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July 19th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: SWN-Winning F-TR Rig of Champ Peter Johns

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Talented F-Class shooter Peter Johns has been on a tear the last couple years. He won the F-TR Division at the 2020 Berger SW Nationals (SWN), after finishing second in 2019. His SWN win came on the heels of stellar performances in 2019. He won both the mid-range AND long-range Texas State championships last year. Along the way Peter set a new 600-yard NRA National F-TR Record (200-18X), and tied the 600-yard F-TR Aggregate Record with 600-47X. This Sunday GunDay story features Peter and his trophy-grabbing .308 Win F-TR rifle.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

How to Campaign a Winning .308 Winchester F-TR Rifle

Report by Peter Johns
I started contemplating F-Class shooting after talking with Darrell Buell at SHOT Show a decade ago. My first F-Class match was with a Savage VLP with a 26″ Shilen 7mm SAUM barrel and a Harris bipod. After that initial match in Texas I knew I had a lot to learn. I decided that F-TR was the place to start. This story follows my development as an F-TR shooter and showcases the rifle that delivered multiple F-TR match wins in 2019 and 2020.

Watch Peter Johns Shoot his .308 Win F-TR Rig

Equipment Showcase — Key Components of Peter’s F-TR Rifle

Omar Alonzo (Alonzo Custom Rifles, (713) 283-4384, Gunbuilder284@gmail.com) does all my gunsmithing. I believe this is one of the major reasons I have been doing so well in the last couple years. He does a phenomenal job with rifle bedding. He also fixed the timing on my action. The first barrel he chambered has really helped me win matches and set records.

In this Video, Peter talks about his key rifle components and gear:

McMillan Kestros BR Stock — I switched to a Kestros BR stock when they first came out. I painted the stock myself. I am very grateful to Kelly McMillan for letting me be one of the first to try them. The Kestros BR tracks better than any stock I have tried. NOTE — the Kestros was so light that I had to add a steel bar under the forearm to get closer to the F-TR weight limit with a 30″ HV barrel. [Editor: That has the advantage of lowering the center of gravity and the bar can slide fore/aft to adjust center of balance]. I use a SEB Bigfoot rear bag with slick ears and 3/4″ spacing. When I got the Kestros I thought the rear bag spacing was too wide but it worked so well I didn’t change.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Kelbly (Stolle) Panda Action and Krieger Barrel — My rig has a Kelbly Panda F-class action with a Bix’N Andy trigger. At the Berger SWN, I used a Krieger 1:10″-twist 30″ HV 4-groove barrel. It is superbly accurate. I have been bouncing between Krieger and Bartlein for barrels for the last few years. The best barrel I have had is a 30″ Krieger 4-groove HV, however the Bartleins have been very good as well.

Duplin Bipod with Articulating Feet — I really liked the Pohlabel articulating feet that are available for the SEB JoyPod so I asked Dan Pohlabel for permission to copy his feet. I bought some aluminum and made the best copy I could. Since SWN, Duplin has coming out with a new bipod with articulating feet which are considerably better than the feet I made. I use a board and a piece of stall mat with carpet glued on it for the bipod to sit on.

Vortex Golden Eagle Scope — I use the 15-60x52mm Vortex Golden Eagle on all my F-Class rifles. I see the mirage better with the Golden Eagle than any other scope and it tracks perfectly. I also use a Vortex Razor spotting scope with long eye relief lens on the line to help watch mirage and flags. I also use the Razor spotting scope to call wind for Team Texas.

Cleaning Procedure — Less is More — No Cleaning During SWN Long Range Event
Peter has learned that he can go for long round counts without cleaning: “I have found that my .308 Win rigs, for the most part, shoot really well dirty. I can usually get 300 or more rounds before cleaning. I cleaned my barrel at the 2020 SWN after the mid-range event and fouled it before the long-range. I did not clean my barrel again until I got home from the match.”

Peter does clean thoroughly when he gets home: “After a big match I clean my rifles with Boretech Eliminator and a bronze brush followed by Iosso until the majority of carbon is removed from the barrel, as verified with a Lyman borescope. After a thorough cleaning, I find that I need to shoot a bunch of foulers. I will usually go to my practice range and shoot a 20-shot practice match and I will see the accuracy tighten up in the back half.”

