The Road to Bisley:
The first ever United States F-T/R Team was selected after the F-Class Nationals in Raton in 2007. I was elected Captain in a meeting of all F-T/R Class shooters that were interested at Raton, and then had the difficult job of selecting a National Team. I had originally selected eight firing members and two alternates. After looking at some of the competition that we would be facing in Bisley, I decided we needed more depth, and pulled in the alternates as full firing members. Immediately on forming the Team, the search was on to find a Coach. Very early on I approached Gary Rasmussen, as his wind coaching skills are legendary, and I have watched him in action up in Canada. He was initially unsure of his schedule, so began a year’s pursuit! We were fortunate, and got him onboard late last year (to our great relief). The Team was complete.
Team USA F-T/R:
Darrell Buell (Captain)
Gary Rasmussen (Coach)
Kathy Buell (Adjutant)
After two years of extremely meticulous preparations by our Team Adjutant, readying all travel, lodgings, meals, match registrations, even rental vehicles, we finally boarded the planes. The majority of the Team was flying together, after rendezvousing in Atlanta. We made quite a splash, coursing through the various airports all in team uniforms. While it may or may not have made clearing customs in Heathrow easier, everyone there knew which Team had arrived! Our convoy of four rental vans (one had arrived three hours earlier) then trekked off to Bisley.
The next few days were spent settling in, sighting in, and getting equipment sorted out and down to weight. The Bisley flags took some getting used to initially. To a man, each of us got on the firing line for some sight-in practice, looked at the flags, and feeling pretty comfortable with our initial wind call, launched a round downrange. To a man, our first round was 3 feet off the right edge of the paper. clearly these flags were heavier than we were used to! I entered the Team guys in a selection of the long-range Imperial Meeting matches to get them acclimated to Stickledown. We also had a number of mandatory Team practice sessions on the 800, 900, and 1000 yard lines. In addition to these, a number of the guys entered some of the short-range Century Range matches in the Imperial.
The weather was a challenge for virtually the entire two weeks. The winds ranged from moderate to strong, and extremely variable! (note the wind flags in the picture below) For example, in the “Duke of Cambridge” Match (at 900 yards), I started out with 12 minutes of left wind on. Over the course of the match, I came down to a minimum of 7 minutes or so left, but ended up all the way back up to 11.5 minutes again. variable indeed. The whole time we were there, the winds were almost always out of the southwest. Only on the very last day of shooting (the Team World Championships) did the winds switch around and come out of the east. To add to the mix, our guys were squadded over virtually the entire day for the Imperial Meeting Matches, from 0830 to 1730, and anytime in between, making direct comparisons more complicated. It never rained for an entire day straight, but we had at least some rain almost every day we were in Bisley. Sometimes it was barely sprinkling; sometimes gully-washer cells would come through, making water control quite interesting. Most tried using Weather-Writers or Bisley boxes, plastic “mini-tents”, etc. but generally the rain was coming in at an angle, over the shooter’s shoulder, making this a difficult task. (see the rain pic here!) For those that haven’t been there, Stickledown Range has 50 firing points. They are generally used for Fullbore style shooting (2 or 3 shooters to a mound), so the firing points are very generously sized, and are typically covered with comfortable, well mown turf. There is considerable elevation difference between the ends of the firing line (around 30′). Thus the entire line is “terraced” down every 4 to 5 targets. The elevation difference also changes the conditions felt by the shooter (and bullet!) as the shooter fires up and down the line. With the dominant wind coming from the left, a shooter on the top “exposed” end of the line could be running 30% more windage than a shooter on the lower “protected” end of the line. In addition to being lower in elevation, the “low” end of the line is also shielded by a grove of trees for 200-300 yards of bullet flight. The shooters were all randomly squadded for each relay, so we saw quite a bit of all parts of the line, both high and low!
The Team used quite a variety of gear. For those not familiar with F-T/R Class, it is probably the fastest growing class of NRA shooting. It consists of a scoped .308 (or .223) rifle that can weigh no more than 18.15 lbs, including the bipod. Shooting is exclusively fired from the prone position, at ranges from 300 to 1200 yards, at a ½ minute target (the “X” ring for the long-range target used from 800 to 1200 yards measures just 5″).
Five of us were running some sort of an action by Savage Arms. Four of those (the Team Savage guys) were running completely stock Model 12 “F-T/R” rifles, the other was running a custom rifle built on a Savage action. Four of the remaining shooters were running Barnard actions, with one Stolle Panda, and one Wichita. Most of the barrels were 30″ 1:12 twist, but there was at least one 1:10, and one 28″ short barrel, and one 32.25″ long barrel!
