July 19th, 2017

Can We Predict Useful Barrel Life? Insights from Dan Lilja

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Barrel-maker Dan Lilja’s website has an excellent FAQ page that contains a wealth of useful information. On the Lilja FAQ Page as you’ll find informed answers to many commonly-asked questions. For example, Dan’s FAQ addresses the question of barrel life. Dan looks at factors that affect barrel longevity, and provides some predictions for barrel life, based on caliber, chambering, and intended use.

NOTE: This article was very well-received when it was first published last year. We are reprising it for the benefit of readers who missed it the first time.

Dan cautions that “Predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject — there is not a simple answer. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.” Dan also notes that barrels can wear prematurely from heat: “Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.”

Q. What Barrel Life, in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?

A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers. But again there is not a simple answer. In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life. Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question. But there is also absolute barrel life too. That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild. The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question. To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything. But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important. And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog-size animals, the difference between a .25 MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5 MOA may not be noticeable in the field.

The big enemy to barrel life is heat. A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel. Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too. The throat erosion is accelerated by heat. Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups. A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too. For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.

And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels. This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.

Barrel Life Guidelines by Caliber and Cartridge Type
As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3000-4000 rounds. And varmint-type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.

For medium-size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester, 7×57 and even the 25-06, 2000-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.

Hot .224 caliber-type cartridges will not do as well, and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.

Bigger magnum hunting-type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds. But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won’t do as well, being closer to the 1500-round figure.

These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels. For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.

The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I’m pressed to predict a figure.

The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle (.22 LR) barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.

Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject. You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Benchrest Barrel Life — You May Be Surprised
I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional Aggregates that I’ve fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had thousands of rounds through them. I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.

I fired my smallest 100-yard 5-shot Aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho. It was a .1558″ aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class. And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200-yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time. I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper-foul quite a bit. But accuracy was still good.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

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July 19th, 2017

Smallbore National Championships — SSUSA.org Report

smallbore national championships Wa-ke-de
Photo courtesy Shooting Sports USA.

The NRA National Smallbore Championships (Conventional and Metric) took place July 8-17 at the Wa-Ke’-De Range in Bristol, Indiana. The NRA’s Shooting Sports USA website has extensive coverage of the event written by correspondent Hap Rocketto.

CLICK HERE to Read Full Report on SSUSA.org »

In team competition, the USAMU shooters dominated: “The [conventional] paper team match was an AMU runaway — they carded a 4766-338X to have a 30-point pad on the second place Coast to Coast Team’s 4736-267X effort. The Illinois State Association finished third with a 4679-210X.”

USAMU shooters on the firing line at the Wa-Ke’-De outdoor range in Bristol, IN.
smallbore national championships Wa-ke-de
Photo courtesy USAMU.

There were some great individual performances. In early prone competition, three shooters didn’t drop a point: “The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s (AMU) Patrick Sunderman… opened the tournament with a 400-38X. Mike McPhail, perhaps one of the best prone shooters in world, followed up with a score of 400-37X and … civilian Daniel Martz closed out the top three with his 400-36X.” Later, in kneeling position, McPhail shot his second perfect score of the day, 400-30X, to win the kneeling match.

Iron Man Competition
There was a special “Iron Man” title for the best performance over the entire 8-day cycle. Rocketto writes: “The final prone match, 40 shots on the metric target with any sights, was the deciding factor in the Iron Man competition when McPhail beat George Norton by four points. Over eight days, McPhail shot a 9504-711X, Norton 9501-655X, and last year’s Iron Man Sunderman scored 9478-640X.” Overall the Army swept the top three places.

The Iron Man podium: SFC Mike McPhail (Center), SSG George Norton, & SPC Patrick Sunderman.
2017 National Smallbore championship Iron Man

The last shot of the any sight metric position championship marked the end of the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Championships. The target frames have been stacked away until next year — when smallbore rifle shooters will again converge upon the Wa-Ke’-De Range in Bristol, Indiana.

Men and women now compete on equal terms at the National Smallbore Championship, gunning for the same honors in “gender-neutral” classifications.
Small Bore Rifle Championship NRA women category gender neutral
Photo courtesy Shooting Sports USA.

Camp Wa-ke'-de range Bristol indiana IN championship

Smallbore Rifle Championship (Wa-Ke’-De Range, Bristol, IN — July 8-17, 2017)
Webpage: CLICK HERE for National Smallbore Rifle Championships INFO.

The Key to 3P — Beginner’s Guide to Smallbore Position Shooting

Would you like to try smallbore position shooting? Here are some tips from one of the best 3P shooters on the planet, Olympian Matt Emmons. Matt Emmons Anschutz 3P three position shooting tipsMatt Emmons competed in the Three-Position Event at the Rio Olympics his fourth Olympic appearance. Matt has competed on the U.S. National Team since 1997, medaling in three Olympic games: Gold in 2004 in Men’s 50m Prone; Silver in 2008 in Men’s 50m Prone; and Bronze in 2012 in Men’s 50m 3X40. Although his specialty is Men’s 3-Position rifle, Emmons’ World Championship and Olympic Gold are in Men’s 50m Prone. He usually shoots an Anschütz or Bleiker .22LR rifle, with Eley Tenex ammo.

Here are shooting tips from Matt, courtesy Anschütz. Click image below to launch a large, full-screen PDF file.

CLICK Photo to Load Large PDF File
Matt Emmons Anschutz 3P three position shooting tips

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July 19th, 2017

Winchester .22 LR Rimfire Ammo in Wood Box

Winchester rimfire 22 .22LR ammunition Super-X Wood Box Limited Edition

500 Rounds in Limited Edition Wood Box for just $35.99
Here’s a great offer for fun-shooting/plinking rimfire ammo. You get 500 rounds of Winchester Super-X HV ammo for just $35.99. What’s more, you get a collectible, Winchester-branded wood box as part of the deal. Inside the limited-edition wood crate are ten, 50-round boxes of Winchester’s fastest 22 Long Rifle ammo, rated at 1280 FPS. The copper-plated 36gr lead HP bullets work well for target shooting or for small game and varmints. This new production ammunition is non-corrosive. ORDER AMMO HERE.

Affordable fun shooting — Just Seven Cents per Round.
Winchester rimfire 22 .22LR ammunition Super-X Wood Box Limited Edition

Your Editor just bought one of these Winchester boxes as a gift for a friend who is teaching his son to shoot. Hopefully the young man will keep the Winchester Ammo Box long after all the Super-X rimfire cartridges are gone. The wood box works great to store tools, personal items, or mementos.

We encourage our readers to do more rimfire shooting — it’s inexpensive, it’s a great way to introduce new shooters to the sport, and it helps you maintain your trigger-pulling and gun-handling skills without burning out your precious centerfire match barrels. A typical good 6mm barrel might have 1500-2000 rounds of “best match accuracy”. By contrast, a good rimfire barrel can still deliver match-winning performance after 20,000 or even 30,000 rounds.

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