F-Class for AR Shooters: F-AR15

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[ This guest post was written by John Dink and Dr. Jim Clary ]

F-Class is an outgrowth of Palma shooting which requires the shooter to use micrometer aperture (iron) sights firing a 7.62 NATO cartridge (.308 Win) at ranges from 600 to 1,000 yards. The goal of F-Class (originating in Canada in the 1990’s) was to allow shooters who no longer had the vision or physical strength for Palma to continue shooting at a competitive level for many more years. It is also an ideal way to interest younger shooters and new shooters to high power shooting. F-Class shooting is divided into two categories:

F-Class Open: The most flexible as it allows the shooter to use any target rifle with a bull barrel and scope to shoot off a front rest with a rear bag in calibers up to .338 Win.

F-Open Rifle owned by John Dink, 2-time member of US F-Class International Team

F-Class/Target Rifle: This is referred to as F/TR and is restricted to the .223 Remington and .308 Winchester. In this category, shooting is off a bipod, rather than the front rest, but still with a rear bag. Most F/TR shooters shoot the .308 Winchester in order to be competitive at 1,000 yards. Hence, the .223 Remington, although allowed, is rarely used by serious F/TR competitors.

F-TR Rifle owned by Brad Sauve, 3-time US F-TR Champion

John is the Match Director for Centerfire Prone at ZIA Rifle and Pistol Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Realizing the popularity of AR-type rifles on the range, John has created a new Mid-Range (600 yard) F-Class format for AR15-type rifles, using the same targets, ½ MOA X, 1 MOA 10 @ 600 yards. This new venue is essentially plinking for F-Class shooters, without the high set-up cost. Another reason for creating this new category is that not many ranges across the country have 1,000 yard ranges, hence F-Class shooters “practice” at 600 yard distances. This gives them trigger time, but given the evolution and development of F-Class rifles, 600 yards presents no challenge except in the worst winds. Switching to a .223 format for AR platforms provides an opportunity for new and younger shooters to “get into the game” at a much reduced expense. New AR shooters will find keeping all their rounds in the black at 600 yards a challenge, consistently shooting 10’s or better will take considerable more effort, and should provide enough challenge for even the most seasoned F-Class shooter.

The new format, F-AR15, will be a spinoff of F-TR, but will be restricted to .223/5.56×45 shooting 68 – 77 grain Match type bullets. They must be loaded at magazine length of 2.260” OAL or less and fired from the magazine, as the firearm was originally designed to be used. No single loading of long seated bullets will be permitted. And, no wildcat cartridges will be allowed (at least for now) in order to keep the playing field level. Also, no bullets cored with anything other than lead will be allowed. This is a SAFETY issue for people in the pits and there will be no exceptions.

The white dots in the distance are the 600 yard targets

Flashhiders and Suppressors are fine, but muzzle brakes will be restricted due to interaction with other shooters close to you on the line. Anyone who has ever been next to someone firing a high-power rifle with a muzzle brake can appreciate this restriction. At Zia, John will try and accommodate those with brakes by putting them on the end of the line, but if it becomes a burden for other shooters, their use will be re-evaluated.

The above pictures illustrate a typical setup optimized for F-AR15. In the AR15 picture, the for end is free-floated with the bipod attached. If the for end was still connected to the bore, as in the standard AR design, you would have accuracy issues as the load changed on the bipod. And, one can see the necessity for having a rear bag tall enough for magazine clearance.

It is desirable to have an adjustable buttstock. The LOP needed when using a highly magnified optic changes with your position: off hand, kneeling and prone. If you use a fixed stock, you may wish to optimize the scope eye relief for that position. The rear bag pictured is about as high end as it gets, Edgewood Leather. But, we need to emphasize that, as you will need a bag height that works with your magazine and bipod height.

The Scope Setup picture above illustrates the scope/rail configuration. Again, high end but the point is you will need an extended rail to put the scope eye relief where it is needed for prone shooting. You will also need to address the internal elevation range on your scope. Not all scopes will get the job done. The scope pictured (Nightforce NXS), has 100 MOA of vertical adjustment and a 20 MOA tilted rail was not needed. However, with a 1” scope, you will most likely require the 20 MOA tilted rail.

The final picture illustrates the bipod attachment. Any prone sized bipod from the Harris type on up to the Sinclair F-Class bipod will work. However, think ahead as to how you will attach your bipod to your for end. A GG&G bipod is pictured and is attached to the 1913 rail. It is a very secure and stable attachment. Note that the gasblock is covered. The reason for this is Mirage. The heat from the gasblock will give false indications of mirage that is used for wind doping. Another option is an extra long sunshade or a mirage band.

