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Old January 11, 2013, 02:55 AM   #1
serf 'rett
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New Pistol Break In Period Before Load Development?

When I started reloading, my pistols were well broken in so I worked up testing ladders (series) to check for function and grouping. What shot well then, still works now in those pistols.

Now a new pistol is on order and I started wondering if it needs to be broken in before I start developing loads.

When a new pistol joins the harem, do you start load testing or do you run 100, 200, 300, 1000 or ?? rounds through the pistol before testing strings for accuracy?
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Old January 11, 2013, 07:43 AM   #2
Bart B.
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I don't think any barrel needs to be broken in for accuracy.

I asked Sierra Bullets' ballistics manager decades ago about that for their match-grade rifle and pistol barrels used to test their bullets for accuracy. He said there was no significant difference in accuracy across the first few dozen, few hundred or few thousand of rounds fired. They all did loose a tiny bit of accuracy after about 2/3rds of the expected barrel life in rounds fired was met, but it was only about 10% to 15%; barely enough to be noticable.

A friend was a NRA National Pistol Champion holding several records and his comments were the same on breaking in barrels. He said to just shoot the darned things. Nobody's gonna be able to tell when a pistol barrel has an accuracy change of a dozen percentage points either way; better or worse. Nobody holds and shoots pistols good enough to tell.

One needs to shoot test groups having at least 50 shots for them to be statistically significant anyway. If one does do that, twice, and both groups are not the same size, then they've not shot enough shots per group to get valid data.
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Last edited by Bart B.; January 11, 2013 at 07:50 AM.
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Old January 11, 2013, 10:02 AM   #3
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I don't think any barrel needs to be broken in for accuracy.
I agree with Bart.

My break in process on a new gun/barrel consist of cleaning the oil out the barrel and sighting it in.

That's for my target rifles, I can't see why pistols are any different.
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Old January 11, 2013, 04:10 PM   #4
Brian Pfleuger
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Even if rifle barrel break-in were necessary, handguns are a whole 'nother beast. The inherent accuracy, more correctly the inherent lack of accuracy, far over-shadows any benefit that might theoretically be available from a break-in. Imagine if you gained 1/2MOA at 100 yards (just for arguments sake), you'd be getting 1/8 MOA at 25 yards, which would be 1/32".

Besides which, a few (careful) minutes with a bore mop and some polishing compound would clean up any pistol barrel to a mirror finish. Much easier than with a rifle.
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Old January 11, 2013, 06:41 PM   #5
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I’m one of those nut cases that break in rifles with heavy barrels that are going to be used for target.
It’s a long process and probably does little to help. It’s not going to make a bad barrel good and can (if done wrong) destroy a good barrel.
The best way to test new loads with a new hand gun is to shoot it. That’s one of the great things about reloading, just one more reason to put more down range.
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Old January 12, 2013, 08:57 AM   #6
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I don't think anything is gained by breaking in the barrel. Not the inside of it anyway.

There may be something to be said for putting a couple hundred rounds through an autolader to burnish everything in and get consistent lockup though.
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Last edited by Sport45; January 14, 2013 at 10:50 PM.
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Old January 13, 2013, 12:26 AM   #7
serf 'rett
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Thanks for the responses. I was more wondering if mechanical parts; ie, moving/mating/locking parts would have an significant effect. I didn't think the barrel would need anything other than cleaning.
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Old January 13, 2013, 03:02 AM   #8
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Some polymer-framed semi-autos that use the frame for guide/slide rails (like the Ruger P95) may need some time to wear-in, before they'll reliably cycle light loads.

Other than that... there isn't really anything to worry about.

And barrel break in? No. I don't bother.
I might clean the barrel after 20 to 50 rounds for a centerfire (rifle or handgun).
But, after that... it doesn't get any special treatment.
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Old January 13, 2013, 10:54 PM   #9
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A different view:

I recently purchased a Ruger Flattop revolver in .45 Colt with an extra .45 ACP cylinder. When I received it, the cylinder throats would not accept anything larger than a 0.450" (-) plug gauge. After shooting about 100 rounds of cheap Federal .45 ACP loads with thick-plated "TMJ" bullets, the cylinder throats will all accept a 0.451' (-) plug gauge. I did not (yet)measure the constriction of the barrel at the section threaded into the frame, which is notorious for being somewhat constricted by compression during assembly, but I would expect that to have widened somewhat, too.

Before I start working-up loads for accuraccy, I intend to have the constriction removed and the cylinder throats enlarged to 0.001" more than whatever the groove diameter is without the constriction.

Granted, that is a revolver, rather than an auto-loader. But, I would expect that there is some related wear on auto-loaders that could affect accuracy. There certainly is with respect to function with light loads, so for light target loads, you would probably want to make sure that the gun is smoothed-out before deciding how low you want to go before reliability becomes an issue. Also, some auto-loadeers will throw the first round outside the group because it is fed by hand-racking the slide, rather than by auto-feeding, and the lock-up is different between those two operations. That can also smooth-out with use.

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