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Thread: Long barrel vs. Short barrel

  1. #1
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    Default Long barrel vs. Short barrel

    Iíd like to challenge what appears to be prevalent thinking, about barrel lengths of Magnum Revolvers.

    I really donít understand why so many people feel it is so important to have a short barrel on their revolver, when itís one you carry for Bear Defense. For Concealed Carry, sure, a longer barrel is harder to conceal.

    Of the ones I carry, ostensibly for bear protection, one has a 6.5Ē barrel and the other a 6Ē barrel. Packing them has never been an issue in my mind. Iíve never left them behind, because they were too heavy or unhandy. Sometimes, I leave them behind when Iíve got my rifle

    Itís my contention that if you have a short barrel you will pay for it in felt recoil, and velocity loss, the ability to shoot well, and greater ear damage, when and if, you ever fire it without ear protection, and maybe even then.

    4Ē is considered a good compromise, but why compromise in the first place? Is a 4Ē barrel so much more handy, or macho, than a 6Ē, that you can draw it enough milliseconds faster to make a vital difference in whether you save yourself from a bear or not?

    I really doubt it, and I donít see a great deal of difference in ease of carry either. How much does a couple of inches of barrel weigh anyways? Will a couple of inches more of hang-down make it that much more likely to get caught in the pucker brush?

    Shoot-ability, Penetration, and Power, would seem to be more important than perceived handiness, or looks.

    A few fps is important in a handgun when you donít have a lot of it to begin with.
    Accurate shooting is important too, when you donít have a lot of time to shoot, or to practice.

    To me, guns are for shooting, and I like ones that are practical to shoot, and that serve their intended purpose. Once, thatís covered, I donít mind packing them around.

    Am I Right about this, or perish the thought, am I Wrong?

    Thanks for your thoughts/perceptions.

    Smitty of the North
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    In the field I carry a Ruger Red Hawk with a 7 1/2 bbl with the one hole ragged sight. Then again I'am pushing 68 yrs old and the longer sighting radius helps a lot. For my CCW I carry a 4" CZ 75, then again if I have to use the CZ its gonna be a lot closer. JMHO

    Gun Runner

  3. #3

    Default longer barrel okay

    Smitty, I am in agreement with you. The 2 times I actually had to draw my handgun because of a potential charge, it was a 7 1/2" SBH and I never even noticed pulling it from the crossdraw holster I carried it in. There is a difference between setting and discussing the concept and another to actually have to put it into effect. I have never been able to agree with a very short barrel for a gun shooting a high powder capacity cartridge as making a lot of sense. But, each to their own.

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    Smitty, you hit the nail on the head. I actually prefer a 6" to 8" barrel in the magnum rounds and if I have no need to conceal it. Shoots great, good sight length, less recoil, and less muzzle flash. I was at the range the other day and a guy was shooting his 4" 500 S & W. These guns are impressive but the muzzle flash was incredible. If it would have been dusky or dark, he/we would have been blind for several seconds. An awful lot of powder was burning outside of the barrel. A few more inches of barrel sure seems to make some difference.

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    From all the tests I've seen, the velocity difference between a 4" and a 6" revolver barrel are so small that they wouldn't really make a big difference in the real world (we're only talking about 50-75fps or so for most calibers). With fast burning pistol powders, most of the acceleration of the bullet is done in the cylinder and first couple inches of the barrel anyway. It basically boils down to preference, carry what you're more comfortable with and don't worry too much about a couple inches of barrel length.

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    I'm old, fat and lazy, that extra 2" of barrels would mean I wouldnt be able to carry extra candy bars. I also shoot 4"ers better, always have, always will...

    Easier for me to carry, YMMV

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    A longer barrel doesn't carry nearly as well unless your shaped like a block. All the people I know are curvy, especially at the waist and hips. It is much easier to carry a shorter barreled handgun not because of weight, but because of length.

    Another reason for a shorter barrel is leverage.

    Another is draw clearance. Clearing a holster with a longer barrel requires much more mobility with a much longer movement. From the hip this can be a pain in the wrist and shoulder that makes drawing the handgun more difficult or impossible if mobility is impaired (try laying on your strong side and drawing both a snubby and a 6.5" barreled gun. That is just one position of compromise as is a sleeping bag, crossdraw in waders, seated, etc...).

