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GUNS Magazine July 2010 - Page 26

BARREL BASICS It all starts here. things never change. Some Here’s one. The barrel is truly the make-orbreak component in any rifle, and I’m talking about accuracy. Of course, other elements have to be correct and fully functioning to see small groups on target (and of these, the nut holding the stock factors mightily), but the difference between a rifle that shoots well and one that shoots outstandingly well is in the barrel. The standard for “shoot well” is ultimately subjective. I expect my across-the-course rifles to group no bigger than 4" at 600 yards, and that’s a 10-shot group fired prone with a scope. There’s little doubt the use a rifle is put to and the distance the bullet covers helps each shooter set his own standards for accuracy. There’s also little doubt hold quality factors heavily. A High Master class competitor is going to think his barrel has gone bad sooner than a Marksman will. In years past I’ve taken an admittedly snobbish stance on barrel quality, saying you really do get what you pay for in a match-grade barrel. One reason is there’s not really a definitive standard for “match-grade,” beyond those established by the barrelmaker. I say a match barrel Thisisasgoodasitgets,Glensays.OrderedfromKrieger,thisbarrelarrivedreadytoinstall.Gas portholedrilled,chambered,extensioninstalledandevenagasmanifoldtofit.Glenchosethe length,contourandtwistrate.Thisisn’tcheap,butit’swortheverypennytohimbecausehehas yettogetabadone. Snob? is one that wins matches. Experienced competitive shooters become aware of this because we will go through several barrels, and, therefore, see a performance pattern develop barrel to barrel. We want that pattern to be a flat line. Admittedly, it’s also been hard to continually tell people to spend $500 on one (turned, fitted, chambered and installed). Guess what? It still stands. If you are building an AR-15 for competitive use, regardless of the venue, and you want to see it shoot just as well as it can, you dramatically swing the odds in your favor by purchasing a Krieger, Lilja, Obermeyer, Schneider or other similar barrel. Those barrels, as is true with many from custom barrelmakers, aren’t graded. There’s only one standard: sell or trash. The next tier of barrels are those graded, after manufacture, and segregated by their quality. Again, different standards apply and none are universally followed, but dimensional consistency, correctness and straightness are the leading indicators. Pac-Nor, Shilen and Douglas come to mind. The best of those are frequently as good as custom barrels, but the safe route is to go with those known as good. As I said, distance really shows the differences in barrels. Take a rifle with a decent barrel and one with a great barrel to the firing line, and then keep moving farther and farther from the target. There will be less notable difference in these barrels at 100 yards. There will be more at 200. More still at 300. Way more at 600. And night and day at 1,000. I’ve seen this too many times to respect it with a “maybe.” It is also, therefore, Measuring Quality Thereisanincreasinglyavailablesupplyof ready-to-gobarrelsoftrulymatchquality. Here’sonefromSaternCustom.It’sacut-rifled, stainlesssteelNrAServiceriflebarrel,and shipswithaboltfornoheadspaceworriesanda frontsighthousingmodifiedtoprovidewindage adjustment.lotsoftwistratechoicesanda “Wylde”chamber.Ithammered. 26 Stainlesssteeldoesn’tnecessarilyshootany betterthanchromemoly,butusuallyshoots itsbestforalongertime.Chromemoly, though,willshootout-and-outlongerafter bothhavepassedtheirpeakduetothenature ofthroaterosion.Glenrecommendsstainless becauseafterabarrelispulledfromanAr15,there’snothingmoreyoucandowithit. WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JULY 2010

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