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May 22nd, 2022

Sunday GunDay: .284 Shehanes 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 30-32″ barrels using H4831sc, Vihtavuori N560, or Alliant Reloder 16. (That’s with a reasonably fast barrel. Some barrels are faster than others.)

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.”

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.”

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 Showcase — Two Special F-Open Rifles

.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. This rig scored second place in its very first match, a 3×20 at 1000 yards in Wyoming.

Here’s another handsome .284 Shehane F-Open rifle. Owner Jason Cohen explained why he chose the .284 Shehane chambering: “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[.]”

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 also threaded the barrel for a Woolum Accuracy tuner. This has proven to be a valuable tool in my load development.

The rifle began its life as a Will McClosky Cerus stock. This was sent that to Bryan Blake at Blake Machine. Jason noticed that Bryan had been adding aluminum rails to the front of Cerus stocks to lower the center of gravity and improve tracking. Jason asked Bryan to fit the stock with forearm rails, shown in the photo below. Bryan did all the stock work and fitted the action, rails, and RAD recoil pad.

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

The .284 Shehane — Accurate and Forgiving Wildcat
Jason explains why he selected the .284 Shehane chambering: “The .284 Shehane is amazing, very forgiving and not temperamental. 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 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 yards 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 Shehane Raffle Prize Rifle for Team USA

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

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

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

.284 Shehane Also Shines in 1K Benchrest Competition

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

.284 Shehane Henry Pasquet ibs 1000 yard championship


*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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November 30th, 2020

The Most Advanced Neck-Turners — Blake IDOD and AUTODOD

Bryan Blake machine f-class products IDOD AUTOIDOD neck turner turning power machine

Bryan Blake, a very clever machinist and gunsmith, has created an ultra-precise and speedy neck-turning machine. Bryan, who runs Blake Machine, Blake Barrel, and F-Class Products has created a system that uses twin precision cutter tips to turn case necks inside and out quickly and efficiently, with superior precision. This advanced IDOD Neck Turning Machine holds cases securely in a precision-machined spindle attached to an electric motor. Twin blades move precisely during the cutting process, milling the necks inside and out. The turned necks come out perfect every time, with the shoulders trimmed exactly (with doughnut removed) as well. If you turn hundreds of cases during a shooting season, you may want to consider getting an IDOD from F-Class Products. Bryan was able to turn 30 cases in just 6 minutes. And there is an even more advanced version, called the AUTODOD, shown in the last video below.

Our friend Erik Cortina recently visited Bryan Blake in Phoenix. Erik saw the IDOD in action and was impressed. Erik notes: “For a very long time, we have been turning brass the exact same way. Use a mandrel as a pilot and have a cutter with a specified gap go around the perimeter and turn the necks to specified thickness. The IDOD uses a technique called ‘pinch turning’ to turn the ID and the OD (IDOD) at the same time.” You can watch how it works in Erik’s video below (action starts at 7:55 time-mark):

The secret to the efficiency of the Blake IDOD is a vibration-free motor, high-mass case-holder, precision OD/ID-adjustable cutter, along with an advanced tracking system that moves the cutter heads towards the case neck (and back again) with absolute, 100% repeatable precision. Watch the video from 8:30 to 10:10 to see Bryan explain how to adjust the system for a perfect result.

This shows how to set up the IDOD Neck-turning machine for a particular cartridge type:

Bryan Blake machine f-class products IDOD AUTOIDOD neck turner turning power machine

This video shows a close-up of a neck being with perfect neck-wall consistency:

This latest video from Blake Machine shows the new AUTODOD machine with power controls. This speeds up and simplifies neck-turning process.

Bryan Blake machine f-class products IDOD AUTOIDOD neck turner turning power machine

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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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May 14th, 2018

Beast for the King — Reigning King of 2 Miles Gets .416 Barrett

Derek Rodgers .416 Barrett ELR KO2M king of 2 miles Beast 2 McMillan stock Nightforce ATACR scope extreme long range New Mexico

Current F-TR World Champion Derek Rodgers is also the reigning King of 2 Miles champ, so he knows something about Extreme Long Range (ELR) shooting. While Derek won his KO2M title at Raton shooting the .375 CheyTac cartridge, Derek decided that something even bigger was in order. This season, Derek will be shooting a .416 Barrett. Last week we showcased his impressive .416 Barrett ammo, with massive Cutting Edge bullets.

