How effective is a 16.5″ .308 bolt gun?

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Rifleshooter built a super short precision rifle and test it to see if it is worthwhile.

Here they test it at 100 yards.

Then they take the short rifle to stretch its legs out at 635 yards.

Their results are rather impressive and makes for a very effective rifle.




Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick has been only been shooting for the past 3 years but found his passion through competitive shooting. USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.


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  • Tyler

    The fact that i’ve been debating on getting a 16 to 18 inch .308 bolt gun and then i see this means it must be destiny…

    • iksnilol

      Just get the 18 inch and save yourself some fireballs.

      • Ed

        Fireballs are half the fun of going short.

  • Vhyrus

    There was an article on TTAG that stated that barrel length only directly affects velocity, not accuracy. Shorter barrels are actually more accurate because they vibrate less when fired.

    • allannon

      I’ve read several places a thin barrel should be a bit longer, a heavier barrel shorter.

      Given that #6 is a pretty hefty profile, it would follow that it would perform well with a shorter barrel.

      I’d be curious to see performance in varied conditions: more wind, light cover (e.g. grass), and a comparison of carry weight to a narrower barrel profile.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Every barrel should always be heavy of you want accuracy. We only reduce barrel thickness for weight.

        • iksnilol

          That is the “American” school of thought. The other one is a longer thin barrel that vibrates consistently (think tuning fork), the third one is a barrel that is fully supported by the stock (think Mannlicher).

          • 360_AD

            This touches on my post below. Accuracy has much to do with the material science of the barrel. In the Mannlicher days, their knowledge of materials is not the same as what came after. In that context, it makes sense that they would want a fully supported barrel in order to achieve consistent shot placement. If you look at modern precision rifles, pretty much all of them are free floating barrels. There is much greater understanding of material properties and harmonics in relation to ballistics now than then.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            There is so much wrong with what you just said.

            1. Stiffer barrels (traditionally heavier) are more consistent over temperate. This is physics. Not an “American” trend.
            2. All barrels vibrate while shooting. There is not some “school of thought” that applies physics to certain barrels profiles and not others. Stiff barrels vibrate and whip, but to a lesser extent than thin barrels.
            3. Seriously? You’re going to toss out that perhaps free float barrels are just a “school of thought”? You do know most mannlicher barrels don’t touch the stock except at the muzzle right? And how many Mannlicher guns are made anymore? How many come with 1 MOA promises?

            I’m… I must have missed the sarcasm, I guess.

          • iksnilol

            I didn’t call physics a trend. I just said that while a heavy barrel is stiffer/more accurate it also isn’t the only way to be accurate.

            As long as the barrel is consistent, diameter isn’t too important. Look at the mini-14 with the barrel struts. They are pretty accurate while having a thin barrel.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            … Ok, see I’m just going to stop this now. Your position is that the Mini14 (or really even M14) is an inherently accurate design and the thinness of the barrel is inconsequential?

          • iksnilol

            I said that by tuning the barrel harmonics a rifle such as the Mini-14 could be accurate in spite of its pencil barrel.

            There is this thing called reading comprehension. I would recommend you check it out before you put words in my mouth (or more correctly; computer).

          • 1911a145acp

            The stiffness of the barrel ( and action) determines positive/ desirable barrel harmonics.The traditional/accepted cost effective way, is to make the barrel heavier. There are other positives and negatives for making the barrel/gun heavier.Heavy barrels can act like a heat sink and absorb more heat and therefore delay heat distortion that will affect a skinny barrel sooner. The external strut on the Mini IS the mechanism that is making the barrel stiffer and act like a heavier barrel would. Carbon fiber wrapped barrels can achieve this while weighing very little, externally sleeved barrels and actions in bench rest shooting do as well. Tune able muzzle brake systems like the Browning BOSS, Accu-Brake, AAC Hyper-tune can achieve amazing results in damping barrel harmonics without much weight or prohibitive cost.
            Long stroke gas piston guns ( RUGER Mini, M-1 GARAND, M1A, AK 47 etc. ) have so much weight slamming back and forth that they exacerbate the already poor barrel harmonics. Just my 2c

          • Shanksabunch

            American school of thought? We’ve been blowing shit up for 100s of years and doing it right…Now hold my beer and eagle and shut the hell up. MERICA!

      • 360_AD

        Too many generalizations and too much room for error. First of all, the barrel material is most important, not so much the barrel profile or length. For accuracy, you want repeatable consistency. You want a barrel that will behave consistently at the material (structural/molecular) level so that each shot produces consistent results as the barrel heats up and cools down. You want a barrel that will hold “zero”, not one that places shots all over the place relative to point of aim. A long barrel can be thin and flexible while being accurate at the same time if it behave consistently. A different barrel with same length and profile but of inferior material would not. For each material or alloy, there is an ideal length (harmonics) and profile. More generalizations, but for discussion sake, more material (thicker profile) will flex less and produce more consistent results… regardless of length. A short thick barrel may perform just as well as a long thin barrel not because short should be thick and long should be thin. But, more likely, because the long-thin one has more velocity but due to barrel whip/flex, it’s accuracy is on par with the short-thick barrel. Given same profile and same material quality, I bet you’d find a long-thick barrel to be more accurate than its short-thick counterpart.

