December 1st, 2019

Common Misconceptions about Twist Rate and Stabilization

FirearmsID.com barrel rifling diagram

Understanding Twist: Bullet Stabilization

by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box for Sierra Bullets Blog.

Based on the questions we get on a daily basis on our 800 (Customer Support) line, twist is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the gun field. So let’s look deeper into this mystery and get a better understanding of what twist really means.

When you see the term 1:14″ (1-14) or 1:9″ twist, just exactly what does this mean? A rifle having a 1:14″ twist means the bullet will rotate one complete revolution every fourteen inches of the barrel. Naturally a 1:9″ turns one time every nine inches that it travels down the barrel. Now, here’s something that some people have trouble with. I’ve had calls from shooters thinking that a 1:14″ twist was faster than a 1:9″ because the number was higher with the 1:14″. The easiest way to remember this is the higher the number, the slower the twist rate is.

Now, the biggest misconception is that if a shooter has a .223 with a 1:8″ twist, his rifle won’t stabilize a 55gr bullet or anything lighter. So let’s look at what is required. The longer a bullet is for its diameter, the faster the twist has to be to stabilize it. In the case of the .223 with a 1:8″ twist, this was designed to stabilize 80gr bullets in this diameter. In truth the opposite is true. A 1:8″ will spin a 55gr faster than what is required in order to stabilize that length of bullet. If you have a bullet with good concentricity in its jacket, over-spinning it will not [normally] hurt its accuracy potential. [Editor’s Note: In addition, the faster twist rate will not, normally, decrease velocity significantly. That’s been confirmed by testing done by Bryan Litz’s Applied Ballistics Labs. There may be some minor speed loss.]

FirearmsID.com barrel rifling diagram
Many barrel-makers mark the twist rate and bore dimensions on their barrel blanks.

Think of it like tires on your truck. If you have a new set of tires put on your truck, and they balance them proper at the tire shop, you can drive down a street in town at 35 MPH and they spin perfect. You can get out on the highway and drive 65 MPH and they still spin perfect. A bullet acts the same way.

Once I loaded some 35gr HP bullets in a 22-250 Ackley with a 1:8″ twist. After putting three shots down range, the average velocity was 4584 FPS with an RPM level of 412,560. The group measured .750″ at 100 yards. This is a clear example that it is hard to over-stabilize a good bullet.

Twist-rate illustration by Erik Dahlberg courtesy FireArmsID.com. Krieger barrel photo courtesy GS Arizona.
Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo 3 Comments »
September 18th, 2019

Too Fast or Too Slow — What’s Your Optimal Twist Rate?

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth
Here’s an extreme range of .224-Caliber bullets: 35gr varmint bullet and 90gr match bullet. Of course, along with bullet length/design, you need to consider MV when choosing twist rate.

Even with the same caliber (and same bullet weight), different bullet types may require different rates of spin to stabilize properly. The bullet’s initial spin rate (RPM) is a function of the bullet’s muzzle velocity and the spin imparted by the rifling in the barrel. You want to ensure your bullet is stable throughout flight. It is better to have too much spin than too little, according to many ballistics experts, including Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. Glen Zediker has some basic tips concerning barrel twist rates and bullet stability. These come from his latest book, Top Grade Ammo.

Choosing the Right Twist Rate
I’d always rather have a twist too fast than not fast enough. Generally… I recommend erring toward the faster side of a barrel twist decision. 1:8″ twist is becoming a “new standard” for .224 caliber, replacing 1:9″ in the process. The reason is that new bullets tend to be bigger rather than smaller. Don’t let a too-slow twist limit your capacity to [achieve] better long-range performance.

Base your next barrel twist rate decision on the longest, heaviest bullets you choose to use, and at the same time realize that the rate you choose will in turn limit your bullet choices. If the longest, heaviest bullet you’ll shoot (ever) is a 55-grain .224, then there’s honestly no reason not to use a 1:12″. Likewise true for .308-caliber: unless you’re going over 200-grain bullet weight, a 1:10″ will perform perfectly well.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth

Bullet Length is More Critical than Weight
Bullet length, not weight, [primarily] determines how much rotation is necessary for stability. Twist rate suggestions, though, are most usually given with respect to bullet weight, but that’s more of a generality for convenience’s sake, I think. The reason is that with the introduction of higher-ballistic-coefficient bullet designs, which are longer than conventional forms, it is easily possible to have two same-weight bullets that won’t both stabilize from the same twist rate.

Evidence of Instability
The tell-tale for an unstable (wobbling or tumbling) bullet is an oblong hole in the target paper, a “keyhole,” and that means the bullet contacted the target at some attitude other than nose-first.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo MidsouthIncreasing Barrel Length Can Deliver More Velocity, But That May Still Not Provide Enough Stability if the Twist Rate Is Too Slow
Bullet speed and barrel length have an influence on bullet stability, and a higher muzzle velocity through a longer tube will bring on more effect from the twist, but it’s a little too edgy if a particular bullet stabilizes only when running maximum velocity.

My failed 90-grain .224 experiment is a good example of that: I could get them asleep in a 1:7″ twist, 25-inch barrel, which was chambered in .22 PPC, but could not get them stabilized in a 20-inch 1:7″ .223 Rem. The answer always is to get a twist that’s correct.

These tips were adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth. To learn more about this book and other Zediker titles, and read a host of downloadable articles, visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 1 Comment »