Euro-Champion F-TR Rig by Bottomley
Ace UK shooter Vince Bottomley decided he wanted to build a new F-TR rifle for the 2011 season. It would be kitted out with all the best components: Stolle Action, Bartlein Barrel, Precision Rifle & Tool Stock. The build came together superbly, producing a .308 Win rifle that shoots bugholes at 100 yards, and holds sub-half-MOA (or better) to 1000. Vince campaigned the gun successfully in regional matches but decided to shoot Open Class at the 2011 European Championship. So, he graciously loaned his purple F-TR rig to his friend, Stuart Anselm. The rest, as they say, “is history”. Despite having just one day’s practice with the gun, Stuart drove Vince’s rifle to victory, winning the 2011 European F-Class Championship (F-TR division) by a sizeable margin.
2011 European F Class Championships – Building the Winning F-TR Gun
by Vince Bottomley
I started shooting F Class when the Great Britain F Class Association (GBFCA) was formed in 2005. Initially, I shot Open Class with a variety of cartridges including the 6.5 and 7mmWSM. However, I eventually tired of burning barrels out in less than a season and switched to F-TR a couple of years ago. My first F-TR gun was actually based on my 1000-yard benchrest gun, built on a BAT ‘M’ action and re-barrelled with a 30 inch Bartlein with 1 in 13.5 twist to shoot the 155gr Lapua Scenar bullet. The gun was originally chambered for the 7mmWSM but I have another BAT bolt with a .308 bolt-face.
The rifle weighed 16.5 lbs with a 36X BR Leupold scope, so to keep it under 18 lb 2oz. F-TR weight limit, meant building my own lightweight bipod. The rifle lived up to expectations and got me a third place in the 2010 European Championship. I also found out that even .308 barrels don’t last forever. After driving 155gr bullets at 3100fps with Vihtavuori N540 double-base powder, my barrel’s accuracy started to fade in just 1200 rounds! OK, it would still shoot sub-MOA groups but now, sub-half MOA is required to be competitive!
New Rifle for 2011 — With Gain-Twist Barrel and Long-Wheelbase Stock
For the 2011 season, I decided to build a dedicated F-TR rifle. As weight is always a major consideration, I chose the Stolle F-Class action, which is a pound lighter than the BAT ‘M’ or the popular Barnard P action.
Light, massive flat bedding area, built-in rail with 20MOA taper, built-in recoil-lug – the perfect F/TR action.
Again, I chose a Bartlein barrel but this time, a 1:12″ gain-twist as I intended to try the 185gr Berger Target Long Range bullet, which was proving to be very effective in the hands of some of our top F-TR shooters. My Pacific Tool & Gauge .308 Win reamer was ground with the freebore to suit the 155gr Lapua Scenar (which is longer than the equivalent Sierra) seated out so as not to compromise case-capacity. Fortunately, this PT&G reamer also proved perfect for the 185gr Berger.
I’m primarily a benchrest shooter so I know the value of a long, stiff stock that will work well off the bags, or in this case, bi-pod and back-bag. I went for the Precision Rifle & Tool stock, which I first saw on Charles Ballard’s F-Open gun (Gun of the Week no.88). This is the longest laminate stock I’ve seen in production, at just over 38 inches – without butt-pad. Weight-wise, I couldn’t afford (and didn’t need) an adjustable cheek-piece or butt-pad – remember, I’m a benchrest shooter! To make weight meant milling down the butt and shaving the comb. That saved me a useful 12 ounces, but I didn’t touch the benchrest style fore-end, save for chamfering the front purely for appearance.
The 32″ Bartlein barrel weighed 8 lbs., the finished stock 4 lb. 6oz., the Stolle action 2 lb. 2 ounces. With screws, trigger, trigger-guard, butt-pad, scope rings etc., that left me just two and a half pounds for scope and bi-pod. Initially, I used the 36X BR Leupold scope but eventually I built an even lighter bi-pod and managed to make weight with the superb March 10-60X scope — with about half an ounce to spare!
The rifle shot very well with the 185gr Bergers and Vihtavuori N150 powder giving MVs in the region of 2775 fps. Yes, more speed can be had with the VV N550 double-base powder but, having learned my lesson with VV N540, I went with the single-base N150.
