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February 2nd, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Nat’l Champion F-Open Rifle and Cerus Twin

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

With the Berger Southwest Nationals commencing this week, we thought our readers would appreciate a showcase of two impressive, state-of-the-art F-Open match rifles. The first, show above, is the .284 RAHM (40° .284 Win Imp) with which Brian Bowling captured the 2019 F-Class Open Division Long Range National Championship. The second rifle belongs to barrel-maker Bryan Blake. Like Bowling’s rifle, Blake’s rig features a low-profile Cerus stock, but with purple highlights. Both rifles have 6-groove, cut-rifled barrels from Blake Barrel & Rifle and both sport Nightforce scopes.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Twin World-Class F-Open Rifles

Report from Bryan Blake of Blake Barrel & Rifle
We had been producing gun barrels for about 1.5 years prior to the 2019 NRA Long Range F-Class Nationals. Brian Bowling started shooting our 7mm barrels in May of 2019. Bowling and I are both on the Rutland team, Team Cerus, which has seven members. Bowling and I received the first Cerus XL stocks from Cerus Rifleworks in August of 2018. The stock was a very straight design.

With our barrels, these F-Open rigs can shoot! In 2018, Brian Bowling and I had the only two clean scores for the first match at the 1000-yard team NRA Nationals. In spring of 2019, I worked with Will of Cerus Rifleworks to see if we could come up with a lower center of gravity design to enhance what was already the straightest stock out there. We developed the Cerus XR stock which features stepped metal rails on the fore-end. I cut my XL Cerus stock and designed the rail system attached to the sides of the fore-end. Bowling’s stock (with black rails) was the second XR in the shooting world. On his very first weekend match at 600 yards he shot a 200-20X with the new XR stock and Blake 7mm 1:8.5″-twist barrel. He was using Berger 184gr 7mm bullets.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

In 2019, at the NRA F-Class Long-Range Nationals, Brian Bowling won the F-Open National Championsship with a strong performance. He finished with a ton of Xs, three points ahead of the second place competitor. Before Brian’s impressive victory, we were told by many top shooters that a 6-groove barrel has never won any F-Class Mational event, and hypothetically never would. Well with Brian Bowling’s excellent shooting and reloading capabilities, we achieved a feat many said couldn’t be done.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Bowling’s Championship-winning rifle features a Bat Model B action in the Cerus XR stock. His Blake barrel is chambered for the .284 RAHM wildcat cartridge. This is a 40-degree (40°) version of the .284 Winchester. The .284 RAHM has a straighter case body compared to the original .284 Win.

We built Bowling’s rifle, doing everything except the final clear finish. We can do that work, but were short on time for the Nationals last year. We are proud of the chambering work we do and the quality of our bedding jobs.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Bryan Blake’s F-Open Rifle — the Purple XR

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

The Purple XR-stocked gun I shoot was built in August of 2019, right before the 2019 NRA F-Class Nationals. The natural wood is complimented by highlights finished with a bright purple metallic epoxy resin that Will from Cerus dreamed up. For this rifle we mated a BAT 3LL action with Blake barrels (switch-barrel configuration). Up front the fore-end rails are painted purple “plum crazy” to match the purple resin. The purple XR is finished with automotive “high solids” clear-coat, and block-sanded for a smooth, flawless look.

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Blake’s Rifle is a Switch Barrel — 7mm and .30 Caliber
This Purple XR was set up to be a switch barrel rig, with both a 7mm BBM and a .30 BBM*. These BBM wildcats are based on shortened and straightened .300 WSM with a 40-degree shoulder. On my purple XR rifle as well as Bowling’s rifle, we employ Nightforce optics and load Berger bullets. These are the only glass and projectiles we use in our rifles.

The Purple XR is extremely accurate. Check out this 2.6″ group, shot at 1000 yards during a club match at the Ben Avery Range in Arizona. Yes, that is 1/4-MOA at 1K! Many folks would be very happy with that group at 600 yards. At 1000 yards it is remarkable. No, the rifle can’t do that every time. But this does demonstrate that the Purple XR is a tack-driver. CLICK HERE to see a 3.9 inch, 15-shot group at 1000 yards on the F-Class target (150-15X).

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

Brian Bowling F-Class F-0pen Open National Champion Brian Blake Barrel Blake Machine .284 Winchester Win RAHM rifle competition

About Blake Barrel and Rifle — History and Barrel-Making Process
Blake Barrel and Rifle was re-launched in 2018. The business was actually started by my grandfather, Robert Blake, in 1966. In 1969 my grandfather stopped doing gunsmithing and making single-point cut-rifled barrels. He transitioned to doing industrial work, and less work for the public. After all those years he and my father, Dave Blake, kept the barrel-making equipment in storage. They kept the gun-drilling machines in the shop as they used them to drill long, deep holes in anything from aircraft parts to electric motor rotors.

