Barrels For Custom AR-15s, Part 1

Barrels are the foundation rifles are built upon. Due to no fault of the barrel maker, AR-15s often don’t deliver their accuracy potential.

by Joe Carlos

As a former military armorer and current custom AR-15 gunsmith, the questions I’m most often asked are: How many rounds is my barrel good for before it shoots out? How far should I jump my long range 80 or 90 grain boat tail bullets? What barrel should I buy? I’ve written dedicated articles for the first two questions. This article answers the last one.

Military shooting team armorers and gunsmiths should be able to answer these questions and have data to back it up. Even if that answer is, “Barrel wear is extremely variable and no one can accurately predict wear out,” which is the only correct answer to Question #1. Most team armorers have machine rests and other equipment available to test barrels without the influence of human error that is inevitably involved with shooting from bench rests and other methods, so they should have answers with data. Shooting teams go through barrels and ammunition in great volumes with captive, skilled marksmen disciplined in recording data. If armorers are doing their jobs, they darn well better be asking often! Active duty teams can be more regimented, with leadership able to check things daily. Reserve teams lack this daily contact but still able to glean much more data and experience than civilian gunsmiths.

Most civilian gunsmiths are “general purpose” and work on a variety of firearms. My hat is off to you guys as your range of knowledge is amazing! However, this can’t create the depth of knowledge that a team armorer can acquire on a specific platform, monitoring hundreds of guns shot by dozens of highly skilled shooters over the course of many years. The “general purpose” gunsmith will likely have a more limited, part time exposure to any particular gun.

Having written exclusively on AR-15 topics in this magazine for several years now, I get a fair number of questions and it seems many gunsmiths only see an AR anywhere from once a month to once every year or so.

Read more in the July 2017 issue.

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