Fifteen years ago, the first F-Class World Championships (FCWC) took place at the Canadian Army Connaught Range in Nepean, Ontario, Canada, which is located just outside Ottawa. This is a beautiful and green 76-point range with distances out to 900 meters. The Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) did a wonderful job putting on the first FCWC in 2002, and they outdid themselves this year hosting the fifth FCWC at the same location. One hundred and thirty competitors finished the grand aggregate that initial year. For 2017, the entries nearly tripled to 388 competitors in the grand aggregate.
The championships were previously held in South Africa in 2005 (88 competitors), at the Bisley Range in Great Britain in 2009 (209 entries), and in Raton, NM, at the NRA Whittington Center in 2013 (394 competitors). The sixth FCWC will be held in 2021 at the Bloemfontein range in central South Africa.
The target is a 6-foot square frame with a 44-inch black aiming point. This 44-inch aiming point has a 5-inch V-ring and 10-inch five-ring, 20-inch four-ring, 30-inch three-ring and 44-inch two-ring. Any shot hitting the rest of the target frame counts one point. Keep in mind―a one mph wind change will move a 180-grain Hybrid bullet travelling at 3000 fps over six inches. It is not easy to stay in the five-ring!
This year’s FCWC was preceded by the Canadian F-Class National Championships, which consisted of two days of individual shooting at 700, 800 and 900 meters and one team day at the same distances. The F-Open class was won by an under-25 U.S. shooter living in Canada; Rhys Ireland with 435-30V out of 450-90V. Second was Rod Davies (Australia) one point back. Third place went to Barry Price (Canada) nine Vs behind Rod. Kevin Chou (Canada) won F-T/R with a 426-30V with Jeff Rorer (USA, North Carolina) six points back. In third place was Gianfranco Zanonio’s (Italy) score of 418-34V. All of the shooting in Canada is fired using the ICFRA pair firing method―which means you alternate firing with your shooting partner with each having up to 45 seconds to fire a shot. This puts a premium on wind doping.
The fifth World Individual Championships began Saturday, August 12 at 700 meters. It was a nice morning with 68 shooters firing scores of 75, with V-counts ranging from 12 to two. F-Open shooter Jim Murphy (USA, Kentucky) had the high score with 75-12V. Erik Cortina (USA, Texas) also had 12 Vs, but he was Creedmoor’d to a second place finish.
In F-T/R, 58 competitors fired 75s. Gerhard Hamman’s (South Africa) 14 Vs won the gold. After the shooters moved back to 800 meters, the weather took a turn for the worst. It started to rain. The first relay completed firing and the second moved up to the line, but it got much worse with thunder and lightning appearing. It turned into a torrent and showed no chance of letting up and the days firing was canceled. Everyone returned to their motels to dry out.
Sunday was sunny and hot, with a bit more wind than Saturday’s 700 meter match. At 800 meters, only 11 shooters shot cleans with Adam Pohl (Australia) winning the gold with a 75-11V. Jim Murphy had the last clean with only five Vs for eleventh place. The F-T/R gold went to David Pessall (USA, Pennsylvania) and his score of 73-8V. As we moved back to 900 for the first of two 15 shot strings, the winds increased and skies turned partly cloudy. Paul Phillips (USA, Michigan) picked up the F-T/R gold medal with a 71-2V. F-Open gold went to Tod Hendricks who shot a 76-4V. The final match of the day saw the F-Open gold medal in 900 meter go to Rod Davies’ 73-5V. The F-T/R top spot went to Philip Kelley Jr., who shot a fine score of 74-4V in some tricky conditions.
Monday was the final individual day of individual competition, kicking off with the first of two 900 meter 20 shot strings. Gerry Wiens (Canada, Manitoba) held the F-T/R aggregate lead by three Vs over Alan Bernhart. In fact, five shooters had 285 scores with a seven V spread between them. The USA’s Derek Rodgers was four points back with a 281-20V total. In F-Open, Rod Davies (Australia) with a 295-26V held a two point lead over Tod Hendricks (USA), Paul Sandie (United Kingdom) was third, and Jim Murphy (USA) fourth. As the first string started firing it was partly cloudy with light winds from 10-11 o’clock. Dan Biggs (USA, Alabama) won the gold with a 100-13V. It is interesting to note, Danny fired two bull fives on his sighting shots, but did not convert those to record shots as the international rules allowed. He figured it would take a lot of Vs to win in those conditions and he was right. He won by one V! There were six other cleans. In F-T/R, a single clean was fired by Gianfranco Zanoni (Italy), also a 100-12V.
After lunch, the winds got back up and the scores changed quite a bit on the last 20 shots of the World Individual Championships. Derek Rodgers picked up the gold in F-T/R with a fine score of 96-8V. He finished two points ahead of Niki Slee (Australia) and three ahead of David Harry (Canada). On the other side of the house, Jim Murphy (USA) won the gold with a 97-1V. Bob Sebolt and Erik Cortina (both USA) were two points back.
As the shooters packed up their gear and hurried back the hotel one final time to put on their dress uniforms for the awards ceremony, the stat office crunched the numbers. The bronze medal in F-T/R went to Bryan Litz (USA) two points from first place. The silver went to Kevin Chou (Canada), just five Vs behind Derek Rodgers (USA) and his score of 473-36V. It was close, but Derek’s strong finish took the day and he became the F-T/R World Champion.
