View Full Version : Barrels covered in wood

August 22, 2008, 07:24 AM
Why is it that, the older the rifle, the more likely the barrel would be covered? My first guess would be for protection from the elements, but I don't think blueing has changed in 150 years and laying a wood "guard" could actually trap moisture more than repel it.

4V50 Gary
August 22, 2008, 07:56 AM
If you're thinking about military arms, it was to keep the hand from being burned when the barrel got hot. The wood was also necessarily long because the musket also served as a pike when the bayonet was affixed. You had to chase away the enemy infantry or repel cavalry with it.

August 22, 2008, 08:10 AM
Duh. <-at my own doofus-ness

Now that you mention it, it seems perfectly simple and apparent.

Thanks for the answer...

August 22, 2008, 10:04 AM
I remember seeing a rifle with wood running up the full length of the barrel with deep inlays of black and white (plastic?), and lots of fine English style checkering. I remember the barrel extended past the wood by about 1/2" to 3/4" from the tip of the barrel. No ideas as to what it was.

August 22, 2008, 10:24 AM
I know CZ makes a couple different models with the wood running to the front of the barrel.


James K
August 22, 2008, 10:32 PM
Some sporting bolt actions have been made with stocks extending to the muzzle, usually with an end cap, but with no upper handguard. This type of stock is often called a Mannlicher stock because it was used on that designer's military rifles. Originally European, several American companies have offered the Mannlicher stock as an option. It is purely cosmetic and offers no real advantage over the conventional sporting half stock.


T. O'Heir
August 22, 2008, 11:21 PM
Milsurps have full wooden stocks to protect the rifle when bayonet fighting. The bayonet itself is a throw back to 16th century infantry pikemen, like 4V50 Gary says. The PBI didn't repel cavalry with bayonets ever. They formed a 'Square'. A square was an infantry defensive formation against cavalry. A hedge of bayonets that horses shied away from. No square and the PBI got slaughtered by cavalry.
Mind you, a lot of military things are done, just because it was the way it had been always been done. Even as late as W.W. I, the plan was for the PBI to break through the German lines so cavalry could follow through into the rear. MG's, artillery spotters, etc were ignored.
It wasn't until the Canadian General Sir Arthur Currie invented every current SOP(assualt training, maps issued down to section level, recon, counter battery fire, batle rehersals, etc.) for the Canadian Corps' Vimy attack that it changed.

August 23, 2008, 12:26 PM
The original purpose and one current purpose was for a grip up front, thus the term "foregrip." A barrel alone is too thin to grasp or aim well. The early guns never got too hot as they took forever to load.

August 23, 2008, 07:57 PM
The original purpose and one current purpose was for a grip up front, thus the term "foregrip." A barrel alone is too thin to grasp or aim well. The early guns never got too hot as they took forever to load.

uhhhmmmmmmm I don't think so.

even in the era of the muzzleloaders, there were many who were able to shoot 4 times a minute, and did that for a very long time, and that will get your barrel to hot to touch in not a very long time. Another reason was for protection of the barrel, early steel barrels were often moderately soft, and dented easily in the field, adding a "cushion" of wood around the barrel helped keep damage to a minimum. I have seen several old trap doors and other larger bore muskets which have had arsenal repaired dents in the barrel. Gunsmiths made a dent roller for the damage repairs which can be found from time to time at museums and gun shows. Its a bore riding steel shaft with a slightly smaller part drilled offset and turned like a cam inside the barrel. A smith would drop the "dent roller" down the barrel and then slowly from the inside "iron" out the dent. Brownells and Briley both offer them now for better shotguns were an unfortunate accident has occured.

When you moved to the early bolt era, the wood handguards became even more necessary as you have guns that will shoot 20 to 30 rounds a minute with a competent shooter attached who is using stripper clips. Keep this up for anylength of time and then try to either grab the rifle ahead of the magazine and run with it, or grab it to use the weapon with the bayonet attached and believe me, its HOT>even thru the wood.

Another reason was to provide a comfortable place for the soldier to place his hand when carrying. Most of the early bolt action repeaters were long barreled and the only easy place to one hand carry the gun was directly infront of the action, exactly where it gets the hottest. Also non staggered box magazines made grabbing it around the action impossible.

James K
August 23, 2008, 11:51 PM
One of the defects of the K.98k, IMHO, is the elimination of the wood behind the rear sight. When you fire one of those rifles for a while, it is a good idea not to get any bare body parts around that hot barrel or you will regret it. Don't ask how I know.


August 24, 2008, 09:50 PM

uhhhmmmmmmm I know so.

It was put there to provide a good grip. You even said "to provide a comfortable place for the soldier to place his hand when carrying." Like a grip does? A foregrip maybe? Foregrips were on guns early on. Ever shot anything with authentic 1620 recipe black powder? I have & everything gets so fouled so quickly that extended, non-stop shooting sessions just didn't happen. One had to stop every now and then. Arquebusiers usually carried around 12 rounds of powder in individual cartridges. After that, it's clean and swab time.

The early ones were very heavy, too, maybe 20 pounds or more. They used a metal-forked wooden pole as a rest. I think if a metal barrel had to rest on a metal fork, it's going to be a real slippery rest and very hard to control.

Dent protection: A very good grip purpose on more modern, thin walled barrels made out of decent steel, like with shotgun barrels. But, have you looked at any of those early guns' barrels? The wall thickness may be 1/4" thick or more! They're made of soft-ish steel but it's still steel. Kinda hard to ding that severely enough to compromise the bore. Maybe if one rests it on a rock or an anvil and then blasts it with a decent sledge hammer.

Foregrips weren't heat shields at first. Heat only became an issue much, much later, long after foregrips were in use. Matchlocks had foregrips. Even if it weren't to quickly foul up (impossible back then but mentioned here hypothetically,) how would one fire one of those monsters rapidly enough to make it uncomfortably hot?

August 26, 2008, 05:03 PM
Nice, but I believe the question was about the upper handguard, not about the lower forearm. If you're using the upper handguard as a place to grip your rifle while firing, you have an interesting stance indeed, my friend! ;)

As to the upper handguard's use as a heat shield, it is pretty readily apparent from the time of its introduction. Early single-shot breechloading military rifles like the Martini, Springfield, Mauser Gew.71, and Mle.74 Gras do not have upper handguards, as the slow-firing black powder rifles rarely heated their barrel enough to matter except under the most unusual of circumstances. (Roarke's Drift, f'rinstance.)

It wasn't until the development of smaller-bore smokeless magazine rifles that the barrels began being enveloped to protect the rifleman's hand. The early designs, such as the Belgian Mausers and the German Commission Rifle, sometimes had tubular sheet steel barrel shrouds, but enveloping wooden handguards soon replaced those as being lighter and easier to produce.

August 27, 2008, 06:52 AM
The OP put the word guard in quotes and he wasn't quoting anyone. When not used while quoting someone, quotation marks signifiy irony, sarcasm or, sometimes, a lack of a better term. He never mentioned any starting gate for his question, just "the older the rifle...?"

August 27, 2008, 08:06 AM
Yes, I was referring to the upper hand guard - most C&R rifles don't have a distinct lower hand guard, but have an extended stock.

August 28, 2008, 06:26 PM
Dispite the bickering, all I know is I would love a set UPPER AND LOWER for my H&R .44. :)
Sorry, forgot I was in the C&R.

August 29, 2008, 09:48 AM
Ahhh, clarification changes everything. Sorry folks, my bad. As you were.... :o