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Old December 25, 2020, 11:13 AM   #1
TXAZ
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Heavy “bull” barrel vs standard barrel: What do you get?

Does moving from a standard barrel to a heavier barrel improve your accuracy, precision, both, neither (or muscle strength)?
Just curious.

Where is the point of diminishing returns?
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Old December 25, 2020, 11:47 AM   #2
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If you're referring to the size of the aiming area you're able to hold the rifle in, it might help up to some degree.

There's no difference in the accuracy either weight can produce. Both are 100% repeatable in their vibration properties from shot to shot if totally free floating.

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Old December 25, 2020, 12:13 PM   #3
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The praticals and particulars.

Quote:
Does moving from a standard barrel to a heavier barrel improve your accuracy, precision, both, neither (or muscle strength)?
Just curious.
A general reply to this, would be; yes but there are so many variables.

Quote:
Where is the point of diminishing returns?
Performance vs. cost. There is, when the level of performance goes below the value your investment. This too is has variables. My priority is to first address the practicals and then the particulars. Replacing a barrel with a heavier barrel may be on my list but not high, on my priority list. ....

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Old December 25, 2020, 01:02 PM   #4
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Heavy barrels are heavy to absorb more heat before becoming so hot that accuracy degrades or cook-off becomes a problem. That's it. An engineer would only make a barrel heavier than it needed to be in order to hold the pressure at hand if it needed to be heavier for some other reason. Since all barrels do pretty much is contain and vector pressure to a desired release point, there's not likely to be a lot of reasons to make one over-heavy.
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Old December 25, 2020, 01:05 PM   #5
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A heavier barrel is easier for the trigger puller to hold steady while pressing the trigger. At least up to a point. But I don't think the barrel its self is any more or less accurate. A heavier barrel will take longer to overheat from multiple shots, but will also take longer to cool off.

On a hunting rifle balance comes into play when shooting offhand or even while carrying the rifle. I've shot some very skinny barreled hunting rifles that were quite accurate for 2-3 shots, but any more than 3 would result in poor accuracy until the barrels cooled down. Which isn't really a disadvantage on a hunting rifle.

For what I do I have no use for a heavy bull barrel and I don't like how the skinny mountain rifle barrels balance. I like just a bit of weight out there, but that is because I find it makes it easier for me to shoot it accurately. Not necessarily because it is more accurate.
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Old December 25, 2020, 01:26 PM   #6
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Generally speaking, the bull barrel give you more mass, with the advantages and disadvantages that brings.

More weight means a reduction in the felt recoil, and a more stable "solid" hold from a rested position. More weight to hold up offhand though, which can be a drawback.

The most common advantage to a bull barrel for rifle shooting is that the greater mass of steel acts as a better heat sink than the more slender barrel. All barrels warm up and all get affected by that, but the heavy varmint gun barrel heats up slower, meaning (usually) one can fire more rounds before the barrel heats up enough to change your groups and/or point of impact.

Useful for a varmint shooter, and a target shooter, not so much for a deer hunter.

Accuracy? each individual barrel is its own universe, but it is a general constant that as they expand with heat things change a bit. If you're doing something where 2-3 shots is all you're likely to take at a time, a heavy barrel is mostly just extra weight to pack around.

But if you're shooting more than that, the stability of a heavy barrel could be a significant advantage.
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Old December 25, 2020, 01:29 PM   #7
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Barrels properly fit to squared up receiver faces will shoot to point of aim for several dozen shots fired several times a minute. Long skinny or short stiff. Long stiff or short skinny. I've worn out several of each,
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Old December 25, 2020, 04:03 PM   #8
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Are we talking about 2 same quality barrels only differentiated by weight/contour?

If so, the added weight can be used to steady aim on a rest and absorb recoil movement which will improve Accuracy some amount. They also take more heat energy to warm up and release stress which improves accuracy.

All this combined is not nearly the effect of rebarreling to a top quality barrel.

Maybe 1/10th the improvement.

