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September 21st, 2015

Profile of Derek Rodgers — F-Class Legend Shares His Secrets

Derek Rodgers Team Sinclair F-TR F-Open F-Class New Mexico

Derek Rodgers is a member of the Team Sinclair F-TR squad. This talented group of shooters hasn’t lost a team match in years. What’s the secret of Team Sinclair’s success? Well there is not one single factor. These guys have very accurate rifles, work hard on load development, and practice in all conditions. In this interview, Derek Rodgers talks about long range competition, reviewing the hardware (and skill set) it takes to win. He offers some great tips on developing loads. You’ll find a longer version of this interview on the Sinclair Int’l website. CLICK HERE to Read Full Interview.

Derek Rodgers BIOGRAPHY
Derek Rodgers (Albuquerque, NM), is the only shooter to have won BOTH the F-Open and F-TR National Championships. Derek shot his first NRA sanctioned-match in 2007, and just three years later Derek won the 2010 F-Open Nationals. He also won the 2013 F-TR Nationals, making him the only person to win both divisions. He has won other major F-TR matches, including the 2013 Sinclair East Coast Nationals and the 2015 Berger SW Nationals. Derek holds the current 1000-yard, 20-shot, National F-TR Record (200-12X). Derek enjoys spending his time outdoors with his wife and two daughters, ages 12 and 7. He is blessed by his faith and supported by his family. Derek’s goal is to pass on what he has learned to the next generation.

Q: What is your favorite reloading product?
I really like my BenchSource Case Annealer. There is something about watching fire that I find relaxing. I can watch those shells go around the wheel for hours.

Q: What’s your preferred front rest or bipod?
I’m currently using a Duplin bipod. At 17.2 ounces it allows me a solid platform to shoot from and the extra wiggle room to make weight with a heavy barrel and Nightforce NXS scope. Also, I can’t do without my board under the bipod. We shoot off sand at my local range and in most cases the feet will tend to dig holes if not supported. The board is necessary gear for me.

Q: What rear bag do you use?
I have an Edgewood bag that I’ve used for years. Recently, I got a SEB Bigfoot and like how it supports the gun and stays put under recoil.

Q: Explain your load development process. What’s your methodology?
I have two log books that have many combinations that work with 308s. I have tried to keep detailed notes in these books. Now I am reaping the rewards, as I can go back to a particular twist and barrel length and find something very close. I usually start with 3-shot groups and check the chamber behavior. If something looks promising I will go back to the range and load up 6-shot groups. If those shoot well, I take it to a match to verify it in a 20-shot string. If it passes that test it is either good to go or I table it and try another. I tend to pick mild loads that the cartridge shoots well — consistently.

Q: What piece of shooting gear helps your load development?
I use a MagnetoSpeed Chronograph to record velocities. Then I can slow down or speed up my loads to reach an accuracy node. It is amazing that most barrels will shoot very accurately when fired at certain known velocity nodes.

Q: What optics do you find most useful?
I would say Nightforce NXS Scopes.

Q: What do you carry in your range bag on Match days?
Multi-piece Brownells tool set, RX Glasses, Sunglasses, Range Rod, Towel, Empty Chamber Indicators, Jacket, Sunscreen, Foam Ear Protection, Ear Muffs, Data Book, Plot Sheets, Pen, Clip Board, iPod with ballistic data, and chewing gum.

Team Sinclair Int'l Nationals

Q: How did you get started shooting?
I was raised in New Mexico where outdoor activities are abundant. Once my father introduced me to a Crossman pellet gun, all I wanted to do was shoot and refine my skills. Shooting evolved into hunting and then into perfecting my skills in off-season matches. Shooting local F-Class matches made me better as a marksman. Now I feel like I am competitive with anyone. However, I will never forget that my roots started with hunting and still cherish the opportunity to hunt…

Q: What do you find most challenging? How do you learn from mistakes?
What I find most challenging about precision shooting sports is how great shooters are able to reflect on what was learned — both positively and negatively. It is important to slow down and perform this step. Stopping to reflect and learn from mistakes I’ve made on the firing line is challenging. Not many people enjoy accurately critiquing themselves. Also the wind usually blows here in New Mexico and choosing the right time to shoot and to stop is important. It’s often tempting to try to finish out a string of fire. But sometimes challenging yourself to quit and wait out some wind will pay off[.]

