February. Here you can compete, shoulder to shoulder, against the best Sling and F-Class shooters on the planet. Guys like Derek Rodgers (newly-crowned F-TR World Champion), John Whidden (reigning Long Range National Champion), Nancy Tompkins (the first women to win the National High Power Championship), and Kenny Adams (past World F-Open Class Champion). If you want to play in the Big Leagues, Ben Avery is the place. Having said that, novice shooters will enjoy the experience as well, because you’ll find that these top shooters are (almost universally) happy to share their knowledge.

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Just to whet your appetite, here are videos from recent Berger SW Nationals. Yes, this match is as much fun as it looks!

Berger SW Nationals 2017

The North-by-Southwest team set new National Records in winning the 2017 F-TR team event.
Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Berger SW Nationals 2016

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Berger SW Nationals 2015

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

The Brain Trust — Experts Galore
The best minds of the shooting world come to Ben Avery every year. Got a question about ballistics? Well, Ballistics Guru Bryan Litz (photo below) will be happy to answer your questions between relays. Want some expert advice about wind reading? Seek out Mid Tompkins (usually found hanging around the club-house) or Emil Praslick, one of the most knowledgeable wind coaches on the planet. And if you have a gunsmithing question, you’ll find some of the top barrel-fitters and stock makers, including Doan Trevor and Gary Eliseo.

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

Berger Southwest South West SW Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix Arizona F-Class Palma Registration

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February 15th, 2016

Berger Southwest Nationals — Match Wrap-Up


This video includes interviews with Walt Berger and tube-gun builder Gary Elesio. This is our final Berger SW Nationals video for 2016, so enjoy the highlights from Ben Avery — see you next year.

The 2016 Berger Southwest Nationals are now history. This was a great match, with an incredible level of talent. There were numerous “big names” on the line, including reigning F-Open World Champion Kenny Adams, 10-time National High Power Champion Carl Bernosky, past National Long-range Champion John Whidden, current National Mid- and Long-Range F-TR Champion Bryan Litz, and Derek Rodgers, who won the F-TR division at last year’s SW Nationals. With a strong performance this week, Derek topped the F-TR field again, securing his second straight SW Nationals F-TR title.

Top Five Shooters by Class

F-TR Top Five F-Open Top Five Sling Division Top Five
Derek Rodgers
James Crofts
Niklas Montin
Bryan Litz
Ian Klemm
John Myers
Larry Bartholome
Jim Murphy
Emil Kovan
Danny J. Biggs
Patrick McCann
Oliver Milanovic
Robert Stekette
Nancy Tompkins
Tom Whitaker

In team competition, the Michigan F-TR Team scored a narrow victory over tough competition from the USA F-TR Team and the X-Men. In the F-Open Division, Team Lapua-Brux shot superbly at 1000 yards to capture the Aggregate title, finishing ahead of Team Grizzly and Team Berger. The Ethnic Fringe Team from the UK had strong performances in the Sling Division Team events.

With his 2016 victory, Derek Rodgers has secured back-to-back F-TR titles at the Berger Southwest Nationals. He says he likes his new McMillan F-TR stock. View yesterday’s feature video for a revealing interview with Derek. In that video, Derek discusses the best bullet and powder choices for F-TR.

Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Ben Avery

Members of the winning Lapua-Brux F-Open team were all smiles. They deserved to be proud — they set a new SWN record in the 1000-yard team match. Left to right: Bob Sebold, Pat Scully, Erik Cortina, Steve Harp.

Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Ben Avery

Here is F-Open Winner John Myers of Texas, along with Berger’s F-Open Perpetual Trophy. John is interviewed in today’s video, linked at the top of this story. John’s F-Open rifle is chambered for the 7mm Walker, a .284 Win Improved similar to the .284 Shehane.

Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Ben Avery

Sling Division (Palma rifle) winner Patrick McCann is congratulated by Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. Pat has recently returned to competitive shooting after a lengthy hiatus. Pat’s a great competitor who has won the National XTC Championships Twice. Nancy Tompkins lead the “Any Rifle” Sling category. As Forum member Rheurer observed: “No intro needed for the nicest person in the sport.”

Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Ben Avery

Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Ben Avery

berger southwest 2016

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February 14th, 2016

Valentine’s Day Showdown — Berger SW Nationals Report

Today’s the final day of the Berger Southwest Nationals, with individual Sling, F-TR, and F-Open matches on tap. The competition remains tight, with many shooters within striking distance for podium positions. Predictions are for light and variable winds for the day. We’re sad to see the fun come to a close. This is a special event, drawing top shooters from around the nation. As James Crofts told is: “It’s always great to see good friends and fellow shooters from far and near….”

