Getting The Perfect Barrel For An AR Rifle
The main problem is that there are so many out barrels out there on the market that the sheer weight of information makes picking what is best for your set-up kind of tricky. It’s not helped by the fact that there is a lot of advertising dollars spent on convincing you that you should part with your money for this make or that, regardless of whether the choices being offered are right for you.
Selling stuff is big business, and that goes for anything, including AR barrels. In this piece, we want to give you a little insight so that you can make a choice. Few would disagree that the barrel of your AR is an important decision, and one that you need to make to the right choice about the barrel for your new, custom, AR.
What’s your barrel do?
Well, for a start, it throws your round accurately towards your target so you need to have the best one for your set up. While you might think that what is essentially a piece of tubing that facilitates your round leaving the firing zone, barrels are actually far more technical than that, and have a number of inerrant features that make more than subtle differences between types. This article will look at the main differences and how they can affect your AR build.
For a start, we would point out that if you are getting your first AR, then a lightweight chrome-lined version will typically suffice for the needs of about 90% of the population. If, however, you are a heavy customizer, or are starting out on a customization route, then you may well want to look at something a little more specialist.
One of the most fundamental points is the size of the round that you want to put up it. The .223 round might be standard, but many people choose something different such as a .308, or even a .458 SOCOM. If you are customizing, you will probably already have a good idea of what round you are building for, and just need to select an appropriate barrel for that caliber.
Of course, when selecting a custom barrel, you need to consider what you actually want the gun for. If you are looking to use the gun for; if you want something for hunting, then you are going to want a longer barrel for accuracy over distance, while a shorter barrel would be best for fast aiming in a tight environment. AR barrels can vary from just 7-inches up to 24-inches, with the 16-inch version being one of the most popular for general use and home defense.
Mil-Spec barrels are usually finished in Chrome to increase their resistance to adverse conditions like salt water, but you may not need this for your application and they do tend to reduce accuracy over a greater distance. Instead, you might want to invest in a stainless steel ‘Match barrel’ too give you greater accuracy and a good deal of corrosion resistance.
Once you have decided the purpose of your AR and have selected a barrel length, you can start to figure out other aspects that will affect your weapon. You might next think about materials and construction, and the way in which different barrels are made. Most users are fine with the Mil-Spec barrels which offer good performance, but if you are intending to put a lot of rounds down your barrel, you might want to opt for something a bit more special. Drop-forged barrels are manufactured by hammering the barrel into shape using the enormous pressures of an industrial machine, and that imparts some pretty incredible properties into the material. Drop forging aligns the structure of the metal, making it much stronger compared to simple machined versions. However, drop-forging is an expensive process that will add dollars to the purchase cost of your barrel, so why the benefits to those who use a regular high rate of fire are apparent, they may be a costly mistake for someone who doesn’t!
The term profile when applied to gun barrels means factors such as design and form, and break down into three distinct groups; light, medium, and heavy. As you might suspect, each of these categories is measured by two basic principles – weight and longevity. A lightweight barrel will be, well, lighter in constriction, but may show signs of wear more quickly, while a heavyweight barrel is designed for greater use, but might drag you down if you are carrying the gun all day. Not surprisingly, many shooters plump for a medium specification barrel since it gives them the best of both worlds but, once again, you have to look at your own circumstances.
This means the twist rate that your round will be subjected to before it leaves the barrel, and that will affect the bullet performs once it has. You twist rate is the defined by the spiral machined into the inside diameter of the barrel, which impinges on the bullet as it passes through and imparts a slight spin or ‘twist’ on it as it leaves. Twist helps stabilize your round and makes it fly further and on a more defines trajectory; in short, it improves your accuracy.
A 1:9 twist ratio is the most common, although the weight of the bullet is also a consideration when determining the appropriate ratio. That ratio actually means that the bullet will complete one revolution in the barrel every nine inches that it travels along it. But of course, this is dependent upon barrel length, and while a 7-inch barrel with a 1:9 twist gives a full turn, a 14-inch barrel with the same twist will give two turns on the round.