The scopes we ran were 100% Nightforce. All save one of these was an NXS, the other was a Benchrest variant. Almost all of the NXS scopes had either been built, or retrofitted as custom “Team USA Scopes”. These were a standard 12-42×56 NXS scope that had an 1/8 minute elevation turret installed, while leaving the windage turret with ¼ minute adjustments. Our logic for going with these changes to an already excellent scope was thus: all of the rifles we took to Europe were sub-half minute rifles. At 1000 yards, a full ¼ minute elevation adjustment can move your group placement all the way from near the bottom of the “X” ring to close to the top. An 1/8 minute adjustment however, will center the group. There are very few (if any) wind readers that can read the wind closely enough to need 1/8 minute windage adjustments at 1000 yards, thus the finer knobs that the Benchrest model provides can be a distraction in higher wind conditions. The first thing I did when I took delivery of the “Team USA” Nightforce was to run a large box test on it. The box I chose was something like 16 minutes wide by 22 minutes tall. When my group size (a pretty decent .287″) was taken into account, the average divergence of round on target vs. calculated impact point was a ridiculously small .038″. outstanding!
The ammunition we used was, of course, all handloaded to extremely tight tolerances. For this trip, we were all using loads based around Berger Bullets. The projectiles were all the new Berger 155.5 grain “Fullbore” bullet with two exceptions. One of our guys took along some heavier Berger 185’s to run in individual matches, and I was still running the older Berger 155 “VLD”s. The Team matches were to be shot exclusively with the 155.5, although when it was clear that Gary was not seeing a great difference between the 185 and 155.5 as far as wind drift, I let Jeff run his 185’s at 1000 yards in the FCWC Team Match. There did not seem to be much difference that I could tell as far as scores went of heavy bullet vs. light, Jeff’s scores tracked with the lighter bullet shooters at 1000. I also gave the guys a velocity band to stay within for their 155’s, namely 2950 to 3050 fps. For most of the guys, this was their normal velocity band anyway, a couple of us had to detune our rounds to get there, as we normally run up in the 3100+fps range, but did not want to add the extra complication of running a “high energy” round at Bisley. All in all, the bullet selection was an excellent one. As I watched all of our competitor’s targets going up and down, the general impression I had was that we were shooting considerably fewer elevation shots than any of the other Teams.
Other equipment such as bipods saw a wide variety, from Sinclair’s new bipod, to GG&G;’s, Harris, even a brand new carbon fiber prototype bipod. The spotting scopes were exclusively Kowa’s, with the Team scopes being the superb new Fluorite glassed 883 “Prominar” model. Rear support ranged from emptied and refilled Edgewood bags, borrowed rear bags of all flavors
(avoiding overweight baggage fees). One person was running hand sewn custom bags, I was probably running the crudest setup, merely an old lead shot bag that you will find on any range in the country, filled with coarse sand. They all worked well.
Our sponsors large and small provided invaluable assistance in getting the Team over to England. They ranged from large corporations providing cash and gear, down to individuals from across the country sending in $20 checks and cash. The outpouring of support we saw from the individual donations was wonderful to behold. Many of our Team are Veterans, Law Enforcement, or both, so we saw a large number of private donations come in from Military bases across the USA! The large corporations stepped up too: Surgeon provided a spectacular custom rifle to raffle off. Berger Bullets outdid themselves providing not only bullets, but shipping for the ammo. They contributed towards uniforms as well. Nightforce Scopes played a big role as well, providing cash, as well as optics support, as did Kowa, with 2 donated 883’s. Other sponsors included Lapua, Holland’s Shooters Supply, Bore-Tech, Misty Morn Safe Co., Custom Guns Accessories & Ammo, and many others. The way people and companies stepped up across the country really helped make this trip possible.
The Imperial Meeting Matches:
For the US F-T/R Team, our Imperial Meeting Matches started with the Lovell. This was a 1000 yard match. US shooters in the top ten included:
Duke of Cambridge:
This was a 900 yard match with some pretty formidable winds throughout the day, top 10 US shooters were:
Corporation of London:
Another 1000 yard match, the US shooters were starting to hit their stride. Top 10 US shooters:
The last of the long-range Imperial matches that I entered my guys in, this one was shot at 900 yards.
