In the beginning of long-range target shooting, the available options were prone, or from the back shooting, as it was done at the late 1800s Creedmoor matches. Next came prone with a sling as done today.
And then some bright, elder Canadian prone shooter had an idea—and F-Class was born.
Here are eight things about F-Class that you may not have known about.
Several F-Class national championships have been fired at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, Ariz.
1. F-Class was named after the founder of this type of shooting: George “Farky” Farquharson of Canada. As he aged, his eyesight and unsteady muscles started giving out. He wanted to find a way to continue shooting with his longtime competition friends. So, he petitioned the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) to allow him to replace his iron sight with a telescopic one, and use something to rest his rifle on, rather than try to hold it still with a sling. Luckily, the DCRA granted his request.
Farky added a bipod to his rifle and a rear sand bag to rest the butt on, and from those modest beginnings, F-Class was born. After a few years, many other Canadian and U.S. shooters who shot in Canadian matches had joined Farky, with the class growing by leaps and bounds. F-Class is now a thriving sport that is shot around the globe.
2. When U.S. shooters carried the game south of the border, F-Class exploded in popularity. I read an article written by J.J. Conway in the old “Precision Shooting” magazine about F-Class in 1998. With a benchrest rifle in 6 mm BR sitting in the closet, I decided to give it a try. While I didn’t have a bipod, I did have a tripod, which counted as a rest. This caveat made it legal to use via the loose rules. By the way—in the United States, J.J. Conway is considered the “Grandfather of F-Class.” He deserves the title. Unfortunately, J.J. passed away in August 2000 at the age of 94.
J.J. Conway at the 2003 Texas State F-Class Championship. The caption says: “The wind was so bad he had to hold on to the flagpole.”
3. In 2000, at the DCRA Championships in Ottawa, Canada, a get-together was held by interested shooters to hash out the rules for the first F-Class World Championships in 2002. The only restriction on caliber was the 8 mm one for their range. A rifle weight limit was discussed, and I wanted a 16.5-pound limit so any light rifle or 1,000-yard Benchrest rifle could be used for both F-Class and Benchrest. In addition, this would have kept the cartridge case size down due to recoil. Since there were already a few that were shooting 25-pound (or more) rifles, a compromise of 22 pounds (10 kilogram) was reached. At that time, everyone shot in the only class there was—F-Class. As for me, I shot a 16.5-pounds 6 mm BR and won some major matches.
4. Why was 8.25 kilograms picked as the max weight for F/TR? As the game spread here in the U.S., new shooters wanted to shoot what they had and wanted to win. Nearly every person felt their rifle should have a class of its own. This would not work. So, I brought together a committee of what are now called F/TR shooters, and asked them to come up with some rules on calibers and weight restrictions. Knowing that F-Class was based on what are called in the U.S. “Palma” (Target) rifles, we used the average weight of a Palma rifle, and added the weight of a target scope and the common-at-the-time “Harris” bipod, and came up with 8.25 kilograms (18.18 pounds).
This class was restricted to .308 Win./.223 Rem., since these calibers were what U.S. F-Class Founding Father, Old Farky, and his friends would shoot. At the time, I was pestered night and day to open the caliber pool up. I would say, “Okay, I'll just put a bipod on my 16.5-pound 6 mm BR and shoot with or against you.” We were pestered to limit barrel length, scope power and everything else under the sun. Did we make a mistake? I don't think so. Look at F/TR today—it is growing by leaps and bounds worldwide. Back in 2004, F/TR was added as a separate class for the first U.S. F-Class national championships.
5. The longest known F-Class shoot-off took place on at the first F-Class World Championships in Ottawa, Canada, in 2002. On the first day of the matches, 34 entrants out of 134 total in the 700-meter match fired 15 shots for a perfect 90 out of 90 points (the V-ring was valued at six points). It was decided a shoot-off would be held at the end of the day.
Although I don’t recall how many of the 34 were in the shoot-off, since some were short on ammunition, there were quite a few who moved down range to the 700-meter line. As one shooter after another failed to hit the V-ring, the number of them firing became smaller.
My first inclination was that I might have to send someone back to the car to get more ammo, although I brought 125 rounds with me. At the time, I didn’t know how many were still “clean,” since being left-handed I couldn’t see the shooters to my right, and all to my left had missed the V-ring and headed off the line. I didn’t want to break position to look.
When I fired my 66th shot and my shot came up another “V.” After a brief spell, my scorekeeper congratulated me on the win. Turning right, I saw Keith Cunningham, the great Canadian marksman and shooting coach, standing up. That is something that I’ll never forget.
John Brewer is pictured here on the left next to J.J. Conway, the “Grandfather of F-Class.”
6. The current U.S. F-Open 1,000-yard record of 200-22X was shot on July 19, 2019 at the F-Class Nationals by Norman Harrold of Hackett, Ark. Norman fired 20 consecutive shots into the 5-inch X-ring, and then fired two more before shooting a 10.
The current F/TR record is co-held by Mike Plunkett of Florence, Ky., and Raymond Gross of Midland, Mich. They both shot 200-16X on the same day (September 19) at the 2018 F-Class Nationals. Mike is shown as match winner in the results, so he must have won the match based on the Creedmoor tie-breaking rules. I am sure it won’t be long before some F/TR hotshot shoots a perfect clean of 200-20X.
7. There are three different types of F-Class competitions found around the world.
U.S. style with one shooter firing all his or her shots in order (string fire).
Two or three to a mound. Sometimes called “pair firing.” This style requires shooters to take turns firing one shot which is scored, then the next shooter has 15 seconds to fire a shot, and the rotation goes on until the string is finished.
Australian style: Similar to our string firing, but the shooters are in a squad of six to eight shooters rotating on a single target one after another as they finish.
8. F-Class is fun. If you would like to shoot long distance, learn to read the wind like a pro, meet great people and have fun, then try F-Class. The “F” stands for “Farky,” and “Fun.”
Lead photo: The legendary J.J. Conway (left) and Andy Amber in Ottawa, Canada, circa 2002. All photos by the author.