How to Measure Barrel Length and Why it's Important

- ComfortTac Brand Team

Pistol length being measured

Are you interested in figuring out how to measure barrel length for any revolver? Every gun fanatic should understand how barrel length relates to its performance and mobility.

However, the barrel length is a single variable among many others, such as the weight, chamber dimensions, quality, bore, and ammo that determines how a firearm can perform. Sometimes, humidity and air pressure contribute significantly to the accuracy and velocity of a gun.

Here is a breakdown of everything you may need to know about barrel length and why it matters.

    What Does Barrel Length Mean?

    It is common for most people to check the manufacturer's stated numbers when checking their firearms barrel length. But some may have old or obscure firearms with no such markings or information. Also, gunsmiths and builders need to know the exact barrel length to measure them correctly.

    The measurement of any firearm depends on whether it has a barrel with an integral chamber or not. For example, semi-automatic pistols contain an integral chamber as opposed to revolvers which have none.

    In the case of revolvers, the barrel length is the area between the back of its forcing cone to its muzzle end. On the other hand, the distance between the rear of the chamber and the end of the muzzle will mark a piston's barrel length.

    The end of the muzzle may also include any attached accessories such as welded muzzle brakes, compensators, and moderators.

    Equally important, ATF doesn't place any restrictions on the barrel length that a handgun should possess. It is only illegal to attach a stock to a firearm with a barrel length under 16". It results in the production of a short-barreled rifle (SBR) regulated by the National Firearms Act.

    Why Is The Barrel Length Important?

    Every gun owner should consider knowing the barrel's length for a couple of reasons. The most crucial factor is that it affects several guns at once. These factors include the firearms dimensions, accuracy, sight radius, effective range, and most significantly, concealability.

    The barrel of every firearm bears the crucial pressure from the gun when in use. This also makes it the heaviest part of the gun. Its weight will determine the general force you need to carry your firearm and ease of use. When it is excessively long, it will result in a gun with a heavy front, and it is challenging to balance to take proper aim without using a rest or stand.

    Most semi-automatic pistols have the slide approximately on or near the muzzle end. Therefore, the length of the barrel will also determine how long a slide is. The slide is essential since it also acts as a pressure-bringing part of the gun. It is typically made from steel and has a significant influence on the general gun's weight.

    Any gun owner understands that the key to aiming accurately is proper sight alignment. However, even the most perfect alignments still have a slight deviation or uncertainty that you should consider as sight deflection.

    The length of the barrel is directly proportional to the sight radius. With a long sight radius, you get better alignments, leading to fewer sight deflections. You will therefore have better accuracy and effective range.

    Arguably, the most critical factor when checking for barrel length is when considering getting a gun that is easily concealed. A long barrel means the firearm has more materials and will reveal itself when carried. It is not an effective way to hide a gun.

    With the increased weight for a longer barrel, it is also less comfortable to carry such guns. You risk having your pants and belt sagging.

    Therefore, gun owners looking to carry concealed guns would go for subcompacts and pocket pistols. The dimensions of these firearms are small, making them comfortable to carry at any time.

    The largest category for firearms is the mid-sized compacts that most people cannot easily conceal. It will depend on your physique, such as height, build, or carrying preferences.

    Barrel Length – How To Measure & Why It Matters

    Measuring barrel length is a big deal for gun owners. After learning its importance and how it impacts your shooting, here are the different ways you can measure the barrel length. It is also a requirement according to ATF requirements.

    Measuring the Barrel Length of a Pistol

    You can easily measure the barrel length of a pistol by taking the distance between its muzzle to the breech face.

    Measure Revolver Barrel Length

    You can measure the barrel length for revolvers by taking the muzzle to the face of its cylinder.

    Measure a Rifle's Barrel Length

    Measuring the barrel length of a rifle is a bit challenging. The barrel length is the distance between the breech face and the muzzle end. Using a dowel rod, slide it down the barrel until it reaches the breech. Then you can measure the dowel rod distance using a yardstick or tape measure. Ensure you don't nick the rifling inside with the dowel rod. Imperfections in the rifling can significantly affect the accuracy of the firearm.

    Measuring the Barrel Length of a Shotgun

    Measuring the correct barrel length of shotguns requires you to take a similar approach to rifles. You can slip the dowel rod into the barrel until it contacts the breech face. The distance is the barrel length.

    Does Barrel Length Matter?

    The barrel lengths play a significant role in the shooting and the accuracy of the firearm. Some of the top considerations to check on include:

    • Muzzle flash: Propellant gasses that come with firing a gun are extremely hot and visibly so. A longer barrel offers a larger space for the propellant to turn up before it exits the muzzle. It helps to dim the amount of light and powder ignition produced. Large barrels are essential for self-defense, since firing a weapon with a bright muzzle flash may leave you blinded, especially at nighttime.
    • Heat mitigation: When you repeatedly fire your firearm, the barrel becomes hot, and sometimes sitting becomes unbearable. The barrel heat also expands the bore diameter, reducing the effectiveness or accuracy of your shots. A longer barrel heats more slowly and preserves your accuracy.
    • Recoil: The primary factor that affects the recoil of a firearm is its weight. Therefore, a heavier weapon has less recoil since it has more weight. A gun with a short barrel has less weight and can jerk sharply when used.
    • Mobility: One topic among gun owners is the significance of gun barrel size when selecting a holster. Having a weapon with a short barrel is easier to carry, and you can move around with it easily. It is easier to get a holster than hold it effectively and offers you more flexibility when you need to take it quickly during emergencies.

    The Key Takeaway

    Whenever you need to choose the right firearm that suits your needs, there are many factors and compromises you may look at. Handguns with longer barrels offer more accuracy, and you can control them more effectively. On the other hand, having shotguns with shorter barrels is generally more concealable.

    You can never find a one-gun-fits-all solution. Therefore, it would be best to experiment with different firearms until you find the right one for you.