In addition to long-range Imperial Meeting Matches, there were plenty of short range ones as well, shot on the 106 target Century Range, next door to the Stickledown. For the Queen’s Final (first stage) Gary took the top spot, and ended up in 4th place for the Queen’s Final (final stage). In the Wimbledon Match, Paul took a silver medal, Warren took 8th, and Gary took 10th. In the Alexandra Match, Dale took 4th and Paul took 10th. In the 900 yard Barlow Match, Mike tied for 1st place with Bill Flintoft of Canada. Mike also won the P.W. Richardson 500 yard match, closely followed by Gary in 2nd place.
Meet & Greet hosted by Great Britain:
Scattered amongst the matches, receptions and meet & greets were the order of the evenings. On the night before the FCWC Individuals, Great Britain hosted a reception in the Bisley Pavilion. Good munchies, beverages, and comradeship were had by all. Good rifles, bad loads, the triumphs and mishaps of the past week were hashed over.
F-Class World Individual Championships:
After all of the “pre-matches” it was time to get Worlds started. The Matches were well planned out from the start. With over 200 competitors from 14 countries, there were enough F-T/R shooters to fill up one relay entirely (two to a mound). This was the best of all worlds. Target assignment aside, it was a level playing field, “apples to apples” comparison of the different shooters’ abilities. As it happened, the F-T/R relay fired first, but the same would have applied if the F-Open relays had shot first. For both days of Individuals, at 800 yards, the winds were generally still developing for the day, so scores were generally quite good, with the top 10 finishers scoring within 2 points of perfect scores. The winners of the 800 yard lines both days had scores of 75-9V, just 6 “V”s shy of a “clean-clean”. It was excellent shooting.
800 yard line day 1 top Team USA scores:
800 yard line day 2 top Team USA scores:
The 900 yard F-T/R stages were fired mid-morning. The winds were starting to pick up, but being less than 1000 yards (and having the best F-Class shooters in the world competing) kept the scores from suffering too badly. In fact, the top 5 positions were still within 2 points of a clean score on the first day. On the second day, the winds were blowing harder at 900, and the winning score was a “mere” 73-7V.
900 yard line day 1 top Team USA scores:
900 yard line day 2 top Team USA scores:
The 1000 yard line stages were held after lunch, and the winds were simply howling! All of the F-T/R scores suffered badly. The first day was somewhat better than the second, with the top 5 finishers loosing between 6 and 9 points. The second day’s 1000 yard stage was a train wreck for many shooters, with the top 5 finishers dropping between 15 and 19 points. The 1000 yard line scores staggered some US F-T/R shooters, but others rose to the top.
1000 yard line day 1 top Team USA scores:
1000 yard line day 2 top Team USA scores:
800 yard aggregate:
900 yard aggregate:
1000 yard aggregate:
Day 1 aggregate:
Day 2 aggregate:
World Individual Championships:
The GB Team clearly came ready to play for the Individual’s. Taking the top two places, in particular, Russell Simmonds taking the gold by a good margin (5 points over 2nd place George Barnard) was very impressive indeed. One might put their showing down to simply knowing Bisley better than the visiting Teams, but rumor has it that Russell has only shot on Bisley 3 or 4 times before. Either way, it was an excellent showing. The US F-T/R Team shooters were no slouches either, taking 9 of the top 15 places. Accolades also go to Canadian shooter Matt Wolf, the only non USA or GB shooter to break the top 15, placing 7th overall, and winning the second day of competition outright.
Visiting Teams Reception:
The night before the World Championships Team Matches, all of the visiting Teams combined forces to host an outstanding bash at Canada House. There was a national theme to the event, and each country brought “national” beverages of their choice. The USA, South Africa, and Spain brought wines from their countries, Team USA also brought various whiskeys and bourbons, Team Spain brought a delicious Parma Ham in addition to their wines. Team Netherlands brought some excellent beer, and some dangerous orange liquor that went down way too easily! Team Germany brought a prodigious amount of excellent German beer, Team Ireland provided Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. Another night of good company and banter, and especially information exchange was enjoyed by all.
The Main Event – The F-Class World Team Championship:
Throughout the week of pre-matches, Team USA held three practice sessions at long range (800, 900, and 1000 yards). I used these sessions to select the 8 team members that would shoot for the United States in the World Championships. Each shooter fired 10 or 15 round strings at each yard line for each day of practice, both coached and uncoached shooting. All shots were plotted, and I worked into the night tallying up the amount of vertical dispersion each shooter printed. All of the US shooters were extremely competitive, and the results after approximately 130 plotted shots were very close. Knowing that all of the shooters had poured their hearts out under intense pressure in the tryout sessions, announcing the guys that had made the Team was one of the harder things I’ve had to do. In the end, the United States Team was made up of:
Darrell Buell (Captain)
Gary Rasmussen (Coach)
John Weil, shooter 1
Paul Phillips, shooter 2
Monte Milanuk, shooter 3
Jeff Rorer, shooter 4
Dale Carpenter, reserve shooter
Kathy Buell (register keeper)
The remaining 4 shooters were not out in the cold, they were entered in the Rutland Cup match (fired concurrently with the World Championships) as a team of 4 (self coached).
