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.
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.
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.
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.
Read more: The Best High Power Rifle Cartridge