* “What’s the best length for a rifle barrel?” issurely one of the more hotly-contested topics in gundom. Just as thereis no “best” caliber, no one barrel length is equally suitedto all jobs. Ideally, one’s choice should be based on thecartridges and the general application for which the rifle will be used.
Unlike the .22 rimfire which develops its optimum velocity withinabout 16 inches of barrel, a high-powdered centerfire cartridge benefitsfrom a longer tube in terms of increased velocity. Exactly how muchvelocity is gained or lost by lengthening for the most part by theexpansion ratio of the cartridge and the powder’s burning rate.Assuming the “standard” barrel length of 24 inches now used toestablish nominal muzzle velocities for factory cartridges, as much as60 feet per second (fps) or more can be gained or lost by going to a26-inch barrel or 22-inch one, respectively. Cartridges with high expansion ratios, i.e.
, case volume versustotal bore volume, lose less velocity as barrels are cut back. In otherwords, a .308 Winchester will suffer less loss if we did the same to a.300 winchester Magnum; but again, it’s due to the fact that thebig magnums with low expansion ratios are stuffed with slower-burningpowders which need long barrels in which to do their stuff. I once cut the 24-inch barrel of a 7mn Magnum back to 20 inches andin so doing, negated entirely the 95 fps edge it had over the .280Remington I was comparing it with. In both instances I was usingfactory 150-grain loads.
Want to make a .30-06 out of your .300 Magnum?Just have 4 inches whacked off the muzzle end. Anyway, unless you’re building a custom rifle or having onerebarreled, the decision as to length is made for you. Generallyspeaking, the major manufacturers put 24-inch spouts on all beltedmagnums and on the .22-250 and .
25-06. All other game cartridgechamberings such as .243, .30-06, .270, etc.
, wear 22-inch barrels. Forthe most part, those standards make a lot of sense. In Europe, wherelonger barrels are more accepted, most manufacturers who export hereprovide all non-magnum calibers in 24-inch lengths, and many magnums inthe 26-inch length. Weatherby gives you a choice between 24 and 26. When there’s a chice, I’d say the majority of huntersprefer the shorter barrels strictly from the handling and carryingadvantages with little thought to performance loss. A 22-inch barreledrifle definitely handles better than a 24-inch one. And a 20-incherfeels and carries better yet.
But there are trade-offs in performancethat must be weighed. For eastern whitetail and black bear hunting, for example, a20-inch barrel on a 7X57, a .308 Winchester or .30-06 is a delight tocarry and ballistically still would have all the performance necessaryto handle any likely situation.
But I wouldn’t want to head westfor an antelope hunt with that same fifle. There I’d want everyfps I could get. As for handling qualities, that consideration hardlyenters the picture in that sort of hunting where you search out game byvehicle and carry the gun only on stalks. For a dangerous game rifle (DGR), I wouldn’t even considercarrying anything longer than 22 inches. After all, A DGR earns itskeep up close-under 50 yards–and in those first 50 yards a one to twopercent loss in ballistic performance is far outweighed by the fasterhandling qualities.
Even a 20-inch barrel on a .458 ins’t tooshort providing the gun has the weight necessary for a DGR-like at least9 pounds naked. For any belted magnum under .375, I wouldn’t consider anythingless than 24 inches. To do so would make the performance edge minimalenough over the standard-caliber equivalent as to not make itworthwhile. DIFFERENT STYLE GUN SHOW One of the things I don’t do very often is go to gun shows.The relatively few I have attended over the years were disappointing inthat 90 percent of what I saw was just plain junk. In my experience,the “gun show” moniker was a misnomer; most of what I saw ondisplay was more befitting the kind of flea market where a 1940s-vintageCoke bottle would be touted as an antique.
I am not a gun collector, but based on those few shows I’veattended, I can see why the truly serious collector is often frustratedto the point that wading through the militaria, old dishes, utensils,coins, and quasi-jewelry just isn’t worth it any longer. Andtrying to find specific items of interest among the thousand or so pageseach month in the buy-sell-trade tabloid requires more time than most ofus have. The solution? Well, one of ’em, anyway, is the mail bidfirearms auction as introduced over a year ago by the firm of Guy,Winslow & Cass, 61 Fourth Street, Dept. GA, Stamford, CT 06905. As a yearly subscriber to GW&C, you can sit in the comfort ofyour living room or den with a descriptive catalog in one hand, yourMaster Charge or Visa card in the other, and “attend,” as itwere, a firearms auction. Six such auction are held each year andsubscribers are notified of the dates well in advance.