    I am quite confident that these notions will be scoffed at, but they are real considerations to me.

    Now to turn things back around,... What benefit does a longer barrel give you? Accuracy (in terms of sight radius) is not a consideration in my mind when things are close, hot, and heavy, rather the firearms accuracy potential and your ability to use it offhand are (most any handgun can pass this test though most hand gunners may not).

    The recoil consideration is a real advantage, but perhaps not as significant as some make it out to be.

    Muzzle blast somewhat less so in my mind than recoil.

    In the end for a strictly defensive handgun for my dime, I prefer the balance to the short side. Instinctive shooting is much different than target practice. Some may disagree, but watch and you'll notice that they too shoot much differently at a target or snap shooting (more akin to shooting clay pigeons than paper).
    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.

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    When I bought my Tracker they dont come in longer than 4". No big deal I think the 4" is handier and of no compromise from a 6". I doubt I would notice the difference. I have never liked long barrels on handguns anyway.

    The 6.5 inch barrel on my raging bull is definately my limit unless it is strickly for hunting. I thought a 7.5 inch BFR 475 linebaugh/480 ruger would be a good hunting rig. I had a ruger 22 with a 6-7/8" barrel that was sweet.

    On the same note I wont go under 4" for a barrel.
    "You have given out too much reputation in the last 24 hours, try again later".

  9. #9

    Default Hmmm

    Raingull, We are definitely going to have to agree to disagree. I've always carried at least a 6" barrel and never noticed the rationals you have given for carrying a shorter barreled handgun. First of all, a 4" barrel is by no means a snubby, once being considered a standard barrel length. I think the discussion is regarding the 3" barrels or less.
    I'm not even sure what you mean by leverage, which is the process of prying one device by another as in a lever and fulcrum. I have always been a round in the middle guy and never noticed much of a difference in drawing a longer barrel from a "snubbie" because of my shape. As for drawing clearance, it would probably take a split second of difference to draw a 6 1/2" barrel from a 3-4". As for pain in wrist and shoulder, only if you are impaired would there be a pain related to barrel length compared the the actual movement needed to draw any handgun. We're not talking a 10" barrel.
    As for laying down and having to draw a pistol from underneath you? I won't even consider that as if you are laying down because a bear has you in that position, barrel length wouldn't make much difference. If I am in a tent at night, I'm not wearing my handgun in a holster on my belt. It is usually placed right in hands reach, usually on a shirt or somesuch.
    If you haven'r even got time to aim for the right place, you are in deep s**t already and I would hope for the best. Otherwise, practice drawing an empty gun at home from the carry holster, aiming and firing double action will greatly enhance your chances of making a good first shot.
    I'm not scoffing at your concepts, i just don't think they hold water.

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    I've carried fairly often for some time, daily for 10 or 12 so yrs, all day, and still carry some daily. I've carried a 12" Colt Buntline, 7 1/2" Rugers, 6 1/2" Smiths, and I definately notice a difference in comfort when carrying a 4" Smith or 4 5/8" Ruger compared to any of them. I don't think the velocity difference is a practical issue. If you believe the paper numbers matter in real world killing power, then maybe it matters, but I don't. Penetration is the main issue in a defensive gun for back country use, and the difference in velocity isn't going to change it that much. Some bullets seem to give better penetration with lower velocity also (with a balance point of around 1100 fps in most cases), or so close as to be indistinguishable in field use. Mr Linebaugh has tested numerous chamberings and loads, and has corresponded with numerous users and has come to that conclusion, and that most people think they need more gun than they do in real life (What Blasphemy!!!). Phil Shoemakers experience and writings tend to corroborate that point of view.


    I'm ok with the practical accuracy of the 4" guns. I've made 5 hits for 6 shots on our old 18" w x 36" h target at 300 yards with a 4" Smith 29 and medium level loads. That seems adequete for field accuracy. The mechanical accuracy of the different length guns is insignificant, the "shootablity" is more of an issue. Yes shorter guns arent as easy to shoot well, but it can be done. If you don't shoot shorter guns well, you can practice more. None of us get enough practice.


    I REALLY like that 4" guns dont push up when sitting in a vehicle, chair, the ground etc, when carried strong side. Cross draw is nicer for longer guns, but the gun also gets in the way at times for daily tasks and chores when carried cross draw. Cross draw also makes my left hip hurt in my older age. YMMV I'm glad we have the freedom to make the choices we do!

