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Do octagonal barrels improve accuracy in lever actions...

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by trekker73, Jul 27, 2020.

  1. trekker73

    trekker73 Member

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    ...over round barrels. I was thinking the usually greater weight and lack of barrel band might have some positive effect. Or is it a case of lever action accuracy not being good enough to tell the difference anyway?

    Question came up when buying an 1892 rossi for reduced loads in 357, someone said spending the extra dollars on a Uberti 1873 octagonal would yeild better accuracy. My gut feeling is a lot of different factors will come into play. Action type, twist rate, individual gun, what loads are tested.. but does an octagonal barrel give it an edge?
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
  2. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    Lever guns can be very accurate. A barrel band and magazine tube can affect aim point as the rifle heats up. A heavy barrel in the sense of a varmint or target barrel might help a little as it would not heat as fast but frankly, the answer to your question is no and it defeats the purpose of a light, fast lever gun.

    And it is a myth that lever guns are not accurate, I can only speak for the Marlin 30-30 336 and 45-70 1895 both of which can clover leaf three shots at 100 yards. Now if you sit there and fire shot after shot most will open up. What North American game would need or could remain kicking after absorbing three 30-30 or 45-70 rounds? Yes, they are accurate hunting rifles.
     
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  3. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    The bullet has no idea of the aesthetic form of the exterior of the barrel.
     
  4. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    In the 19th century, an octagon barrel cost as much as $2 more than round but there were more octagon Winchesters sold than round. Had to have something going for them.
     
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  5. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Shootability, balance, and aesthetic appeal are all very real advantages.
     
  6. trekker73

    trekker73 Member

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    Well said. I should have clarified the heavier profile of many octagonals in the questiom.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
  7. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    And this REP Marlin 336 does not seem to have a problem with accuracy despite said attachments to the barrel:

    IMG-4053.jpg

    Three groups of three in relatively quick order. It shoots better with the Hornady Lever Revolution 160 grain loads or my bench loads of the same slightly reduced. It likes to be rested gently on the fore stock, no hand or if shooting offhand, using an artillery hold. Cinching down into the shoulder off hand with the sling opens the groups, so does holding the fore stock with the hand wrapped over. All of my Marlin rifles, especially the banded ones, I take them apart when I bring them home and do my best to reduce the magazine tube load on the barrel. I have heard stories of people bending the magazine tubes to reduce barrel loading. The barrel will of course grow as it heats up and string the groups if it gets hot enough. I should think that is when I need my AR instead of a hunting purposed lever gun.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
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  8. CraigC
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    CraigC Sixgun Nut

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    No, they're awesome in other ways. ;)
     
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  9. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    According to George Madis in The Winchester Handbook, round barrels were standard with rifles. Octagon barrels were considered 'an extra', but "Winchester usually sold the guns with octagon barrels to dealers at the same price as round barrels."

    I am talking about rifles here, not carbines. Carbine barrels were usually round, and had more taper from breech to muzzle than rifle barrels.

    Today, Uberti offers octagon barrels on their reproduction Winchester 1873 rifles mostly because octagon barrels evoke the nostalgia of The Old West. Marlin too offers octagon barrels on some of their 1894 and 1895 models for the same reason, to evoke the nostalgia of The Old West.

    I am not a good enough shooter to be able to tell the difference if an octagon barrel is more accurate than a round barrel. The question is of weight, and whether the slightly heavier octagon barrel will be stiffer than a round barrel.

    I can tell you that the reproductions of the 1860 Henry rifles made by Uberti and the Henry Repeating Arms Company both have the barrel and magazine formed from one bar of steel. This is the same way the originals were made.

    The top half of the barrel is octagonal, but the bottom half where the magazine is formed, is a hollow tube. As I say, this is formed from one solid bar of steel.

    This is my 'Iron Frame' Uberti 1860 Henry.

    po7ne77gj.jpg




    This photo of an original Henry rifle illustrates it a bit better. The barrel and magazine have been formed from one solid bar of steel.

    pmooPP89j.jpg




    This original Model 1873 Winchester has a round barrel.

    pnSDl9KQj.jpg




    It would be interesting at some point to see which rifle is more accurate, my Uberti Henry or the Winchester with its round barrel. I suspect the Henry barrel is stiffer, so I suspect it should be more accurate than the round barrel of the Winchester.

    I will have to try that one of these days.
     
  10. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    The octagonal barrel Marlins are lighter, handle better, and don’t have fat forends like a similar standard model.

    I would love if Marlin took the stock dimensions of the CB models and incorporated them into their entire lineup.

    For example, the 1895CB weighs around 6.5lbs dry and the 1895 weighs around 7.5. It should be noted that the CB has a barrel length and magazine tube 4” longer as well.

    They also have ballard rifling even if their standard model contemporary will have micro groove as in the case with the 1894 44 magnums. Ballard vs MG is an entirely different subject that may be worth further research but my quick take on them is that there is not much difference.