Still, a bedded heavy barreled factory rifle has been known to shoot 1/2” 5 shot groups which is pretty good. My stock Savage 12 only had 0.6” in it.
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Old December 25, 2020, 07:35 PM   #9
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The right tool for the job ?????

Quote:
Generally speaking, the bull barrel give you more mass, with the advantages and disadvantages that brings.
Bull-Barrels make lousy "Hunters" and some of "us" have learned that, the hard way. A golfer has more than one club, in his bag and that is why we have more than one firearm, our safes. ........

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Old December 25, 2020, 08:20 PM   #10
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This is one of those it depends. Mostly covered by previous comments.

But, caveat, Bull barrels are usually by special order and are custom made to degrees of precision mass mfg barrels are not.

So, yes, I have replaced a number of Savage barrels with Bull barrels because they were.

1. Good mfg
2. Steadier to hold
3. Dramatically reduce felt recoil (I bench rest shoot only these days)

To get what Bart B has, you need a gunsmith (sans a Remage or Savage target action) aka, custom fit. And a good barrel.

While the shooter is a huge part of it, you can't shoot accurately (again target) with a poor mfg barrel.

But, a Bull barrel is not intended as a hunting barrel. Yes you can lug it but hunting is a whole different ball game.

Bull Barrels heat up slower and they cool down slower as well.

I am not as sanguine as Bart B about a mass mfg barrel being stress relieved and suddenly doing weird things when it reaches a Tip Over point (I could be wrong)
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Old December 26, 2020, 03:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
But, a Bull barrel is not intended as a hunting barrel. Yes you can lug it but hunting is a whole different ball game.
Some "bull barrels" are absolutely intended for hunting. Mind you, I put the heavy varmint barrels in the "bull barrel" group.

They aren't intended for DEER hunting, or any other big game, they are meant for hunting varmints (or other small game that is mostly stationary when shots are taken)

Remington, Winchester, Ruger and others have sold a LOT of bull barrel varmint guns since the 60s as factory standard items. For HUNTING....

I've had a Winchester bull barrel M70 in .22-250 for about 40 years. Large numbers of woodchucks, rockchucks, prairie dogs, gophers, crows and other varmints have been taken with it, though by today's "internet" standards its probably sub optimal since in MY hands, with MY reloads, it "only" shoots a 3/4" MOA group...without "chasing the lands", without bumping the shoulder back .002", without neck turning, without any special case prep at all, other than trimming below max length and FULL LENGTH resizing....

Gun goes about 12lbs, its not a "stalking rifle" and not meant to be...
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Old December 26, 2020, 04:12 PM   #12
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Both.
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Old December 26, 2020, 05:41 PM   #13
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Norm Johnson once turned down some barrels from heavy target and varmint profiles to well tapered sporter contour and saw no difference in accuracy.
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Old December 27, 2020, 12:35 AM   #14
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I never believed a heavy barrel was a good barrel just because it was a heavy barrel.

The good ones are where you find them, no matter the contour.

What I have found is a heavy barrel is an aid to some types of shooting and a detriment to others.

Guess that's why they make different kinds...
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Old December 27, 2020, 01:49 AM   #15
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I use standard factory barreled rifles for medium game, and varmint weight barreled rifles for prairie dogs. But, the most accurate rifle I ever owned was a Ruger Hawkeye Predator in .204 Ruger. I think the barrel was a "heavy sporter." The rifle was good right out of the box, eventually I put a Richards Microfit thumbhole stock on it. Never bedded, just free floated. And the barrel lasted 3000 rounds give or take a few hundred. It was a real tack driver, and prairie rat slayer.
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Old December 27, 2020, 09:12 AM   #16
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I have a couple of "bull" barreled rifles; the first was my 10-22 (no barrel band, Shilen BBL) and the second, a CZ455 that was bought as a standard-barreled .22 WMR, but presently wears a fluted .17 HMR bull that makes the rifle steady to hold, but not too heavy to carry easily. Balance is very good for both and they shoot well from the bench.
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Old December 28, 2020, 11:43 AM   #17
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A properly balanced bull or heavy barreled rifle should feel like a feather in your hands (with proper exercise). But carrying one around the mountains all day might tend to feel a bit burdensome for a hunter.

