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Old November 1, 2012, 09:07 PM   #1
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what size handgun barrel is appropriate?

When selecting a gun for shooting at range/home defense/self defense what size barrel/s would be most appropriate?

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Old November 1, 2012, 09:10 PM   #2
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Probably something in a 4". Either semi-auto, or revolver. But the best choice is what feels best to you, and what you can shoot best with.
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Old November 1, 2012, 09:12 PM   #3
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Everyone has an opinion, but in general something you carry is usually shorter.

For home you're not limited by what you can stuff in your pants so it makes sense to take advantage of a longer barrel, but keep in mind if it's too long it gives more leaverage to a bad guy trying to wrestle it out of your hands and it may not be as manuverable.

Here's my breakdown.

Carry 2-3"

Home 3-5"

Hunting 5-7"

Range doesn't matter.
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Old November 2, 2012, 04:05 AM   #4
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A 3.5 to 4.5 inch barrel is ideal in my opinion.
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Old November 2, 2012, 06:13 AM   #5
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For home or range I prefer 4" to 6" barrels. Any thing shorter is great for CCW and any thing longer is a good choice for hunting.
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Old November 2, 2012, 08:13 AM   #6
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4 to 5 inches is pretty standard for a Service-sized pistol - which is my preference for the nightstand

3"-ish or under for carry, typically - although width is usually considered more than barrel length
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Old November 2, 2012, 12:01 PM   #7
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Let's ask Ned Buntline.
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Old November 2, 2012, 06:17 PM   #8
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For general shooting ...both tactical and some range practice 4" - 5" barrels seem to me, to be about right as well. Barrels that are too short ...or guns that are short in overall length sometimes can be difficult to shoot well beyond 30 feet or so it kind of depends on what you expect out of your range time / or tactical practice / or do you want to shoot bullseye type skills....

But having said that .....just looking at S&W revolvers --- there are J frame, and K frame, and L frame, and N frame, etc...and each gets a little bigger ...but even within each frame size -- just changing the grips to something smooth, something checkered, rubber with finger grooves in them, wood with finger grooves in them....change the whole fit and feel of the gun ! What size Frame --- and what type and size of Grips ...that fits your hands ..might be more important than barrel length.

Same thing on semi-autos as well....length of slide / height of the gun are pretty critical issues. I can shoot a 4" barrel in a 1911 pretty well if its a full sized frame....I can't shoot a 5" barrel in a commander sized frame very well at all ( because its too short for me ) doesn't fit my hands well. A 1911 in my hands with smooth grips doesn't feel "normal" ...vs a fairly heavily checkered set of grips ...or even a "fatter" set of grips ...but while I like grips with "finger grooves on my revolvers" ...I really don't like them on my 1911's. I don't like the stock grips on a Sig 226 ....but I really like the 226 with Hogue rubber finger groove grips on it...especially if I go up in caliber from the 9mm version to the .40S&W version....

So my point is....all of this stuff matters..../ and it changes from one style or platform of gun to the other ...because the controls, grip angle, overall length, overall height, balance of the gun....are all different from one mfg to the other....

Last edited by BigJimP; November 2, 2012 at 06:24 PM.
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Old November 2, 2012, 06:24 PM   #9
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One thing I like about my S&W 638 .38spl snub. In close quarters, for HD it's hard for the perp to grab and take my gun out of my hands. It's my carry gun too. FYI, I like the three finger grip by Hogue.
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Old November 2, 2012, 06:32 PM   #10
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in an auto carry on person is round 4 inches either way.
home gun its best to have around a 20-18.5 inch barreled shotgun.
and a range gun depends on what you wanna shoot but usually round 5-6 inch pistols.
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Old November 2, 2012, 06:55 PM   #11
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A full-size 1911 has a 5" barrel. That's enough for anyone.
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Old November 3, 2012, 10:34 AM   #12
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I like longer barrels for anything. To me, 4" is a snub. For carrying, the barrel length isn't the hard part to conceal, it's the butt. When you increase the barrel length everything becomes easier. Sight radius is longer so you can shoot it faster more accurately than a shorter barrel, it adds weight so recoil is tamed a little more, when hand-loading, many times you can get max charge velocities from starting loads of powder.

For range and hunting I prefer a 6 to 7.5" barrel. For CCW my 5" 1911. For shooting down Batplanes, a 36" barrel is preferred, LOL.
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Old November 3, 2012, 10:36 AM   #13
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4" best all around
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Old November 3, 2012, 03:39 PM   #14
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I carry from a 2" sp101 to a 3" model 13 as well as a 4" model 13 S&W. I like the 2" for smartcarry and find it a little more comfortable aiwb. I find I shoot my 4" the best. If I could only have one it would be the 3" the 3" does everything well.
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Old November 3, 2012, 06:45 PM   #15
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Depends on how long your legs are. have to keep the barrel from dragging in the dirt!
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Old November 3, 2012, 08:16 PM   #16
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do all i think 4 inch is as good as it gets.
Shot placement is everything! I would rather take a round of 50BMG to the foot than a 22short to the base of the skull.

all 26 of my guns are 45/70 govt, 357 mag, 22 or 12 ga... I believe in keeping it simple. Wish my wife did as well...
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Old November 3, 2012, 10:26 PM   #17
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It depends on the gun.
Barrel length affects three thing:

You aren't worried about concealability at the range, so the longest barrel without the gun becoming unwieldy. Probably in the 4-6" range.
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Old November 4, 2012, 02:52 AM   #18
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Lavan posted:
Let's ask Ned Buntline.
Awesome. Though from what I've read, Earp used his Buntline Special less as a firearm and more as a club.
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Old November 4, 2012, 05:19 AM   #19
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An overly long barrel makes a gun grab easier, in an HD scenario.

