The road to gold
SA Bisley F-Class teams gear up for FCWC 2021

Our SA Open Championship and Long Range Championship form the basis of national team selections, underpinned by qualities like sportsmanship and team compatibility. The 2020 SA Open Championship, normally held in March every year, had to be postponed to 22 to 29 August due to Covid-19 measures, with the possibility of cancellation not ruled out yet. The SABU Long Range Championship scheduled for August will thus only take place in August 2021 again.

World Long-Range Championship

As with many other sports, Bisley competes in world championships every four years alternatively for the respective disciplines. Our F-Class shooters are currently preparing for the F-Class World Championship (FCWC) to be hosted in Bloemfontein in April 2021. We are also fortunate to host the Target Rifle World Championship, better known as Palma, in South Africa in 2023.

These championships are the pinnacle of individual and team competitions in Bisley shooting. Although it is only a week of shooting, it is just as intense as any other international clash of nations. The hosting country needs to ensure the championship is conducted according to the International Confederation of Full-Bore Rifle Associations (ICFRA) standards and rules.

Leading up to such a world championship, the host nation is required to present warm-up competitions. An abbreviated version of our South African Open Championship will be held in the week prior for F-Class shooters only. The entire event will run from 7 to 17 April 2021.

A balancing act

Currently, only two of the three F-Class sub-disciplines compete on an international level, namely F Open and FTR. Our F Sporting Rifle class is still in its infancy. F Open rifles can be built around any calibre from 6 mm to 8 mm. Some shooters prefer the benefits of smaller calibres to compete in 300 m to 600 m events, whereas the long-range events from 700 m to 900 m require the best ballistics within the rule limitations. The 7 mm and .30 calibres naturally still prevail.

Technical committees concur on the best rifle and calibre combinations for the Protea team. Proper planning around reloading component availability, optimum barrel life and timing, chamber designs and bullet brand are some of the main aspects of the strategy.

For FTR, the challenge remains keeping your rifle and bipod combination below 8.25 kg. Ballistics favours those shooters who can launch the heaviest bullet possible from a standard .308 Win/.223 Rem chamber, but with that comes more recoil and careful selection of suitable propellants. Currently, .30 calibre bullets in the 180 gr to 210 gr range dominates this discipline.

Dedicated shooters spend a lot of R&D time to find the best combinations in terms of chamber throat dimensions, propellant types, bullets, cases and barrel specifications. Bipods and sandbags support the telescope-equipped rifle. Seemingly easy, yes? Right, until you shoot a 30 out of a possible of 50 points on 300 m! And then realise you still need to move back to 900 m to shoot at a proportionally bigger, yet seemingly so tiny a target …

Wash, rinse, repeat

With the lockdowns and postponements, the Protea F-Class teams need to be creative to maintain their focus, get the preparations done and stay in top form to secure gold medals in April 2021. As soon as the echoes from the last handclaps fade away at the end of the prizegiving, the work in the background starts all over again. Well, there might be a week or so of rest first, of course!

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Grand Challenge Shield: The prestigious Provincial team match during SA Championships 2019
Jack Mitchley memorial match at 300m, counting towards individual score in the SA Championships 2019.
Team SA u/25 wind coaches & coordinator, f.l.t.r: Fredwill de Beer, Barry Gradwel and Matt Hayter