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I'm thinking about getting a custom 223 barrel. My question is this; what length will give me good speed while still maintaining accuracy? It seems that most production varmint barrels are 26 inches in length - There must be a couple of reasons for this. Anyway, what have you tested?
 

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What weight rifle you looking to build? Personally I'd be more concerned with ergonomics than length. I always like a moderate contoured 22" barrel in 223. A rule of thumb IME is 25 fps per an inch though differnces between barrels can make more of a difference than 4" 's of length.
 

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With the small powder charge in a .223 case there is no question it will all burn in a short barrel, even as short as 14" in a Contender pistol. The advantage then of a longer barrel is that the hot gases have a bit longer time to keep pushing on the bullet. Most of the tests I've read show somewhere between 20 and 40 fps per inch in anything less than magnums. I personally like about 22" and will live without the extra 80 fps or so.

I don't think the length has much at all to do with accuracy unless the bullet needs a certain fps to stabilize and the barrel is too short for it to get there. A guy at my range with a Contender with a custom 14" barrel, bipod and 4-16X scope can shoot good enough at 100-yds. to embarrass most rifle shooters.

As you know, in BR shooting the length of the barrel is one of the last considerations given. If it was important to accuracy, there would be some sign of it there.
 

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Bigger The Better

I LIKE BIG BARRELS BIG SCOPES BIG BUT THAT IS JUST ME!!!!! VARMINTS AND PAPER plus running deer shoots in PA. but it is what u get use to!!! off hand with a varmit barrel is normal ...a bench with a 16 pound custom BIG BIG BIG thats just me . SHOOTIN A DIME SIZE GROUP AT 200 YOU ARE NOT GITTIN THAT OUT OF A 22 INCH SPORTER
 

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I like 26" .

Thats what I have on my,custom 223. Kreiger S/S on 788 action a Lam stock. I seat a bit longer [.015]then the Mag allows 2-get the Bug Hole grps. That the gun will shoot . I have a 20 Tac w-26" & having another built with 26", Works 4-Me. None R-Carry guns tho. My 2 ¢. Russ.
 

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Short and fat is where it's at!

At least that's what the benchrest guys say.
I like a 20" barrel myself very handy. First trip for PDs I got the just releasted 700 VSSF 26" barrel 223. Got home from the trip and took the hacksaw to it. 20" shot better than the 26" Now it has a 20"Hart 223 barrel on it.
EricT
 

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There are good factory bbls (usually hidden)

I`m normally an "aftermarket barrel" type. I bought this 223 M700 from a board member and was about to order a barrel for it , as I needed it before I could carve the stock. I was looking at 6 weeks for a barrel, so on a whim, I had John Ricks pull the barrel and accurize it as best he could. We cleaned it up inside and he shortened it to 19", and gave it a target crown. What did I have to lose?, it was headed for the trash anyway.

Before the work, the best group with 4 or 5 of my 223 loads was 1.5 inches.



After the chop job, crown and bore polish, she throws 3/4" groups with MOST of what I load it with. It`ll shoot anything at 1 inch or less.

This is a very realistic lightweight carry gun that shoots as straight as any light gun I`ve owned including some that I have spent 3 times as much money on. Coyotes at 300 yards are dead meat, and if I think I`m going to need to shoot farther than 300, I carry the 358STA. 225 grain bullet going the same speed as the 50 grain 223 bullet. Gets the job done but with a higher weight and pain penalty.

If you want a real light carry gun, forget any heavy bbl and consider a chop job if it`s a bbl you are planning to toss anyway, You might have a silk purse hiding in that long whippy factory bbl.
 

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Velocity vs. barrel length...

A rule of thumb IME is 25 fps per an inch though differnces between barrels can make more of a difference than 4" 's of length.
From experience, I agree that velocity differences between two barrels of equal length can vary significantly with a given load, AND that that variation can be more than the change experienced by shortening a given barrel by some small amount.

A while back there was an interesting article on the topic of velocity vs. barrel length where a barrel on an Encore (if I recall correctly) was lopped off and inch at a time, starting at 24" and going down to 15". The graph shows that speed for a given barrel length is not linear, i.e., the shorter the barrel, the greater the velocity change for a given change in length - linear "rule of thumb" does fit very well.



A rule of physics says that kenetic energy increases with the square of velocity. Therefore, without pressure continuing to increase at an exponential rate, it would be difficult to continue increasing speed at a linear rate for a give increment of barrel length, blah, blah, blah...