Having said all of the above, the basic specifications for an F-AR15 rifle are:

  • 1/8 or 1/7 twist barrel – 1/9 if you only want to shoot 69 grain bullets
  • Match type chamber specifications – without too much free-bore
  • Flat-top
  • Match-trigger
  • Free-float fore end
  • 16-24 inch barrels (longer is better) – the best one tested was a 20-incher
  • Optical Riser/rail with 20 MOA of slope
  • High Quality Rifle scope (10x is about the minimum)
  • Solidly mounted Prone length Bipod

We expect that most AR shooters will take their existing rifles out to the range, as is, to see how they perform and THEN decide what modifications they need to make to their individual gun. The same holds true for reloads. However, to provide a starting point on reloading for this kind of shooting we provide the following suggestions:

POWDER: When it comes to powder, stick with a single-base stick, ball powder need not apply. With more than 60 years of hand-loading experience between us, we have never seen a ball powder perform as an equal to stick powder for match-grade accuracy at “longer” distances, especially in the Southwest where temperatures extremes of 40+ degree from morning to late afternoon are common. There are several good choices available from Hodgdon and IMR, and each shooter will have to determine which works best in their gun.

CASES: New Lake City brass is tends to be a bargain and of good quality, but if you decide to get really serious, you will want to use Lapua brass, which many F-Class shooters prefer. However, we expect that a lot of folks will try out their once-fired brass as they start up in this class. We have seen no real issues with fired brass, but expect to loose about 5-10% after each firing due to primer pocket issues.

BULLETS: Nosler 69s and 77s shoot well and are cost effective; however, if you want to optimize, you should consider shooting Bergers, costly yes! But they do tend to deliver. Again, what bullet you decide upon will depend upon your gun, your goals, and of course how much money you are willing to spend. The 75-77 grain bullets will always win the “wind drift game”, but not all barrels will shoot them as well as the 68-69 grain bullets.

PRIMERS: Use BR4 or 205M primers for as a starting point, though Rem 7-1/2 and Wolf SRM’s have yielded excellent results for many shooters.

The F-AR15 format provides AR-shooters an opportunity to compete with each other in a semi-formal venue, at a substantially lower cost than regular F-Class. Think of F-AR15 as is to HIGHPOWER what F-TR is to PALMA.


Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Lance

    Prefer action rifle and pistol.

    • Fritz

      Lance = LMJ

  • Alexander_Degtyarev

    Typical American thing, AR-15 only. Why not just make it semi-auto .223 in general?
    It would be a great competition style for my SL8.

    • AAD

      Then start up your own competition. Also a typical ‘American’ thing.

  • 18D

    A Larue OBR 5.56 with 20in barrel would be perfect for this! Throw in some Black Hills 77gr MK262, a Harris bipod, and F-Class NF scope and your good to go! I might be one to use a suppressor as well. Surefire suppressors have always increased the accuracy of everything I shoot by at least .25 MOA.

    • W

      I had a friend mention something about improved accuracy with a Surefire, its just funny that i saw somebody else mentioning it. I have limited experience with Surefire suppressors, though am curious as to why this attribute would occur.

      Yeah Larue makes beautiful, high quality rifles. Just for a friendly competitive edge, I would like to see one pitted against a Noveske 20″ with stainless barrel and Leupold mk 4 :D

      • 18D

        I had to consult with a few of my old team mates about the Surefire suppressor accuracy increase. These team mates were all SF snipers who were very familiar with Surefire. This is what they told me.

        It’s a combination of different factors. Because the accuracy of a projectile is directly related to the gas pressure exerted on its base when leaving the barrel, the crown of the muzzle is absolutely vital to precision shooting. The Surefire suppressors are precision machined accessories and essentially have a perfect crown, thus increasing accuracy. Another factor is that the suppressor slows and disperses exiting gases behind the projectile. This cuts down on the turbulence of the exiting gases on the projectile. The final factor is that Surefire suppressors are absolutely aligned and locked into place on the mount through precision manufacturing standards and extremely close tolerances. So, whatever POI you have and whatever accuracy your experiencing will hold true as long as the can is in place.

        If you really think about it, looking at the above factors, any suppressor could increase accuracy. What makes Surefire special is their attention to detail and their high quality. I don’t mean to sound like a Surefire commercial or an expert. This is what I was told by individuals who know a lot more than I do on the subject. I’m just simply relaying what I was told.

