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Old September 2, 2014, 06:06 PM   #1
mikemyers
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Barrel length comparison

My question was originally discussed here ten years ago:
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=38559

With a 1911, would there be any difference in grouping size resulting ONLY from which length barrel was on the gun? I understand that a longer sight radius would enable one to aim the gun more accurately, but forgetting that, should both be capable of the same size grouping?

If so, would it be correct to say that with red-dot or laser sights, both guns would be equally accurate?
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Old September 2, 2014, 07:08 PM   #2
Walt Sherrill
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Everything I've seen and read seems to argue that other factors are more important than barrel length when trying to get bullets go to the same place with each shot.

Barrel length can help a round achieve a greater speed... And that may be about all it can add to the situation.

For a given bullet weight, gravity's pull is the same, so if the bullet is moving faster, it'll get to a set point downrange just a bit more quickly than a slower bullet That in turn means it'll will have dropped a bit less at any given point.
As it has been explained to me, both bullets would hit the ground at the same time if simultaneously fired horizontally, but the slower bullet would hit the ground closer to the shooters than the faster bullet. If sights are set properly, and equally competent shooters are behind the guns, either bullet (faster or slower) could generally be expected to hit with equal accuracy, all other things being equal.
Youn mentioned longer sight radius: one of the things you'll see with some guns used in target competition, is an extended front sight pushed out way ahead of the barrel. The results are apparently pretty good -- but its not practical for a service or carry gun.

But good eyes and an equally competent gun with a shorter barrel can do as well. (If the barrel is too short or too long, all bets are off 'cause then the powder can't do it's work properly.)

Here's an interesting article about accuracy and precision. It suggests that precision is accuracy taken a bit farther. http://www.americanrifleman.org/arti...n-vs-accuracy/
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Old September 2, 2014, 08:10 PM   #3
mikemyers
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt Sherrill View Post
Everything I've seen and read seems to argue that other factors are more important than barrel length when trying to get bullets go to the same place with each shot.......

The other information, and the link you posted, are very interesting. What I was asking about here, was only the grouping, and using the terms properly, I guess I should say I was asking about the "precision". I need to get used to using these terms properly.

I wasn't asking about the "accuracy" (using the term correctly), as once I could shoot such a good group (precision), all that's needed is a sight adjustment to make things both accurate and precise.

I guess I agree with you (and the older thread) now, but had someone asked me about it yesterday, I'd have thought that a longer barrel would make the shots more "precise" (correct term).

Interesting photo you posted - had someone showed it to me yesterday, I'd have laughed. No longer. .....and for anyone using a red-dot or laser sight, I guess it makes no difference at all.
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Old September 2, 2014, 08:31 PM   #4
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Out of a machine rest such as a Ransom, barrel length should make no difference. Taking the sight radius out of the equation by using a red dot sight, the shorter barrel might actually allow the shooter to be more accurate. The bullet fired in the shorter barrel has a shorter "residence time" so is more likely to be headed toward the aiming point as the barrel wanders back and forth across the target.
This was gospel back in the hay days of Bullseye shooting. The 5" Smith and High Standard 22 autos could be shot more accurately than the long barrel versions. I was never good enough to tell any difference myself.
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Old September 2, 2014, 08:32 PM   #5
Walt Sherrill
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Re: extended front sights...

I've seen photos of some European target pistols -- smaller calibers but not rimfire -- that had front sights extended several inches in front of the barrel. I did a quick search, but couldn't find any examples to post.
It really looked strange.

The RIA website shows several 1911s with front sights even longer than the earlier image I posted.

Other materials I've read suggests that longer barrels have a different physical dynamic -- with vibrations or resonances that can affect their position when the bullet exits the barrel. This is probably a bigger factor with rifle barrels than handgun barrels, but the experts seem to feel that longer barrels can sometimes be a negative.

Last edited by Walt Sherrill; September 2, 2014 at 08:49 PM.
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Old September 2, 2014, 09:51 PM   #6
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Regardless of barrel length, the important factor in accuracy is having the barrel return to exactly the same place when the slide goes into battery in 1911 or similar style pistols. This is more easily accomplished with longer (5" or better) barrels then shorter ones, but if this discussion is focused on practical rather then target pistols one with at least a 3 1/2" length can be custom fitted to the point of having very little difference. However the tightness required to obtain the highest level of accuracy often has a negative affect on reliability. In a target pistol this seldom matters, but otherwise it can be a serious condition.
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Old September 2, 2014, 09:57 PM   #7
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Agreed that barrel length makes little or no difference in mechanical accuracy. But I always found that I could shoot target pistols with short (5") heavy barrels better than ones with long lighter barrels.

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Old September 2, 2014, 11:18 PM   #8
mikemyers
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Fuff View Post
Regardless of barrel length, the important factor in accuracy is having the barrel return to exactly the same place when the slide goes into battery in 1911 or similar style pistols.......

Hypothetically, this was focused on "precision", getting the smallest group the gun was capable of. This is the first time anyone brought up what you just mentioned, about the precision, or lack of, in the barrel returning to the same place before each shot.

With a 1911 or similar pistol, assuming the fit of the barrel and other parts is the same for each gun, would what you mentioned make a noticeable difference in precision? If so, are we talking thousandths of an inch, or tenths of an inch (at 15 or 25 yards)?
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Old September 3, 2014, 02:58 AM   #9
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Quote:
With a 1911, would there be any difference in grouping size resulting ONLY from which length barrel was on the gun? I understand that a longer sight radius would enable one to aim the gun more accurately, but forgetting that, should both be capable of the same size grouping?
If all other things are equal, and they usually aren't, yes two guns with differing length barrels should theoretically be capable of essentially equal accuracy out to a specific distance. At a certain point of distance that would change.