    Onto accuracy. Barrel weight never plays a part in cold bore accuracy. That is why hunting rifles which generally have lighter barrels, can still hit targets. Heavy barrels dissipate heat of multiple firings and prolong repeated shot accuracy a little longer. (Or something like that). Either way there will not be a discernible difference in octagonal barrel accuracy vs round barrel assuming the inner bore has been made to the same specs. Heavier barrels being more accurate is an over generalized statement with a few asterisks and “yeah buts” thrown in.

    That is my take on Marlins specifically.
     
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  11. trekker73

    trekker73 Member

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    Great posts and pictures all, thankyou
     
  12. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    And yes lever actions can be much more accurate than many are led to believe. It is true that it takes less time and expense to make a bolt action accurate straight from the factory but that does not mean one should discount a lever action altogether for lack of accuracy.

    Here are two pictures of targets I shot with my new production Marlin 444. The larger group is fired factory stock and the smaller after a few modifications to include recrowning the muzzle, bedding the stock and forend, lightening and smoothing the trigger, and using higher quality scope base and rings. I could have lapped the locking lug into the bolt as well but chose not to as I did not want to risk opening up headspace. If I had been installing a new lug then I could have done this with no risk to headspace as I would have been starting from scratch.

    There doesn’t appear to be a ton of difference considering one is a 3 shot group and one is a 5 shot group and I am in no way saying this is a significant sampling. The point is that lever actions can group much better than conventional wisdom will lead you to believe.

    9CB8C7DA-26BF-4808-A646-A85771173B7E.jpeg

    2C84EACE-C7D3-4F4E-B637-E2A725F2FEB5.jpeg
     
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  13. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I will then also clarify:

    The bullet has no idea of the profile weight of the barrel.
     
  14. highlander 5

    highlander 5 Member

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    Never gave the idea a thought but for me lever and single shot rifles always looked better with an octagonal barrel.
     
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  15. Tommygunn

    Tommygunn Member

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    I've heard a number of .... "assertions" .... about octagonal barrels vs. round ones.

    1.) Octagonal barrels are stiffer and thus subject to less "barrel whip" than round ones and, thus;
    2.) Octagonal barrels are more consistent (accurate) than round ones.
    3.) Octagonal barrels have more surface area and thus dissapate heat faster.

    I do not know if any of the above are true, if you have a opposing view I'm interested but let's not argue as I am not that vested in it.

    I have three rifles with oct. barrels, one with half round and seven with round barrels.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
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  16. CraigC
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    CraigC Sixgun Nut

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    Absolutely. I have two that shoot sub-MOA. My late model Winchester 1895 .405 has shot 3/4MOA with infuriating buckhorns.
     
  17. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    I believe that a heavier barrel will dampen vibration more than a lighter barrel.

    One of the tricks in Black Powder Cartridge Rifle (BPCR) competition is to sprinkle talcum powder onto the top of a barrel and then take a shot. The pattern of powder left on the barrel after the shot will show the nodes of vibration caused as the shot is taken. In other words the points of minimum vibration. When shooting from a rest, the best accuracy will be obtained by placing the barrel on a rest at one of the nodes. This is with single shot rifles, no magazine, barrel bands, or any other items are involved. So clearly, barrel vibration as the bullet travels down the bore affects accuracy.

    That is why heavy fluted barrels are made. They offer the stiffness of a large diameter barrel, while reducing the overall weight.

    pnkdeS8mj.jpg




    As I said earlier, I suspect my Henry rifle, with the added stiffness of the barrel cross section will be more accurate than a round barrelled rifle of the same chambering.
     
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  18. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    While we are at it, can somebody tell me what rifling plan a 19th century Ballard rifle has.
    I think Marlin uses the term to mean "not Microgroove" in advertising with no particular connection to the historical guns.

    Having done a little BPCR myself, the progression in barrel types is interesting. 1874 Sharps usually have octagon barrels or half octagon. The round barrels were on military models or the less expensive Business Rifle. The 1875 (prototype),1877, and 1878 Sharps typically have round barrels, although an octagon 1878 could be had.

    The usual explanation of an octagon barrel on a muzzleloader is that it was possible to grind and file a rough barrel to octagon without the long bed lathe needed to turn it round.
     
  19. trekker73

    trekker73 Member

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    it has an idea to string more quickly in a lighter barrel though.
     
