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Barrel length

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by WayBeau, Dec 6, 2012.

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  1. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    WayBeau, I've hunted the bottoms of the Appalachicola River swamps down below Blountstown, Florida. I grant that a 26" Wby '06 isn't the optimum critter, but other than a bit of extra care while sneaky-snaking, it wasn't any problem.

    Same for the mesquite thickets and oak mottes north of Uvalde, Texas.

    I dunno. 22" seems to be the common deal in bolt-actions, and I've done okay with a couple of rifles of that length. Walking or using as a truck gun: No problems worth mentioning.
     
  2. WayBeau

    WayBeau Member

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    So bear with me and please help by educating me. When you start getting into the longer barrels, are there measures that need to be taken to reduce the amount of barrel flex?
     
  3. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

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    Well, that kind of depends on what you're looking to do with the rifle. If you're building a hunting rifle that will be used for long-distance tracking and stalking, a thin barrel is going to be lighter and easier on you to carry. But a quality light-profile barrel in a well-built and well-bedded rifle will be quite likely to give you more accuracy than you need for even fairly long hunting shots. If you find a load it likes and learn your cartridge's trajectory and learn to estimate range well (or get a good rangefinder), the rifle will be likely more accurate inherently than you're able to take advantage of under field conditions and at the more limited ranges you'd be ethically shooting at game animals. In such a situation you might choose a long barrel to keep the velocity up, thus making the trajectory a hair flatter so the gun is more forgiving to range estimation errors -- but the light profile makes the gun more agreeable to carry for miles.

    If you're building a long-range target gun to shoot small groups and/or compete with, you likely want to make the barrel as heavy-walled (and therefore, stiff) as the competition rules allow. In those cases, accuracy is paramount above portability, as you only have to carry the thing from the trunk of your car out to the firing line. And matches will be won by very small margins of accuracy. Some folks contend that fluting stiffens the barrel even more than simply making it a heavier profile, but that's hotly contested. Almost anything else done to artificially stiffen the barrel is getting into crazy experimental stuff that isn't likely to be a good return on the investment. :)

    In the end -- in either case -- there's a great deal of debate among hunters and target shooters about what is optimal, and no two barrels are perfectly equal anyway, so a great barrel in a great rifle may outshoot any number of shorter, stiffer, thicker, (whatever-er) barrels which should, on paper, beat it.

    That's what makes all of this so much fun -- there's no perfect one way to do it, and in the end, shooter skill is the final (very) wild card that can make an average barrel look great, or a great barrel look like a dud.
     
  4. helotaxi

    helotaxi Member

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    For a hunting rifle there is no practical difference in accuracy between a short barrel and a long barrel. The lighter profile long barrel will start to open groups up when you fire an extended string of shots and it heats up, but with a hunting rifle, that's irrelevant. You're only going to fire one or two shots and all you care about is that the first shot shoots where you aim it. Barrel quality is all that matters there, length and weight have no bearing.

    As for fluting, there is no debate among people that actually know what they're talking about. For a given weight, a fluted barrel will be stiffer than one that is not fluted because it will have a greater diameter. For a given diameter, the unfluted barrel will be stiffer because there is more material there to resist flexing. That's pure material science. Nothing to debate. From there what you want becomes merely personal preference. If you want a thick barrel but want to save some weight and are willing to sacrifice some stiffness, get the barrel fluted.

    A muzzle brake is meant to reduce recoil on a heavy recoiling rifle so the shooter isn't as likely to develop a flinch or worry so much about recoil that they mess up the shot. They also have a place on moderate recoiling rifles that are shot a great deal in a session to reduce shooter fatigue and on light recoiling semi-auto competition rifles where they can control muzzle climb to allow for faster follow up shots. A 6.5 Swede bolt action hunting rifle falls into none of those categories. It has minimal recoil to mitigate and semi-auto speed follow up shots aren't needed. Don't bother with a brake.
     
  5. WYOMan

    WYOMan Member

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    I'd hunt with this if I could find one again for a reasonable price again.
     

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  6. WayBeau

    WayBeau Member

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    Thanks Helo. That explanation of fluting vs. straight barrel makes sense.

    So it really seems like it comes down to preference and getting to know the rifle/round combination.

    While I do enjoy target shooting, there aren't any competitions in my future and I don't spend hours upon hours at the range. Most of my targets have fur and live in the woods. :D
     
  7. mcdonl

    mcdonl Member

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    Art, given my brass preperation vs. those of Virgil King I am surprised I can even HIT a target at 100 yards let alone get any group.

    I am struggling with which to replace first, scope of stock when I have some poor brass/bullet preperation to deal with too.

    Thanks for introducing some of us new comers to the Houston Warehouse.
     
  8. WayBeau

    WayBeau Member

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    Yes, thank you. I read the article last night. It seems as though I need to get a 21.75" barrel. :D

    Despite the fact that I'm not a target shooter, in the sense that I'm not trying to get those .025" groups, I found that article very enjoyable to read. It did make me wonder how much better my rifle could be if I had the time to put into hand loading and all of the other various aspects that affect how the rifle shoots. Maybe when the kiddos are a little older and don't require as much supervision.
     
  9. mdauben

    mdauben Member

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    It depends on the cartridge in question. Some cartidges don't suffer too badly in shorter 18 or even 16 inch barrels while some high performance cartridges really need 24 or even 26 inch barrels to reach their full potential.
     
  10. helotaxi

    helotaxi Member

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    Or at least make them worth the bother. "Full potential" is such a vague qualifier. Even the lowly .223 doesn't reach its "full potential" until you're in the 40+" barrel range.
     
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