F-T/R Class Information
F-Class as a concept was dreamed up by George Farquharson, a Canadian target rifle shooter in the 1990s. His idea was that those shooters, whose eyes, elbows, backs, etc. were too worn out to continue shooting an iron-sighted Palma style rifle with a heavy shooting jacket and a sling, would have a way to continue competitive shooting.
As it evolved, two principal divisions formed. One was F-T/R, which was essentially defined as a scoped .308 rifle, fired prone from a bipod at ranges out to 1233 yards. The other division is F-Open, which is basically an “unlimited” version of the same idea (caliber unlimited up to 8mm, machine rest instead of a bipod, much heavier weight limit, etc.).
As aforementioned, F-T/R class rifle shooting is done with a rifle restricted to one of two calibers; .308 or .223. The weight limit for the rifle is 8.25 Kg (or 18.15 lbs.). This weight limit includes anything that comes with the rifle as you lift it from the ground (ie. bipod, mirage band/tube, weather cover, etc.). Any style optic desired is allowed, as long as it does not bump the rifle’s weight over the 8.25 Kg limit. Generally, any style bipod is permitted, as long as it does not prevent the rifle from recoiling (ie. fixed to the ground). There are no monopods permitted, but almost any sort of rear bag/sandbag support is permitted, again, as long as it does not constitute a “return to battery” system, or similar. There are some restrictions on what sort of bipod support may be used. If the mat or carpet remnant (very common), or plastic sheet (also very common) can be rolled up (ie, very flexible, conforming to the contour of the firing position), it can be of any width. If the bipod is supported on a plate, or plank (ie. rigid), the plank can only be 2 inches wider than the footprint of the bipod, as used on the firing line. The target used for all ranges is a ½ MOA target. This means that the “x” ring in the center of the target is 1.5” at 300 yards, 3” at 600 yards, 5” at 1000 yards, and so forth.
The equipment used in F-T/R class is extremely varied, but almost exclusively bolt-action in nature. From stock Savage (and other) factory rifles costing $1000 or less, to top end custom rifles costing many times this amount. On the US Team, Savages, Barnards, Stolle, BAT, Inch, and many other receivers are common. Barrels range from stock Savage, to Kreiger, Rock Creek, Brux, Bartlein, and others. Optics are primarily Nightforce products, but March, and Leupold are represented as well. For the World Championships, exclusively Nightforce Scopes will be used. Bipods range wildly. From the humble Harris, to the $500 space-age bipods. Tactical style pods such as Harris, GG&G, and LRA are popular, as they essentially look like what everyone imagines a bipod would be. There are some very high-tech bipods out there that may provide a bit more stability, but at the cost of more weight. High-tech pods include Sinclair, Remple, and Centershot, some are lighter than others, including carbon fiber parts to save weight. The “high-tech” pods typically have the ability to make elevation adjustments without upsetting the position of the pod. Rear supports range from elaborate Edgewood bags filled with exotic chromite or zircon, to simple range bags filled with river sand.
The ammunition used is primarily hand loaded, as factory loaded ammo has trouble maintaining the desired accuracy, especially at ranges greater than 600 yards. Many different combinations of brass, powder, and bullets are used successfully. Powder such as Hodgdon, Vhitavouri, Reliant, and others are common, but a heads and shoulders favorite is Varget, by Hodgdon. Lapua and Winchester brass are both popular. Bullet weight is unlimited, and the choices competitors are using vary wildly. Berger Bullets are a favorite, but many Lapua bullets and Sierra bullets are used as well. In general, the lighter bullets (155 or 155.5 grains) have been the go-to for long-range competition, but in the last few years, people have been running heavier bullets (185+ grains) with a great deal of success.
The equipment in F-T/R is somewhat compromised to long-range use. Generally, 30” barrels are the norm, although people running barrels as short as 20” have been *very* competitive at 1000 yards with proper bullet and load selection. You are required to single-load your rounds, so manufacturing your ammo to “magazine length” is not a limitation, allowing greater ballistic selection than that intended to be used in an M1A or AR-10. Most top competitors come to the range with rifles capable of shooting ½ inch groups at 100 yards, with ammunition intended to keep the bullets supersonic out to 1000 yards (or at least their desired competition max range for the match). It is entirely possible, even likely, that you will be sacrificing a portion of your accuracy in order to keep your bullets supersonic (ie. stable) out to 1000 yards and beyond. If you only intend to compete out to 600 yards, your competition load will likely be *quite* different from a load intended to keep a .308 bullet stable out past 1200 yards.
Most competitors bring rifles that are very competitive in their ability to hold their vertical shot dispersion to 5” or less at 1000 yards. What separates the top competitors from the rest is their ability to judge, or “read” the wind. The wind will have a massive effect on the flight path of a bullet, increasingly so as the range gets longer. A common “benchmark” used by long-range shooters to compare the ballistics of one round to another is a standard: 10 MPH 90° crosswind at 1000 yards. With this benchmark, most F-T/R bullets are drifting 80-95 inches from where they were aimed! With only 5” to play with before you start loosing points (at 1000 yards), it becomes immediately apparent that the shooter that will win at the end of the day will be the one that makes the fewest wind reading errors. Most ranges have some combination of wind flags that can be used to judge wind speeds and directions, but many top shooters are looking for information from the “mirage” generated from the warm ground. Just as you can see mirage with the naked eye, looking down a hot desert road in the summertime, shooters can see fainter mirage looking downrange through a combination of their rifle scopes and their spotting scopes. The mirage info is quite sensitive, and gives information such as wind speed, direction, and even angle, and can help shooters avoid being caught by sudden wind direction shifts that might put them *way* out of the center of the target.