In 2012 we got the diamond single-point, sine-bar rifling machine out of storage, along with the Pratt and Whitney double-spindle reaming machine. We then completely rebuilt and updated the equipment. We modified the gun-drill to be a counter-rotating drilling system. What that means is the drill spins at about 20% of the rotational speed, and the barrel at 80%. The counter-rotation keeps the drill on the center axis of the barrel more precisely than just rotating the barrel, or just rotating the drill. We are able to consistently drill holes in our barrel steel (primarily 416R) that at the end of a 33.25″ blank that is only .005″ off of center axis.

We then ream the barrels to be .0004″ below desired finish bore size. After the reaming process we mandrel-hone the bores to be .0001″ below finish bore size. This process eliminates reamer marks in the barrel bore. Therefore very minimal lapping is needed after rifling to remove any tooling marks. We then rifle the barrel to any twist rate we like. With a fine lap after rifling, the barrel has no tooling marks and all surface metal is flowing in the direction of the twist of the rifling.

* 7mm BBM stands for “Blake Bramley Magnum”. Dan Bramley and I developed that cartridge together in October of 2017. The .30 BBM is the “Blake Barrel Magnum”, which I developed in May of 2018.

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September 25th, 2019

F-Class National Championships in Raton, NM

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington
Mid-range team day. Team jerseys and tons of additional gear adorned the firing line. Most of the top teams had headsets so they could communicate in private.

The 2019 F-Class National Championships took place September 16-22 at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. The Mid-Range Championships ran Sept. 16-18, while the Long-Range Championship finished the week, running Sept. 19-22. This year’s F-Class Championships were well-attended and memorable — as there were some of the most challenging winds many competitors had ever witnessed. Winds were strong, gusty, and shifty — with rapid and unpredictable direction and speed changes. Some seasoned, “world-class” F-TR and F-Open competitors dropped 20 points or more on a single relay — conditions were that bad at times.

F-Class Nationals Long Range Results | F-Class Nationals Mid-Range Results

Nonetheless, through skill, patience, and perseverance there were some outstanding performances at both the 2019 Mid-Range and Long-Range Nationals. Brian Bowling won the F-Open Long Range Championship with a 1573-78X score, ahead of second-place Keith Glasscock (1570-72X). Shiraz Balolia was F-Open High Senior, while Cindi Baudhuin was the top female shooter. In the other division, Jade Delcambre (Master Classification), won the F-TR Championship with a 1549-53X. Ian Klemm was a close second in F-TR with a 1548-44X. Skip Barkley was F-TR High Senior, while Jennifer Bondur was High Lady competitor.

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington
F-Open “Top Shots”. Brian Bowling, F-Open LR National Champion, is the chap with the beard.

In LR Team Competition, Team Lapua-Borden-Brux won F-Open, scoring 1585-86X to beat runner-up Team Roadrunners by 9 points and a bunch of Xs. In the F-TR Team Match, Team USA Freedom (1555-58X) took first, ahead of second-place Team USA Independence (1546-55X).

Here are some quotes from competitors, posted in our Shooters Forum:

“Today was, in a word, brutal.” — Turbulent Turtle

“I was on relay 1 and I don’t think I have ever shot in these types of conditions! I came off the second string and had dropped 14 points and people were saying “good shooting”!! Playing ping pong with the 7 ring was common. There was no chasing the spotter as every shot was a new condition.” — Shiraz Balolia

“Some relays were very easy wind-wise, and some were monsters! Relay 1 today got hosed like I’ve never seen! 35 mph winds, gusty and switching had most the top shooters doing their best to just stay in paper!” — Falconpilot

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington

Report from Mid-Range F-Class Nationals

The Mid-Range Nationals were closely fought also. Congratulations to Timothy Vaught, 2019 Mid-Range F-Open Champion, and to Luke Ramsey, 2019 Mid-Range F-TR Champion. Both victors took their titles by a single point, although Luke had a huge ‘X’-count edge, with 101 Xs compared to 77 Xs for runner-up Tracy Hogg. Here are Top Five Mid-Range individual Results.

Mid-Range F-OPEN Top 5
TIMOTHY VAUGHT 1794-119X NAT’L CHAMPION
TOD HENDRICKS 1793-111X SILVER
DAVID GOSNELL 1789-103X BRONZE
PATRICK SCULLY 1789-99X 2ND BRONZE
JOHN MYERS 1787-107X 3RD BRONZE
Mid-Range F-TR Top 5
LUKE RAMSEY 1784-101X NAT’L CHAMPION
TRACY HOGG 1783-77X SILVER
RANDY LITTLETON 1781-100X BRONZE
ALLEN TAMPKE 1779-88X 2ND BRONZE
JEREMY NEWELL 1779-79X 3RD BRONZE

In the Mid-Range Team Competition, Team Roadrunners, coached by Scott Harris, won the F-Open Team Division (1592-87X), edging Team Berger-Bartlein-SEB-Kelbly (1591-94X) by one point. The winning F-TR Mid-Range Team was Team Independence (1585-88X), coached by past Nat’l Champ James Crofts. Team Texas (1581-85X) finished second in the Mid-Range F-TR event.