Stan Pate (Captain)
Mike Miller (Coach)
Kathy Milanuk (Register Keeper)
Six countries fielded Teams for the F-T/R World Championship Teams Match. Day 1 started out well for the US, at the first yard line (800 yards) we were up 1 point on Team Canada, and ended up taking a 9 point lead on the GB Team there as well. The 900 yard line, the Brits knocked our lead down to just 4 points, so we went into the 1000 yard line neck and neck. On the 1000, the advantage swung back to the US Team, with us pulling 18 points on the GB Team. We ended day 1 with a 22 point lead out of 900 possible points, decent, but given the conditions at 1000, not secure by any means. Day 2 saw the US Team pull an additional 10 point lead at 800 yards. At 900, we had a train wreck, and the Brits shot well, pulling back 17 points of our former 32 point lead. Fortunately both the US and GB Teams fired quickly at the 900, other Teams that were a bit slower ended up getting drenched in a downpour towards the end of the stage. The US F-T/R Rutland Cup Team got stuck in this one, with one member commenting “it was like synchronized swimming with rifles!” Eventually they had to hold up and let the worst of the rain pass. Fortunately it blew through before time elapsed. Also fortunate was the fact that the majority of the winds that had stymied the US Team ended with the rain, leaving a period of relative quiet. The lighter winds yielded better scores to the Teams that hunkered down in the downpour, but many Teams (including both the US F-Open National Team, and US F-T/R Rutland Cup Team) were surprised by dramatic elevation shots as their first rounds fired after the rain pushed out considerable rain water from their barrels. Invariably, the shots were almost off the paper low.
US F-T/R went into lunch with the winds building on an increasingly tenuous looking 15 point lead.
After lunch, we all came back to the 1000 yard line for the last relay of the Championships. There to greet us was yet another downpour, and some fierce wind. As the match started, both the GB and USA Teams merely eyed each other, and settled in to wait out the rain, keeping their first shooters’ equipment dry as much as possible. Finally, about 15 minutes into the match, both Team Captains felt that conditions were as dry as they were going to get, and started their Teams in motion. The Coaches were really earning their keep here; our little .308s were getting tossed about badly. I quite unashamedly converted “4”s with no qualms whatsoever! Through a hard fought first two shooters, Team USA gained one point on each of their GB counterparts. Then came the third shooters, and disaster struck. A howling cell of wind came through, and both the GB and USA Teams held up. Finally, we could hold no longer, and a succession of “2”s, and even a “1” had me pulling my hair out! I was horrified when our third shooter came off the line with a 51-0V. The GB shooter and Coach had fared a bit better with a 55-1V. That left only the last shooters, and an ultra-thin 13 point lead. The weather finally was clearing up, but the winds were getting worse, if possible, with a shift towards a headwind, with near instantaneous direction changes. The last shooters shot virtually shot for shot, with the GB shooter pulling back 1 more point. The final margin was Team USA with a 12 point victory (out of 1800 possible)!
The World Championship Final Standings:
Team USA…Gold Medal…1581-76V
Team GB…Silver Medal….1569-74V
Team Ireland…Bronze Medal..1508-47V
While our Rutland Cup Team finished merely 6th out of 10 teams, it should be noted that their competition was exclusively made up of F-Open teams! If you compare their score to the World Championship Teams’, you see that their 1542-67V was extremely competitive (third place)!
The entire Team had a great deal of fun in England, and learned a lot too. I was hugely impressed with how the Team jelled as a unit. Over two weeks, we shifted from a disparate group of guys from all corners of the US with good shooting resumés, to a well oiled, cohesive group of Team shooters. Our competition was a truly class group of guys, Stuart Anselm led his troops in a valiant battle, and was as good a sportsman as they come. We look forward to the 2013 Worlds to be held in Raton, New Mexico with great anticipation. With the F-T/R Teams to be fielding full sized Teams, it should be quite a Match!
The current Team still has work to do. We will be representing the US in Ottawa in August, 2010, and again in Ireland for the USA vs. Europe Matches in 2011. Once done there, the guys will get some rest, and a new Team will be named for Raton in 2013.