Approximately 30 percent of Americans currently own at least one gun. Are you part of this group? Are you looking to level up your collection?
For many people, a staple piece in their gun collection is a good rifle. Shopping for the perfect rifle can be tricky, though, especially when it comes to choosing the best material for the barrel.
If you’re having a hard time deciding between a carbon fiber barrel vs stainless steel barrel, you’re in the right place. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of each for your rifle.
Carbon Fiber Barrel Pros and Cons
One of the most popular material options (especially among those who prefer an ultra-lightweight rifle) for rifle barrels is carbon fiber. Before you choose this option, be sure to consider some of the pros and cons that come with it:
One of the greatest advantages of carbon fiber barrels is the high level of rigidity that they provide. They also naturally dampen the rifle vibration and are much lighter in weight than other barrel types. At the same time, though, they’re still very lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about being weighed down by them.
Carbon fiber barrels provide great accuracy, too. Many rifle enthusiasts find that their shots are just as accurate when they use carbon fiber barrels as when they use other options.
When asked about the downsides of carbon fiber barrels, the most common complaint among most rifle owners is the price. It’s true that carbon fiber barrels are more expensive than stainless steel and other varieties.
For those who care a lot about having the most lightweight barrels possible, though, they might be willing to spend a little more to enjoy a significant amount of weight saving. If you use a very lightweight rifle and every little bit of weight counts, you may want to consider investing in the more expensive carbon fiber barrels.
Stainless Steel Barrel Pros and Cons
Stainless steel is another common barrel material choice among rifle owners. Like carbon fiber, it also has its pros and cons, including the following:
Stainless steel barrels have been part of the gun culture for decades (since the 1930s, to be specific). They’ve had a resurgence in popularity lately, though, for a few reasons.
First, stainless steel barrels are resistant to heat erosion. Second, they are also resistant to rust. If you have concerns about heat damaging your barrels or them becoming rusty in humid environments, stainless steel is a good option to consider. They’re especially popular for those who use all-weather rifles, as well as competitive shooters.
Like carbon fiber barrels, stainless steel barrels also provide a great level of accuracy. You won’t have to worry about missing shots when you choose this option.
One of the biggest downsides of stainless steel barrels is the weight. If you have concerns about being weighed down, you might be better off choosing a carbon fiber barrel or another style instead of the stainless steel.
The weight difference isn’t that significant to most people. If you’re a serious gun owner and want the lightest option possible, stainless steel might not be your best bet.
What Else Should You Look for in a Rifle Barrel?
Of course, material plays a big role in choosing which type of barrel you want to invest in for your rifle. There’s more to consider, though. The following are some other factors you ought to keep in mind when shopping for a new rifle barrel:
Beyond material, one of the most important things to consider when choosing a rifle barrel is the configuration. Rifle barrels come in pretty much any configuration imaginable, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you start looking at all your different options.
Most rifle barrels have between four and six grooves, although some have as little as two and others have as many as eight. There are also lots of different methods of creating rifling, including button rifling, hammer-forged rifling, and cut rifling, each of which creates a unique shape and style.
There’s not a ton of variance in the effect that different configurations have. Some ballisticians believe that shallow rifling with fewer grooves is preferable.
Don’t get too worked up on this point, though. Take a look at what’s available and pick what seems like a good fit for you.
Feel free to ask someone who’s working in the shop if you need some additional pointers. Remember, though, that there are other factors that matter more, such as the barrel length.
In general, a longer barrel length will provide more velocity when compared to a shorter barrel. If you’re getting ready for a long-range prone competition, the longer the barrel is, the better.
This isn’t to say that shorter barrels don’t have their place. If you plan on carrying your rifle with you, it might be better for you to invest in a shorter barrel. This will be easier to transport and won’t get in your way.
Some people are interested in shortening or lengthening an existing barrel. This can be done. Keep in mind, though, that the length of the barrel plays a big role in its vibrations. Changing the length could have a negative impact on your accuracy until you’re able to readjust.
Rifle barrels come in a wide range of contours. From full cylinder to sleeker hunting contours, there’s a lot to choose from.
Different contours will affect the weight of the barrel, which is something to keep in mind, especially if you’re a competitor or are using your rifle for hunting purposes. The contour affects the stiffness, too.
A heavier contour often takes longer to heat up and longer to cool down. Their weight helps to reduce the recoil of the gun, though.
A thinner contour, on the other hand, will cool off quickly. However, they can jump around more than heavier options. If you’re looking for an all-purpose barrel and don’t have a specific outcome in mind, you can’t go wrong with a medium contour.
It often takes a bit of experimentation to figure out which contour style is a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or try out some different options to see what you like best.
Some people might try to pressure you into their preferred style. At the end of the day, though, it’s up to you to decide what you want.
The term “twist rate” refers to the speed at which the machining located inside of the barrel will spin the bullet when it’s being fired. The goal is for your bullet to have the perfect twist rate balance.
If the bullet spins too fast or doesn’t spin fast enough, your shot won’t be accurate and could drift. The right amount of spin helps to stabilize the bullet as it’s traveling through the air.
A 1:12 twist rate is considered very slow. It’s common among older rifles, but it limits the type of bullets you can use. With a 1:8 or 1:9 twist rate, which is common among commercial rifles, you have more options to choose from.
A twist rate of 1:7 is the standard for military weapons. It’s very fast and can create some problems when you’re working with very lightweight bullets.
Finally, as the experts at Aero Precision have pointed out many times, you also need to think about the lining of the barrel. There are lots of different lining options you can choose from, including chrome and stainless steel.
Chrome is a very popular option. This is due, in part, to the fact that it makes your rifle easier to clean.
At the same time, though, it can be tricky to apply. If this is important to you, chrome might not be your best bet. If you plan on often shooting, though, you may want to go ahead and use it, as it’ll make the cleaning process much easier.
Pick Up Your New Rifle Barrel Today
As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to shopping for a new rifle barrel. If you remember these tips, though, you’ll have a much easier time weighing all your options.
Deciding between a carbon fiber barrel and a stainless steel barrel will be easier than you ever thought possible. You’ll also feel less overwhelmed when you start considering other features, such as barrel lining and twist rate.
Do you want to learn more about shopping for the right rifle barrel? Do you need additional advice on gun shopping in general?
If so, we have plenty of resources on guns, ammo, and hunting available on our site. Check them out today!