        • 1911a145acp

          “Given same profile and same material quality, I bet you’d find a long-thick barrel to be more accurate than its short-thick counterpart.”
          This has NOT been my experience in cutting original and factory barrels to make them handier and building rifles (SBRs) and shotguns (SBSs) over the last 27 years. There does seem to be a sweet spot ( harmonics wise ) for 30 cal. barrels at approx 17-20 inches. Magnums need barrel length to burn powder and get velocity. Not a SIGNIFICANT diff for .308 velocity between 18-20 inch or 20- 24 inch. The velocity diff really only comes into play at extended ranges.

    • rickrider

      This is old news. I saw those articles on TTAG, too. At first I didnt believe them, but i cant really come up with anything to prove otherwise. The author checks out as a pretty well respected shooter and designer, although I’d heard he was some spook who designed guns for the government or something and stopped selling to regular folks. I’m sure he could be contacted somehow on TTAG.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    While I think 16″ 308 has a ton of useful merit… I’m not sure 600y is exactly proof of that. We shoot 556 AR to 600 with excellent accuracy and fast follow ups.

    They should have shot their 16″ out to 800-1000y which I’ve also done to really prove it’s just as capable (albeit much more wind).

    Range is nothing but a number. You hold for a range and you WILL get there. It’s wind reading that makes a shooter. So unfortunately, all I got out of this is that physics still properly apply over different barrel lengths.

    I have a 16″ and it’s great, considering cutting to 14.5″ pinned flash hider.

    • Dracon1201

      The physics and concept is all that this intended to prove. By your logic, they don’t have to prove that it can do 800-1000 yds because it’s just a change in hold that can’t prove anything.

      .308 is far better at that range for bucking wind as well, and making it easier to replicate shots. Just because you shoot an AR at 600 doesn’t make 5.56 a good choice for those shots.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        “.308 is far better at that range for bucking wind as well,”

        No, It’s not. Look up charts and get back to me. Depending on 308 projectile’s weight and BC, it’s almost always better, but not by all that much. It’s a common misconception that 308 is “far” better than 556 for wind resistance. It’s a slower heavier bullet, often similar bc, and slower. They’re quiet comparable. Out of a 16″ it’s even more so.

        • Dracon1201

          Fair enough. The .308 is still better for longer ranges.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Yea, there is clearly more potential (not just in case capacity).

            At the expense of cost, weight, recoil, and size.

            Fwiw, I’m seeing a lot of people get into 308 platforms who would infinitely be better off with 556, but of course 308 is an excellent round.

          • Dracon1201

            Exactly. You have to match the round to the purpose. I see a lot of the same.

  • Guest

    As somebody who bought a 16.5″ Remington 700 in .308, this article is encouraging to me.

  • TV-PressPass

    As somebody who took the plunge and bought one of the 16.5″ Remington 700s in .308, this article says I still have hope!

    • 360_AD

      But up to a certain range…

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Range is nothing but a number.

        Dial your scope, and you’ll get range perfectly. Hits at range depend on wind and shooter’s fundementals only.

        • Cymond

          I’m not a long-range shooter, so please forgive any mistakes, but as I understand it …

          Longer range means more flight time, and flight time means a longer chance for the wind to affect the bullet.
          A shorter barrel decreases velocity, so flight time is longer.
          Every shooter has a skill limit. For any given shooter, a longer flight time means that they cannot cope as well for the effect of wind across.

          • gunslinger

            what determines the “best barrel length” for a bullet? obviously there is friction as the bullet travels, thus reducing speed/acceleration

            is is best to have the bullet leave the barrel when positive acceleration is 0? basically meaning the powder can’t make it go faster? that would mean, in turn, any more distance in the barrel the bullet would slow because of friction?

            friday morning science

          • Geodkyt

            Actually, you WANT the projo to still be accelerating when it hits the muzzle under normal conditions, just to ensure it isn’t DEcelerating under “abnormal” condition. Just some design tolerance insurance.
            But, yes, IF you can fully control the environmental conditions (ambient temp on gun, ambient temps on ammo, atmospheric density, etc.) and have high enough quality control on the ammunition (including storage), and you will ONLY fire that gun under those circumstances, then, yes, you can design pretty close to maximum efficient barrel length (produced gas volume equals effective chamber and barrel volume).
            For any gun intended to be used in the real world, go for a skosh shorter than “maximum” efficient length, just to account for variables.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Flight time has nothing to do with wind resistance. Your line of thinking is a common error with long range shooting. Faster doesn’t mean better.