Would I use a 6" barrel if need be? Sure, but it does pose an additional retention challenge.

Personally, I prefer guns in the 1911 / M9 / CZ75 / 4" K/L/N frame size range for HD.
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Old November 4, 2012, 08:29 AM   #20
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1 7/8 TO 4 " is my limit these days . They just balance and fit .Ruger SP101 in 2 1/8 Ruger security six 4" and my SW MP 40 C . is my limit in recoil and weight . That covers it for CC , RANGE & HUNTING .
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Old November 4, 2012, 08:30 AM   #21
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For Concealed Carry: I prefer 2", 2-1/2" and 3" barrels on Revolvers. My prefered carry method is in a Pancake holster. I find that barrels longer than 3" are harder to conceal. They also block access to your back pocket.
That said I do conceal carry 4" guns some. I normally move my Billfold to a different pocket. Grips also come in to play here. Rubber Grips tend to grab your shirt more, where wood tends to let you shirt glide over the grip.
Grips are also what makes the handgun Shootable. Really dinky grips on say a J Frame will make it very hard to shoot for example. You need a good grip on the gun to shoot it well.
A K Frame Round Butt Smith & Wesson Revolver with a 2", 2-1/2" or 3" barrel will make a very Shootable Platform. The K Frame is and always has been a very Shootable Platform.

In a semi auto I only carry one, that is a full length 5" 1911 Colt. I carry it in an Askins Avenger style holster. A 4" Commander length is probably a better choice in a 1911 however.
In a semi auto I would look at a compact version of something that works for a Duty Handgun. That would be more than likely an Smith & Wesson M&P, or a Glock. At the moment the new Smith & Wesson M&P Shield would probably be my first choice for concealed carry in a semi auto.

Home or Car gun: Pretty much wide open here. My wifes house gun is a 4" S&W 686, my neighbor gals house gun is a 4" Model 10 S&W. My daughter in laws house gun is a 4" S&W 64. If a woman may be the person needing to operate the house gun my recomendation is to stay with a K or L Frame Revolver with a 3" or 4" barrel. You have no issues jaming a Revolver by Limp Wristing it. This is a big problem with lady who are not shooters. The newer polymer semi auto's have no frame weight. If a person does not get a solid grip, and hold the grip solidly when firing, the gun will short cycle and jam. Someone who is not a Salty Shooter does not need a stopage in the middle of an encounter, especially in the dark.
A revolver will normally fire every shot till it is empty with anyone operating it. In my experiance most women prefer a 4" barrel length for a house gun.
If a person already has a handgun with a longer barrel, this is not a big issue for a house gun.

Range gun: This can be anything again. My most heavily shot handguns would be my 2" LCR-22, 4" 617 S&W, and 4" Ruger MK III in 22's. In center fire my 4" 64 S&W, and 4" 686 S&W will be most most heavily shot handguns.
The 22 LR is economical to shoot. The 38 Special is also reasonably economical, and easy to find ammunition for in most locations.
You were asking about Barrel Lengths. In a range gun I prefer a 4". I belt carry almost all my handguns, and a barrel longer than 4" I find to be too long to be handy for me.

Hunting Handgun: I have a few. My short barrel revolver is a 7.5" Super RedHawk Ruger. I also have the 9.5" version. I want a long barrel for hunting. As I use an UltraDot sight the barrel length is mostly an issue of velocity, and being handy off a rest. A long barrel is much handier off of sand bags, or a monopod. I carry my hunting handguns in a case with shoulder strap like a muzzleloader possibles bag. with the case open on the end it is about like a horizontal carry shoulder holster.

If you are looking at a single handgun for Home Defense, and Range Shooting. A 4" K or L Frame S&W or GP100 Ruger would be my recomendation, followed by the 3" version if concealed carry were added to the mix.
In a semi auto a compact M&P or Glock would be my first choices. I would get a grip on one and check it out before buying however. A buddy of mine has a small 45acp Glock that I am not impressed with. With that said he is a shooter, and shoots it well. I am sure I can shoot it just fine, I just do not like the grip feel at all.

My 2 Cents

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Old November 4, 2012, 08:46 AM   #22
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It doesn't matter. Get the gun you like.
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Old November 4, 2012, 09:34 AM   #23
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For pants pocket carry it must be 2".
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Old November 4, 2012, 12:54 PM   #24
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For me, 3-4".

Easy to conceal, handy enough to shoot well. Can't argue with something in the 4-6" range, but I prefer them just a bit shorter.
“There are three reasons to own a gun. To protect yourself and your family, to hunt dangerous and delicious animals, and to keep the King of England out of your face.” - Krusty the Clown
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Old November 6, 2012, 10:48 AM   #25
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3 inch j frame or a 3 inch k frame in 38+p or 357. for carry for home 4 inch k frame.
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