One shot left… will that last bullet end up in the X-ring? We hope so…

If you’ve never shot this match, you should. You’ll squad alongside the nation’s best long-range shooters, and you’ll enjoy a superb facility. The desert range at Ben Avery is something special — check out a “birds-eye view” with our latest video from the match. This video also includes an interview with Derek Rodgers, the only man who who has earned both F-Open AND F-TR National titles. We strongly recommend you watch this video.

“Must-Watch” SWN Video has aerial view of Ben Avery plus highlights from Saturday

Yesterday, Saturday, marked the conclusion of the Team events. In the F-TR division, Michigan extended its lead to win Gold while the U.S. Rifle Team (USRT) held on for silver for the overall team title. Notably, ten of the twelve shooters making up the top three squads are members of the USRT, as are the top two coaches. Congrats to all.

Phil Kelley reports that Saturday’s F-TR team match went down to the wire: “It was a fun 1000-yard team day at SW Nationals. Good to use a teammate’s backup gun to finally be competitive at something. Congrats to Team Michigan for the big win, both for the day and overall. There was great competition today with Michigan winning by 1 point (and some Xs) over X-men and X-men getting Team Virginia/USA by 1 point and some Xs. Great shooting by all.”

Phil added that: “Dan Lentz continues to perform well with another great day and maintains the overall lead going into the final day. Derek Rodgers, Bryan Litz, and Jim Crofts are on his heels but Dan looks confident.” Tomorrow, here on the Daily Bulletin, we will provide final individual results from the match, along with all the final team results.

Snapshots from the Berger Southwest Nationals

Here’s one of the new Borden wide-body actions in a Shurley Brothers stock. The timing on this action is insanely good, making it very smoooooth to operate.

This Scottish shooter showed some style on the range, with his traditional Scottish tweed cap. That’s classy. No floppy boonie hat for this dapper lad.

Take a look at the very useful information card. Note that it shows mirage patterns and provides suggested windage and elevation corrections for all yardages.

Check out the handsome, 3D-effect Stars and Stripes finish applied to this F-TR Rifle. Note that the right-handed shooter is running a Left-Bolt, Left Port action, with a SEB Joy-Pod up front.

Here’s the brand-new F-Class front rest from Competition Machine. This 38-lb beast features a belt-drive elevation adjustment, joy-stick windage, and rotary pivoting head to align with your target.

Rewards for Berger SWN Participants

The Berger SW Nationals has one of the richest prize tables in the shooting sports. This Saturday night, nearly 400 participants received a variety of participation prizes and raffle awards. In addition, winners were announced for some of the events which concluded earlier in the week. Gunsmith John Pierce came up a big winner with a kiss from his lady and a Team Trophy for the Michigan F-TR Squad.

Berger SW Nationals prizes

Berger SW Nationals prizes

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February 10th, 2016

2016 Berger Southwest Nationals Commence in Arizona

2016 Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Arizona AZ
Checking conditions at break of day. This week Phoenix will offer cool nights and warm days, with daytime temps in the mid- to high 80s (F).

2016 Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Arizona AZThe Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN), is the biggest, most prestigious long-range shooting match west of the Mississipi. The SW Nationals, which run February 9-14, 2016, kicked off on Tuesday the 9th with a shooting clinic at the Ben Avery 1000-yard Range. This gave competitors a chance to confirm their zeros, study the conditions at Ben Avery, and prep their “mental game” for the upcoming competition. This will be a huge event, with over 370 shooters from all over the USA and many foreign countries. The SW Nationals attracts top F-Class and Sling shooters, lured by the quality of the competition and a huge prize table. This is truly a “world-class” event.

Tuesday’s shooting clinic started with a class on Exterior Ballistics hosted by Bryan Litz. Following the ballistics class, shooters made their way to the firing line for one-on-one instruction with experienced shooters in each discipline (sling, F-TR and F-Open). During this segment of the clinic, champion shooters worked directly with novice and intermediate shooters. Bryan said: “It was great to see the ‘top guns’ sharing their knowledge.”

2015 Berger Southwest Nationals Clinic Applied Ballistics High Power F-Class Phoenix Ben Avery
File photo from 2015.

Nat’l Mid-Range and Long-Range F-TR Champion Bryan Litz instructs during Tuesday’s Clinic at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility.
2016 Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Arizona AZ

Eliseo Tubegun with Nightforce Competition scope. These versatile rifle chassis systems are produced by Competition Machine in Cottonwood, Arizona.
2016 Berger Southwest Nationals Phoenix Arizona AZ

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Photos by Steven Fiorenzo.

