AR's with Bull Barrels - what's your opinion?


February 14, 2006, 07:45 PM
Just curious how many of you own an AR with a bull barrel, and if you think it's a good idea for this platform. I'm looking for a very steady "varmint rifle", not something for clearing houses or SHTF scenarios. At first I was planning on getting a Remington 700 in .223 (because I already stock that caliber), but then thought, what the heck? I'm not taking shots over 200 yards -- most would be around 150 or less -- so why not have the quick follow up capability of a long barrel AR? I'm thinking RRA Varmint A4 20".

Any thoughts? Any reason NOT to get a bull barrel?

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rust collector
February 14, 2006, 07:54 PM
I've got that critter and I love it. It's way more accurate than me, loves BH blue box, and the trigger is fabulous for a semi. I got it for high volume varmint work. What it isn't is readily portable. Who needs 10 lbs + to tote over hill and dale? Luckily, I've got my M77 ultralite in 223 for low volume expeditions.

I've thought about a different upper too, but I'd probably want different grips and stocks for different applications.

You'll have a blast, but if you're planning to hoof it, you might think about a less meaty barrel.

February 14, 2006, 08:09 PM
I have a 16" Bull. Very accurate, but if you start adding rails, lights, etc, it would be way to barrel heavy imo. But if you dont plan on using it for SHTF or anything you may still want to try one out before getting it to make sure it isnt too heavy or barrel heavy.

February 14, 2006, 08:22 PM
Matt brings up a valid point, the add'l weight of a bull barrel (especially a 20") tends to feel a bit unbalanced with the AR's. To be honest, if you're willing to spend just a bit more and go with a good 'std.' profile barrel you can out perform the bull barrels.

February 14, 2006, 09:15 PM
I've got a 20 incher with a bull barrel and I also agree that Matt brings up a very good point. I use it in service match competition and it's not a very well balenced rifle. I've put 3lbs of lead in the stock and that balences it out nicely, but it is a heavy rifle (a little over 12 lbs unloaded).

Don't get me wrong, it's a great shooter and I enjoy it very much! But it's not a walkabout gun, or a good tool for 3-gun competitions. It's a great gun for competition and bench shooting :)

February 14, 2006, 09:33 PM
Thanks for all the feedback. I would plan to put a bipod on it, and expect to shoot it from some sort of rest. It's first 'service' would be varmint hunting, probably balanced on the railing of my brother's deck, overlooking his property. I hadn't thought about the overall imbalance of the gun, and how that could make it awkward. I don't think I would add any lights to a gun like this, just a scope (obviously) and a bipod. I have yet to have the opportunity to hold one, let alone shoot one, but if I choose to go this route, now I have a much better idea of what to expect.

Beetle Bailey
February 15, 2006, 01:35 AM
I got a chance to briefly shoot a RRA Varmint just the other day, but it was a 24" barrel. The owner had it set up with a bipod and scope (a variable-power set at 14x) as a dedicated paper puncher. As you may already know, the RRA website promises 3/4 MOA with this rifle.

Well, it was near the end of the day and I still had 15 rounds of Black Hills 55 grain FMJ remanufactured ammo (blue box) so I asked if I could shoot it out of my buddy's RRA Varmint to see how it would do. Even though it had a bipod, I kept it folded up and used my front sandbag instead. The first group was 1.5", but if you discount the called flyer, it was 1". Not great, but not horrible either. I knew it was supposed to be a 3/4 MOA rifle, so pride was on the line and the first four shots of my next group measured 3/4", but I threw a flyer again, this time on the last shot :banghead: to make a 1.25 inch group.

The last five rounds I let another friend shoot and he put three of them into a 1/4 inch pyramid :what: but we won't mention where the other two shots went (hint, we didn't bother to measure the entire group).

Before I shot the rifle, I questioned the wisdom of building an AR into a varmint gun since I figured a bolt-action would be a better platform, and less expensive to boot. Now my opinion is "That's a really cool gun, and that's all the reason anyone needs!" :D

If this is gonna be a dedicated varmint gun, or if you are gonna be changing uppers, I say "Go for it!"

One note: I don't hunt, but I talked to a friend who does and he said when he built his AR varmint gun, he special ordered the upper with a barrel with
1 in 12" twist rate because that is a better twist rate for the lighter bullets he would use for varmint hunting. However, I've heard the RRA with 1 in 8" twist seems to shoot well with a variety of bullet weights and types. YMMV of course.

February 15, 2006, 10:16 AM
they're heavy.:D Make darn sure you have a good reason for a heavy barrel on an AR before buying one.