In that data shown in the graph, I found it interesting that there was actually an increase in measured velocity when the barrel (in this case) was shortened from 24 to 22 inches! However, as the length got shorter, velocity more or less appeared to follow the "square law". (But, to be more complete, there is the volume of the bore behind the moving bullet and burn characteristics of the powder at work as well having their "say" in the final results as well;)

FWIW,

P.
 

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223 Rem

:) Here are three groups that I shot 3 weeks ago at the range,They were at 300 yards with a stock XP100 with a Redfield 2.5-7x scope,It was a little windy but not too bad,There are not many rifles that will do this stock out of the box.I love the 223 and this XP is a keeper.These were 52 Gr. Berger match Varmint with 27.5 Grains of W748 seated 2.240 OAL.CCI 400 primers.:)
http://img217.imageshack.us/my.php?image=223xpye0.jpg
 

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It depends on your use and other considerations.....

for instance, are you using the rifle as a truck gun, do you use the rifle for hiking around, or is it a table gun or used mainly for targets or sniping at occasional varmints?

Truck guns need short barrels, and the king of the hill is the Thompson Contender with a 22" barrel. With standard rifles, the 22" is probably about right for this application. It seems to me that a 20" barrel will just about blow your ears out if you happen to shoot it without ear protection even in 223.

On a sporter that you are going to carry around, there is practically no weight difference between a 20" & 24" barrel. You may see a difference in how a rifle may shoot if you go below a #4 contour and a #5 is preferable, especially on Magnums. I would try and save weight on the stock and have a little bit heavier barrel for accuracy. I am not a fan of Ultra light rifles because I have owned so many of them, I am an accuracy geeky freek. Another consideration on 20" barrels is that some powders have considerably more muzzle blast than others along with sparks flying out the end of the barrel under low light conditions that may distract you from trying to kill a running animal.

Heavier Varmint rifles are a real joy to work with because of their weight and barrel length. When re-barreling a rifle, I like the Max heavy varmint contour and in a caliber like 223, I will make it 28"-30" long. There are several reasons for this, but I am not just thinking of the use of the barrel on it's first chamber, but on several re-chambers later on. Usually if you start off with a barrel that has very minimal freebore, as the leade starts getting long, you be able to have your gunsmith cut off 1 1/2"-2" and you will get perhaps double the barrel life that you intended on that barrel. The caliber that you start off with is of course has a bearing on how much you have to cut off when you rechamber. The Max Heavy Varmint countour has 6" of straight barrel, and you will be able to cut the barrel off at least three times on a 223.

Cleaning rod wear will also have a bearing on how many times you can cut off a barrel also, I learned this from cleaning every 50 rounds even with a rod guide that has a bushing on it.

When considering barrel length, you also have to remember that we get three speeds of barrels when we get a custom barrel, slow speed barrel, average speed barrel, and really fast speed barrel. When you discover that you have a barrel that is slow velocity, it's like discovering that your gril friend has a Tall Black Marine that she is seeing on the side...you want to throw that bitch away! It may be prudent to order the barrel longer than you like, find out what type of speed you are getting with your load, then cut the barrel back with an informed opinion of what kind of velocity that you will end up with. You can always cut the barrel off, you can never add barrel length back on.

As you consider contours for a heavy barrel Varmint rifle, the heavier longer contour does two things, it decreases muzzle climb allowing you to see your targets better and it moves the concussion of the blast further away from your head, both of which make the rifle more enjoyable to shoot.

Good luck!
 

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Usage...........

Follow Keith's advice. Decide how you're gonna use the gun and make it for that. It's no fun wrestling something with a heavy 26-28" barrel in and out of a truck, braced against the A-pillar, or carrying it around chasing rabbits in the brush. But that same heavy gun will be much nicer off bags than a 20" sporter. Go with a barrel length that'll work best for your purposes then make it whatever weight feels comfortable. Velocity will be whatever it is........just find the most accurate load with the highest velocity and go clobber stuff with it. For instance, two (2) .223's......the working (accuracy) load in one handy 20" sporter weight truck gun has 40gr. bullets doing a shade under 3900. The accuracy load with another not-so-handy, 26.5" heavy-barrelled gun shooting those same 40gr. bullets is 4000fps. Both rifles are great for their purposes. For versatility, the Rem. varmint-weight contour at about 24" is a good compromise.
 
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