Large Primer Choice
Many of the top GB shooters swear by the new Lapua small-primer cases but I stuck with the large primer. They don’t take the pressure quite as well as the small primer and my primer pockets are slack after a couple of firings but, the brass is cheaper and I’m prepared to scrap it after three or four firings. For a big match, it’s new or once-fired brass. Incidentally, the 3″-wide fore-end is excellent for load development using a front benchrest.
Bottomley’s .308 Win Reloading Methods
I tend to do all my loading with Forster benchrest dies — always full-length re-sizing. I run the Forster full-length die without the expander ball. This leaves the necks a little undersized in diameter, so I then finish neck-size by running a Sinclair .308 expander mandrel in the necks. Before filling the case, I weigh all powder-charges on a Denver Instrument MXX 123 balance. Along with Berger bullets and VV N150 powder, I use Lapua brass and Federal primers.
|With Bottomley’s Rifle, Anselm Wins Euro F-TR Title|
For various reasons, I didn’t manage to shoot many of our League matches in 2011, so I decided to build myself an Open Class rifle for the 2011 Europeans — just for a change. This is our biggest F-Class shoot of the year with 180 competitors from 12 countries. It is possibly the world’s biggest F-Class event. So, when my good friend Stuart Anselm was without a gun for the European Championships, I offered him the Stolle.
Stuart is the owner of Osprey Rifles, www.ospreyrifles.com and will captain the GB F-TR team at the World Championships in Raton in 2013. Yes, Stuart has built many successful F-Class rifles but due to circumstances (he sells everything he builds!), Stuart found himself without a suitable gun for the Europeans with just a couple of weeks to go. I loaned him the Stolle to shoot, knowing that he could pilot the gun to its potential.
New Rig Proves Accurate from the Get-Go
As it turns out, Stuart had very little practice time with his “loaner rifle”. In fact, Stuart only pulled the trigger on the Stolle days before the event. But the gun performed well — a 3.75″ 5-shot group at 800 yards, put a smile on his face!
New F-TR Champion Reviews Bottomley’s Stolle-Action Rifle
Stuart Anselm tells us: “I only shot the rifle a couple of days before the Europeans — two sighters and then five rounds at 800 yards which went into a 3.75-inch group. That gave me a lot of confidence in the rifle. The bi-pod is very light and looked a bit flimsy but it’s well-engineered, so it worked well. That long Precision Rifle & Tool stock is definitely the way to go and helps the rifle to track nicely under recoil. Of course, the Stolle action was perfect with the right-bolt, left-port set-up and the 10-60X March is just about the ultimate F-Class scope.”
Well, the rest, as they say, is history. The 2011 European F-Class Championship was held November 4-6, 2011 at the Bisley Range in England. This is a two-day event with 800-yard, 900-yard and 1000-yard stages each day, for a total of five, 15-round matches and one 20-rounder. The competition was fierce with some great shooting, particularly from a Ukrainian shooter Alexandr Nicolaev — who could have won it, up until the very last match — plus of course, the current World & European Champion. At the end of the final match, when the scores were counted, just two points separated 2nd place from 7th place. However, Stuart was way ahead of the pack.
Anselm Wins F-TR Championship, Posting Highest V-Count As Well
Scoring 452 points out of a possible 475, Stuart won convincingly, finishing 10 points ahead of F-TR runner-up Adam Bagnall (also from Great Britain). Stuart also had the highest V-Bull count with 33. (The “V-Bull” is the equivalent of the “X-Ring” in North American events.) That means that, over the course of six matches in two days, with all targets at 800 yards and beyond, more than a third of Stuart’s shots went into that 5″-diameter V bull. That’s impressive trigger-pulling, especially with an unfamiliar “loaner rifle”. I’m proud of Stuart, and doubly proud that he proved how well this gun can shoot.
Vince Bottomley Contact Info: If you’re interested in learning more about this rifle build, or long-range shooting in the UK, you can contact Vince Bottomley via email: vinceb [at] 6ppc.fsnet.co.uk . Vince notes that he is not a professional builder. He tells us: “I just build guns for fun – and to write about! I’m happy to answer any questions of course.”