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner
600-yard practice target on left. On right is 600-yard record match target shot at 2019 TX State Championships (on ShotMarker targets). This 200-18X is a NRA National Record for F-TR division.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Peter’s Match Load and Reloading Methodology

Loading for .308 Win F-TR — Do What Matters
My loading technique has evolved almost full circle from where I started. I went from the basics to doing every step a person could conceive. Then I decided to start testing all the different steps to see what didn’t matter or made things worse. I am now back to almost no steps in my reloading process. I don’t clean brass anymore. I just wipe the case off, lube, size, prime, and load. I anneal when I feel the necks getting inconsistent when seating the bullets. I pre-load all my ammo for matches. I tried seating them at the match but I didn’t find it to matter on the score card and it takes my focus away from conditions.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Peter’s 2020 SWN-winning .308 Win load consists of Berger 200.20X bullets, Lapua Palma brass, Federal 205M primers, and Varget powder. Peter revealed: “The Berger 200-grainers are running in the mid-2600 fps range. I have tried them much faster but found the best consistency at this speed.”

Peter measures powder to the kernel and also weighs/sorts other components. He runs Berger 200.20X bullets slightly off the lands in a 0.170 freebore chamber. Notably he tests a variety of powders, ascertaining each barrel’s particular preference: “In the last few years I have tried N140, N150, H4895, and Varget. I think they are all good powders for F-TR and the 200.20X bullet. This year I was using Varget. At the 2018 SWN I placed 4th with H4895, in 2019 SWN I got 2nd with N140. I find what powder my particular barrel likes best. I also test CCI BR4 and Fed 205M to see which my rifle likes best. This year I was using Fed 205M. I have been using Lapua Palma brass and it seems to last forever.” Peter full-length sizes with a Redding bushing FL die. He seats his Berger bullets with a Wilson inline seater.

Q & A with Peter Johns, F-TR Ace

Q: What was your biggest challenge at the 2020 Berger SW Nationals?

Peter: I think the biggest challenge was staying focused on conditions. I think the hardest thing for me to do is to stop shooting when the wind conditions are out of my ability to call accurately. I focused hard on this aspect of my game this year and it has paid off. This match is super well run and staff does an excellent job which allows the shooters to maintain their focus.

Q: What gear/hardware items give you an edge over the competition?

Peter: The Kestros BR stock (below) is not used by many F-TR shooters and I think it gives me a huge advantage over the competition. This stock fits me perfectly and tracks in such a manner that I can shoot fast and accurately when conditions are right.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Q: What is your advice for newcomers in F-Class and Long Range competition?

Peter: Go to a top gunsmith building F-Class rifles and do what he says. Competition is the best way to get better. So shoot as many matches as you can. Find top shooter rivals and strive to beat them.

Q: Do you have any specific Gun Handling Tips for F-TR shooters?

Peter: I shoot better with a really light grip and cheek pressure. I can shoot well with a heavier grip and cheek pressure but when the tension of a big match is going my pressure will vary and cause poor accuracy. The most consistent I can shoot is with light gun handling. I also focus on trying to watch the bullet hit through the scope to ensure good follow through and this prevents me from jerking the trigger. There are a bunch of ways to hold a rifle that have proven to be successful. I think a shooter needs to test and find what works best for them.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Q: What do you like most about F-Class and Long Range competition?

A. I really like technical things. F-Class is right in my wheel house for technical stuff. Also, the people in the shooting world are top notch. I enjoy talking with other shooters.

Q: Do you prefer individual events or team matches?

Peter: I prefer the team matches by far because it is a social event with collaboration and there is a lot more pressure. I put a lot of effort into learning the wind for the team matches which in the long run helps me with individual matches. [Editor: Below Peter is calling wind for Team Texas at the 2018 F-Class Nationals in Raton, New Mexico.]

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner
Peter Johns calls wind for Team Texas at 2018 F-Class Nationals in Raton.

