Special thanks to past NRA President and United States F-Open Rifle Team member John C. Sigler for his assistance with this article.
The United States F-Open Rifle Team came back from third place to land a triumphant victory and a gold medal at the 2023 F-Class World Championships, held March 26 to April 1 at the Genl De Wet Classification Shooting Range in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
With a winning score of 3540-366V, the U.S. F-Open Team’s victory last month made history, marking the first time the United States has defeated South Africa on its home range in F-Open in more than 20 years. F-Open shooters won the first F-Class World Championships in Canada in 2002, but have yet to land at the top of the leaderboard since then, falling victim to both the South Africans and the Australians, who had previously beaten the Americans here in the United States in 2013 and in Canada in 2017.
On the other side of the house, the U.S. F-T/R team finished as runner-up and silver medalist in the F-T/R competition with a score of 3462-284V, 56 points behind the winning South African team. But don’t let that fool you—both teams put up excellent scores this year. From the U.S. Rifle Team 2023 Facebook page, “the South African F-T/R team set a new standard, with a score of 3518-305V, a full 106 points ahead of the prior record to win gold. Simply phenomenal.”
F-Class World Championship firing is conducted at 700 meters, 800 meters and 900 meters, usually firing “three-to-a-mound,” meaning three competitors per target alternating and scoring for each other. The international target has a “V” instead of an “X” for a “Bull,” and is scored five, four, three, two and one, as opposed to the standard American target, which is scored 10, nine, eight, seven, etc.
The standard course of fire is two convertible sighters and 15 rounds for record, meaning that a possible score is 75 with 15 Vs (a convertible sighter is one which may be “converted” to a record round for score).
The top scorer for the U.S. F-Open team this year was Bill Kolodziej with a grand total of 448-50V. As for the U.S. F-T/R team, the top shot was Tracy Hogg with 438-40V.
The 2023 F-Class World Championships team competition took place over two days. At the match there were teams from Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand and more. After the first day, the U.S. F-T/R 16-man World Team stood in second place behind the South Africans, while the American F-Open Team was eight points back in third place behind the South Africans and the Australians.
Day two of the 2023 F-Class World Championships showed a much different result, with the American F-T/R World Team holding its own to earn second place and a silver medal. But the excitement came from the U.S. F-Open Team coming from behind with an impressive performance to win gold for the United States, defeating the South Africans for the first time on their home range, and showing the Australians that there was no quit in the American team.
The American Rutland (eight-man) team also showed its grit and determination by earning a silver medal to go with the gold they had won during the South African National Championships, which were held just before the F-Class World Championships.
F-Open Team Leaderboard
- USA F-OPEN, 3540-266V
- SOUTH AFRICA PROTEA F-OPEN, 3535-374V
- AUSTRALIA F-OPEN, 3512-338V
F-T/R Team Leaderboard
- SOUTH AFRICA PROTEA F-T/R, 3518-307V
- USA F-T/R, 3462-284V
- GREAT BRITAIN F-T/R, 3376-22V
Rutland Cup Team Leaderboard
- SABU FEDERATION, 1755-165V
- USA F-OPEN, 1741-150V
- KIRKWOOD COUNTRY CLUB, 1719-122V
Before the F-Class World Championships commenced, American shooter Erik Cortina won the overall South African National Championship. After his victory, Cortina was “Chaired” from the range, carried by a cadre of his American teammates, which is the custom in international rifle competition.
As one might expect, with 126 F-Open shooters representing nine countries competing on the world stage, the scores were quite high, despite an incredibly challenging range with winds as difficult and unpredictable as anywhere in the world.
American F-Open shooters Kaycie Blankenship and Walter Lange led the way in the special categories, with Kaycie winning gold in the Under 25 category and Walter winning gold in the Super Veteran category.
The American F-Open shooters claimed a total of seven silver medals and eight bronze medals in individual competition, while the American individual F-T/R shooters won two gold, one silver and one bronze medal. The South African shooters, competing on their home range, dominated the individual competition.