  20. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    I think the one piece antique Henry design would still suffer from differential heating. Since most (more traditional) lever guns have barrels under 20 inches with some exception for certain models, the barrels are thusly already thick and heavy and stiff given their length. Be it a bolt rifle or a lever rifle, for still hunting/stalking I would not want to tote a heavy barrel rifle around for any minor improvement in accuracy. I do think that a heavy barrel is of good use on target/bench rifles that are fired repeatedly not just for stiffness but as a heat sink and the fluting provides greater cooling surface area. I can only speak for Marlin 336, 1895 and my Winchester 9422M as those are the types of lever guns I have owned but they are accurate. The Marlin 336 has always been known to be accurate. When they are not accurate it is because the owner will not scope the rifle because of perverse aesthetics. Scopes reduce group size, I was playing with my 17HMR Marlin 917VS the other day and the groups were all over the place! The rifle always had shot sub MOA ever since buying it back in 2004. It has a 6X18X40 scope. What the Hades is wrong with this thing, checked the rings, everything tight, oh, it is on 6 power! Turned the scope up to 18 and shot this at 100 yards:

    IMG-1093.jpg

    Open sights are fine but a scope will shrink groups. The lever rifle is said to be inaccurate because people refuse to scope them. They (Warne, Leupold) make these rings nowadays in the 21st Century that allow the scope to be removed and installed without affecting zero. And the Hornady LR ammo in the 30-30 will flatten deer at 200 plus yards, far enough out to justify a scope.
     
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  21. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Back in the day when muzzle loader rifles were basically hand made one at a time it was a LOT simpler to make the barrel octagonal with the technology of the day. As machinery improved and guns started to be mass produced it was then that round barrels became more practical. It reduced the weight. But the idea of an octagonal barrel was seen as aesthetically correct on muzzle loaders, and early smokeless powder guns like the early lever guns carried on the tradition. Personally I think they look cool on certain rifles. Not sure they offer any advantage.

    Saying a lever action is accurate is relative. Accurate compared to what? More accurate than they are often given credit for, and accurate enough to do the job they are designed for, yes. Compared to most more modern designs, no.
     
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  22. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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    Original post
    Does barrel harmonics play a beneficial part in heavier profile octagonal barrels to improve accuracy excluding barrel heating up? (Since we are discussing "hunting" lever action that will see minimal shooting)

    Decades back, when other shooters' thinner barrel ARs opened up groups after shooting even one magazine, my 20" HBAR would increase group size much slower. Now I prefer 18" heavy barrel over 16" pencil barrels and BCA 1 MOA certified .223 Wylde barrels continue to maintain accuracy even after several 5 shot group testing (BTW, 18" BCA .223 Wylde barrels were free floated in MLok handguards).

    I am thinking about doing AR barrel harmonics vs barrel heating up comparison test in the near future and curious if barrel harmonics of heavier barrel, like the OP's heavier octagonal profile barrel has over thinner barrels.
     
  23. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Personally, I believe - based on experience with what I consider to be enough barrels - that a LOT of shooters will use thermal expansion “stringing” as a lame excuse for the fact they simply don’t shoot light rifles very well, or the fact their hunting rifle simply doesn’t shoot very well overall.

    Equally, I believe a lot more factory rifles DO walk as they heat up than most internet commandos care to admit; barrel contour notwithstanding.

    I’ve made the same challenge to dozens of folks who claim their rifles walk as they heat up: prove it. Quantify it. Shoot five groups of five rounds with all 5 fired in under 2 min, then shoot 5 groups of 5 rounds with 5 minutes between each shot. If you bring back one target with 5 caterpillar shaped groups climbing up the page, and one target with 5 round clusters, then we have an affirmed case of repeatable and demonstrable thermal influence.

    But bringing “metal expands so the mag tube forces leverguns to string as they heat up” to the table, with no evidence to support and demonstrate the theory applies for a particular rifle or rifle design just doesn’t go very far with me.
     
  24. PRD1

    PRD1 Member

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    In answer to your original question: No, octagonal barrels are not more accurate than round barrels. The Sharps Rifle Company, makers of some of the first and best breechloading long-range match rifles stated categorically that round barrels were the more accurate, and made their target rifles with such barrels exclusively, unless otherwise (and against their recommendation) ordered.
    As a retired barrel maker, I can tell you that any unnecessary machining of the exterior of a barrel will introduce stresses which are unevenly distributed, and can cause harmful effects on accuracy due to irregular vibration and uneven expansion when heated by a series of shots.
    The belief that an octagon barrel is stiffer than a round barrel of the same weight is untrue, and can be demonstrated by clamping the barrels' breech ends firmly in a vice, hanging a weight off the muzzle and measuring the deflection.
    The only benefit derived from fluting a barrel is reduced weight, and such a barrel is subject to the same problems as an octagon, or any other shape than round, barrel. And again, it is not stiffer than a round barrel of equal diameter.
    claims of improved cooling are, if not entirely unfounded, insignificant in non-automatic arms, and no advantage accrues to accuracy, either.
    It is much easier to achieve nearly equal distribution of mass in a round barrel than in any other shape, and this equal distribution of mass is essential to best accuracy, other factors in barrel quality being equal.
    If any particular barrel contour offered proven advantage in accuracy, you may be sure that the benchrest community would jump on it: they haven't, and you can be equally sure they have tried everything that ever occurred to some intrepid experimenter in ultimate rifle accuracy; cost being no consideration.

    PRD1 - mhb - MIke
     
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  25. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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    Very good point.

    I am thinking about doing H335 vs Benchmark comparison in the Handloading and Reloading category and will see if I can test that notion.
     
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