Quite often people will ask me; “If I want to start shooting F-Class what equipment should I buy?” This question has no correct answer, so here is the short one … you can't go wrong if you buy what the majority of the better shooters are using for this popular precision long-range game.
The comeback is usually, “Okay … then how do I find out what they use?” You could ask them, but a simpler way is to view the data from equipment lists at previous matches.
Below is a breakdown of what the top shooters used at the 2017 Berger Southwest Nationals. Some of the data was incomplete, this is what we dug up.
Let’s first look at F-Open.
- Actions - Two each Kelbly, Borden, Bat, Barnard and one PGW.
- Barrels - Five Brux, two Bartlein, one each Krieger and Benchmark.
- Stocks - Three each Precision Rifle & Tool and X-Ring. Then two McMilian’s and one Shurley Bros.
- Triggers - Bix ‘n Andy had five each then two Barnard’s, and one each for Flavio and Jewell.
- Rifle scopes - NightForce led with seven and March with two each.
- Front rests –Seven used SEB, followed by one each for Farley and Caldwell.
- Rear Bags - Led by Edgewood with four, followed by Protektor with three and SEB with two.
- Bullets - Seven used Berger, one used Lapua and one Matrix.
- Powder - Seven used Hodgdon H-4350 and two used H4831sc with one using Norma N160.
- Brass - Seven used Lapua and one Norma.
- Primers - Four CCI and three Wolf (Russian).
- Calibers - Six used a .284 Winchester cartridge and three used a .284 Shehane.
- Spotting Scopes - Five used Kowa spotting scopes, another had a Pentax, and there was one that used none.
In F-T/R the numbers changed a bit.
- Actions - Two Pierce, one each Kelbly, Borden, Bat and Barnard.
- Barrels - Seven Bartlein, one each Brux and Krieger.
- Stocks – Two Precision Rifle & Tool, one each McMillan, Pierce, Scovlle, TLC.
- Triggers - Three Jewells, two Bix ‘n Andy, and one Barnard.
- Rifle scopes - Nine NightForce, one each March and Vortex.
- Bipods – Three Phoenix Precision and two SEB Joy-Pods.
- Rear Bags - Two each SEB and Edgewood and one Protektor.
- Spotting Scope - Kowa four, one used a Vortex and one used none.
- Bullets - It was Berger again with six each and no others were listed.
- Brass - Lapua dominated with six each and no others were reported.
- Primers - Two each for CCI and Federal and one each Tula (Russian).
- Powder - Varget three each, Norma N140 and VihtaVuori one each.
- Out of the top ten, six reported using a .308 Winchester as would be expected. There were zero .223’s.
As you can see above there is a good bit of variety in the top 10 equipment list. But does this mean you have to use what they used? Heck no! Many shoot quite well with other equipment. Jeff Cochran, the 2005 US F-Open National Champion still shoots off his old Midway rest. Out of the 89 listed F-T/R actions—22 were Savage versus 19 Kelbly custom actions. Out of 101 listed F-Open actions, 10 were Savage. If you have something else, by all means try it out at your initial matches, then spend your hard earned bucks on what will stand a good chance of being competitive. Always remember: equipment isn’t everything, you still have to know how to shoot and read the wind.
I spoke with the 2017 SWN F-Open champion David Gosnell and this is what he used at the match—custom stock by David Bailey, SEB Neo front rest and Seb rear bag, Bat MB action, Brux barrel chambered in straight .284 Win. He used Norma 284 brass with H-4350 powder, CCI BR-2 primers and Berger 180 Hybrids. Out of 125 shots in the grand aggregate he dropped only three points and had 84 X’s out of 125. This is with 15 shots at 800 and 900 yards and 95 at 1000. He dropped no points at the shorter ranges.
Believe me, the top competitors analyzed what the others were using and what they thought would work best for them, based on a lot of experience and a bit of trial and error. My advice: buy the best you can afford and buy once if you can.
Visit the Berger Bullets website to view all the equipment lists for F-Open and F-T/R.
A few examples—of all the F-Class shooters 80 percent shot Berger Bullets. Seventy percent were using Lapua brass. In F-Open 51 percent used SEB rests, and in F-T/R 28 percent use SEB Joy-pods, and finally 24 percent were using Phoenix Precision bipods.
Interested in attending the 2017 F-Class Championship? Email [email protected], or go to competitions.nra.org/f-class-nationals.aspx.
All photos by NightForce Optics.