Derek Rodgers .416 Barrett ELR KO2M king of 2 miles Beast 2 McMillan stock Nightforce ATACR scope extreme long range New Mexico

Now we can show the Big Rig that will deliver those .416-caliber projectiles. This monster weighs 40+ pounds and sports a 40″ Bartlein barrel — more length for more velocity. Derek’s new ELR rifle features a McMillan Beast 2 stock, BAT EX action, and Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm scope. Derek explained why he moved up to a bigger caliber: “I built a new rifle with the anticipation of seeing impacts easier. It was not just a larger caliber being more effective on hitting ELR targets, but rather hoping that a missed shot would have a much larger impact. Impacts beyond a mile become harder to see due to terrain and vegetation. So any added dust or splash erupting from the earth is a decisive benefit over an equally-accurate smaller caliber.” Here is Derek’s full report on his new .416 Barrett rifle.

Derek Rodgers Campaigns a .416 Barrett

Report by Derek Rodgers
Cartridge Choice — I chose a standard .416 Barrett cartridge as it allows for bullets up to and slightly exceeding 550 grains. It really does bridge the gap between the .375 variants and a 50 BMG. There are several great solid ELR bullet options from manufactures like Cutting Edge that range from 475-550 grains. These offer a variety of extremely high BC options for barrels that have different twist rates. Most loads will utilize the slowest burn rate powders commercially available. Good options are Vihtavuori 20N29, RL50, H50BMG and other powders with a similar burn rate.

Derek Rodgers .416 Barrett ELR KO2M king of 2 miles Beast 2 McMillan stock Nightforce ATACR scope extreme long range New Mexico

Shooting the .416 — Tamer than Expected
An initial observation is that the rifle is very controllable and feels much like a larger F-TR gun. The rifle weighs 40+ pounds, balanced and stays on target very well. The recoil is manageable and linear. This seems to give a straight rearward impulse that does not affect positioning. This allows for quick repositioning into battery and faster follow-up shots.

Derek Rodgers .416 Barrett ELR KO2M king of 2 miles Beast 2 McMillan stock Nightforce ATACR scope extreme long range New Mexico

Rifle Details — BAT EX Action, Bartlein 40″ Barrel, McMillan Beast 2 Stock
Derek’s .416 Barrett ELR Rig features a BAT EX action with a Bix N’ Andy trigger. Out front is a gigantic 40” long, 1:9″-twist Bartlein barrel fitted with a Terminator T5 muzzle brake. The handsome McMillan Beast 2 stock combines a lower center of gravity design with a higher butt location. Given that high butt geometry, McMillan cleverly fitted the higher buttpad with a port allowing the cleaning rod to pass through (see photo below). On top is a Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm scope in NF rings on a +60 MOA rail, with Holland 34mm bubble level. The stock is supported by a Phoenix bipod and rests in an Edgewood bag designed for the McMillan Xit F-TR stock.

Derek Rodgers .416 Barrett ELR KO2M king of 2 miles Beast 2 McMillan stock Nightforce ATACR scope extreme long range New Mexico

Note the extended Buttpad height. That helps with recoil in prone position. This McMillan Beast 2 stock includes a pass-through hole for the cleaning rod.

Derek Rodgers .416 Barrett ELR KO2M king of 2 miles Beast 2 McMillan stock Nightforce ATACR scope extreme long range New Mexico

Gunsmithing by Blake Barrel and Rifle in Arizona
Derek’s rifle was built and chambered by Bryan Blake of Blake Barrel and Rifle in Phoenix, Arizona. The chambering was done with a Manson Precision reamer. Derek explains: “Bryan and his family have been in the machine shop business for several generations and have the expertise and equipment to handle larger barrel diameters associated with F-Class to ELR type rigs. I tried to consider all angles and potential pitfalls that might occur during the building process. However, Bryan added his own touches to make the project his own. He truly created a work of art and supplied a turn-key rifle that is meticulously built from the inside out and looks as great as the tolerances it holds.”

Derek Rodgers .416 Barrett ELR KO2M king of 2 miles Beast 2 McMillan stock Nightforce ATACR scope extreme long range New Mexico

.416 Barrett Derek Rodgers Action

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