Q: What advice do you have for selecting a gunsmith?
The best recommendation I can give is for a person to get to know a gunsmith. If you can find a local gunsmith that is available — even better! If you run into a snag along the way, it is so nice to be able to work it out without sending things back and forth. Be honest, realistic with your expectations and tell the gunsmith what you want. If he only wants to do things his way, or takes extra or excessive time in meeting the goals, you may want to consider someone else.

Q: Who would you recommend for stock work on your rifle?
Alex Sitman from Master Class Stocks and Doan Trevor can build or fix most anything.

Q: What do you do to mentally prepare before a shooting competition?
I relax and try to remember I do this for fun. I anticipate what game plan I want to go to the line with. I also try to take small snapshots of the conditions. I do not like getting overloaded with staring down a spotting scope for long periods of time. I try not to get overwhelmed with the match and just shoot my game. My approach is “One shot at a time — good or bad”. I will usually tell my scorer what I’m going to do so he or she is ready as well.

Q: What advice would you give to novice competitors?
Partner up with an experienced shooter that is ranked nationally. Mentoring under a veteran shooter would be the best way to help save time learning instead of experimenting. Chances are an experienced shooter has already tried what you are considering. As a new shooter, do not get sucked into reading all of the opinionated blogs on the internet. Stick to good information. | is a great resource with a wealth of information from knowledgeable writers. That site has articles that are based from facts and/or industry news and information.

Q: What is something you would NOT recommend before a shoot?
I do not recommend coming unprepared. If you are late, scrambling around, or do not have your gear in order, you will not perform at your best.

Q: How many rounds do you shoot in a year and how often do you practice?
I shoot 3000+ rounds a year. I try to shoot 1 x a week if I can get away in the evening or on the weekend. If I am close to finding a load I may try to get out more until I exhaust that load as an option. So there may be occasions that I will try to shoot three times a week. Fortunately, the winters are mild in New Mexico and it allows me to shoot year round. I actually shoot more when it is colder. The summer sun here can create mirage that makes it nearly impossible to learn anything.

Permalink - Articles, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
September 10th, 2013

F-TR Nat’l Champion Derek Rodgers Shares His Winning Secrets

While attending the 2013 F-Class World Championships at Raton, we had a chance to talk with Derek Rodgers, who had just been named the 2013 U.S. F-TR National Champion. Derek’s F-TR Win at Raton makes him the only shooter to have won U.S. F-Class National titles in both F-Open and F-TR divisions. Derek was excited about his performance at Raton: “F-TR was my first love in competitive shooting and [winning the F-TR title] has always been a personal goal to achieve”. In this Q&A session, Derek tells us about his rifles and his Nationals-winning .308 Winchester load. Derek also provides some advice for new shooters in the F-TR game.

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion

Q: Readers want to know about your rifle. How did your select your stock, action, and bipod? And tell us about working with your gunsmith Doan Trevor and the quality of his work.

Derek: For my F-TR project, I carefully chose as many lightweight components as possible, without compromising performance. I wanted to put the weight savings (from light components) into a heaver, stiffer barrel. The rifle features a left port, left bolt Kelbly F-Class Panda action fitted with a Kelbly trigger. The stock was acquired as an uncut blank. It’s a McMillan Prone stock and is very comfortable in design. It also has a nice vertical pistol grip and gentle palm swell. This makes getting behind the gun feel very natural. [Editor’s Note: Though Derek is a right-hander, he shoots with a Left bolt-Left port action. This allows him to stay in the shooting position, right hand on grip, while manipulating the bolt (and feeding rounds) with his non-trigger-pulling hand.]

