F class rifle competitions are fairly new as far as shooting disciplines go. George Farquharson, a Canadian fullbore shooter, developed it for those who lacked the eyesight required for iron sights at long range. Most long range comps were either Palma (iron sights, slung prone position) or benchrest (scoped from bench, shooting for tight groups). F class allows use of a front rest (F open) or bipod (F-TR) and a scope. You may also use a rear bag. Weight limits for the rifles aim to create a reasonably level playing field (at least in theory). F class targets are smaller than the standard NRA faces which adds difficulty, especially at long range with a wind blowing!
There are two defined classes as mentioned above – F/TR and F open. The open class shooters are not restricted by caliber. They tend to select calibres that have minimal wind deflection and high BC bullets such as the .260 or the .284win. Us F/TR guys have a choice of .223 or .308.. Not much of a choice considering we may need to reach out to 1000yds with accuracy. Virtually all the F/TR guys are using .308. The F open shooters use rests. Some of the rests are huge and weigh a great deal providing an incredibly stable platform to shoot from. In F/TR we are limted to bipods which are counted in the weight limit. I am the only guy using a Harris, most shooters have bulkier bipods with a much greater leg spread. Both classes can use a rear bag.
Shooters lay down at the firing points in groups of three. You then take it in turns to shoot and mark each others performance as you go.
The shooters laying in groups of three per target. They then shoot in turn and mark one anothers scores.
The day in question.
The Dorset Riflemen shoot F class competitively at Bisley about once every month. I joined because they are very reasonably priced and have some seriously competant shooters among their ranks. They are also a friendly bunch who don’t mind sharing knowledge with the less experienced – a big plus for any club.
After reading the weather forecast was to be gales and rain I was pleasantly suprised to wake early on the Sunday morning to bright sunshine. The clear skys overnight had not helped much temperature wise though. The thermometer was reading 0c and my garden was covered in a thick frost. The drive to Bisley was beautiful. The winter sun and glistening white countryside were just fantastic.
Temps of around 0c and a little winter sun to start things off.
On arrival we were met with some familiar faces and comments on the ominous forecast and unexpected morning sun. Talk swiftly turned to wind, as always when shooting at distance. The range flags fluttered lightly but wind direction down range seemed to be opposing (flags blowing in opposite directions).. Not so easy to dial that in. I had an idea it would have some effect on my trajectory as well as horizontal dispersion.
I took my trusty Remington 700 along. I have used it a few times for F/TR. Many look down upon the 700 and dismiss it as inaccurate and mass produced. They are indeed mass produced and I am sure some may be less accurate than others. I sourced one from South Yorks Shooting Supplies. The owner is a lovely chap and very keen shooter himself. He works his magic on the Remingtons he sells. Mine had a recrown and a trigger polish. It was also also sat in a Manners T5 stock and Badger bottom metal. It proved itself when it began producing .3 moa groups during load testing. It also managed second place in a “smallest group comp” against some very stiff and exotic competition (The Dorset Riflemen!). In short my rifle shoots better than I can. If I do not hit a Vbull then the error is mine alone..
Meanwhile my shooting pal Sam assembled his RPA.308 which we named “the green monster” due to its bilieous hue and huge stainless barrel. The rifle was put together by Brian Fox a long term friend of Sams and a bit of a legend among the UK long range shooting community. Brian runs Fox firearms up at Diggle range. He really knows his stuff and puts together a great rifle. The green monster is laser accurate. It makes my Remington feel a little sloppy. It also makes a very pleasing ting sound when shot which suggests the harmonics are very consistent.
Sam unloads the Green monster..
Sam and I both load our own ammunition. If you want to hit something at 1000yds with a .308 then loading your own is pretty much a necessity. I don’t think I have met any long range guys who do not load ammuntion. Most have found factory ammo is
1. In short supply
There were some lovely rifles being used by other members. Dolphin gun company seemed to be the most popular with a variety of barrels and actions. Some of the rests and bipods in use are a talking point all of their own. A few of the members have even fashioned their own using metal working skills and various ingenious designs.
Some of the guys getting set up. Note the large bipod on the blue rifle which helps with stability.
Down to business
After a short wait for the first group to finish Sam and I are called up along with our third, a very nice guy who was also using a Remington 700. We decided it would be fun to see how the 700s performed side by side. Getting on and off the firing point is all about expedience when shooting squadded comps like this. The time for talking ends as I started setting up and helping Sam with his kit. Sam will not mind me sharing the fact he has several disabilities – leg, shoulder and heart. F class shooting allows Sam to compete on a level playing field. There is no need for physical strength in arms or shoulders as it is all from prone supported. As for getting the kit to and from the range – there are always plenty of helpful offers from fellow shooters, they are in general a very affable lot you know!
Unfortunately Sams shoot was to end before it began. As we lay down preparing to make ready I heard Sam inserting the bolt and cursing. After much fiddling he had come to a frustrating conclusion – he bought the wrong bolt with him. There is just no getting around that one and so he retired gracefully. That left me and my Remington team mate/opponent to carry on as a pair.
