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Optimum Barrel length for .223 varmit rifle

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Unread 03-22-2005, 09:47 PM
Bronze Member
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Australia
Posts: 70
Re: Optimum Barrel length for .223 varmit rifle

Hey guys, sorry that it took so long to repy, i have been helping my old man do up his truck and havn't had much time to spend on the net. Sorry for starting a bit of confusion, i ment to say the .240 Wby.
I could have also worded my question a bit clearer, what i should have said was What is the most usable (or somthing like that) barrel lenght for the .223, to be used for mostly small varmit sniping (mostly from a rest or bench of some kind)?.
Thats probably clear as mud, but i'll give it a go.

I would also like to thank everyone for their replies as i know that you were all trying to help...

Thanks, your friendly neighbourhood wombat.
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Unread 03-23-2005, 04:55 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Northeast Missouri
Posts: 28
Re: Optimum Barrel length for .223 varmit rifle

Regarding barrel length for the .223, I think you will find that a lot of extra barrel length in the .223 is not worth the weight, except in very limited applications where you won't be packing your gun alot. Generally, between 20" and 24, or 26" of barrel length in .223, you will get about 30 fps velocity increse per inch. The difference is more significant below 20" and less significant above 26". However, as has been mentioned, there are other variables. AS an example, over the years I owned three different Ruger rifles in .223. Two had 22" barrels and one had a 26" barrel. I discovered they had very long throats, and those long throats really killed the velocity (about 300fps), unless I really cranked up the powder. Now, I shoot a Remington Model 7 with a 20" barrel, and with recommended loads, get better velocities from it than I did from any of the Rugers. I have used barrels as long as 26" but like the light weight of the the M-7 so well that I don't think I will ever go to anything over 22". I think if you are looking for blazing speeds, you will be happier with a .220 Swift or maybe a .22-250. Just keep in mind that .223 barrels last a lot longer than the hotter .22s and they use less powder. Therefore, I would suggest you will find yourself happier in the long run with something around 22". It will be easy to carry.....and don't worry too much about velocity. There are dozens of good bullets out there that will enable the .223 to do about anything you would ask of a .22. One possible exception to my recommendation, and especially for this forum, is that a 24",26", or longer barrel is better for heavier bullets and longer ranges. For those better long range bullets, also remember that you need something in the 7" to 8" twist rate for longer bullets though. If you go with a factory barrel it will have a 12" or 14" twist and will not stabilize long boattail bullets, although they usually will stabilize the 70 gr. Speer, which is a semi-spitzer. Although the Speer is great for larger critters, its semi-spitzer, non-boattail configuration makes it less practical beyond 300 yards. Bottom line- I love the .223 and after about a bizillion rounds have settled on a 20" barrel. I think a 22" is a great compromise. Go with 24, 26, or longer if you really want to squeeze out the velocity and don't mind a varmint weight rifle. I tried them all and ended with 20. If I ever rebarrel I will go with 22" fluted, and keep it light. I believe that, and long barrel life is the delight of the .223. Greg.
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Unread 03-23-2005, 10:47 PM
Platinum Member
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Potomac River
Posts: 5,084
Re: Optimum Barrel length for .223 varmit rifle

Wombat, you are excused being as you were helping your Dad

I always make my son do the "low" work (crawl under the vehicle work)

240 Wby

I have a Mauser FN with 26 " Douglas heavy Sporter Barrel, standard Wby chamber, Timney trigger, cheapest Fajen wood stock. 3.5-10 Leop Var X III.

A 240 Wby has a standard size case head (same as 30-06, 243,308) it has basically a 30-06 length. You can use this as a guide on what action it will fit and then check with a good gunsmith.

I shoot only Whitetail deer with the gun, thats what I had it built for. Ranges are anywhere from 20 yards to about 200yds on deer. It does what I require - with any reasonable angle, it will deliver a bullet with enough energy to expand, penetrate and exit. I do not like bullets that stop inside animals. I have never had to take a really bad angle shot with it but am comfortable that it has the energy to do even that if needed but might not exit.

Recoil is very nice and light.
I assume that you relaod. If you don't, you need to check your financial situation because factory ammo is expensive.

I keep coming back to the Speer 85 gr BTs. Tried my usual standby Nosler Partitions in 85 gr and they work as usual but as usual you don't get great accuracy out of them. Just got through with my second box of Barnes XLCs and have TSXs on order (hope they will get here this week). Accuracy out of the XLC was about the same as partitions or maybe a little worse. I am somewhat uncomfortable with that blue stuff going down my barrel. At firsts I thought the extra velocity would be neat but then couldn't figure out what I needed it for if I was sacrificing accuracy and especially when I already had lots of speed. Kiliing deer with this gun at short ranges is somewhat boring (bowhunting is much more fun).

Accuracy is not a big issue when you are only shooting 200 yds at something the size of a deer, nonetheless I am going to try the TSXs and I guess if I do not like them then it is back to the Speer 85's. They work well on deer but I just got bored with them.

Use IMR 4350 and haven't bothered with any other powder.
Barrel has maybe 300 rounds through it. Just finished reworking the stock bedding, Humidity here is terrible.

Reloading Wby brass is not much different than anything else except I try not to full length size unless just absolutely necessary. The double radius can give you trouble if you get case lube on the shoulder and full length size. The 240 case does not seem to grow as much as a 7mm WBy. Check flash holes, Wby brass flash holes seems to run uniformly small. I don't know that this is a big problem as it seems to be consistent. Brass is expensive and is not available at every store.

Why did I choose the 240 Wby? Because I thought that it would be an ideal whietail deer round and If and when I go back out to the Rockies I would be able to shoot running jack rabbits out at truly fantastic ranges. When I was shooting mule deer I used and liked a 25-06. Whitetails are somewaht smaller and ranges are closer so it made sense to move down a caliber and I wanted something with more energy and better trajectory than a 243 Win.

There are tons of wildcat Ackley fans on this site and they love to tell you that the 6mm-06 delivers the same ballistics as the 240 Wby. It probably does, based on case capacity.

If the WSM people get to trying to talk you out of a 240 WBY just remember - Speed kills- get a Wby.
The Smokin Fur Rifle Club
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Unread 03-24-2005, 08:18 PM
Silver Member
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: La Grange, TX
Posts: 222
Re: Optimum Barrel length for .223 varmit rifle


I'll verify what you've read about 223. I"ve burned up too many tubes at 20 inches in competition. I know all about 20 inch speeds and 26 inch speeds. I use 20 inch because I shoot under a set of rules that governs that. 26 inches is one of the most common lengths for match rifle shooters in my sport.(26-28 actually-- 28 being a waste but gives longer sight radius).

The difference between a hot 20 inch load and same hot 26 inch load is about 100-150 fps max. A 28 inch tube might (MIGHT) add 10-15 fps maybe.

This is from years of running the 223 round and shooting bullets larger than 60 grains up to 90 grains FWIW. I can't see using longer than a 26 inch tube at all.


Get as close as you can, but utilize your skills as needed.
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Unread 03-26-2005, 12:48 PM
Silver Member
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 109
Re: Optimum Barrel length for .223 varmint rifle

I have built a few 223's in my time and the bullet seems to reach max velocity in a 24 inch barrel, you may have a minor increase by adding another inch but not much. Bullet weight and riffling twist as well as a square crown and riged barrel are more important then speed for accuracy, match those and you will smack the varmets way out their.
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