Light barreled rifles are more "whippy" when you swing one in the standing field position, which makes it more harder to control; as compared to a heavy barreled rifle.

Heavier barreled rifles tend to hold steadier in the wind...even though I hold my rifles tighter into my shoulder pocket; when attempting an offhand or standing shot in the field position --- when it's windy.

I also agree that a heavy barreled rifle will absorb more recoil.
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Old December 28, 2020, 01:31 PM   #18
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Quote:
Some "bull barrels" are absolutely intended for hunting. Mind you, I put the heavy varmint barrels in the "bull barrel" group.
I don't put Varmint shooting in a hunting category.

And a True Bull has not taper.

You might get a balanced gun with a short bull

They work for me for what I do and that is what counts, if it works for the shooter there is no right or wrong.

Heavy is a major help with recoil and I like to shoot all day (temps permitting) so that is a big plus for me.
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Old December 28, 2020, 02:15 PM   #19
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Quote:
I don't put Varmint shooting in a hunting category.
You're out in the country, not at a range, you have to move around to find your quarry, how is this not "hunting"???
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Old December 28, 2020, 02:33 PM   #20
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Its all good. Enjoy your choices.

If the gun will be carried from the pickup to the range firing line, heavy is fine.

If my professional job is military sniper, I'd use whatever the military decided was best,and I'd need to be strong enough to carry it. Applies to machine gunners,mortarmen, RTO's,etc

But for the sort of shooting most of my firearms are selected ,I spend a heck of of lot more time carrying than I do shooting.I live in a mountain state,so 9000 ft elevation and walking a lot of elevation change is not unusual.
Fatigue may be a more important factor in success than 1 MOA of rifle mechanical accuracy.

You carry a 10 lb + rifle if thats your choice. No problem!! I prefer a 7 lb rifle.

I have never found a 7 lb rifle to be a handicap for any activity I carry a rifle .

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Old December 28, 2020, 02:43 PM   #21
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Why a heavy barrel?
1. More stable to hold from a bench due to mass.
2. Increased ability to absorb heat slowing temperature changes in the barrel which can move point of impact.
3. More rigid barrel structure.
4. Some match bull barrels may have tighter chamber dimensions.
5. Generally more consistently accurate.

So why light barrels on any gun?
1. Lighter to carry especially in rugged terrain.
2. Easier to hold off hand.
3. Generally used for fewer shots at a time.
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Old December 28, 2020, 02:44 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RC20 View Post
And a True Bull has no taper.
What official glossary states that?
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Old December 28, 2020, 06:10 PM   #23
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You probably won't notice differences between heavy barrels and light barrels at short range (100-300 yds) but you do start to see consistency losses to a larger degree at 500+ yds. I shoot a lot at 600 yds, and have shot with a lot of different people and a lot of different rifles. Anything from custom Tacti-cool $5000 GAP's all the way down to great-grandpa's Mauser sporter in 30-06. The common trait that I observe with with light contour barrels is they build excessive heat quickly and they tend to throw fliers and /or the groups consistently open up when getting up around 10+ consecutive shots in a short window of time. There's a reason F Class benchrest rifles all use 1+" dia straight barrels. Remember, every time a bullet travels down your barrel it creates a sine wave "whip" that travels along your barrel. There's some interesting high speed photography that captures "barrel whip" and it's pretty interesting what happens. Bottom line , heavier barrel , less whip and vice versa. I'm no barrel metallurgy expert but I've read some interesting basics over the years.
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Old December 28, 2020, 07:27 PM   #24
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RoadClam:
Fair enough!
All due respect to those who shoot F-Class! More context from the OP would be helpful.
I don't know the rules of F-Class, Maybe? All that is required is a 1 mile road walk carrying all your gear. I don't know. I can see barrel heat as a problem.

Mountain hunting is different. If barrel heat becomes an issue,you have already failed.

Two different scenarios. Which are we talking about?
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Old December 29, 2020, 07:35 AM   #25
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https://www.6mmbr.com/gunweek057.html

Heavy BR rifles
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