        As far as the Noveske VS Larue. I would love to see that! Noveske makes ridiculously accurate barrels and complete weapon systems and it would be interesting to see the two go head to head.

      • W

        Hey thank you for that information 18. I believe that is rock solid info that you provided about the suppressors. I left a old friend of mine a voice mail a hour ago, so ill see what he says tomorrow morning and I appreciate your efforts in finding out.

        Yeah I own Noveske, LMT, and Larue AR15 rifles, and have compared them as objectively and rationally as I can, though I couldn’t ever scale them against one another. In contradiction to many on this blog’s assertion that I hate the AR15, the number that I own would convince them that I suffer from insanity (I wouldnt say I “suffer” per se).

        This post is really encouraging me to take a trip and pour some lead down range…

      • 18D

        Yeah, I’ve noticed that on this blog too. When I post comments on different military weapon systems, I post objectively for the most part. But, there are many other readers here that look at our comments as being subjective. So they automatically assume that we hate the AR platform in favor of newer weapon systems. If they only knew!

        I own several AR’s from S&W, Larue, DD, and BCM. I’ve actually been thinking about building a 3 gun AR with a Noveske barrel. What kind of setup do you have your Noveske in? 20in precision, 10in SBR? What kind of accuracy do you get with military and/or match ammo? I would like to know if you have a chance. I want to build my rifle before the spring when 3 gun picks back up around here. Although this F-Class story has got me wanting to build a precision AR and take a stab at competing in something different.

      • W

        “I own several AR’s from S&W, Larue, DD, and BCM.”

        I have a Daniel Defense with a 16″ barrel. Those are outstanding quality AR15s. Anyways, yeah i can rant for days about why i love my rifles :P

        “I’ve actually been thinking about building a 3 gun AR with a Noveske barrel. What kind of setup do you have your Noveske in?”

        Mine is the 16″ Recce low-pro upper with a chrome lined barrel (1 in 7). Using Black Hills 77gr (mk 262 mod 0 in military designation), and equipped with a Eotech, it fired 3/4 MOA. Using Lake City M855 62 gain, it achieved a hair under 1 MOA. I have heard the Noveske stainless barrels achieving even more impressive accuracy, though since I intended to use it more for heavy carbine shooting, I chose the heavy chrome lined barrel.

        If you don’t know already, Noveske’s chrome lined barrels are extremely impressive. They are constructed of M249 barrel specs.

        “20in precision, 10in SBR?”

        Like I mentioned above, its 16″. My friend has a 20″ stainless that can achieve 1/2 MOA. Enough said ;)

        “I want to build my rifle before the spring when 3 gun picks back up around here. Although this F-Class story has got me wanting to build a precision AR and take a stab at competing in something different.”

        I really think you could just flip a coin between the stainless or chrome lined. They both have disadvantages and trade offs. The stainless are lighter, more accurate, and more effective with varmint-grade ammunition.

        The chrome-lined barrel has a longer service life, is more suitable for prolonged heavy fire, and is optimal with 62 gr or 77gr ammunition. Definitely a combat-grade barrel.

        You will not go wrong with either one…

  • WeaponBuilder

    Sounds like a LOT of fun!

    I like that the competition is AR-15 only. It keeps the playing field a little more level by using a much more standardized rifle system but allowing competitors to make their own personal rifle modifications. Use of ANY rifles in semi-auto 223 would open the classification up far too broadly, and people will begin competing with custom made 223 semi-auto rifles with notably longer magazines, and using long-seated bullets.

    I’ve had numerous customers that have come to me for made-to-spec .308 Winchester AR-style weapons specifically for F-Class and medium-long range hunting. They’ve come in with surprising accuracy results. One person on the US Army Marksmanship Unit was hitting a LaRue TG-1 at 1000 yards with his 14.5″ 5.56mm AR-15.

    I think there is notable future expansion potential with this classification, and it sounds like it will be fun for countless competitors!

  • that guy

    Lance.

    This article has absolutely nothing to do with pistols and even less about bolt action rifles.

  • farmboy7.62

    Nice article Jim! Sounds like a fun discipline!

  • W

    Nightforce makes phenomenal optics; they are absolutely gorgeous.

    the concept of a F-class for AR-15s sounds like a blast. You are really pushing the platform to its limits, even when using 77 grain ammunition.

    Its interesting to see how many brag about the Ar15’s accuracy at distances beyond 300 meters. Time for folks to put their money where their mouths are.

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  • SharonAnne

    I think F-AR15 is a great idea! Anything that brings more shooters to the range is a good idea.