May 29th, 2016

Barrel Length and Velocity in a .223 Rem — Barrel Cut-Down Test

.223 Rem Cut-Down Test barrel UMC m855

We often receive questions from varmint hunters and AR shooters regarding barrel length. They want to know how much velocity they will loose if they run a shorter barrel in their .223-Rem rifle. Our friends at did a test that provides some surprising answers to that question.

With barrels, one always wonders “Can a little more length provide a meaningful velocity gain?” To help answer that question, performed an interesting test, cutting the barrel of a .223 Rem rifle from 26″ all the way down to 16.5″. The cuts were made in one-inch intervals with a rotary saw. At each cut length, velocity was measured with a Magnetospeed chronograph. To make the test even more interesting, four different types of .223 Rem/5.56 ammo were chron’d at each barrel length.

READ 5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Test Article.

Test Barrel Lost 25.34 FPS Per Inch (.223 Rem Chambering)
How much velocity do you think was lost, on average, for each 1″ reduction in barrel length? The answer may surprise you. The average speed loss of the four types of .223/5.56 ammo, with a 9.5″ shortening of barrel length, was 240.75 fps total (from start to finish). That works out to an average loss of 25.34 fps per inch. (See inch-by-inch data HERE.)

5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Speed Test 26″ to 16.5″ Start FPS at 26″ End FPS at 16.5″ Total Loss Average Loss Per Inch
UMC .223 55gr 3182* 2968 214 22.5 FPS
Federal M193 55gr 3431 3187 244 25.7 FPS
Win m855 62gr 3280 2992 288 30.3 FPS
Blk Hills .223 68gr 2849 2632 217 22.8 FPS

*There may have been an error. The 25″ velocity was higher at 3221 fps. observed: “Cutting the barrel from 26″ to 16.5″ resulted in a velocity reduction of 214 ft/sec with the UMC 223 55-grain cartridge, 244 ft/sec with the Federal M-193 cartridge, 288 ft/sec with the Winchester M855 cartridge and 217 ft/sec with the Back Hills 223 68-grain match cartridge.”

How the Test Was Done
The testers described their procedure as follows: “Ballistic data was gathered using a Magnetospeed barrel-mounted ballistic chronograph. At each barrel length, the rifle was fired from a front rest with rear bags, with five rounds of each type of ammunition. Average velocity and standard deviation were logged for each round. Once data was gathered for each cartridge at a given barrel length, the rifle was cleared and the bolt was removed. The barrel was cut off using a cold saw. The test protocol was repeated for the next length. Temperature was 45.7° F.”

CLICK HERE to Read the Test. This includes detailed charts with inch-by-inch velocity numbers.

Much Different Results with 6mmBR and a Longer Barrel
The results from’s .223/5.56 test are quite different than the results we recorded some years ago with a barrel chambered for the 6mmBR cartridge. When we cut our 6mmBR barrel down from 33″ to 28″ we only lost about 8 FPS per inch. Obviously this is a different cartridge type, but also our 6mmBR barrel end length was longer than’s .223 Rem start length. Velocity loss may be more extreme with shorter barrel lengths.

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