Overcoming Serious Injury in U.S. Navy to Become a Top-Level Marksman

Peter Johns is a U.S. Navy veteran, rank Chief (E7). In 2006, during his duty aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz, Peter sustained very serious and extensive burns in a massive electrical fire. Showing great strength of character, Peter went through a tough, 4-year program of surgeries and rehab. The photo below shows Peter doing therapy during his recovery process.

Peter Johns Berger SW southwest Nationals F-Class F-TR McMillan stock rifle champion winner

Peter tells us: “As many of you know I was badly burned on board the U.S.S. Nimitz in 2006. That has limited me in my ability to compete in physical activities that I used to enjoy but F-Class has filled the gap for my competitive nature. I medically retired from the Navy as a Chief (E7) in 2010 after four years of surgeries and physical therapy. I was very surprised to find how accepting and nice people have been in the shooting community. I think the shooting community is comprised of the best people in the world.”

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December 5th, 2018

DIE BASICS: Full-Length Dies, Neck-Sizing Dies, Small Base Dies

Sizing dies brass sinclair redding full length neck neck-sizing small base

This article is part of Sinclair Int’l Step-By-Step Reloading Series. Most of the products mentioned in this article are sold through Brownells.com.

by Roy Hill, Brownells/Sinclair Copywriter
Making your own precision handloads is a meticulous journey with many steps, many important matters to consider, and many sets of measurements to calculate. For those who pursue the perfect group, the highest score, the really long accurate shot, the rewards more than outweigh the effort. Choosing the right cases, deburring the flash holes, making the primer pockets uniform, trimming the cases, and lubricating them are all familiar – and critical – steps along the journey. And now that your brass preparation is complete, you are at last ready to start running the cases through your press and fill them with primers, powder, and bullets. The very first die the brass encounters is the sizing die. You insert the case, work the press’s lever to return the case to its correct pre-fired dimensions – and the journey continues.

Sinclair International Int'l fL full-length sizing die bump die shoulder bump gauge

There are three types of sizing dies to think about: neck, full-length, and small base. All three have specific benefits and potential drawbacks, and you should choose the type of die you use by thinking very carefully about what kind of shooting you plan to do with your handloads. No matter which type you select, most sizing dies will also punch out the old spent primer with some sort of decapper assembly that uses a hardened steel rod. Many types of sizing dies use an expander ball inside the die to make sure the neck of the case will accommodate a bullet after being sized. With some size dies, the expanders are easily removable and interchangeable, letting you get exactly the neck tension you want. If you are reloading for pistol cartridges, carbide sizing dies allow you to quickly resize without applying any lube to the case. But rifle cases always need lube.

Neck-Sizing Dies
Sinclair International Int'l fL full-length neck size neck-sizing die bump die shoulder bump gaugeNeck-sizing dies resize only the neck of the case. The benefit of sizing only the neck is that the brass is “worked” very little, letting you reuse the same cases many times over. Also, cases that have already been fired in your rifle are perfectly fireformed to fit that rifle’s chamber, which can help accuracy. However, neck-sized cases will fit only the specific rifle they were originally fired in, and may still require a little extra force to chamber or extract.

Sinclair recommends that neck-sized-only cartridges should not be used any in other rifle besides the one they were originally fired from [unless they are also FL-sized], or in any action other than a bolt-action. Neck-sized-only rounds are great for the target range or the benchrest but should not be used in critical situations like military or police operations, or hunting. And if you fire them enough times, neck-sized cases will still need to be full-length sized periodically for you to keep using them.

Full-Length Sizing Dies
Full-length sizing dies do exactly what their name says: resize the full length of the case, not just the neck. Full-length sizing helps create handloads that will function in any rifle, not just the one from which the cases were originally fired. The potential downside of full-length sizing is that it may shorten case life because it works the brass more than neck sizing. But it’s possible to “tune” today’s full-length sizing dies so they barely work the brass at all, as this article by Sinclair Reloading Tech Ron Dague shows.

Illustration Shows How a Full-Length Sizing Die Works
Sinclair International Int'l fL full-length sizing die bump die shoulder bump gauge

Another way to reap the benefits of full-length sizing is to use Redding’s full-length bushing dies, which size the full length of the case but use a system of interchangeable bushings that enable you give the case neck the bare minimum of resizing needed. To see how finely adjustable bushing dies are, and how they resize the case while fully supported, CLICK HERE for Video. The neck bushing helps you precisely control the neck tension to help increase the consistency and accuracy of your handloads.

