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Old October 21, 2012, 10:21 PM   #1
HALL,AUSTIN
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4" vs 6"

Is there a large gain to be had from a 6 inch barrel as far as velocity and accuracy or is it just marginal?

Last edited by HALL,AUSTIN; October 22, 2012 at 02:53 PM.
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Old October 21, 2012, 10:26 PM   #2
Bob Wright
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For what?

A six inch barrel usually will give you a little higher velocity. And it offers a longer sight radius for more precise aiming. And it provides more weight out front to dampen recoil and muzzle flip.

A four inch barrel is a mite quicker out of the holster, is usually more comfortable to carry and is easier to conceal.

For hunting, long range work, general shooting, six inch.

For carry and fighting, four inch.

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Old October 21, 2012, 10:27 PM   #3
Nathan
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If you want to shoot 50 yards or so, a 6" is nice. For carry, I prefer a 4".

My S&W 19 is a 4". My hunting gun a 5.5" Ruger SA gives me a little more confidence at range.
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Old October 21, 2012, 11:24 PM   #4
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I'm more comfortable shooting heavier guns. It's easier for me to keep the gun steady.
I like the rest of the advantages of a longer barrel as well.

But it is a very subjective choice. Lots of people find that longer barrels don't balance well and that negates any advantage.
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Old October 21, 2012, 11:51 PM   #5
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Casual target shooting and plinking no appreciable difference. Self defense shooting no difference but the 4" is a ton easier to carry and you will appreciate the longer sight radius when you are hunting. So it boils down to what you want your gun for. The little bit of velocity difference won't make much difference to what you shoot unless its at extreme range.

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Old October 22, 2012, 07:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
I'm more comfortable shooting heavier guns. It's easier for me to keep the gun steady.
I like the rest of the advantages of a longer barrel as well.
You acknowledge the advantages above. But then negate them below.

Quote:
But it is a very subjective choice. Lots of people find that longer barrels don't balance well and that negates any advantage.
The weight-forward is good balance. "Good balance" is not what feels good in the hand, it is what enables better accuracy. That is why Olympic Rapid Fire Target Pistols actually have weights attached to the barrels and extended sighting planes.
Longer barrels(sight radius), more weight forward is better for hunting, long range, and target shooting. Such becomes a problem only if you are going to carry it or try to conceal it, or anticipate you are going to have to shoot rapidly at short range.
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Old October 22, 2012, 08:03 AM   #7
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Balance

Weight forward isn't balance. It's bias. Balance is even weight distribution front to rear. My 3-inch Model 13 has a rear weight bias, much like a tapered barrel Model 10. My 4-inch Model 13, a little less so...like a heavy barrel Model 10. I prefer a rear weight bias in a carry gun and front bias for careful shots...target or hunting...and for heavy recoiling revolvers.
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Old October 22, 2012, 09:26 AM   #8
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Not much real difference in accuracy at practical hand gun distance from my experience...I've found that at 50 yds, it amounts to an add'l inch on group size. As to carry, the four inch barreled models are a heck of a lot easier in a waist belt holster. A shoulder rig allows an easier carry with the longer tubes, if you do a lot of sitting: tractor, car, ATV, maybe even your deer stand. On horseback, the length doesn't seem to matter as the gun extends down your outside pants leg.

Balance is a subjective thing; there is no universal standard, it's what works best for you and may differ significantly depending on whether you shoot with two hands on the gun or only one. For me, either way, the 4" models, or a bit more (4-5/8" in Ruger Blackhawks for instance), balance better; read: I'm more accurate with them than the 6" or 6+" models. In Ruger Blackhawks, the steel framed models (Flat Tops), do better for me than the aluminum ones (which throw the balance point too far forward.)

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Old October 22, 2012, 10:39 AM   #9
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"Is there a large gain to be had from a 6 inch barrel or is it just marginal?"

You'd have to be more specific with the question. 'Gain' in terms of velocity ? or what - -

As everyone else has mentioned, 'it depends' on what you are asking about, the specific gun, and the individual.

I personally prefer to go with revolvers in the 4"-5 1/2" barrel length range for general holster carry and field use.
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Old October 22, 2012, 10:47 AM   #10
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In a word NO. Little velocity is to be gained by an extra two inches of barrel and much to be lost in terms of portability and balance.
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Old October 22, 2012, 12:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
You acknowledge the advantages above. But then negate them below.
Well no, I just mention that some people find longer barrels to be...well barrel heavy.
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Old October 22, 2012, 01:54 PM   #12
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I like the 4" gun for a holster gun, IDPA has a 4" max limit so I have to use a 4" in Idpa. If I had a choice I'd shoot the 6" gun, the longer sight radius is a plus. As for velocity, it depends on the individual guns. A 6" is normally faster but not always. I hold a little steadier with the 6" due to the added weight.
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Old October 22, 2012, 09:30 PM   #13
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I couldn't decide between the 4" and 6" when looking for a 629 a couple of weeks ago, so I settled it by buying a 5" 629 Classic that I found on an internet site. I like the way it feels, now I just have to shoot it. jben
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Old October 23, 2012, 07:07 AM   #14
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I think the 4" is the best overall compromise between the accuracy of the 6" and the concealability of the 2" snubbie. The oldest gun that I still own is the S&W Model 19 that I bought about 25 years ago and would never sell. Its a 4inch nickel plated 357mag, that at one time was called (by one of the major gun magazines) the "best all-around handgun made". Although I have a number of guns, this one, with a Crimson Trace laser, and loaded with Speer 38+p ammo, is my go-to home defense gun. Six rounds may not be a lot, but I have TOTAL confidence that this gun will go bang when I pull the trigger, even if I have not touched the gun for years.
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Old October 23, 2012, 08:04 AM   #15
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For the way I shoot, I don't think there is enough velocity difference to matter.