Quote:
If so, would it be correct to say that with red-dot or laser sights, both guns would be equally accurate?
Or with a scope? Or with the iron sights? Yes...

But...because the question is posed so abstractly the answer is abstract.

Also if you asked the same question 10 years ago why would the answer change? What was the answer then?

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Old September 3, 2014, 05:46 AM   #10
mikemyers
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I didn't ask the question ten years ago. I went searching for a similar thread before asking, but didn't want to bring a ten-year-old thread back to life. ....and had I not asked at all, I never would have thought of the issue that Murf just posted about, which wasn't discussed in the old thread.

I don't see the question as abstract, as it can easily be compared with a Ransom rest. If the guns are in the rest, it would be very easy to check the precision, which is the right term for what I'm asking, the sights wouldn't matter. (Which means if I really want to know, I should go buy a Ransom rest...... http://www.ransomrest.com/RansomRest.html ).
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Old September 3, 2014, 10:50 AM   #11
Walt Sherrill
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Quote:
I don't see the question as abstract, as it can easily be compared with a Ransom rest. If the guns are in the rest, it would be very easy to check the precision, which is the right term for what I'm asking, the sights wouldn't matter. (Which means if I really want to know, I should go buy a Ransom rest...... http://www.ransomrest.com/RansomRest.html ).
There is a slight bump in the road, here... as I've been led to believe that while Ransom Rest inserts are available for many polymer-framed guns, most polymer frames don't perform quite as consistently in Ransom Rest tests as steel frames; some (maybe most) polymer frames don't always return to EXACTLY the same position.

BUT -- since slide/barre/sight alignment can be functionally the same in polymer-framed guns as steel-framed guns, aimed fire with a polymer-framed gun can be just as accurate as a steel-framed gun.

Ransom Rests tests a gun's overall precision, but in the REAL WORLD, that "overall" precision may be less important than it seems. Some really sloppy 1911s [with loose slide to frame fit} can be very accurately used, if the gun is otherwise sound, the shooter is good with handguns, and he or she uses the sights as intended. Ditto many polymer-framed guns.

With aimed fire, "precision" is still important, but for aimed fire the term might need to be redefined and limited to the slide/barrel/sight alignment consistency.

.

Last edited by Walt Sherrill; September 3, 2014 at 10:56 AM.
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Old September 3, 2014, 11:57 AM   #12
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Quote:
I don't see the question as abstract, as it can easily be compared with a Ransom rest. If the guns are in the rest, it would be very easy to check the precision, which is the right term for what I'm asking, the sights wouldn't matter.
Well in general the answer is yes, as I said before. If all other things are equal except for barrel length the answer will be yes they will be equally accurate, or precise in their shot placement. (Up to the point that the difference in energy begins to show itself).

But then the real world intervenes.

Quote:
Hypothetically, this was focused on "precision", getting the smallest group the gun was capable of. This is the first time anyone brought up what you just mentioned, about the precision, or lack of, in the barrel returning to the same place before each shot.
This is what I meant when I said "all things being equal,and they're usually not". I assumed you assumed this. No two guns are identical and often no two loads, the temperature, wind, etc. will all produce minute variations. Even the same gun will often not produce two identical groups at 50 yards on different days or with a different load.

Quote:
With a 1911 or similar pistol, assuming the fit of the barrel and other parts is the same for each gun, would what you mentioned make a noticeable difference in precision? If so, are we talking thousandths of an inch, or tenths of an inch (at 15 or 25 yards)?
That would depend on a number of factors. But at the distances you mention the divergence would make no practical difference.

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Old September 3, 2014, 01:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Hypothetically, this was focused on "precision", getting the smallest group the gun was capable of. This is the first time anyone brought up what you just mentioned, about the precision, or lack of, in the barrel returning to the same place before each shot.

With a 1911 or similar pistol, assuming the fit of the barrel and other parts is the same for each gun, would what you mentioned make a noticeable difference in precision? If so, are we talking thousandths of an inch, or tenths of an inch (at 15 or 25 yards)?
Many years ago USAF armorers took several picked-at-random 1911A1 services pistols and accurized them to target pistol standards (3" or under at 50 yards, tested in a machine rest). After each step in the process they fired a test group to determine what affect that particular step had. To make a long story short, about 80% of the total improvement depended on how the barrel and barrel bushing were fitted to the slide, and the barrel's bottom lug was fitted to the slide stop's pin when that part was installed in the frame.

When examining targets to determine accuracy, 50 yards is usually the chosen distance - because at that range any group will have opened enough to show any meaningful difference. At 15 to 25 yards you are unlikely to see enough difference to draw any serious conclusions.

Anyway, if you are building a target pistol, accuracy is more important then reliability. If the intention is general use, or as a personal weapon in particular, the requirements should be the other way around. In a defensive situation the highest degree of accuracy is useless if the weapon (because of extra tightness or other issues) fails to function.

If you want the best possible accuracy combined with a high degree of reliability, get a top-quality revolver.
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Old September 3, 2014, 01:24 PM   #14
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Accuracy is the same. I had a couple of target pistols out testing ammo and both will shoot groups under 1" @ 50 yards. One has a 5.5" barrel the other has a 4.3" barrel and they both group about the same. Among some target shooters there is a belief that getting the bullet clear of the barrel quicker helps scores. I am not good enough to tell the difference but it does seem logical.

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Old September 3, 2014, 03:30 PM   #15
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The extendable front sights of the S&W 41 which were offered for a number of years a good many years back.





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