Each item isthoroughly and professionally described in the catalog, with the rarerand more unusual pieces illustrated as well. Among the three principalsat GW&C is the combined experience of over 100 years in the gunbusiness and it’s rather evident when you read the descriptions ofthe various firearms offered for sale. All items are guaranteed asdescribed with full return privileges.
Sellers are charged a 15 percentcommission on a sale, the buyer nothing at all. Aside from the obvious advantage of convenience and privacy,bidding by mail eliminates the chance of a “shill” biddingwith the auctioneer’s money to jack up prices. Also, at a liveauction there’s the chance of getting caught up in the excitementof the moment and bidding beyond what you really want to spend on agiven item. There’s no chance of that here; you set the exactlimit you want to spend on a piece–it must be realistic, of course-thensit back and wait for the results. I can see where the anticipation inthe waiting alone would provide one’s money’s worth in termsof excitement. Bidders need only to fill out the form supplied with the catalog orthey can use their own letterhead statiionery, supplying their MasterCharge of Visa card number and expiration date, along with their bid foreach item number. Those not wishing to use plastic can send a moneyorder or cashier’s check for 25 percent of the bid amount. In thecase of a successful bid, the remaining 75 percent is due immediately.
Based on the first four auctions conducted thus far, 80 percent of thebidders have won the bid on at least one item. Another aspect of GW&C’s auction that I especially like isthat the winning bids of the previous auction are listed in the nextcatalog so bidders get a realistic picture of what fair market value forcertain items are and can set prices for their own pieces or bid,accordingly. Each of the four auctions thus far have averaged over 200 items,most of which were antique and collectible firearms, but there was alsoa good assortment of the better militaria, old sporting books, rarecartridges, edged weapons, etc. There’s also been a good selectionof modern rifles and shotguns–like pre-64 Model 70s, custom rifles bybig name ‘smiths and old-line companies like Griffin & Howe,Hoffman Arms & Jaeger. There’s also been a good number ofModel 21s, Parkers, and L.C.
Smiths, along with high grade British gunslike Holland & Holands, Greeners, Purdeys . . . good stuff. A yearly subscription to the Guy, Winslow & Cass auction is$45, enough to ensure that participants are serious enough, yet itentitles them to “attend” six auctions per year at a cost ofless than eight dollars per. Hell, I’ve known collectors to spendten times that in phone calls alone trying to hunt down specific items.
I think GW&C have a good idea here and if the collectingfraternity agrees, the number of items offered at each auction will growand grow as the membership does. For more information and asubscription form write Guy, Winslow & Cass or call Bob Gillie at(203) 325-8938. .32-20 T/C CONTENDER There are many of us who would probably do a double take uponseeing a press release announging a major manufacturer has added the.32-20 Winchester cartridge to its handgun lineup, yet such was the caserecently when Thompson/Center unveiled the old cartridge in its popularContender pistol. I mean, we’re talking old here! The .
32-20 goes back to 1882when Winchester introduced it as a black powder round for the Model 73lever action. Though the .32-20 went on to become quite become popularas a smokeless round in both pistol and rifle, it has been obsolete forquite some time.
Why then would T/C come up with a Contender barrel chambered forthe 102 year old cartridge? The NRA’s Hunter Pistol Silhoutttecompetition, that’s why. It’s a course that has the steelcritters half the size of those used for centerfire rifle, set up .25,50, 75 and 100 meters, thereby requiring far less room than the 200meters needed for IHMSA and NRA long-range handgun silhouete.
With Hunter Pistol rules restricting gun weight to 3-1/4 pounds,barrel length to 10 inches, the use of sthe standing position only, the.32-20 has proven itself to be very well adapted to this particulargame, even though more potent rounds like the .357, .41 and .
44 Magnumsare allowed. After all, the best silhouette cartridges are the oneswhich are the most accurate and pleasnant to shoot, yet have just enoughpower to ensure knock-downs on the borrego. Apparently, thiscentury-old cartridge has just the right level of performance toqualify. The 10-inch bull barrel Contender in .32-20 retails for $265.Purchased as an accessory barrel only, it’s $110. For more infowrite Thompson/Center Arms, Dept.