I use both, a 4 inch Model 28, (my old service revolver) and a 6 inch Model 27.
I find the 4 in. more convent and faster in most types of competition and carrying. But if I don't have to move around a lot, such as shooting Bowling Pins, I like the longer sight radius of the 6 in. I don't really notice the extra weight in that type shooting.

In police work, the 4 in is much better when you figure you spend most of your time riding around a patrol car.

The best scenario is to have one of each, then you're set.
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Old October 23, 2012, 09:18 AM   #16
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Quote:
In police work, the 4 in is much better when you figure you spend most of your time riding around a patrol car.
That is what it always comes down to for most people when it comes to handguns...comprimises that may not be the best for shooting, but that one adjusts to.
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Old October 23, 2012, 11:38 AM   #17
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THERE is no substitute for velocity and there is no substitute for barrel length to get it.
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Old October 23, 2012, 02:03 PM   #18
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Quote:
THERE is no substitute for velocity and there is no substitute for barrel length to get it.
Sounds logical. However, is the velocity difference between a four inch barrel significantly less than a six inch barrel? That is, would examining a wound to a deer (if hunting) lead to finding a difference between two identical woulds caused by the two different barrel lengths? Or, in the event of self-defense, would an attacker be dissuaded by a wound caused by a six-inch gun faster than a four-inch gun? And, how could that be proved?
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Old October 23, 2012, 02:21 PM   #19
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I've carried them all, mainly for hunting purpose. 4" is a good compromise for a one gun guy but for hunting, the longer the better. A trail gun is one thing but a designated hunting gun is another. Sight radius make a big difference and as long as you dont add so much weight the gun is miserable to carry in the woods, 6" is where I would start with.
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Old October 23, 2012, 05:03 PM   #20
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Trust me, at 50 yards the deer or boogerman or wabbit won't know the difference but if you are a 100 yard shooter than the longer barrel is an advantage for velocity gain and locking your eyeballs onto the sights. To answer your question it depends on what bullet out of what gun to find the difference.

A simple search and voila, we get this.

http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/357mag.html
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Old October 23, 2012, 05:40 PM   #21
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With magnum calibers, I'd say yes. Shorter barrels give off a larger fireball, meaning less powder was burned in the barrel, and was burned outside. Less powder burned equals a loss in velocity.
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Old October 23, 2012, 06:20 PM   #22
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At close range 25 yards or less I don't see much difference between 4" and 6". At 50 yards and beyond there a slight advantage with the 6". I think you will really start seeing the differences when you compare a 4" barrel to the 8" barrel. Velocity goes up and the longer distance between sights makes it easier to stay on target at distances. I have used a 4" 357 mag for deer hunting. At distances of 50 yards and less it does the job if you can get in a good shot. Not all pistols are equal. I have been able to shoot better groups with one 4" barrel than I could with a 6" off of sandbags.
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Old October 23, 2012, 06:48 PM   #23
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Someone else already posted this, but it is worth repeating.

http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/357mag.html

You will find the answers you seek here.

All you need to do is determine if the greater velocity you get from the longer barrel is worth the extra lengh and weight you have to carry. And that is largely determined by how you plan to use the gun.

For me, I have no use for anything less than 4". Velocity is still acceptable for me at that length, but you couldn't give me a revolver with a shorter barrel. I don't hunt or shoot long range targets. If I did 7-8" is what I'd want. As generel rule 4" is the best compromise for how I use a gun. How you plan to use it will determine the best length for you.
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Old October 23, 2012, 06:58 PM   #24
rep1954
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I've been shooting handguns for 39 years and I just don't remember any of my shorter barreled handguns out shooting my 6" to 6 1/2" barreled guns. If performance is what your looking for a little more velocity is always better that a little less velocity.
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Old October 23, 2012, 07:01 PM   #25
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The link jmr40 posted is informative, but look it over carefully. The test barrels they used did not have a cylinder gap, and elsewhere on that website, they discuss how guns that do have a cylinder may gain less from a longer barrel, because the longer the bullet is in the barrel, the more gas and pressure exit out the cylinder gap.

If you compare actual guns toward the bottom of the link, you'll see that a 4" S&W often produced higher velocities than a 5" S&W, which often produced higher velocities than a Colt with a 6" barrel.
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