My first AR upper was a 20" HBAR and I knew quickly that it was going to be replaced with something lighter. I think the companies that only sell HBARs as the standard barrel on 20" ARs are doing a dis-service to the rifle series.

February 15, 2006, 12:13 PM
Mine is a 24" fluted bbl. varmint gun. Works just fine, see no reason to go the heavy bbl. route.

Zak Smith
February 15, 2006, 12:40 PM
Hbar is even heavier than needed on AR15's.

February 15, 2006, 01:01 PM
I've got the colt accurized "HBAR":

It isn't nearly as big in diameter as some of the bull barrels, but it shoots. I've handled the rock river varmint rifles and they are very heavy. I got a sweet deal on the colt, but I think bushmaster also make a similar profile varmint gun.

I'm sure all of them will shoot very well, but I feel like the Colt (and probably the bushmaster) balance better. This won't matter if you are driving to the field and shooting prarie dogs from a rest, but if you have to carry the gun at all and ever plan on shooting offhand I'd look for a slimmer profile.

February 15, 2006, 04:49 PM
For varmints and target shooting a bull barrel is fine. On an actually weapon you will train with and carry, probably not.

February 15, 2006, 05:01 PM
I have Derrick Martins book "The complete guide to Ar-15 Accuracy. In it he makes a point that he saw no difference in accuracy between a light, medium or heavy barrel.Accuracy Speaks (
Something to think about when it comes from a guy that builds and shoots Championship winning guns.

February 15, 2006, 05:02 PM
I wouldn't be hiking with it. That's the problem with spending too much time online and staring at all the pictures... It's starts out all rational, and then when I've looked too long it just turns to lust... I suppose that's my life story. :D
(although I think I'm going to go ahead and get the 20", not the 16" pictured here)

February 15, 2006, 06:17 PM
I've got a 16" bull .980" upper and it's nearly perfectly balanced. I bet it would shoot amazing groups if I knew how! It puts a hole in the paper right where I wiggle around the x to when I fire...

It's a bit heavy, but the concrete bench doens't seem to complain whatsoever.


February 15, 2006, 07:41 PM
OK to shoot, not OK to carry.

With a free floating foreend real nice from a rest, the extra weight keeps it on the rest.

For varmint shooting the extra mass will act as a heat sink, and shooting should be a bit more consistent with a hot barrel.

Lots of fun for sure!:D

February 15, 2006, 11:22 PM

I’ve got an RRA Varmint A4 with the 20-inch barrel. Mine will shoot under inch 5 shot groups easy (at 100 yards) with handloads. I was really impressed with its accuracy. I shoot off a bipod with a lead weight in the buttstock (heavy, but balances a lot better). You might consider the 24-inch barrel for more bullet speed. I’m shooting Sierra Matchkings 69gr Moly at 2950 fps. I think these (RRA A4’s) are great fun and would recommend them.

I purchased mine here –

Real nice people to do business with.

February 15, 2006, 11:33 PM
Thanks for that info, Bullet. That's the second online source to have a price of $895 (Ordnance Outsellers ( is the other, and they are also great to deal with). I like to support local stores when I can, and since I found a local gunstore that would get it for me for $920, that's probably a few dollars less than $895 plus shipping and FFL transfer fees, so that's the route I'm taking.

It'll take a few weeks to get here, but I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.

February 16, 2006, 12:35 AM
Here's what mine looks like, below that is how it shoots.

J&T upper on a Stag Arms lower receiver, 5.56mm with a 24" stainless bull barrel with a 1-8 twist, JP Rifles single stage trigger

February 16, 2006, 12:48 AM
I just ordered a RRA standard A4 20". Thought hard and researched long about a bull. Came to the conclusion that it is not neccesary, unless you are a dedicated benchrest shooter. RRA states that a standard profile barrel will do 1" MOA. Save a little dough, and get the standard. BTW..I ordered mine from RB precision also for $710- 2 stage trigger.

February 16, 2006, 09:16 AM
Too much past 5/8" in diameter and the barrel starts putting excess strain on the front pivot pin area.

Too long and too heavy and you slip while taking the gun down for cleaning and drop the upper assembly, you will run a very real risk of snapping one or both of the front pivot pin channels right off the lower receiver.

Too many risks and problems for too little return.
ARs-M16s shoot just fine with standard weight barrels IMHO.

February 16, 2006, 10:04 AM
ARs-M16s shoot just fine with standard weight barrels IMHO.So who makes 20" or 24" standard-weight AR barrels?

