Rifle Barrel , lifespan

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by semper, Dec 19, 2005.

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  1. out of curiousity , how long would you expect a rilfe barrel to last ?

    for example a Lee Enfield rilfe barrel , how many rounds would you think it could sustain before replacements , equivlent in years ?
  2. this is very wide variable,

    what caliber and chamber pressure.

    can depend on propellant and primer type and how hot the load is.

    barrel material (moly or stainless steel), is it a chrome plated barrel, methord of manufacture (button rifled or hammer forged), tolerance of manufacture ect

    bullet type, cast or FMJ, hardness of bullet jacket or lead being shot.

    if your using the rifle a lot for 'rapid fire' it will wear quicker the hotter the barrel is.

    the list of variables here is honestly endless

    most serious target shooters replace after around 3000 - 4000 rounds, some fanatics get a re-barrel every season

    most barrel wear that effects accuracy occurs in the 'throat' of the chamber (this is the lead-in and start of the rifling)

    a square machined muzzle crown is essential

    personaly if a centerfire stops grouping an inch with 5 shots at 100 meters off a sandbag, its getting a new tube or sold of to a noob.

    as your question is in relation to your new lee enfield, 4(T) as the obvious expert on them he is, will be the best fella to quizz on this one.
  3. When are we going to start paying 4(T) a retainer 8O ?
  4. ...for fullbore, perhaps. That's why their competitions involve fewer shots to count ;) (Yes, I know 300m is different)

    However, smallbore barrels (having to cope with much lower stresses) last far longer. I've put nearly 30,000 rounds through my primary target barrel (I've been using it since 2001), and when it gets tested at the ammunition factory it's still grouping on a par with the very best. I know of one bloke who's going to the Commonwealth Games this coming March who uses a barrel that's over twenty years old, with probably well over 100,000 rounds fired.

    Mike Babb (who made the final of the Olympics last year, coming 7th) was using a rather old pair of Diana barrels until recently, to good effect - he used one to win a world-level event to get his place at the Olympics.
  5. totaly correct, my mistake, i should have stated this is for centerfire fullbore calibers.

    i have a bruno mod 2 that was second hand when i got it for my 12th birthday, used it working for the pest destruction board for years, god knows how many rounds it has had through it, looks like it spent a week at the bottom of the ocean, but still shoots as good as it ever did, better than many new ones out of the box in fact.

  6. Nooo.... I'm not an ex-spurt..... I've just got to the stage in business life where i can write cow-poo and make it sound authoritative.... :oops: :lol:

    I do actively research Enfield stuff, 'cos my real hobby is mythbusting on internet forums (particularly those with a high spam content..!). I'm slack today (and not much work either), so heres another missive:

    Semper, its as Dr S says.

    With specific regard to Enfields, the "service life" of a No1 barrel was about 5,000 rnds, whilst a No4 was about 6,000. Now for a long list of BUTs:

    a) Two equally-worn barrels can be completely different - one might not group, whilst the other might still be punting out in-spec groups (the factory acceptance for an Enfield was about 3" by 3" at 100yds, although most would do much better than this in practice).

    b) The Army development committees recognised (a), so they developed the system of using barrel gauges to assist armourers to make the decision without having to test-fire the rifles. This is why a lot of people erroneously change their barrels because they bought a set of gauges on eBay and think their rifle is worn out... gauging just provides an indication of wear, but not of actual shooting performance;

    c) A barrel just within the end of its "service life" meant that the barrel should still have enough life left to be used to go off to war, so the 5000/6000 figures were a rough estimate. In practice, a barrel being used in civilian circumstances (gentle range days, loving owner, lots of cleaning, etc) might easily double those figures. On the other hand, sniper rifles were sometimes re-barrelled every 500-1,000 rounds, in pursuit of that little edge;

    d) With No4s, there are two main types of barrel (2- and 5-groove), and at least two relatively common sub-types (6-groove, and mandrel-drawn fabricated barrels). The barrels were made in several different factories, in different countries, over twenty years. Many barrels were re-worked for target shooting (e.g. AJ Parkers "ball burnishing", or Lithgow's lapping process). There were variations in quality, bore type and finish, which all affect "service life". Many people observe that 2-groove barrels retain accuracy better than 5-groove when both are very worn;

    e) Ammunition history makes a big difference. Cordite and Nitro ammunition cause different wear patterns in a barrel. Its well-founded Bisley lore that cordite will shoot accurately in a "nitro" barrel, but the reverse is not true. Unless your barrel is brand-new, the chances are that your rifle - as an ex-service weapon - has fired plenty of cordite in the past. Such are the uneducated scare stories about "corrosive cordite ammunition" (principally emanating from across the Atlantic), that most owners only use nitro, and do not realise that they may not be obtaining optimum performance from the rifle;

    f) Following on from (e), all rifles tend to be ammunition-sensitive, ie they shoot better with one particular batch/type of ammo. This can also change as the rifle wears out. As a civvie shooter, you can get thousands of extra rnds of life out of a barrel simply by adjusting the ammunition type. This option wasn't available to a service rifle, which is why they had a rough limit. I have a 100-year old Enfield that has little discernable rifling left at all: it can't hit the side of a barn with most ammunition, but with one particular type of cordite (RG55) it can still reliably get 4s and 5s at 1,000 yds.