GA, Box 2426, Rochester, NH 03867. NO MORE S&W LONG GUNS Smith & Wesson announced recently it was terminating its importagreement with Japan’s Howa Machining, Ltd., the company whichmakes the centerfire rifles, pumps and semi-auto shotguns thatS&W’s been distributing here for the last 10 years. Each year we’ve seen the S&W long gun line get more andmore comprehensive so it was all the more surprising to me when I heardthe news. According to a release from Smith & Wesson,” .
. .the shrinking world-wide market for these (long gun) products has causedus to regretfully arrive at this decision.” The S&W folks say they and Howa are looking for a successor butnothing’s been finalized as of mid-September. In the meantime,S&W says it will continue to sell and ship all the long guns it hason order. More important to the many S&W rifle and shotgun ownersout there, the company assures us it will fully back all warranties onguns.
Repair parts will continue to be available from S&W or itsyet-to-be-named successor, and guns will be repaired promptly,regardless of what those final distribution arrangements happen to be. WINCHESTER TRAP/SKEET GUNS Winchester division of the Olin Corporation announced a couple ofnew guns which should please competitive clay target shooters. For thefirst time ever, a four-barrel over/under skeet set is being offeredwith the Winchester name, albeit the by now well-accepted Japanese-madeModel 101 produced for them by Olin-Kodensha. Called the Winchester Diamond Grade Skeet Set, all four gauges-12,20, 28 and .410-will have 27-1/2-inch skeet-choked barrels, will weighthe same (8 pounds), and will provide the shooter with the same sightpicture in all gauges, thanks to the vent rib being height-adjusted tocompensate for the varying barrel conformation. The 12 and 20 gauge barrel sets are vented behind the muzzle toreduce recoil, hence fatigue. The trigger is of the single selective,mechanical type and the safety thumbpiece also serves as a barrelselector.
Each gun is furnished with a specially fitted, compartmentedcase approved for airline travel. Like any over/under withinterchangeable barrel sets, Winchester’s Diamond Grade Skeet Setisn’t cheap–$3,950 retail, but compared to some other likeofferings from other makers, it’s not at all out of line. For the trapshooters, Winchester went and made a limited productionrun of 250 combo over/under 12 gauge guns to commemorate the AmateurTrapshooting Association’s Hall of Fame. The first 60 guns will beallocated to the 50 states, the Canal Zone, District of Columbia and theProvinces of Canada, for auction at the state and provincial shootsduring 1985.
The remaining 190 guns will be made available to membersof the ATA through normal channels. For the doubles event, the 30-inch barrel set features a top barrelchoked full, with the underspout set up with Winchoke, Winchester’sinterchangeable choke tube system. For the singles and handicap eventsthere’s a single, 34-inch over-barrel, also equipped with theWinchoke.
Four winchoke tubes are provided that will interchange onboth barrel sets: full, extra full, modified and improved modified. Special accents and engraving on the sides of the receiver identifythese as special, limited-edition Hall of Fame trap gun sets. Retailprice has been set at $2,795, including a fitted, luggage-style casewith brass latches and key locks.
A portion of the monies derived fromthe sale of these guns will go to the ATA’s special Hall of Famefund. BIG MINI-14 Just as I was about to mail this month’s deathless prose . . .late as usual, news of a brand-new Ruger gun came across my desk.It’s called the XGI, a rather clever play on words to describe atype and caliber gun with which many ex-GIs should be familiar: agas-operated semi-auto in .
308 Winchester (7.62mm). As one might expect, it looks like the big brother of Ruger’sphenomenally successful Mini-14, though in actual fact is only slightlylarger and heavier. Briefly, the gun is almost a cosmetic andmechanical duplicat of the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, right down to thefiberglass-vented handguard, integral Ruger scope ring bases and foldingapertue auxilliary rear sight. A detachable, five-round box magazinefits flush with the stock belly and is interchangeable with U.
S. M14magazines. It weighs in at 7.9 pounds empty; overall length of the XGIis 39.88 inches. Ruger has already announced plans to chamber the XGI for the .243Winchester.
That’s all I know at this point.