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February 6th, 2015

Ben Avery Beckons — Berger SW Nationals Start Soon

It’s almost time for the Berger SW Nationals. Phil Kelley says he’s ready for this view…

February in Phoenix… For many of us February is all about the Berger Southwest Nationals, which kicks off Tuesday, February 10th with a Shooting Clinic and runs through Sunday, February 15th. This prestigious match, hosted at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility, draws top F-Class and sling shooters from around the country. One of those F-Class shooters, Phil Kelley, posted the above photo, saying he’s ready to make the trek from his North Carolina home to Arizona. Good luck to Phil and all the competitors. A record number of shooters should be on the firing line this year.

CLICK HERE to Download SWN Match Program and Schedule

Berger Nationals SW Ben Avery Phoenix

Berger Nationals Ben Avery Phoenix

Southwest Nationals Intro Video

Berger SW Nationals Event Schedule

Tuesday, 10 February 2015, 9:00 AM
Shooting Clinic: Instruction in both classroom and live-fire settings. Lunch provided.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015, 9:00 AM
Mid-Range Match: Three 20-shot matches at 600 yards.

Thursday, 12 February 2015, 9:00 AM
4-Man Palma Team Match: 15 shots for record at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.
Note – Practice available for those not shooting with a team.

Friday, 13 February 2015, 9:00 AM – Start of Long-Range Grand Agg
Individual Palma Match: 15 shots for record at 800, 900, and 1000 yards.
Swap Meet at 1000-yard line after conclusion of match.

Saturday, 14 February 2015, 8:30 AM
Individual 1000-Yard Matches: Two 20-shot matches at 1000 yards.
Banquet Dinner at Indoor Range, at approximately 5:00 pm.

Sunday, 15 February 2015, 9:00 AM
Individual 1000 Yard Matches: Two 20-shot matches at 1000 yards.
Awards Ceremony at the Indoor Range.

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February 23rd, 2014

“People Win Matches, Not the Calibers” — Larry Bartholome

Larry Bartholome F-Open Champion SWN

Larry Bartholome (aka “LBart” on our Forum) is the current F-Open USA National Champion. He also won the F-Open division at the recent Berger Southwest Nationals. A “Senior Citizen” now, Larry is still at the top of the F-Class game. If you were to pick the top ten F-Open shooters on the planet, Larry would be on the short list, that’s for sure.

In a recent AccurateShooter Forum thread, there was a discussion of caliber/cartridge choice for F-Open shooting — specifically whether 6mm cartridges can be competitive at long-range (as opposed to mid-range).

Larry, who currently shoots a 7mm-270 WSM, offered some wise words. Here’s some sage advice from Larry, a champion who has triumphed at the highest level, against the toughest competition. F-Class competitors will benefit from reading what Larry has to say, and taking it to heart:

Cartridge Choice for F-Class — What Really Matters
Matches are won with what people decide to shoot. The people win matches, not the calibers. A person makes his decision on what he is going to shoot with and [that person] wins or loses based on the decision.

The smaller cases and bore sizes have advantages in less recoil and more inherent accuracy. They are easier to shoot well. Because they shoot smaller groups on average they make the 10 ring seem bigger. With light winds that helps.

When the wind gets to changing and picking up this advantage is negated by the wind drift advantages of the larger calibers. Once the switches and velocity changes get beyond the mind’s ability to stay up with them, the small caliber advantage is minuscule.

My own thought is I need all the help I can get. I know I can’t read the wind. I play the percentages. [My 7mm offers] good grouping, good wind drift, lower recoil than the 30s. My 7mm/270 WSM was shooting very well in Phoenix, just as the other Bartlein barrels shot well in Raton. The points lost were mine, not the rifle’s or the caliber.

When the wind flags and mirage are telling you to hold left and your bullets are going left, no caliber in the world will help you. You are the one steering those bullets.

Larry Bartholome
Team Berger/Norma

Larry Bartholome F-Open Champion SWN

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February 21st, 2014

Stecker Succeeds at SWN with Radical Benchrest-type F-TR Rig

Most F-TR rifles are essentially prone rifles adapted for use with bipod and rear bags. They feature prone or tactical-style stocks designed to allow a firm grip on the gun, with cheek, hand, and shoulder contact. This has worked very well. Unquestionably, a skilled F-TR shooter can achieve outstanding scores with such a configuration — it works. However, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”.

