Is it just me imagining things or have shooters started preferring shorter barrels on their sporting rifles?
I’ve always preferred 24 inch barrels on my rifles for the majority of my shooting. There are of course exceptions such as my 26 inch varmint guns, and the 18 inch lever action carbine that I regretted buying from the first moment I pulled the trigger. But for general hunting tasks I’ll always purchase a 24 inch barrelled rifle over any of the 22 inch versions.
There are a few advantages of the longer barrel and they all seem justified in my opinion. Firstly there is the velocity increase which my own experiments show to be significant enough. The difference will vary between rifle and cartridge but using a .243 Winchester I discovered that a loss of 50fps for every inch of barrel taken away is a pretty mild average. So assuming we went with a 22 inch barrel over a 24 inch version, we would lose 100fps. Definitely not enough to be overly concerned about but it’s still a loss of feet per second.
Then there is the weight issue which many might argue is an advantage of having a shorter barrel. I agree that a 22 inch barrel will be slightly lighter than a 24 inch version but I can’t see this to be of any real benefit to your average hunter. I’ve always found the extra barrel length to help when taking offhand shots as the extra weight towards the front of the rifle helps keep things balanced and steady.
A 22 inch barrel will also have an increase in noise and muzzle blast and I don’t mind admitting that I dislike both. I wish I had the equipment to measure any increase in these departments but I’m afraid that’s well out of my budget for some time. However, there certainly is an increase and it’s probably the main reason while I’ll always grab my 24 inch rifles over the shorter ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that 22 inch barrels are useless and I totally agree that they have their place. I can see that they are somewhat of a comprise between having a portable rifle whilst retaining long range capabilities. What I can’t understand is how they are better suited than 24 inch barrels for the average Aussie shooter.
I know of a few manufacturers that still produce 24 inch barrelled sporters such Remington, Kimber and Weatherby but I’d like to see the others at least have the option of either a 22 or 24 inch barrel. I’d especially love to see Ruger provide such an option!
I appreciate that we all have different opinions formed from different experiences so if you’re a fan of the shorter barrel then let me know in the comments below. We’re all here to learn after all!