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Barrel Life

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Unread 12-13-2007, 08:03 PM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Kansas City, MO
Posts: 49
Barrel Life

I have heard over the years about "expected barrel life". What can someone expect out of various type rifles? i.e. magnum rifles, non-magnum rifles and so on... Is there somthing you can do to help extend the life of your barrel? How do you know once you have reached the maximum life of your barrel?
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Unread 12-13-2007, 08:30 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: North Idaho
Posts: 668
You can extend your barrel life by breaking it in properly, letting it cool plenty between shots and cleaning it properly. You know your barrel is toast when you start losing good accuracy. Hope this helps. A .308 win can go as much as 4000 rounds. A 300 magnum may only go 1200 rounds. How you take care of it will determine alot of it.

Last edited by linksmechanic; 12-13-2007 at 08:34 PM.
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Unread 12-13-2007, 08:49 PM
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: NC
Posts: 352
Garrett H.,
There are a lot more factors that determine barrel life than just the caliber. The easiest way I find to try and describe this is comparing barrel life to engine life in various forms of racing.

Engine Life:
Fuel Dragster - 4.5 secs and rebuild
Winston Cup Motor - 510 miles (roughly 3-5hrs at 8000+ RPM)
Avg Street Car - anywhere from 100 to 200,000 miles and more.

Back to barrels:

- Speed demons usually get 1000rds or less. This are the overbore widlcats. You get awesome speed and results for a short amount of time. Just like the Fuel dragster. Lot of fast fun for a short amount of time.
They typically it will get real rough in the throat area and you start throwing out shots in your groups and possibly loosing bullets in flight. Throat starts creeping out to where you can no longer seat bullet into the lands. This is a slow gradual process. Not a definite line that is easily judged.

- If your talking knife edge accuracy the 1500rd rule of thumb is usally pretty accurate for competition rifles. Plus or minus a little for various calibers and type of competitive shooting you may be doing but 1500rds is a good rule of thumb. Again, your groups just gradually start to open up and it just doesn't have the "edge" anymore. I have take-off competiton barrels that are "shot-out" that will make the average shooter raise his eye brows with the potential still in it. But you can't win in real time competition anymore with it.

- A custom built rifle with a good quality barrel that is taken care of shooting informal targets, big game and/or varmints you will probably get several thousands rounds out of it. And you will still be able to kill varmints and game on a regular basis toward the end of it's "life". Usually throat simply gets to long to seat bullets properly for your accuracy load.

- An average deer hunting rifle that you practice with some of the time and take hunting all through the fall will last you the rest of your life with proper care. Most barrels that shooters "think" that are shot out in this catagory simply need a really good and proper cleaning and they would keep shooting for a lot longer. But you can't convince them of this.

So as you can see it's more in the application and what you want out of your rifle rather than a definitive answer of X amount of rounds and you need to replace.
Regardless of what catagory you are in, the quickest way to abuse a barrel is not clean it with sustained rate of fire to get it really hot. Or fire high pressure high velocity rounds a lot with a hot barrel. That is a guarantee of barrel abuse.

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Unread 12-13-2007, 10:32 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Kansas City, MO
Posts: 49
Thanks for the detailed reply...I would like to take it one step further. What is the best break-in procedure for a new barrel? What cleaning techniques do you recommend? What solvents do you recommend and don't recommend?
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Unread 12-13-2007, 11:55 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Texas
Posts: 7,237
Barrel life


There are several things that help extend barrel life.

A good break in (1 shot and clean, 1 shot and clean for
at least 10 to 15 rounds.) Then 2 rounds and clean for
8 to 10 rounds.

Velocity is a big factor and long ago the military recognized
that if velocity stayed below 3000 ft/sec barrel life would be
extended."case in point" My 308 win 40x rem match rifle is
over 30 years old and has over 20,000 rounds through it
and it will still shoot sub 1/2 moa groups.

This rifle was broke in right,cleaned often and my load is a
168 gr smk at 2690 ft/sec.

I have only had one rifle that shot out , And it was a 7mm stw
with a 140gr load at 3640 ft/sec. At about 2500 rounds I noticed
accuracy started to fall off.

Also according to the military, ball powder is less erosive than
stick powders!

Crome moly barrels will shoot out faster than stainless barrels.

Most hunters will never shoot out a barrel unless they shoot P Dogs
(nearly an unlimited number of targets).

I hope this helped
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Unread 12-14-2007, 04:19 PM
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: NC
Posts: 352
Garrett H.,

You sure like asking "those" questions don't you? ;^ ) These types of questions will start WWIII and you will get 10,000 different replies from shooters of how they do it. This has been covered in the past here on this site. So rather than typing everything over again I would recommend you do a search for "cleaning procedure" or cleaning techniques". The info you are asking about will be there.

The only generalities I would add is this:

- don't mix cleaning solvents. Use one solvent then dry the barrel if you switch brands.
- alternate between cleaning out carbon and copper. One can hide the other
- use a good bore guide and 1 pc cleaning rod.
- the crown is fragile. Don't go pulling a cleaning rod or bore brush back through the crown at full speed. I will push a bore brush out of the muzzle, then slowly pull it backward intil the brush is fully engaged into the bore. Then speed up your back stroke. Some even go as far as not pulling anything back through the crown.

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Unread 12-15-2007, 01:57 PM
Gold Member
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Chelan Co, Washington
Posts: 563
Garrett - cartridges like the mellow little .308 Win are typically very easy on barrels. The last Krieger I had on my LR match rifle went 5600+ rounds before I wasn't satisfied with the accuracy. It went slowly, the groups just gradually opened up at 600 yards, and there wasn't anything I could do about it at that point. When we pulled it, there was pretty bad erosion the first few inches out from the chamber, but it was still shooting 10's at 600 yards, just not many X's.

Some barrels reportedly die pretty abruptly.

The high-velocity cartridges, burning big quantities of powder, do tend to wear a barrel out pretty fast - but if it's a hunting rifle and you'll only shoot 100 rounds or so a year through it - that could be 10, 12 or 15 years of shooting!

If it's a rifle for NRA highpower competition, you're toast in a season, or a half a season!

Avoid heat-makers, like rapid fire strings... Shoot a group, then let the barrel cool. In competition, I have to shoot rapid fire strings and I'm sure that's death on my barrels...

Clean gently - and really, a good quality barrel like a Krieger may not need much in the way of cleaning. I generally get by with a couple of wet patches, let it soak, then dry it with a few more clean patches. All done. Fouling is gone and the rifle is ready to go again.

Most custom barrel makers will have some sort of break-in procedure they recommend. Not usually very hard to do at all. A few shots, some cleaning and presto, the barrel is properly broken in. How do you know? When you can shoot a lot of rounds, accurately, without excess barrel fouling. I generally get a fresh barrel all broken in and good to go in about a half an hour and a dozen shots or less.

Regards, Guy
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