My First F-Class Shoot
F-Class is a new classification under development for high power rifles for long range target shooting. Shots are fired prone from a bipod or rest supported rifle. It is being developed to allow more easy entry, in terms of skill and equipment, into high power rifle shooting. For more information, consult www.long-range.com.
The Hudson Valley High Power League holds matches once per month at the
Camp Smith National Guard base in
Anyone who has read articles on shooting has probably run across writers who have waxed poetic about what a “great bunch of guys” shooters are, about how friendly the old timers are, and how new comers are always helped and welcome. That has not been the general experience of myself and others who I know. It has been my experience that most shooters are not “people persons” in the first place. Shooters tend to value self reliance and discipline. On top of that, high power rifle shooting is a very tough sport, sure to attract only the most competitive. Equipment is outrageously expensive, and you’ve got to drag it around over hundreds of yards. The matches are long and grueling. The match that I attended on 7/23 began with sign up before the Pledge of Allegiance at 8:00AM, and shooters were still packing up at 4:30PM when I left. I wonder how much grief from wives and kids these guys must put up with to get away for a long day once per month, not to mention the additional cost and time reloading and tuning equipment. On top of that, in the New York metropolitan area, shooting is considered by the elites who set the cultural tone, a red neck activity somewhere in between cross burning and NASCAR.
During slow fire (which you will be shooting for F-Class) you shoot one shot per minute. One minute per shot may sound like a long time, but if you are adjusting sights, manually loading every round and checking the wind flags, it feels like you are in a rush the entire string. (I didn’t finish my 22 rounds in time.) As you can read below, shooters are very dependent on other shooters to pull and mark targets, and score. If some guy is working on getting his scores up to improve his classification, and you are slow to mark his target, cross fire, or you screw up his scoring, you should consider yourself lucky if all he does is cuss and scream.
However, if you prepare as described below, you should be okay.
Basic equipment you will need is as follows:
For F-Class, the cart can be considered optional, as you will only be shooting at the 600 yard line. You can just drag your stuff from the car which will be parked fairly close by.
As far as your rifle, note that you will be shooting at 600 yards. It should be shooting decent groups to consider taking it out and should be a fairly flat shooting caliber like 223, 243, 30-06, etc.
The empty chamber indicator is a plastic flag that goes into your rifle so that the range officer can see it is safe from a distance and is a must. They probably have them for sale at the match, but if not, you can improvise a rolled up sheet of paper stuck into the back of your rifle with the bolt removed.
Some other notes on the equipment - because of the layout of the range at
For a shooting mat, I just used one of those thin rubberized camping sleeping pads. I saw a few other shooters using the same thing. Gloves, arm pads, jackets, etc aren’t really needed as you will be shooting off a rest or bipod. I use a bicycle glove on my shooting hand because otherwise I can see my heartbeat in the scope when I grip the rifle to squeeze the trigger. I use an ace bandages on my elbows for comfort.
When it is your turn to shoot, you don’t have a lot of time to get all set up. Rests, bipods, etc should all be adjusted ahead of time. Between the prep time and set up you will spend about half an hour lying on the ground hunched over your rifle. When you make your adjustments, make sure you will be comfortable.
Here is probably the toughest part of the preparation, and where I went awry.
I was planning to shoot a 308, but I bought an “accu-trigger” Savage Model 10FP in .223 approximately two
weeks before. I had some 223 ammo - 45 grain
I then plugged in the bullets and velocities into a ballistic program. (There are some available on the web, I just bought the Lee program for $14 and change.) The 62 grain shells were to be sighted 15.5 inches high at 100 yards while the 55 grain bullets should be sighted 16.75 inches high at 100 to be on at 600.
I took the rifle to the 100 yard range I have access to, the day before the match to set up the zero. When I shot the first group with the 62 grain bullets it was 3 inches! The groups with the 55 grain bullets were just over 2.5 inches. The groups were oblong at an angle, indicating problems with the bedding. Checking the action screws I found that they had loosened as I shot. Playing around with the action screws I found that the tighter I made them the better the groups, but the best I could get was with the 55 grain shells and they were still almost 2”. This rifle clearly needs a bedding job, but it was too late for that or to get my 308 ready.
As it turned out, I must have utilized the wrong bullet and/or the wrong sight height (I just used the default instead of measuring) because I was off the target (3 feet low hitting the berm) anyway. I was able to get on by the third shot, with the help of my scoring partner who could see the bullet trails in his Kowa spotting scope. I didn’t adjust the scope but used the dots on the mil-dot cross hairs on my tasco for sighting.
Before I go again, this is one area where I need to refine my preparations. I will measure the scope height, and make sure I have selected the right bullet from the program database of ballistic coefficients.
You should plan your travel to get to the range around 11AM.
The easiest set up will be if you go with a buddy (or better yet three). You can then be paired up and only have to pull/mark your own targets. I went alone so was paired up with a high power guy that didn’t have a scoring partner. The guy I was paired with was very easy going and helpful. The match didn’t go well for him anyway because of equipment problems (faulty M1A extractor) so he was not very concerned with my scoring, and he was a pleasure to work with in the pits.
Just so you know where F-Class shooters will fit in, this is the sequence of events for the entire match.