Redding Custom full length dies

Small Base Dies
A Small Base Die is just another type of full-length sizing die, but one that is typically used when reloading for semi-automatic rifles, like the AR-15, M14, or AR-style .308 rifles. (It may also work well for bolt guns that need extra sizing on the lower section of the case.) A small base die works exactly like a full-length sizing die, only it compresses the brass just a bit more, usually about .001″ more, and may even push the case shoulder back just a hair. Small base dies give that extra bit of compression to the brass to help make sure the case will properly extract from a semi-automatic firearm. The upside is that you get precision handloads that should work flawlessly in your semi-automatic. The downside is case life is really shortened, especially compared to brass used only in one bolt-action rifle, because the brass is worked more.

Shoulder Bump Gauges
A handy tool for setting up your full-length sizing dies as close as possible to your rifle’s chamber is the Sinclair bump gauge. The bump gauge lets you resize the case as little as possible, to extend case life and help your handloads fit your rifle almost like a neck-sized only die. You use deprimed cases fired in your rifle and bump gauge inserts to help you set up the die so it resizes the case only about .001″ to .004″, depending on what type of rifle you’re shooting.

Video shows how to use a shoulder bump gauge to set up your full-length dies

Sinclair International Int'l sizing die bump die shoulder bump gauge

Article Find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions
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October 2nd, 2018

Bump Control: Precision Shims for Full-Length Sizing Dies

Sinclair Die Shims

When your cases become hard to extract, or you feel a stiff bolt lift when removing a cartridge, it’s probably time to full-length size your cases, and “bump” the shoulder back. With a hunting load, shoulder bumping may only be required every 4-5 loading cycles. Short-range benchrest shooters, running higher pressures, typically full-length size every load cycle, bumping the shoulder .001-.002″. High Power shooters with gas guns generally full-length size every time, and may need to bump the shoulders .003″ or more to ensure reliable feeding and extraction.

Use Shims for Precise Control of Shoulder Bump
Some shooters like to set the “default” position for their full-length die to have an “ample” .003″ or .004″ shoulder bump. When they need less bump, a simple way to reduce the amount of shoulder movement is to use precision shims in .001″ (one-thousandth) increments.

Here are reports from Forum members who use the shims:

“Great product. I have my die lock ring(s) adjusted for the shortest headspace length on my multiple chambers 6BRs and 6PPCs. When needing a longer headspace, I just refer to my notes and add the appropriate shim under the lock ring. Keep it simple.” — F.D. Shuster

Mats Johansson writes: “I’ve been using [shims] since Skip Otto (of BR fame) came out with them. I set up my dies with the .006″ shim, giving me the option of bumping the shoulder a bit more when the brass gets old and hardens while still having room to adjust up for zero headspace, should I have missed the original setup by a thou or two. Hunting rounds can easily be bumped an extra .002-.003″ for positive, no-crush feeding. Being a safety-oriented cheapskate, I couldn’t live without them — they let me reload my cases a gazillion times without dangerous web-stretching. Shims are a must-have, as simple as that.” — Mats Johansson

Sinclair Die ShimsSinclair Int’l offers a seven-piece set of Sizing Die Shims that let you adjust the height of your die (and thereby the amount of bump and sizing) in precise .001″ increments. Sinclair explains: “Some handloaders will set their die up to achieve maximum sizing and then progressively use Sinclair Die Shims between the lock ring and the press head to move the die away from the shellholder. Doing this allows you to leave the lock ring in the same position. These shims are usually available in increments of .001″ and work very well.”

Seven Shims from .003″ to .010″
Sinclair’s Die Shim Kit (item 22400) includes seven shims in thicknesses of .003, .004, .005, .006, .007, .008, and .010. For ease of use, shim thickness is indicated by the number of notches cut in the outer edge of each shim. Even without looking you can “count” the notches by feel. Normally priced at $11.99, this shim kit is on sale now for $10.99.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 1 Comment »