    g) Quite apart from barrel condition and ammunition type, Enfields depend heavily for their accuracy on the way they are bedded - ie the way the receiver and barrel interact with the stock. This makes a HUGE impact on accuracy. The No4 has a simple bedding method that produces outstanding accuracy. Unfortunately, many No4s that have been in civvie hands for years have been restocked by someone without any training or experience, and consequently they do not shoot as well as they should.

    Phew..... I'll go and have lunch now, and re-fill the cow...
  7. cheers 4(T)
    now to the next couple of questions.

    im looking at a .303 (BSA) SMLE rifle 1939 date , are they worth looking at ? would you say a price of £195 fair ?

    also if you did decide to rebarrel a rifle what sort of cost would you be looking at ?

    for a .303 , 7.62, 5.56 and any firms will do it ? or is it not worth doing ?
  8. £195 would be a reasonable price if the rifle was all matching (receiver, bolt, rearsight, nosecap) and had a decent bore. A military rifle (with Royal Cipher on the right butt socket) is worth a bit more than a commercial or export rifle (usually with just "BSA & Co" on the butt socket. An all-matching SMLE in good condition might be worth up to £300+.

    There is currently a limited supply of new SMLE barrels available (South African, but apparently made by BSA in the 50s); gunsmiths charge between £50 and £180 to fit one of these & re-proof the rifle. If you get one of these barrels supplied & fitted by a local gunsmith, you have to make sure he knows that the "inner barrel band" needs a new screw - the old one will not fit (if he does not know what i am talking about, you need to find a different gunsmith, otherwise your rifle will not shoot straight....).

    No4 barrels are extremely scarce: the government scrapped the million or so spares to keep them out of the hands of its citizens. You can get a part-worn example fitted at a similar price to the SMLE new barrels.

    What sort of 5.56 barrel do you mean?
  9. for example , M16 or AR15

    so BSA is a civilian production model not Military ?
  10. 5.56 is a bit new-fangled for me, but I expect you'd pay £200+, and all the way up, for a barrel for a plastic rifle. Someone like Armalon in London could quote for that type of job.

    Enfields were built in UK by a mixture of government and private factories. The No1, in addition to being built at the government arsenal at Enfield Lock, was also built by the private companies of Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) and London Small Arms (LSA). During WW1, it was also built at a couple of "screwdriver" plants in addition. Post-WW1, BSA not only refurbished and built new military rifles, but it continued production of the SMLE for private buyers and for export. These rifles typically have "BSA & Co" only on the right butt socket - the Royal Cipher only being used on British military rifles. You will find many Long Lees, No1 Mk1s, No1 MkIIIs that are just marked BSA, and these were used mainly by private shooters, or by TA & Volunteer units in the case of the Long Lees. No1s were also sold to many countries around the world, although up to 150 countries and territories already had the military version by virtue of being part of the Empire. A notable contract was to Siam (Thailand), where the SMLEs are stamped with a Tiger motif. In UK at present there is a large batch of BSA commercial SMLEs recently brought back from Bahrain. These rifles are 1920s-spec No1 MkIIIs, with butt marking disk, cut-off & narrow stacking swivel, but no volley sights. (Number normally begins with a "5", and the importer sadly did not bother to match most of the bolts to the rifles - so caveat emptor if you end up buying one....).

    So, in answer to your question, a BSA rifle is/was military if it bears the Royal Cipher, or commercial if it just has "BSA & Co" only.
  11. For information:

    A hammer forged barrel will last longer than a buttoned one, which will last longer than a cut one. The reasons are to do with work hardening and residual stresses. Blue barrels will last longer than stainless ones, because the steel is harder.

    A cut barrel is theoretically more accurate than a buttoned barrel, which is theoretically more accurate a hammer forged barrel. However, in reality, you are unlikely to see the difference. Some of the GB squad shoot buttoned barrels, for instance.

    Peter Sarony has a hammer forged .308 barrel which has done more than 20.000 rounds (if I remember correctly), and he claims still shoots sub minute of angle.