The high power shooters will be paired up four to a target position. At the start of the match (at 8:00 AM) two of the four shooters go down to the “pits” to pull and mark targets for the 200 yard shooting. Then the guys in the pits switch with the shooters and alternate shooting and scoring. At the conclusion of the two hundred yard shooting, the shooters in the pits stay and the shooters on the line move to the 300 yard line for rapid fire shooting.
At the conclusion of the first three hundred yard shooting, the shooters and target pullers switch places again. It is at this point (typically around noon) that F-Class shooters should be present and already signed in. That is so that the first group of F-Class shooters can go down in the pits to pull and mark targets. (If F-class shooters are paired together, they can sit out the three hundred yard target pulling described below.)
The shooters just out of the pits complete their three hundred yard shooting and go up to the 600 yard line. The shooters in the pits change to the 600 yard target and pull/mark. At the conclusion of the first round of 600 yard shooting the pullers go up to the 600 yard line (you have to drive up there) to finish up the match.
All items you may need (scoring disks, paper patches, etc.) are supplied by the league.
The target frames rest in a slot and are tied to a metal rack that slides on a track and is counterweighted so that it can be (relatively) easily raised and lowered. Don’t touch or brush against the metal track as it is greasy. Don’t raise the target by pushing at the bottom of the frame because it will come out of the slot. You may want to consider bringing a short length of rope to tie to the side and bottom of the frame so you won’t have to constantly stoop down to raise the frame.
On arriving at your station, inspect the target for tears, unpatched bullet holes, etc. You may have to paste on a new center if the old one is destroyed. Check to make sure you have enough black circles and white patches for the strings to be shot (44 at 300 and 44 at 600). Other equipment that will be provided is a large blaze orange scoring disk and a smaller black/white spotting disk.
When you are ready the target is moved to half mast to show you are ready. You will then be ordered when to raise or lower the target. If the target is raised for sighters (2 shots before the rapid fire at 300 yards) or for the 600 yard prone shooting, you keep an eye on the target so that when it gets hit, you pull it down all the way, mark and score it and push it all the way back up.
For marking/scoring the spotting disk goes into the bullet hole so the shooter sees where he is hitting. It is black on one side and white on the other. If the shot is in the black the white side shows towards the shooter. If it is in the white, the black side shows.
The scoring disk goes into pre-drilled holes on the periphery of the target in positions as shown in figure 1. I would recommend marking the target score positions (with pen or chalk not to be seen by the shooter) with the score so you can rapidly score without thinking about it. If a shooter shoots an eight (during slow fire) the spotting disk goes into the bullet hole, and the scoring disk goes into the scoring hole for 8 on the target. On the next shot the spotter is moved to the new hit, the old bullet hole is pasted over, and the scoring marker moved as needed. If the highest scoring ring where the bullet hit is torn, or even creased by the bullet, it counts at that higher score.
If you are scoring for the three hundred yard shooters, they will get 2 sighting shots which will be handled as described above. You will then be instructed to raise the targets for a rapid fire string. Do not pull the target down until instructed to! When the rapid fire string is complete you will pull down the target and then place red painted golf tees in the bullet holes and mark a chalk board with the score by marking how many Xs, 10s, 9s, etc. The targets are then raised, with the chalk board hanging at the left for scoring.
Remember, during the slow fire stages, keep an eye on the target, pull it as soon as you see a hit and work quickly so that your shooter doesn’t have to wait to shoot.
When you are scoring, you will be seated behind the shooter with a pen and his scoring card. You will also have a sign (paddle) with your shooting position marked on it. If your shooter takes a shot, and the target doesn’t go down in a few seconds you should wave the sign at the range officer who will call down to the pits to have the target pulled/marked.
Your telescope should be set up on the target before the string is begun. Keep an eye on your shooter so you can wave the paddle when need be. (I made the mistake of just watching through the telescope at first. My partner took a shot the pullers missed seeing. He was waving at me but I was too intent looking through the scope and didn’t notice until he yelled out at me.) When the target comes back up, using the chart in figure one, mark the score card, with the first two shots being the “sighters” and the next shots in order left to right.
If the target goes down when your shooter didn’t shoot (i.e. someone cross fired), mark the resulting score off to the side.
When shooters/scorers move up to the 600 yard line each will shoot a string of 22 shots. If a pair of F-Class shooters come, the league officials will permit each to shoot two strings. However, that means the guy in the pits will have to pull and mark targets by himself, and the shooter will also have to score himself. (Or alternately, the guy in the pits can just mark the target with the spotter and write the score directly on the scoring card.)
As mentioned, when it is your turn to shoot, promptly get up to the line and set up. The targets will be at half mast. The officer will then command a 2 minute “prep” period. The targets will come up and you can make final adjustments. The targets will then go down, and with the command to load one round, 22 minutes for 22 shots, etc. the targets will come up. You have 22 minutes to shoot two sighters and 20 record shots.
Hopefully you will be on paper. If not, it would be helpful to have a scorer with a good scope who can watch the bullet trails and at least tell if you are high or low. If you are on the paper look at the wind flags and try to correlate your hits with the wind.
Oh, and by the way, try to have fun.