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    In terms of bear protection an extra couple inches isnt gonna matter. A gun with a 4" barrel is gonna kill the bear just as much as a longer barrel. Yeah maybe a longer barrel is easy to aim with but your not really gonna shoot the bear unless its about 10 yards in front of you and still coming. Sometimes a bear charge is just a warning and in the last few seconds the bear will stop or change direction in hopes to just scare you off. So really you dont need a long barrel cause 30 feet away at a target as big as a bear shouldnt be that hard to hit. I have a ruger with a 7 1/2" barrel and cant wait to switch to a shorter barrel. Yes, I really can tell a difference when carrying a longer barrel revolver and drawing it from my holster.

    However, when shooting for fun at targets of longer distance i find the longer barrel revolvers to be more fun and shoot with more ease. I have shot long barrel and short barrel rugers and the shorter barrels, being lighter on the front end, tend to have much more of the backwards roll to them when they kick. I have also shot the S&W 500 in both a short barrel and long barrel. In this case i found that the short barrel suprisingly shot just as good as the rugers. The longer barrel 500's in my opinion are just an extra chunk of metal and wieght unless you plan to go on a large magnum pistol hunt.

  12. #12
    Member RainGull's Avatar
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    First of all, a 4" barrel is by no means a snubby, once being considered a standard barrel length. I think the discussion is regarding the 3" barrels or less.
    I never equated a 4" barrel to a snubby? I don't know where you got that.
    I'm not even sure what you mean by leverage, which is the process of prying one device by another as in a lever and fulcrum.
    Think of your wrist and the grip as the fulcrum, now add barrel length. You lose leverage the longer the barrel is.
    I have always been a round in the middle guy and never noticed much of a difference in drawing a longer barrel from a "snubbie" because of my shape.
    I and obviously Malamute have.
    As for drawing clearance, it would probably take a split second of difference to draw a 6 1/2" barrel from a 3-4".
    It isn't a time consideration, it is a consideration of mobility.
    As for pain in wrist and shoulder, only if you are impaired would there be a pain related to barrel length compared the the actual movement needed to draw any handgun. We're not talking a 10" barrel.
    I mean pain in the wrist in the same way you would call a task a pain in the arse.
    As for laying down and having to draw a pistol from underneath you? I won't even consider that as if you are laying down because a bear has you in that position, barrel length wouldn't make much difference.
    It will if it means the difference between being able to draw or not. You must not read many bear attack stories as many involve getting knocked down before being able to deploy effective countermeasures. I for one refuse to write off surviving any quick surprise encounter in which the bear strikes the first blow.
    If I am in a tent at night, I'm not wearing my handgun in a holster on my belt. It is usually placed right in hands reach, usually on a shirt or somesuch.
    Longer barrel=more likely to snag on the crap in your tent or out of it, on clothes, wader straps, etc...
    If you haven'r even got time to aim for the right place, you are in deep s**t already and I would hope for the best. Otherwise, practice drawing an empty gun at home from the carry holster, aiming and firing double action will greatly enhance your chances of making a good first shot.
    I'm not scoffing at your concepts, i just don't think they hold water.
    Obviously you're not familiar with any of the good instinctive shooters like Bob Munden. Instinctive shooting is definitely not to be confused with blowing your first shot. It is to be confused with getting a well placed shot off where others wouldn't even get a shot off at all.

    All the ideas expressed hold water. You might not favor the balance/trade offs personally, but they are all valid, I assumed that went without saying.
    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.

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    To try and bolster my premise further, let me add thisÖ..

    I believe that longer barreled revolvers are more accurate to shoot, Not Only, because of the longer sight radius, but also because they are more pleasant to shoot too. And, aiming aside, they will "point" more accurately.

    Many long years ago, I was in temporary custody of a, (probably 2.5 or 3Ē barreled), S&W revolver in 357 Magnum. When I fired it, it hurt my the web of my paw, there betwixt my thumb and fingers. It had the beeg grips on it too. There was noticeably more recoil and muzzle blast, than with longer barreled revolvers Iíve fired. I doubt if anyone is gonna be able to shoot a gun that hurts as well as he would, one that doesnít hurt. Not without boo-coo practice, certainly.

