Precision AR-15 - Barrel and Headspace


Outlaw Man
May 29, 2013, 02:19 PM
The barrel is the final part left on my precision AR rebuild, and while I'm waiting for barrels to become available again, :banghead:, I thought I'd throw this question out to see if those more educated than me could offer some insight.

I'm looking at a Noveske 18" barrel. There are two options (more, if you count the Switch block): barrel only or barrel with head spaced bolt.

I understand and accept the safety implications - I have mil-spec parts as well as headspace gauges.

My question is, would there be any accuracy considerations for getting a "matching" bolt? Does the headspace even effect accuracy, beyond the depth of the bullet?


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May 29, 2013, 02:24 PM
Headspace effects accuracy, case life, & safety.

Get the matched barrel & bolt.

Setting headspace, if necessary, yourself is no simple matter on an AR-15, as it is determined by the bolt locking into the matching barrel extension, in addition to chamber reaming.

Throwing an old bolt in a new barrel extension is not a good idea either as it is already worn in to a different set of locking lug recesses in the old extension.


May 29, 2013, 03:14 PM
I have put together a few rifles out of unmatched parts and didnt have an issue with head spacing. If you need a bolt and barrel, might as well buy some piece of mind knowing they are a matched set. The accuracy concern would be excessive head space allowing the cartridge to float.
I am not sure what your goal is for rifle but if precision is your concern I would go with a Lilja or similar barrel. Noveske makes some good stuff and they are well regarded in the tactical world but there are other barrel makers winning olympic medals. If you run into a headspace issue with a precision barrel assembly it would probably be an out of spec bolt or bcg. You can always return parts for replacement if you get a lemon.

May 29, 2013, 04:23 PM
If you can get a matched set, that's what I would do. However, if you can not then make sure to purchase name brand mil-spec parts and you should be fine. This same question was asked on Spikes Tactical Forum and Spikes replied saying it shouldn't be an issue if you are using quality parts. May search that forum for the exact reply if you want.

May 29, 2013, 06:49 PM
I'd get the matched set. Not because I was worried about headspace (though I do check new guns with gauges before shooting them) but because the lugs should be square

Outlaw Man
May 29, 2013, 10:33 PM
I'm definitely not suggesting I adjust headspace - only check it.

I'm looking for a medium-long range plinking/varmint gun. I'm not looking to do bench rest, but I might try to reach our to 600-800 yards on occasion (there aren't but one or two places to do that here in central Arkansas).

My main reason for picking the Noveske was that of the ones I considered (Noveske, Lilja, Krieger, etc), it was the cheapest, once I had it drop-in ready. I may reconsider the others if they are easier to get than the Noveske.

Thanks for the input, guys. You're definitely making me consider the bolt.

May 29, 2013, 11:36 PM
for varmint and plinking, i'd go with the krieger or a wilson or douglas barrel from compass lake or similar.

the noveske is great, but you don't need the chrome lining or the pinned gas block etc. and even though they have a reputation for accuracy, it's not in the same league as the krieger

May 30, 2013, 02:22 AM
If it is ultimate accuracy he is going for a bolt headspaced to the minimum end of the spectrum is very desireable. Noveske recommends their stainless steel barrels over their chrome lined ones in the accuracy department.

I would go one step further if I was ordering directly from Noveske and order the barrel with a spare headspaced bolt.

I wish I was able to get Noveske barrels in Canada without a year long or more wait.

Outlaw Man
May 30, 2013, 08:47 AM
I probably should have mentioned that the one I'm looking at is stainless. I should also mention I'm planning on running a suppressor, at least occasionally, so I'll have to either buy a threaded barrel or have it shipped to a reputable 'smith for the work. That was part of the cost I was calculating.

May 30, 2013, 08:53 AM
and while I'm waiting for barrels to become available again

Precision rifles and "off the shelf" dont go hand in hand.. some great names have been mentioned already...

May 30, 2013, 09:29 AM
In most builds I don't worrry about headspace using new barrel with new bolt.

As said above, with a high end barrel and bolt for precision, yes, i would check headspace or get a barrel with a match bolt.

The other time i worry about headspace is if either the barrel or bolt is used.

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