At the Berger Southwest Nationals, Eric Stecker introduced a new type of rifle, and a new type of gun-handling, to the F-TR ranks. Shooting “free-recoil” style* (i.e. with virtually no contact on his rifle) Eric managed to finished second overall in F-TR (with the highest X-count), beating some past national champions in the process. Thinking “outside the box” worked for Stecker in Phoenix. The success of Eric’s benchrest-style rifle and shooting technique definitely drew the attention of other F-TR shooters.

Click photo to zoom
Eric Stecker Berger Bullets

VOICE FILE: Eric Stecker Talks About the SWN and his Radical F-TR Rifle.

Eric’s F-TR rig was built by John Pierce using a stiff, light Scoville carbon-fiber stock. The stock is so light that Eric’s rifle came in 1.5 pounds under the F-TR maximum weight limit (8.25kg or 18.18 pounds). The gun features a Pierce action, Bartlein barrel, Jewell trigger, and a Gen 1 Nightforce 15-55X52mm Comp scope. From the get-go, Eric’s strategy was to “aim small” and shoot his rig like a bench-gun. He actually focused on shooting really small groups rather that just trying to keep shots within scoring rings and “hold waterline”. With a .308 Win that could shoot bugholes at 100 yards, this strategy paid off.

Rifle builder John Pierce explains the thinking behind this rifle: “The stock choice was mine — I had built two prototype rifles last year based on the premise that the game is Benchrest in the prone position. I still feel very strongly regarding [this concept]. I chose Bob Scoville for obvious reasons — he is an artisan and his stocks have won so much, they just flat work. We built Eric the latest configuration along these lines, and the tool worked for him. Without a doubt, Eric is a shooter, and we were all pleased to watch him perform so well.”

Eric sets up rifle before match. During live fire his hands do not contact the stock.

Eric employed a benchrest-style shooting technique with his F-TR rig — he shot pretty much free recoil, with no cheek pressure, no hand contact, and just a “whisper” of shoulder contact. Eric explains: “I shoot what’s called ‘free recoil’. Now the rifle is butted up against my shoulder very lightly, but no other part of my body touches the rifle except for my finger on the trigger.” Eric has even used this technique when shooting a 7mm cartridge in F-Open at other matches: “Someone suggested that this style wasn’t possible with the larger [7mm] cartridges, but I found it very successful so I continue to do it that way.”

VOICE FILE: Eric Stecker Talks About Shooting F-TR with Benchrest Technique.

Eric also employed an unconventional strategy — he was focused on shooting small groups (not just holding ring values): “Since I have started shooting F-Class, I treat [the target] like a benchrest target. What I mean by that is that I regard the center as my first shot, and so my objective is to create the smallest group. So, I will hold whatever… is required to end up with the bullet ending up in the center — that’s probably true of any F-Class shooter, but I guess the perspective’s a little different when you have a benchrest background.” Eric explained that “maybe I aim a little smaller than others might”, because in the benchrest game, “the slightest miss ends up costing you quite dearly”.

Click to Zoom Photo (This is not Eric Stecker’s rifle, but a “sistership” built by John Pierce.)
Eric Stecker Berger Bullets

Eric Talks about F-TR Trends
Will other F-TR shooters build rifles suited for free-recoil-style shooting? Eric isn’t sure: “I don’t know if this type of rifle is the future of F-TR. I shoot a lot of benchrest, so putting those kinds of components into an F-TR gun made a lot of sense to me. One thing I like about F-TR is that there are a lot of different types of approaches being tried and some of them are successful. So I think it’s still pretty wide-open[.] But I think the really great part of what we found at the Southwest Nationals is that shooting [with] a benchrest-style approach certainly doesn’t hurt you. What I mean by that is … aiming small, trying to make the group as tight as possible rather than trying to hit a particular area. I actually tried to shoot tight groups — that was a focus and that worked for me — I had quite a high X-Count.” NOTE: Eric finished with 51 Xs, 14 more than F-TR Grand Agg winner Radoslaw Czupryna (37X). James Crofts had the second highest X-Count with 48 Xs.

Even Berger’s Boss did pit duty at the Berger SW Nationals.
Eric Stecker Berger Bullets

*”Free Recoil” style shooting has its variations. Some would say “pure free recoil” would not even allow shoulder contact. Eric Stecker lightly touches the back of the stock with his shoulder.