CLICK on Rifle Photos for Full-Screen Versions

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion
Rifle photos by Dennis Welker.

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion doan trevor gunsmithDoan Trevor built the entire rifle. Doan even made all of the hardware on the gun. Doan was able to drop pounds vs. ounces as a result. Doan’s 3-way butt-plate hardware alone weighs just half a pound! Doan was highly attentive in helping me build the gun the way I wanted. His bedding and fitment is clean and he has creative ideas for the competitive shooter. While my stock is fiberglass, Doan really shines when it comes to building stocks from wood blanks. In fact, Doan built the stock used by second-place finisher Lige Harris, and also fourth-place Trudie Fay. I feel fortunate to have Doan so close. He’s truly a master craftsman who can quickly turn a project into reality.

I chose a Bartlein barrel on this rifle. It is an 1:11″ twist, 32″ long, heavy-contour barrel to stabilize heavy bullets. This barrel was a real hummer from the start. I shot six shells over the chronograph to determine initial chamber behavior and all six loads shot into 1 hole at 100 yards. Each cartridge had 0.5 grains increase in powder. That’s never happened to me before.

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion

Up front, I used a Duplin Bipod. It weighs just 17.2 ounces and is made in North Carolina by Clint Cooper and supplied through Brownells/Sinclair. It is a new product for them and it has already proved to be an extremely lightweight, solid platform. Kelbly rings and an NXS 8-32X scope top the rifle off.

Q: Could you talk about your experience shooting at Raton — dealing with the challenging winds. Did you have any strategy going into the Nationals? Did that change?

Derek: The Raton winds can be intimidating to a person that has never shot there before. In fact, one of the first comments I heard was that it was ugly and nasty out there as the flags ripped straight out to the NW. I glanced downrange and thought it looked like another beautiful New Mexico day (being from NM does have its perks). There is usually no shortage of big wind out here. I’m fortunate to shoot 1K matches locally at a Del Norte Gun Range located outside of Albuquerque. It prepared me to shoot when I can see the mirage and proceed with caution when I can’t. It is the same elevation as the Whittington Center and gives me true testing with actual come-ups that will work dead on at both ranges. My strategy going in to the match was to shoot heavy 200 grain Berger hybrid bullets. I felt like it was the best compromise between BC and velocity. My load held an incredibly flat water-line and that gave me the confidence to either shoot through the entire string in tough wind or stop and wait until the switching winds returned to what I like to see. I was fortunate to pick the correct wind-sets and jump in when I needed to — or wait when the mirage didn’t look right. It paid off as I saw competitors’ targets raised with wide ring spotters. A few times I watched my clock and let a couple relays tick down to the last several minutes before finishing. The winds are quite challenging here and wind pickups and let-offs are huge! The wind calls are definitely magnified in Raton.

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion

Q: You are the only shooter to have won both the F-Open and F-TR U.S. National Championships. How would you compare and contrast F-Open vs. F-TR?

Derek: Now that I’ve won both F-TR and F-Open National titles, I have finally captured the elusive F-TR national victory. F-TR was my first love in competitive shooting and [winning the F-TR title] has always been a personal goal to achieve. I could not be happier to win in my home state with a spectacular level of expertise in attendance. You really need to remain 100% focused in F-TR and try not to miss any condition change. If you do, you will pay dearly as the .308 Win just doesn’t have the extra horsepower to plow through the minor wind changes like Open guns can. Needless to say, F-Open shooters have their hands full in Raton as well; high BCs and fast, booming magnums aren’t the only way to get good scores. Open shooters need to be just as in-tune with the wind. Most of the Open Class shooters use sophisticated rests and cartridges superior to the .308 Win. However, I saw rough conditions disrupt many top shooters as they handed over their score cards to line officers. Although not in a front rest, I have learned to manage my F-TR gun to keep it tracking straight back under recoil. I had two main concerns in Raton this year with my F-TR rifle: 1) Keep all my shots on paper even if the winds blow 25+ mph; and 2) do NOT shoot another target! It’s very easy to do if your bipod slides over during recoil. That was less of a concern for me when I shot Open. Open Class rifles have a more stable foundation that stays in place better. However, just one crossfire at this level will take you out of contention to win anything in Open or F-TR. Both classes are very tough these days on the upper level and you can’t afford to give away points.