The F-Class Nationals Experience — Report from Raton

By John Masek (aka F-Class John, AccurateShooter Weekly Deals Editor)

“The winds were by far the most challenging I have ever encountered, but I learned so much from that. I definitely came home a better shooter after the 2019 Nationals.”

Four of us from Tri-County Gun Club in Sherwood, Oregon loaded up and headed down to shoot two weeks of Spirit of America (SOA) plus the F-Class Mid-Range and Long Range Nationals. The first week of SOA was pretty straight-forward although the nearly 7,000-foot altitude had an immediate effect on our bodies, forcing us to hydrate like never before. We were going through upwards of 10 bottles a day of water and sports drinks to quench our thirst.

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington
Here is a view of the 1000-yard range seen from the Founders Cabins up on the opposing hill. Raton is truly one of the most spectacular places you could ever shoot a match like this.

SOA is a Fullbore match so you shoot two to a mound and only have 45 seconds to take a shot. That requires you to make quick decisions based on ever changing conditions. I was fortunate enough to shoot for two days with Scott Harris who was an amazing partner. Scott even shared some of his amazing wind-calling wisdom with me. I was fortunate enough to win a couple medals during SOA and missed out on a second gold because of a stupid mistake — cross-firing on a target. That was heartbreaking to say the least. The final day of SOA brought whipping, switchy winds that played havoc with the last Long Range match and foreshadowed what what to come the following week.

Mid-Range started on Sunday and while it wasn’t a cakewalk, most shooters managed to work their way through the conditions. Raton has a funny way of keeping most everyone humbled one way or another. But nothing could prepare us for what was coming.

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington
Here is a panorama image of the firing line for the start of the Mid-Range Nationals.

Long Range Nationals started on Thursday and everything seemed pretty normal. The ace shooters worked their way to the top as you would expect and we all went to bed expecting a normal day to follow, we had no idea what was in store for us. Friday started like any other day and the first relay went off without a hitch but as it ended we noticed the weather was starting to turn. As I headed to the pits the winds picked up and flags began going every which way. By the time targets went up for live fire we knew something bad was about to happen. Sighter shots came down and while not unusual to see low scoring shots for sighters, there were a lot of them. This was a 2 + 20 string so as soon as the two sighters were done we knew record shots were coming. When they did points started dropping like prices on Black Friday.

We saw people ping-ponging 7s, a few misses and everything in between. After two relays the dust settled and it was our turn to line up and shoot. During the switch over at the buses everyone was shaking their heads in disbelief of what happened to them and somehow seemed almost relieved to be heading to the pits. The conditions only got worse and by the end of the third relay people were rejoicing if they dropped anything less than 20 points.

Some of the biggest names in the game had dropped in excess of 20 points and there were reports of some people dropping as many as 40-50 points. Just imagine how bad the conditions had to be for the top 93 High Masters in the country to be dropping that many points. By the end of the day people we in stunned disbelief and many were considering getting shirts made that said “I survived Raton 2019″.

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington
Every evening we would complete our nightly ritual of pushing bullets back. We initially loaded all our ammo set to the lands and then pushed the bullets back based on our testing each night.

Watching Brian Bowling Shoot To Victory in F-Open
As an F-Open shooter I was fortunate enough to be shooting a few lanes down from Brian Bowling and he was on fire all three days and was a pleasure to watch. Even in the worst of conditions he managed to skillfully hunt and peck his way to some amazing scores which led to him winning the National Championship. Keith Glasscock and David Christian gave a good chase over the three days but came up just a little short, earning Silver and Bronze places respectively.

Success for the Boys from Oregon
Below are me and my buddies from Oregon (L to R: Devin Wiggett, David Christian, Bill Brown, John Masek). As a group we won a total of 34 medals and trophies during the Spirit of America and the Nationals. Overall, the eight days of Nationals included some the most amazing shooting I’ve experienced, in some of the most scenic terrain in the country. I think I speak for many when I say that no matter how good or bad the shooting was, there was always a chance to learn and you couldn’t help but walk away a better shooter in the end.

f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington

Headed Home — Securely Packed
f-class f-open f-tr f/tr national championship Raton NM new mexico whittington

Q: How do you transport an F-Open Rifle, spotting scope, tripods, stand and lots of gear?
A: Get yourself some very big, sturdy cases, with lots of padding.

Here is my load-out for Raton. For the match I brought one stock and TWO complete barreled actions, with Kahles scopes fitted on each. I also had a separate large square case for my SEB NEO front rest, 21st Century Arbor Press, and 450 rounds of pre-loaded ammo.

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