Permalink Competition, Gunsmithing, Shooting Skills 13 Comments »
February 9th, 2014

World’s Most Accurate IT Guy? JayChris at the Berger SWN

AccurateShooter.com has something no other website has — an IT guy (and database guru) who can lay down tens and Xs at 1000 yards. This past week, Jay Christopherson (aka ‘JayChris’) has been competing at the Berger Southwest Nationals. During Saturday’s 1000-yard individual competition, Jay scored 388-12X. For the day, that topped a number of high masters, including a couple past F-Class National Champions. Not bad for a self-declared “computer geek” competing in his very first major match against national-level competition.

UPDATE: On Sunday, Jay did even better, finishing with a 392-14X for the day. Again, he out-shot many of the more experienced High Masters. Good on you Jay!

Berger Southwest SW Nationals

Congrats to Jay, who may be the world’s most accurate IT guy. We have to respect a man who can SHOOT and COMPUTE. To explain, Jay is the guy who keeps our servers humming, and who maintains the databases that drive our Forum, Daily Bulletin, and main website. AccurateShooter.com couldn’t run smoothly without Jay’s brain-power, coding skills, and dedication. He is truly the “genius behind the scenes” who makes it all possible. All of us are fortunate to have Jay on the team.

Jay reports: “After a rough start on Day One, I came back to take third place (2nd MA is a fancy way of saying third) in my class for Day Two 1000-yard matches, in windy conditions. Far as I can tell, I’m currently somewhere around 16th out of about 80 shooters overall (all classes), but won’t know for certain until they post the Aggregate results. I’m not likely to catch the leaders, but I think this was a decent showing so far for my first National-level match.”

How did Jay become such a good shooter? He revealed: “Actually, I’ve learned a ton of stuff from some of the smart guys on the Forum. But you also have to have good equipment, and good reloading techniques, and you have to put in the range time.”

Here is Jay (on right) with your Editor Paul McM (aka “Forum Boss”) on left.
Berger Southwest SW Nationals

Berger Southwest SW Nationals

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February 6th, 2014

Strong Start for Berger SW Nationals in Phoenix

The Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) have kicked off at the Ben Avery Range in Phoenix, Arizona. Overall attendance has been impressive for this important shooting event. Approximately 275 shooters have registered. On Wednesday (February 5th) roughly 200 shooters competed in a 600-yard Mid-Range event, with three 20-shot matches. The wind clinic on Tuesday the 4th was also well-attended with 130 or so participants.

Berger 2014 Southwest Nationals

In addition to the rifle competition (continuing through Sunday), there will be other fun events. On Friday, after the 1000-yard match, there will be a SWAP meet.On Saturday, there will be a Banquet dinner at the Ben Avery Indoor Range.

The Mid-Range match was tightly fought. We don’t have official results yet, but we’re told that Jim Murphy was at the top in F-TR, followed by Lige Harris, Gerry Wiens, Grant Ubl, and Eric Stecker.

Next up is a 4-person Team match (800, 900, 1000 yards) starting bright and early on Thursday. AccurateShooter.com will be reporting directly from the match. Watch the Daily Bulletin for photos from the match and interviews with the shooters.

To learn more about the Berger Southwest Nationals, watch this video featuring footage from the 2013 event. Helpful interviews with last year’s competitors provide useful insights into conditions at Ben Avery. One regular shooter at Ben Avery told us: “On a typical day, when the wind builds it is pretty gradual and progressive. But when it starts to die, it can drop off quickly, with a pretty big change from shot to shot.”

Watch Berger SW Nationals Preview Video

Berger SWN Events Schedule (Thursday – Sunday)

    The remaining action starts at 9:00 am each morning, Thursday through Sunday.

  • Thursday, 6 February 2014, 9:00 AM
    4-Man Palma Team Match: 15 shots for record at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.
    (Divisions – Palma, F-Open, F-TR)
    Practice available to those not shooting with a team.
  • Friday, 7 February 2014, 9:00 AM – Start of Grand Agg
    Individual Palma Match: 15 shots for record at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.
    (Divisions – Palma, F-Open, F-TR)
    Swap Meet – after conclusion of fire at 1000-yard line.
  • Saturday, 8 February 2014, 9:00 AM
    Individual 1000 Yard Matches: Two 20-shot matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
    4 Man Team Match: 20 shots at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Iron Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Iron Sight, F-Open, F-TR
  • Sunday, 9 February 2014, 9:00 AM
    Individual 1000 Yard Matches: Two 20 shots matches at 1000 yards. Any Rifle-Any Sight (Any sight for F-Class shooters). (Divisions – Palma, Any Rifle-Any Sight, F-Open, F-TR)
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