The course of fire was 1 minute for “blow offs” – shots to warm the barrel followed by two convertible sighters and 15 to count. I had the Strelok ballistics program with me which was suggesting 10.5 mils of elevation. However this was based on shooting in much warmer temperatures and I still had the opposing winds on my mind. I had no real choice except to shoot the sighters and dial in as I went. Sometimes you can get an idea of your point of impact when the blow off shots hit the sand bank but I had not seen any splashes. I went through the usual drill.. Breathe steadily, make sure the rifle is naturally pointing at the target and not being muscled on to it. Remember to make sure my feet are providing even pressure toward the bipod and ease the trigger back in a hiatus of breath and pulse…
The recoil pulled off to the side a bit letting me know I needed to adjust my position. The first shot missed the target and the marker reports it as just low of the target and a little to the right. A small adjustment on my second sighter put me in the scoring zone. Meanwhile my Remington oppo was straight on to the target. My third shot ended up missing the scoring zone again to the right. I was very dissapointed with that, I had misread the strength of the wind down range. After that my shooting got a lot better. A couple of V bulls and 4/5s were good enough for me. Once we were both finished a quick tot up had me a couple of points adrift. I vowed to claw that back after some coffee and a snack…
Some of the very stiff competition..
The wind had increased and grey clouds dominated the sky by the time I was lying back down behind the rifle. This time the trajectory was spot on as we were shooting at the same distance (1000yds). Normally we would shoot two distances but due to booking complications we were limited to 1000 only.
It was still playing on my mind that I had not managed to score with my first shots earlier. I use Strelok Pro ballistic calculator which is normally on the money when computing elevation. I figured a combination of powder temp sensitivity and wind conditions were the cause which I would investigate when I got home. The second session was much windier. Looking through the scope along the line I could see everyone losing points to the wind. Although it did not feel particuarly strong at the firing point the flags and trees down range told another story. I had to aim off by over a mil to bring my shots back into the centre of the target.
The wind continued to change with flags running in opposite directions making it tough to adjust for. I ended up watching the targets of other shooters which gave good indication but is also tricky as you do not know what they have dialed in to compensate. My tactics worked reasonably and by the end of the second stage I had a good lead, points wise, on my friend with the Remington. The rest of the results would be collated and emailed a few days later.
Reviewing the days events
We stayed and chatted a while with the Dorset riflemen. It never ceases to amaze me what a friendly bunch shooters are. I guess one of the reasons is that in the UK every gun owner has been vetted for criminal activity and psychological issues. Shooting also attracts a variety of ages, sexes, cultures, classes, physical abilities, sexual preferences! In short it is one of the most widely accepting sports in the world. The only thing shooting sport doesn’t tolerate is ignorance.. Thank God!
After picking the brains of some of the guys (many of whom are world class long range shooters) we retired for chips and coffee in the Clays cafe. The clays has become a second home to us and the wonderful staff there know our order off by heart now. While I was there I began to go over the days data and try to discover where I had gone wrong first thing. My ballistics calculator had prescribed 10.5 mils of vertical adjustment for my load at 1000yds. I had used that data before with good results. After a little frowning I realised I had not calculated the temperature sensitivity of the powder (TR140).
Strelok is a great app. The errors it has thrown up are normally down to me..
Firstly I needed to input my actual vertical adjustment for the day which was 11.8 mils. I know my Vortex Viper PST is bang on in terms of callibration/clicks so I had no reason to dispute that it was a reliable reading. I then asked the ballistics calculator to give me my velocity based on many other variables I had previously added including velocity readings from chrono last summer. It showed my velocity as being about 100fps lower. Using that figure allows me to calculate temperature sensitivity of the powder and hopefully make better estimates on future outings. While first round hits are not essential in F class they do give you a huge advantage. The sighting shots are convertible meaning you can ask for them to count toward your final score. Two good sighters is also a real confidence boost, there is nothing worse than being unsure of your zero when all of the following shots will count toward your score. The important thing for me in terms of improving my shooting is to work through the variables that cause mistakes, understand them and correct them. If I do that every time I shoot then my performance can only improve.
Keeping track of your data in different enviroments helps you to get onto future targets quickly..
I ended up with a 97.4 for the two rounds. The maximum score would be 150. The number after the decimal point denotes Vbulls. This was good enough to put me in 7th place in the F/TR category and the best of the three Remington 700s shooting that day. Considering I use a Harris bipod and a load of second hand kit I was very pleased with the result. The Dorset Riflemen are formidable long range shooters and I am happy to place anywhere off the bottom in such company!!
Thanks and links.
The Dorset Riflemen – contact the NRA for club details http://www.nra.org.uk/
F class in the UK – http://www.gbfclass.co.uk/
South Yorkshire shooting supplies – http://www.rimfiremagic.co.uk/index.htm
Fox Firearms – http://www.foxfirearmsuk.com/
Vortex Optics UK dealer – http://www.acpshooting.co.uk/
Log Book/Marksmans guide – http://www.lulu.com/shop/trans-continental-shooting/the-marksmans-logbook/paperback/product-22063422.html