This Long-Range Rifle Game Requires
Specialized Gear And Gizmos
By Dave Anderson
Recent years have seen a remarkable growth in F-Class competition. Shooting is at various distances from 300 to 1,000 yards depending on the particular match and shooting range. All shooting is from the prone position. Scopes and front and rear rests are allowed.
The two major divisions are F/TR (target rifle) and F/Open. In F/TR, rifles must be chambered for either .223/5.56mm or .308/7.62mm. Maximum weight is 8.25 kg (about 18.2 pounds) including any attached sling or bipod.
F/Open has a maximum weight limit of 10 kg (about 22 pounds) and can be chambered for any cartridge subject to limitations (in the club where I shoot maximum caliber is 8mm).
Some associations also recognize F/Factory division. I’d like to see this encouraged as a way to bring in new shooters and keep costs down. Nonetheless it will never be an inexpensive game. In addition to the basic rifle, scope, base/rings, ammunition, you’ll need a few accessories.
One of the least expensive yet most useful accessories is a shooting mat. Each stage of a match can take a half hour or more, and during the course of a match you’ll likely be in the prone position for two or more hours. The more comfortable you are, the better you will shoot.
The bottom surface of the mat should be water resistant, and with a sticky, tacky material to keep it from slipping. The top should be padded but still firm and stable. Most shooters like a fairly large mat so they can move around a bit while getting aligned on target. Plus it is nice to have your ammo box and log book on the mat rather than in the dirt.
Some mats have grommet holes so they can be staked down on windy days. Personally if the wind is so strong it’s flipping over shooting mats, I may as well shoot offhand for all the difference it would make. Still, in a match you take the conditions as they come and deal with them, so it’s not a bad feature.
Brownells offers several shooting mats, including the Crosstac Precision Long Range Shooting Mat and the Boyt Harness Bob Allen Tactical Mat. (I do love those names!)
Midway USA has a range of competition mats. If you like room to roam, check out the Half Acre Padded Shooting Mat Olive Drab. Currently I use a mat bought on sale at Cabela’s, which they call—wait for it—Cabela’s Shooting Mat.
Other than the lame name, the only thing I dislike is the partial black color. Black gets hot on sunny days, and can provide camouflage for ticks.
F-Class shooters at the 800-yard line shoot at the little white things at the base
of the backstop. If you’re wondering why there are 12 shooters and only six targets,
two shooters share one target and score for each other. After a shot is fired the
target pullers in the concrete bunker lower the target, mark the shot with a white
paster, and the value of the shot with a red paster positioned on the target border.
The shot is recorded on the shooter’s scorecard, then the second shooter has 45
seconds to fire.
At the upper end of rifle builds, master-class competitor and rifle builder Dennis
Lair uses this rifle for F/Open. It’s a Stolle Panda single-shot action, 32-inch
Benchmark barrel with 1:9 twist, Joe West stock, topped with a Nightforce 15-55×52
scope in Nightforce rings chambered for the .284 Shenane (an improved version of
the .284 Win). Using the new Sierra 183-grain MatchKing and H4831 powder, Dennis
gets a muzzle velocity of 2,850 from the long barrel.
F/TR requires the front rest (sling or bipod, though no one uses a sling) attached to the rifle. A rear rest such as a sandbag can be used provided front and rear rests are not attached to one another.
Harris bipods are fairly popular as they are well made, widely available and reasonably priced. Many rifle shooters have one on hand for varmint and big-game hunting, so naturally select them when giving F-Class a try. I’ve also seen several Atlas bipods in use and their owners speak highly of them.
Many experienced competitors prefer bipods with wider leg spacing, to better resist torque when the rifle is fired. Generally they attach to the rifle using an Anschutz or Picatinny-style rail rather than a sling swivel stud. Leg bottoms often have “skis” so they can slide smoothly on the shooting mat during recoil. Other desirable features are precise adjustments to get the rifle level and on target, and light weight, to stay within weight limits even with a long and heavy barrel.
The EVO FTR bipod is highly regarded since it is light (20+ ounces), strong and easily adjustable so the shooter can level the rifle at the desired height. Brownells has the Sinclair F Class bipod, a bit heavy at 30+ ounces but a very strong, rigid model with 10+ inches of elevation adjustment. Brownells also offers the Rorer bipod for F Class, a light (17.5 ounces) from Duplin Rifles.
