March 19th, 2017

Tuner Basics: Guide to Selection and Use of Barrel Tuners

Barrel Tuner Gene Bukys Shadetree Engineering

We’re starting to see barrel tuners employed in more competitive disciplines than ever — from 100 yards to 1000 yards. And even some varmint hunters are employing tuners or tuner/brakes now. This allows them to dial in accuracy with different loads (when shooting hundreds of rounds in a weekend). Here’s a quick over-view of the potential benefits of tuners.

Commentary by Mark Walker, Sierra Bullets Product Development Manager
This story originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog. Visit

Some people love tuners and others hate them. I use them on my rifles and I’ve had more than one person ask me why on earth I would put one of those things on my barrel. I’ve even had a national long range champion tell me to unscrew it and throw it into Lake Erie on my next trip to the pits at Camp Perry. However, there are other shooters that swear by them and have many match wins to back it up.

It’s an indisputable fact that tuners do have an effect on a rifle’s accuracy, however how much is somewhat open for debate. The large heavy target barrels that we use for benchrest or F-class may not be affected as much by a tuner as a lighter weight sporter type barrel. Each barrel that I’ve installed a tuner on not only showed improvement in accuracy but also displayed a wider load window. The increased accuracy is because of the ability to adjust the tuner to the load, however I believe the wider load window is due to the added weight of the tuner slowing down the barrel vibrations. These are both very important aspects of having a very accurate rifle.

Barrel Tuner Gene Bukys Shadetree Engineering

While better accuracy and a wider load window are two areas of improvement, I believe the most important feature of a tuner is the ability to adjust the tune during the middle of a match. This is especially important during matches where you must load all your ammo earlier and cannot make adjustments to the load during the match. If you happen to miss the load, instead of having to deal with a gun that isn’t shooting you can make an adjustment to the tuner and hopefully improve the accuracy of the rifle.

While I’ve laid out several ways that a tuner can help, there are also a few ways that tuners can cause problems. They add weight so if you are shooting a discipline that has weight limits on the rifle, you may not be able to install a tuner and still make weight. Sometimes, a barrel just doesn’t show improvement with a tuner installed. These are few and far between, but it is something to consider. If you make an adjustment to the tuner in a match, you need to make sure you move it in the right direction. Adjusting a tuner in the wrong direction can cause very large groups. And finally, if they aren’t tightened properly, tuners can come loose during firing which will cause a lot of problems as well.

As you can see, tuners have both positive and negative aspects. In my personal experience, the positives far outweigh the negatives so I will continue to use them on all of my competitive rifles. If you’ve been thinking about installing a tuner, hopefully some of the information that I’ve presented will help you make an informed decision.

Barrel Tuner

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gunsmithing 1 Comment »
August 13th, 2016

TECH TIP: Optimizing Muzzle Brake Accuracy and Effectiveness

muzzle brake test tuner Ray Bertalotto

Muzzle brakes are controversial. Some people swear by them, while others swear at them. Still, there’s no question that a good brake can reduce felt recoil up to 45%. And likewise, the best brakes, when installed properly, seem to have no negative effect on accuracy.

Roy Bertalotto has done considerable experimentation with muzzle brakes, testing dozens of brake designs on his own rifles over the past few years. Roy’s article, Adventures with Muzzle Brakes, discusses various aspects of muzzle brake design and performance. Roy doesn’t claim that his testing is definitive, but his article is definitely worth a read. Here are some of Roy’s interesting findings:

Exit Hole Diameter
“Best accuracy and effectiveness of the brake was obtained with a hole .020″ over bullet diameter. If the exit hole is too small, such as +.005″ over bullet diameter, accuracy suffers. If the depth of the exit hole is too shallow, the metal around the hole will erode very quickly.”

Hole Placement
“The most effective braking was with a brake 1″ in diameter with a 3/4″ exit hole on each side, just in front of the muzzle. The bullet passes through a cone of 35 degrees before it exits the brake. (Like the tank example), Incredible reduction of recoil. But loud and ugly. Very easy to make since you don’t need a spin fixture or a dividing head.”

Bottom Gas Venting Helps Accuracy
“In my tests, not having holes all around the brake effects accuracy a bit. I believe it does something to the bullet by the air pushed ahead of the bullet creating unequal turbulence in the bullet path. I’ve tried a few brakes where I drilled only holes on the top, test fired, and then completed holes on the bottom and in every case, accuracy improved.” Below are spiral-ported brakes crafted by Clay Spencer.

VAIS muzzle brake

Brakes Work Best with High-Pressure Cartridges
“The higher the pressure of the particular round, the more effective the brake. I have over 20 rifles with brakes. The 220 Swift is the king of reduction. Followed very closely by the 25-06, 6mm Remington, any Weatherby small bore. With a proper brake and a hot handload under a 40 gr bullet, the Swift will move 1/2″ to the rear and 0 muzzle rise! Big boomers with low pressure like 45-70s and shot guns benefit the least.” [Editor’s Note: Roy is judging effectiveness by the percentage of recoil reduction rather than absolute levels of recoil. Obviously if you start with a heavier-recoiling round, the absolute amount of recoil energy reduction is greater. Roy is really talking about efficiency–brakes are most efficient when used with high-pressure cartridges.]

Installation is Key to Accuracy
Roy’s findings are fascinating and suggest that further study of muzzle brakes is warranted. But we can all agree that precision installation of the brake is essential for accuracy. A poorly-installed, mis-aligned brake will degrade accuracy, that is well-known.

Harrell’s Precision has made thousands of muzzle brakes, in many styles and port arrangements. The Harrell brothers offer some good advice for gunsmiths installing brakes: “Muzzle brakes aren’t magic, they reduce recoil by redirecting exiting gas. What’s important is that they are straight and the threads are perpendicular with the base. The only way to get the base and threads perpendicular is to thread, not tap, them on a lathe.”

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing 1 Comment »