            ONLY bullet weight and BC effect a bullet’s ability to resist wind. Remember that BC changes with velocity.

            With a perfect BC, you could have the slowest bullet in the world entirely wind-proof. However, gravity effects all things equally.

    • Nicholas C

      I am interested in the .300 blk version. But I do like 308.

  • Michael

    People never say 16inch AR10 are pointless.
    I am waiting for the AR10 pistol with a SIG are brace.
    I want a 16 in 7.62 bolt gun

  • jimmarch

    Question…if you’re going to go bolt, and you want longer range functionality, is this setup better at 600yds or should we consider a longer barrel .223 setup of the same weight, maybe a 22″ to 24″ tube? If it’s fluted we should be able to get the weight down even further? Esp. if the chamber is set up for a 70gr or 77gr match .223?

  • Aaron E

    Though not 16.5″, our 20″ sniper rifles have proven to be accurate to 1000 yards. I think there is support for shorter, heavier barrels, out to a decent range.

    • 1911a145acp

      Hhhmmm….. do they suddenly STOP being accurate after 1000 yards?

      • gunslinger

        depends on what you mean ;-)

        the longer the bullet travels, the more it can be influenced by wind and the like. the thought is that if it takes 2 seconds to travel from one gun and 4 seconds, the longer time would have twice as long for wind and other “non-compensation” factors to influence it.

      • G

        They stop being accurate at the same instance as the bullet goes trans sonic. That’s usually way before 1000 yards yards if you are shooting a 308W rifle with a short barrel.

  • John L.

    Mossberg MVP Patrol for the (.308)win

  • HKGuns

    Good job! Great topic, too bad it ends up being another article full of comments with 20-something-year old’s arguing and trying to one up each other.

  • Jeff

    PARDON! YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP!
    With a over barrel suppressor it would be great. Without one, well, 16.5 inches burning loads tailored for longer barrels AND a muzzle brake. LOUD. UNPLEASANT.

  • G

    Precision Rifle Blog has run a series of blog posts about the rifles used in last year’s Precision Rifles Finale:

    http://precisionrifleblog.com/2014/01/02/best-rifle-barrel/

    “What are the most common barrel lengths?

    Rich Emmons thought around 65% of the shooters in finale were
    using barrels between 24” and 26”. He thought 30% were running longer
    barrels at 28″, and only 5% of the shooters running shorter 22” barrels.

    George Gardner said 26″ is the most common, and 28″ is the
    longest he’s seen at a match. He did say that shooters running
    suppressors were using 22-24” barrels, but there weren’t a lot of
    shooters among the top 50 using suppressors.”

  • MAXIMUS

    I’ve run many super short bolt guns for many years. GOD help us we will get our powders and components back in sufficient supply soon. Anyway, a .308 with a 1-8, 1-10 twist and a 16-18in barrel in a BOLT GUN is a great thing. You can absolutely push a high bc bullet (my choice was the Hornady 208 AMAX and BTHP) to 2550fps+ (my gun, barrel, chamber, blah blah) with Reloader 17 , RL-17 and rem brass. Was the load too Hot? IDK, no pressure transducer. Temp stable? YUP from 25deg f to 101deg f out in Texas where I blasted those rather large feral hogs. Did the brass stick? No.

    There are a lot of variables here, but the performance of a short (16in NFA legal) .308 bolt gun, loaded correctly. Can make anyone smile. .308 is grrrrreat! And you can go super short if you like. There might be a reason the SOCOM boys rock a 13in SCAR-H (and Lapua making more feasible ammo for it currently)

    But I could be wrong, and this all just could be an elaborate fantasy.

    Ref: http://www.tacticaloperations.com/SWATbarrel/

    Ref: http://forum.snipershide.com/range-report-exterior-ballistics/24338-308-win-208-amax-rl17.html

    • Maximus

      The two I was talking about. I A shit load of chrono data ( I think not so amazing to the post) 16&18in

  • 1911a145acp

    I think shortening the bbl down to the minimum legal length is TOO much of a good thing for the “long range sniper rifle” A 16 inch barrel if used with 6 inch sound suppressor makes since. I see no real world portability benefit going from 20 in. to 16 in.

  • 2hotel9

    Ya know? Its pretty hard to screw up a .30. 5.56 is all f**ed up from the get go, .30, not so much. Having fired various iteration of .30 in short barreled lever actions I could have told them they had a winner. Though I would have insisted on firing a few hundred rds through it, just to be certain. ;)

  • Moises

    Short barrels work. A 10.3″ AR-15 will give you 93% of the energy of a 14.5, and 91% of the energy of a 16.5.

    People who tell you that you “need a 20/18/24/22/whatever inch barrel” on your 308 are morons or liars. Even the US Navy SEALs run 13″ barrels on their SCARs.