    How much velocity matters or doesnít matter depends on your perspective, but one thing is certain. You will hafta have a higher pressure load if you want the same velocity in a 3Ē barrel, as youíd get in a 6Ē barrel, which only exacerbates any problems in handling the recoil, and shooting accurately. This is an important consideration when you are handloading to find a load that is practical, and useful.

    At handgun velocities using the same bullet, more velocity will get you more penetration. So will a heavier bullet, of course, but I wouldnít want to drop my velocity too much there either.

    Both velocity, and shoot-ability, would seem to be of primary importance for purposes of Bear Defense.

    If one wants to put the emphasis on ease of carry, rather than shooting, and is willing to compromise on, other important things, thatís simply a matter of priority, and it may be miss-placed priority. Iíve always thought so, but Iím willing to listen.

    Smitty of the North
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  14. #14

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    I've done quite a bit if thinking about long barrels vs. short barrels or snubbies. Long barrels definitely are easier to aim, have less recoil because of their greater mass, and get better bullet velocities. All this makes them more effective than short barreled guns at longer ranges, which is ideal for hunting and target shooting.

    I'm not into hunting though; my main purpose in carrying a gun is for defense. Short barreled revolvers are harder to aim, but that doesn't matter as much when a target is within spitting distance. A short barrel won't get the bullet velocity & energy of a long barrel gun, but I'm not interested in bullet performance beyond point-blank range. I bet that with the same ammo, a snub would get the same bullet energy at point blank range as a long barreled revolver shooting a target around 75 or 100 yards, which is probably the maximum range that most hunters would go.

    Most of my shooting has been with small-frame snubbies like the Ruger SP101 or Smith J-frames, so something like a short barreled .44 feels more natural to me than a long barreled one. Plus, the lighter weight of a short barrel is probably easier on my bunions after a few days.

    The only big frustrations I have with short barrels are the muzzle flash and sound. My understanding is that if you use the right powder you can handload ammo that won't flash nearly as bad. I get around the noise issue by wearing both earplugs and earmuffs, and hopefully I'll never have to shoot in a defensive situation where my ears will certainly be unprotected. In that case I'll be happy enough to make it out alive anyway.

    I think manufacturers make their guns in different barrel lengths for people with different reasons for buying their guns. If I decide to try handgun hunting I'll certainly prefer something longer than the revolvers I have a taste for, but until then 4" is probably right for me.

    Edit: I'm not trying to disagree with any of your points, Smitty; I just think everybody can make valid points on this topic. Every gun has its compromises, which is why everybody has to own so many.
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    And, aiming aside, they will "point" more accurately.
    How so? Please explain.
    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RainGull View Post
    How so? Please explain.
    A long barrel is easier to see, and easier to see where it's pointing. It will therefore point more accurately.

    It's pretty much the same reason that a longer sight radius is more accurate, (to shoot)

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    That's not pointing though. A firearm that points well you could close your eyes and point it and then open your eyes and the sights should be aligned. It is not a function of barrel length at all until you consider balance.
    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.

  18. #18

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    I have always shot revolvers with 4 to 6 inches barrels better than I have longer barreled ones and yes I have owned 8 & 10 inched ones. I no longer own any revolver with a barrel longer than 6 inches. The majority of my revolvers are 4 to 5 1/2 inches in lenght.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RainGull View Post
    That's not pointing though. A firearm that points well you could close your eyes and point it and then open your eyes and the sights should be aligned. It is not a function of barrel length at all until you consider balance.
    Hmmm, IMO, what you are talking about is a function of the relationship between the grip, and the barrel, and how it fits your hand.

    I'm not that technical. I just thought it was intutitive that a longer barrel points easier than a very short one, with one's eyes open, of course.

    Smitty of the North
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfeye View Post
    Edit: I'm not trying to disagree with any of your points, Smitty; I just think everybody can make valid points on this topic. Every gun has its compromises, which is why everybody has to own so many.
    That's gotta be true. There are compromises. I managed to overcome one.

    I hadda snub-nosed 38 Special that I didn't like, so I managed to sell it, and get one with a 3" barrel. It suits me much better, although it's harder to conceal.

    Whatever a person has confidence in is no doubt the best choice for them.

    Anyone who disagrees with me can't be ALL bad. I should probably write down some names though.

    Smitty of the North
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    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
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