In F-Open, Jim Murphy was the top USA finisher in fourth place. Adam Pohl (Australia) took the bronze, with Paul Sandy (United Kingdom) the silver winner. The gold medal went to World Champion Rod Davies with a 489-41V.
Tuesday was a practice day for the teams. Some decided they didn’t need any and took the day off. Others shot all three distances to work out final dispositions of members and some just one or two of the three.
Wednesday was the first day of the two-day World Team Championships. In both F-T/R and F-Open there are awards for both the International 8-shooter teams, which allow for up to 16 team members; and the 4-shooter Rutland teams, which are allowed seven total members. The International teams consist of eight trigger pullers, two alternates, a Captain, an Adjutant, Armorer, and three coaches. They fire on two targets with a center coach and two line coaches. Each line coach controls the firing of four shooters on one of targets. The Rutland or 4-man teams; are open to any group who wants to form a team. They consist of four trigger pullers, a coach, a Captain and an Adjutant. They fire at one target. Each team member receives a medal (if one is won), and every team member has a job to do that is vital to the success of a winning team.
The wind was extremely tricky and caused the coaches to pull their hair and shake their heads constantly. There were many hold ups as the coaches tried to put a value to the changing conditions. There seemed to be both windage and elevation changes going on. Some of the teams waited to start firing and others started when the targets first came up.
At the end of the first days firing, the F-Open 4-man Texas State Rifle Association team, coached by Bob Mead, was in first with a slim four-V lead over the USA National Red team coached by Trudie Fay. The Spindle Shooters coached by Emil Praslick was one point back with a fine 864-74V. Close behind with a score of 860-72V was USA Blue coached by Dale Carpenter.
Over on the F-T/R side, the 4-man teams were slugging it out also. The team, “Da Bulls” from the USA carried the day with 844-63V, 16 points ahead of second place “Bayou Rifles”. In third was the Canadian team “KP Ballistics” with 825-63V.
As these battles were going on the National 8-man teams were trying to put as many points on the score board as they could. Team Canada F-Open filed a 1737-164V for the top spot. In second place was Australia four points back. Third place went to South Africa, who were 20 points behind the leaders. The U.S. team was a single point behind South Africa.
The 8-man F-T/R teams were hard at it with Australia carding a 1660-99V, with the USA 11 points in behind, and Canada six points behind the USA.
Thursday (the final FCWC day) dawned with clear skies and less fickle winds. The same teams―11 F-Open 4-man, 14 F-T/R 4-man, six National F-Open 8-man and seven National F-T/R moved up to the starting firing line at 700 meters at the command of the chief line officer. As the targets came out of the pits the final battle began. And a hard fought battle it was! The USA F-Open 8-man team with head coach Michelle Gallagher, her mother Nancy Tompkins and Nancy’s husband Mid Tompkins telling their shooters where to hold―the U.S. Team racked up a score of 1784-214V. They guided three of the eight shooters to perfect 225 scores, with 72 percent of those in the V-ring.
While the USA was gaining steam the team from Australia was doing the same and finished 45 points better than Wednesday. The Canadians, meanwhile, beat their previous days score by only 32 points. These scores of course changed the standings good bit. The team aggregate bronze medals went to the USA (3500-350V), the silver to Canada (3506-346V) and the World F-Open Team Championship gold medals to Australia (3511-342V) for the second time in a row.
Of course, the F-T/R big teams were slugging it out. The USA F-T/R team carded a 1751-151V score (89 points over Wednesday), second was South Africa F-T/R’s 1747-149V and third went to Australia F-T/R with a 1734-138V. When the two day totals were added the bronze went to South Africa (3376-250V), the silver to Australia (3394-237V) and the USA F-T/R Team (3400-264V) retained their World Championship status.
While this was going on, the 4-man teams were hard at it also. In F-T/R, finishing Thursday’s match was the Southern Star Rifle Team with 868-76V, which earned them third place. Second place went to the U.S. Rifle Team, who scored 869-74V. First was KP Ballistic from Canada with a score of 870-89V. When all the points were added the FCWC bronze medals went to the Bayou Rifles (1692-118V) from Texas. The silver to KP Ballistics (1695-152V) from Canada and the 4-man F-T/R World Champions were DA Bulls, USA (1709-131V).
The 4-man F-Open Rutland Cup teams ended the day with USA Red shooting an 889-108V, and the Spindle Shooters in second with 893-100V. The daily high was USA Blue’s 898-105V. When totaled, the USA Red team (1754-185V) coached by Trudie Fay took the bronze medals, the Spindle Shooters (1757-174V), coached by Emil Praslick, the silver, and USA Blue (1758-177V) coached by Dale Carpenter was declared the 2017 F-Open Rutland Cup Champions.
Last but not least it should be noted this was the first FCWC to award Junior Championship medals. Rhys Ireland (USA) who won the CFCN’s outright the week before the FCWC received the gold medal as the F-Open Junior World Champion. The silver went to Joe West (United Kingdom) and the bronze to Madison Bramley (USA). Mitchell Fitzpatrick (USA) was awarded the gold medal as the F-T/R Junior World Champion, the silver to Shawn McSparron (USA, Florida) and the bronze to his brother Collin McSparron.
All the scores can be found for the CFCN and the FCWC at www.dcra.ca/results/2017/CFRC/index.htm
Photos by Nightforce Optics