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion

Q. What was your load for Raton and did you have to make any adjustments for the altitude or temperature?

Derek: My load for the upcoming Nationals was something I used earlier in the year to win the 2013 East Coast Sinclair Nationals: Berger 200gr Hybrids, Lapua brass, Varget powder, Wolf LR primers. I felt it was very consistent against some of the best F-TR shooters around. However, my biggest concern was my load being over-pressured in late summer. It was a hot year in New Mexico. In June, I made a couple trips to Raton and discovered my loads that I felt were safe were actually on the hot side. I tested locally in the heat of the day vs. calm cool mornings. I also spent quite a bit of time studying past load data / temperatures and came up with a game plan to work with what I had. I kept my fingers crossed that the ambient temperature would stay in the low 80s. I knew my load shot well from 50-80 degrees, but above that and I thought I may have problems with the groups coming apart late in a string. I saw this happen to me in the past with temp-stable powders in a .308 Win. In fact, .308 Win loads become much more critical when pushing the cartridge to its full capacity. Had the temps been in the mid to upper 90s, I’m sure the rifle would have shot differently.

Derek Rodgers 2013 F-TR USA U.S. national champion

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in F-TR competition?

Derek: I think shooting F-TR has allowed me to really get an idea of what the wind is doing. If a new shooter is interested in trying it, the best tips I can offer is to partner up with a few experienced shooters that know how to hand-load carefully and compare shooting notes. This helps someone get traction with proven methods. Another tip would be to get matches under your belt–at different ranges. It may seem trivial, but each range is different. The shooter may benefit by seeing something that he hasn’t encountered before. The other thing I’d suggest to new shooters is not to worry about your score when starting. Keep shooting. More trigger time is key. I’d recommend working on eliminating your lowest ring value first. For example, if you’re lowest score was a 6, next match try to only shoot better than 7s. Once that is eliminated work on your 8s. When you consistently shoot 9s and 10s then you can be assured that your technique is solid and manageable. Higher scores and Xs will come….

Permalink Competition, Gunsmithing 4 Comments »
April 26th, 2013

Top F-TR Shooters Using 17-Ounce Duplin ‘Rorer Spec’ Bipod

Following our story on the Sinclair Int’l East Coast Fullbore Nationals, folks wanted to know about the bipods used by the winning F-TR squad, Team Sinclair. Some sharp-eyed readers noticed that three out of four Team Sinclair shooters were sporting a compact, parallel-arm bipod. This nice piece of kit is the ultra-light-weight (17 oz.) Rorer Spec Bipod produced by Duplin Rifles in North Carolina. The Rorer Spec Bipod is sturdy and easily-adjusted, yet it is one of the lightest wide-track bipods on the market.

Duplin Rifles Bipod F-TR, F/TR

Duplin Rifles — Rorer Spec Bipod
Weight: 1 pound, 1 oz. (17 oz.) | Finish: Clear- or black-Anodized Aluminum
Price: $350.00 delivered in USA | Options: Custom faceplates; Custom mount engraving ($35)

Duplin Rifles Bipod F-TR, F/TR

For more information, or to place an order, contact Duplin’s main man, Clint Cooper. You can send email to clint [at] or call 910-289-8217.

Duplin Rifles
4527 Hwy 117 South
Rose Hill, NC 28458

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 17 Comments »