Master Blaster
February 16, 2006, 10:52 AM is a RRA varmint 20" Accurate and as heavy as a bull barreled bolt gun, but with the fun of large magazines and quick follow up shots. It also has a better mounting system for a scope and excellent Iron sights, which you cant get on any resonably priced (under $2000 bolt gun) non custom made bolt gun.

February 16, 2006, 03:49 PM
24" Double Star for one of mine. Love it. Yeah it's heavy, but no one claimed it to be a close-quarters, hump-around-the-jungle rifle that the other variants are.

Of course not. That's not it's purpose. It is a tool. It has a purpose, which is not to be carried around willy-nilly.

The bipod helps a lot too.

February 16, 2006, 04:50 PM
Here's a whole other flavor; this summer RRA is scheduled to begin shipping a 26" .308 Varmint ( AR.

Do you think the considerations for a .308 bull barral are any different than a .223?

February 16, 2006, 06:19 PM
if your not shooting past 200 yards then a stock barreled ar will perform perfectly, actually you would be good out to 400 yards with a stock ar.

February 16, 2006, 10:40 PM
Yes it's front-heavy and yes it's got a heck of a report. But dang if it ain't a hoot to shoot, more accurate than me, and just plain cool. i did build a 20" "match" upper that is nicer to shoot free-hand. And that's the fun thing about the AR. Don't like something? change it out. Still don't like it? Sell off the parts on arfcom and try something else. But that RRA NM trigger is nice.

I do plenty well at 100-200 yards with it to take out any varmint bigger than a kitten (wait a minute, i would almost never shoot a the back...almost never). In fact, it shoots way better than me and could handle a pretty bigX scope if you compensate right.

February 17, 2006, 08:43 AM
So who makes 20" or 24" standard-weight AR barrels?
I can quote two sources for personally owned standard weight 24" barrels,
Bushmaster and Olympic.

February 19, 2006, 08:38 PM
Here's my critter slayer. I love it.

February 19, 2006, 09:32 PM
I can quote two sources for personally owned standard weight 24" barrels, Bushmaster and Olympic.Thanks, but neither Bushy nor Oly show such offerings currently on their web sites... :(

April 6, 2006, 06:11 PM
Well, my RRA 20" Varmint A4 finally arrived, so I thought I'd revive this old thread rather than start a new one.

The guy at the gun store where I bought it was telling me that I should clean the barrel between each of the first ten rounds fired... standard "match barrel" break-in. That got me thinking.

The manual that came with mine appears to be standard issue Military (it says "Headquarters, Department of the Army / October 1998 - on the cover, and is full of useless (to me) information like how to destroy the manual rather than let it fall into enemy hands, and how to fire in full-auto vs. burst-auto, etc.). It doesn't discuss break in of stainless steel bull barrels, since those were not military issued.

I called Wilson Combat, since I believe they supplied the barrels, and they said there is no break-in procedure for their barrels, just shoot them. So, I think that's what I'll probably do.

Just curious if any of you preformed any break-in rituals?

Edit: Including a pic for those who feel nothing unphotographed exists...

April 6, 2006, 09:23 PM
rbernie, I apologize.
I did not clarify my definition of standard weight in my previous post.
By standard weight I was referring to a barrel that holds to general Match dimensions of .750" to .875" rear of the handguards and .700" to .725" ahead of the gas block.
The gas block locating step is pretty standard at .750" on the majority of barrels.

These dimensions are generally accepted as "Heavy Barrel" dimensions but they are in no way considered as "Bull Barrel" dimensions.
Bull Barrels tend to run .975" to 1.5" behind the gas block and .750" from the gas block to the muzzle.

I suppose that you were intending to define by "standard barrel" dimensions a measurement of .625" to the rear of the gas block and .712" from the gas block to the muzzle.
If this is your definition of standard barrel then I regret that there are no mass production barrels in 24" length meeting these dimensions.

Olympic and Bushmaster do indeed still offer 24" barrels with the "heavy" barrel dimensions but these are not "Bull" barrels by any means.
I own a 24" Stainless Bushmaster barrel installed on an Evolution Gun Works A3 flat top upper.
The barrel is superb but for whatever reason, Bushmaster chose to discontinue this barrel dimension and now offers an "Extra Heavy" 24" Varminteer barrel which holds dimensions very close to what most folks would call a "Bull barrel".
The Olympic barrel is dimensioned at .880" behind the gas block and .725" from the gas block to the muzzle.
It is constructed of stainless steel finished in a matte gray-black parkarized type finish.

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