If you have ever been in the market for hunting gear and accessories, then you know that it can be a very elaborate affair, and more often than not, highly misleading as well. From the perfect scope for your rifle to the proper, compatible ammunition available, there is a host of information that can leave you confused because reliable reviews and guides are few and far in between.
In this article, we will be focusing on different parameters, namely accuracy, exit velocity, recoil, sound, and the overall shooting experience to gauge which barrel length is best suited to your .45-70 mm hunting rifle. Read on to find out!
What does ‘barrel length’ mean?
A gun barrel is one of the most essential parts of any gun type artillery. It is the ‘shooting tube’ from which the propellants fire the bullets and other projectiles like pellets and darts. Usually, the length of the barrel is considered to be the distance from the muzzle of the barrel to the end of the chamber.
There are some crucial factors that you should keep in mind while choosing an appropriate length for the barrel of your gun. If the barrel is too long and the amount of gunpowder in your cartridge is comparatively lesser (you might run into this issue if you’re using a handgun), then the negative pressure inside the barrel after firing the bullet will end up changing its trajectory after exiting from the muzzle. Conversely, if the barrel of your gun is too short and the gun powder is present in ample amounts, then you might face an after-burn or an incomplete burn upon firing, which will again divert the bullet after leaving the barrel.
Does the barrel length of a gun really have any significance?
In short, the answer is yes. Different barrel lengths in different types of guns yield different results and serve a host of purposes. Naturally, there are a lot of choices when it comes to the optimum barrel length that will make your gear perfect for what you want to do with your rifle. Before we proceed any further, let us consider how various barrel lengths affect different types of guns for some brief insight.
The sight radius the distance between the front & the rear sights. Typically, a shotgun doesn’t have sights. Instead, it features a metal ridging that runs along the top surface from the rear of the action to the muzzle of the gun, effectively working in place of the rear and front sights. The longer sight radius associated with a longer barrel helps to boost your accuracy while aiming and shooting & the longer barrel also has more weight towards the front, which can assist with your swing which in layman’s terms means that it allows you to maintain a proper lead on the moving target. However, the fast-burning gunpowder that is mostly used in shotshells is almost totally consumed in the 14 inch barrels and thus, a longer barrel on a shotgun doesn’t really deliver more velocity or change the shot pattern.
Again, in handguns, a longer barrel and thus a longer sight radius can improve accuracy, if you are using iron sights. You might even experience a slight increase in velocity and have significantly lesser recoil, but in the end, your setup might end up becoming heavier & ultimately compromise on portability and concealment as well, in case you are using your gun for defense.
Now, coming to rifles. For hunting rifles, the barrel length largely depends on the cartridge you are using or intend to use. If your rifles are compatible with cartridges that have a case that can hold a lot of gun powder then you need a longer barrel that will allow you to burn through all of that powder. These rifle cartridges are specially designed and manufactured by companies to increase the exit velocity of the bullets.
How can different barrel lengths alter your shooting experience?
Since your accuracy and ability to drop targets depend a lot on your barrel length, the outcomes of shooting different configurations of firearms result in drastically different shooting experience.
Upon firing the bullet from the chamber, the rifling or the helical indentation in the barrel imparts a ‘spin’ to the bullet by converting some of the force of the kinetic energy into angular momentum, thereby giving the bullet gyroscopic stability. This is essential when shooting with precision at long distances. Naturally, the longer the barrel length it, the more stability the bullet gains before exiting the muzzle. Further, this also reduces the drop experienced while shooting and provided greater resistance to wind fluctuations.
A longer barrel also extends the period of time for which the chamber pressure is able to act on the mass of the bullet’s mass. A longer barrel thus increases the exit velocity of the bullet and the effective range of the bullet. An increase in the velocity flattens out the trajectory of the bullet & effectively increases the energy of the projectile. Both of these parameters are crucial for dropping targets at a significant distance while hunting & using a gun with a longer barrel is the easiest way of achieving such velocities. As regards to the two other types of firearms, if iron sights are used in conjunction with a longer barrel, then the increased sight radius is a huge benefit. Of course, with the advent and immense popularity of modern telescopic sights, iron sights in hunting rifles have become largely redundant.
The increase in the mass of the bullet that is associated with longer gun barrels also increases the inertia of the fired bullet which aids the resistance against external forces. This makes the flight trajectory less likely to be affected by external forces like cross-winds or contact with unwanted obstacles.
Comparing different barrel lengths
There are loads of barrel lengths that you can choose from for your .45-70 mm rifle. Here are a couple of the most popular ones:
1. 18.5 inches
These barrels are just over the minimum legally required length of rifles and have significantly more recoil, sound, and muzzle blast than their larger counterparts. However, they allow for easier maneuvering and handling which helps cut down oh human error and effectively shoot at medium ranges up to 150 yards.
2. 22/24 inches
This is a good intermediate length that when used with the appropriate ammunition can shoot at more than 1600 fps. It is fairly easy to carry around and can drop targets even at 200 yards.
3. 26/28 inches
This is considered by most hunters to strike the perfect balance between precision and ease of use, shooting at fairly high velocities and delivering kill shots without breaking a sweat even at long distances.
4. 30/32 inches
The barrels of this length are significantly heavier compared to the shorter ones and should be considered keeping in mind the limited mobility and added weight they come with. That said, if you are comfortable with it, then of course there is lesser recoil and sound, and you can achieve higher velocities at longer distances and added precision too.
The best barrel length for .45-70 mm rifles
In the end, whether it be a rifle or shotgun, or handgun, the optimum barrel length is a finely measured balance between a long gun’s greater accuracy and the consequential higher velocity, and the other major factor— ease of use and overall convenience. Before resolutely settling on anything, keep in mind that you can always shorten your barrel by getting it professionally cut off, but you can never add more length. So it is best to start off with the maximum length that you are comfortable with and then keep adjusting as per your needs.
Many hunters seem to subscribe to the idea that heavier is better. The main reasons that they cite in supporting this notion have to do with the ballistics and accuracy. While that may be true in many cases, while choosing the barrel that is best suited to your needs, you should also factor in the usual problems the come with additional weight and the resulting scope for human error. All in all, as with much of hunting gear, the choice between barrel lengths ultimately comes down to the purpose you want served. Whether you are shooting deer at a hundred yards, or small game closer by, chances are, that with a bit of research and studying, you’ll find the perfect fit for your shooting needs!