Mystic Precision offers the MPOD at less than 13 ounces. It is the lightest F Class bipod I know of. Beautifully made by Evolution Gun Works (EGW) in Pennsylvania for Mystic Precision, the MPOD is adjustable for height and cant, and despite the light weight is very strong. A neat feature of the MPOD, as height is increased the legs get further apart for greater stability.
These days, if you use a solid front rest and do your fine aiming by squeezing the rear bag, it likely means you’re an old timer (like me). Currently shooters prefer a solid rear rest, with precision adjustments built into the bipod or rest for fine aiming. As all riflemen know, “precise” generally means “expensive.”
The Joypod from SEB Engineering is a bipod which allows fine aiming using a joystick, for making adjustments from the shooting position. It is so precise, in fact, some F/Open shooters use it instead of their usual heavy front rest when they have to travel to matches by air.
If you have a favorite rifle, don’t be afraid to compete and have fun even if it
doesn’t look like all the others! Rob Moroz uses his Desert Tech Stealth Recon Scout
with a 26-inch .308 Win barrel (above). The bullpup design gives a compact overall
length even with a fairly long barrel. Sighting is by a Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56
scope over an Atlas bipod. For a truly competitive, off-the-rack rifle for F/TR
division, the Savage 12 FTR (below) stands alone. With a rigid single-shot action,
trigger adjustable down to 6 ounces, heavy 30-inch barrel chambered .308 Win, it
offers excellent performance and value. This Savage has a Vortex 6-24×50 scope.
The SEB Joypod bipod is beautifully made, light and strong, and the joystick
allows precise aiming while maintaining the prone shooting position.
Incidentally the “SEB” in SEB Engineering refers to Sebastian Lambang of Indonesia, an avid rifleman, engineer, and something of a mechanical genius. Prices fluctuate with currency exchange rates and cost of material but seem to be in the $550 to $600 range. Don’t expect to haggle over price as they are chronically backordered.
F/Open division doesn’t require the front rest be attached to the rifle. The rest can be as heavy and solid as you like. If you’re really on a budget, a sack filled with 30 pounds of beach sand doesn’t cost a penny.
On the other hand a solid, precision, joystick-adjustable rest costs quite a few pennies. One of the best, and most popular, is the Farley Coaxial II with joystick adjustment. Ready to go it is currently priced at $1,115—and when you see how beautifully it is made, and feel how smoothly it operates, the price will seem reasonable indeed.
SEB Engineering makes the NEO rest in several variations. For F Class shooting the NEO Coaxial with joystick is recommended. As with the Joypod, it seems nailing down the price is like trying to find a politician’s true views on something. But there’s no question about the quality, and as with the Joypod, there is a long waiting list.
Most shooters use “bunny ear” sandbags as a rear rest, sometimes with spacers to raise the height. If you do your fine aiming by squeezing the rear bag, the smaller “Protektor” brand bags are excellent.
Shooters using adjustable front rests usually want a heavier rear bag, since all you ask of the bag is for it not to move. A good choice is the Protektor “Loaf,” a large rabbit-ear bag.
Edgewood shooting bags are next to none in terms of workmanship and appearance. They offer a couple of models specifically for F Class in the “Original” and the “Minigator” bags, but with larger bases having an integral carry handle.
200 South Front Street
Montezuma, IA 50171
EVO Leisure Ltd., Unit H Orchard Works
Spenvale Street, Heckmondwike
West Yorkshire, WF16 0NQ
Evolution Gun Works, Inc.
52 Belmont Ave
Quakertown, PA 18951
Edgewood Shooting Bags
8033 Snow Ave. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110
Farley Manufacturing Inc.
GRS Stocks, Kelbly’s Inc.
7222 Dalton Fox Lake Road
North Lawrence, Ohio 44666
Mystic Precision (MPOD)
Jerry Teo, P.O. Box 1245
Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0
Fax (no phone): (250) 494-9610
Protektor Model Company
1-11 Bridge Street
Galeton, PA 16922
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