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  #1  
Old 03-10-2011, 6:27 PM
Boltz Boltz is offline
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Default Barrel Length and its effects on bullet velocity/energy?

So I've always been a compact handgun kinda guy as I like to have the ability to conceal them if I needed to. But lately I've been intrigued with why people buy full sized pistols.

I understand that a longer barrel will make better use of a round's powder, that is a longer barrel results in higher bullet velocity and energy. But the difference between a compact and full size handgun's barrel length is usually around 1". What difference does that really make?
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Old 03-10-2011, 8:12 PM
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Psychologically...

"I got a big d*ck!"
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Old 03-10-2011, 8:19 PM
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longer sighting radius, more mass and so calmer recoil, longer grip for better purchase, higher capacity (in free states or with prebans).

from the 3" to the 5" mark, there is reasonable gain in pistol cartridges (not that much though), in applications with HP ammo the bullets perform pretty uniformly at the various velocities different sized handguns produce, at least within handgun ranges, so the increased energy/velocity really doesn't come into play terminally.

hard cast or ball ammo is a different game though, and extra energy is appreciated.
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Old 03-10-2011, 8:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boltz View Post
So I've always been a compact handgun kinda guy as I like to have the ability to conceal them if I needed to. But lately I've been intrigued with why people buy full sized pistols.

I understand that a longer barrel will make better use of a round's powder, that is a longer barrel results in higher bullet velocity and energy. But the difference between a compact and full size handgun's barrel length is usually around 1". What difference does that really make?
It depends on the caliber. The .45 acp is usually tested with a 5" barrell so going to a 4" barrell you won't get the advertised velocity. A 3.5" 9mm drops off about 50 fps from a 4". I'm looking at getting a 5" 9mm because it'll up the energy quite a bit, while still being able to shoot at the range cheaply. My .357 mag picks up about 150 fps with a 6" barrel vs the 4" standard on testing. The energy goes from 585 ft lbs to 730 ish with the 6" barrel. The .40 cal seems to pick up quite a bit as well going from 4" to 5". Here's a link with all different calibers and chronograph figures. The difference in power is probably more than you'd think. I'm wanting a 5" 9mm so I can shoot cheap but get more power from the same cartridge but the .40 cal seems to really respond well to the longer barrel so that is making me think twice. A glock 34, 35, beretta m9, and xd tactical are on my radar.

http://ballisticsbytheinch.com/results.html

Here's an energy calculator too:

http://www.handloads.com/calc/
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Last edited by AaronC11; 03-10-2011 at 8:45 PM..
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Old 03-10-2011, 9:50 PM
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Here's a chart I made from some data from ballisticsbytheinch.com.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ike Arumba View Post
Here's a chart I made from some data from ballisticsbytheinch.com.
interesting,

.45 is the slowest of them all, expected.
.38 sl is faster than 45, expected.

375 sig have the fastest of them all. interesting but kind of expected. the higher initial pressure as a result of the necking in the shell can contribute to the higher initial speed. from the looks of it, a .357 mag have the same performance only after 8" of travel. the dip in performance of the .357 mag at 9" is probably a one off situation.

the most surprising thing of that chart for me is the fact that .357 mag picks up speed dramatically as the barrel length increase. i wonder is it because have more powder than needed for an efficient burn.

Last edited by wu_dot_com; 03-10-2011 at 10:26 PM..
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:52 PM
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notice it's a 158gr load in 357 magnum, vs a 125gr load in 357 SIG.

a 125gr 357 magnum would be faster on most points of the curve (I think maybe the smaller case capacity on 357 SIG might change things on the short barreled end.)
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:54 AM
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There is a diminishing return. Each added increment of barrel length adds less extra velocity. Going from 2" to 3" adds more than going from 3" to 4" which, in turn, adds more than the addition from 4" to 5". This continues until frictional losses begins to overcome the decreasing pressure and the bullet slows down in the barrel. However, that last is only a theoretical consideration because the barrel would have to be 10 or 20 feet long for even pipsqueaks like the 25 ACP.
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Last edited by scarville; 03-11-2011 at 1:21 AM.. Reason: missing comma
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Old 03-11-2011, 7:04 AM
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Good info guys, next time I pick up a pistol, I'll be looking at the 4-5" barreled ones. I'm not too concerned with the small increases in energy/velocity, but like the idea of less recoil and a longer sight radius.

Also since energy encompasses velocity and the mass of the bullet, why don't people just talk about the energy of a particular round? Why do people always just reference velocity?
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:31 PM
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I recently chronoed some loads out of my G17 and Springfield EMP. The G17 was about 120fps faster than the EMP. This was testing 4 different loads. Accuracy was better out of the EMP but not by much.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ike Arumba View Post
Here's a chart I made from some data from ballisticsbytheinch.com.
Nice work!

Thanks for the info.
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  #12  
Old 03-11-2011, 12:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ike Arumba View Post
Here's a chart I made from some data from ballisticsbytheinch.com.
wow that chart shows some interesting stats

.45 seems to be least affected by barrel length, there isn't that much difference between 2inch and 5inch

.357 magnum shows a HUGE difference, the velocity coming out of 5 inch is WAY higher than 2 inch

What is funny is that AFAIK there are no 2 inch 45 ACP pistols, but there are lots of 2inch .357 revolvers.... even though according to the above data, it would make more sense to make 2inch .45 guns while 2inch .357 sucks because it loses so much velocity.
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Old 03-11-2011, 2:45 PM
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I live in LA County, and thus will likely never be allowed to conceal a pistol.
Plus, I have large hands, and hate the feeling of a stubby pistol grip.
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  #14  
Old 03-11-2011, 2:59 PM
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I think it has a lot to do with the powders used. Most pistol powders (like Win 231) are fast burning, meaning you'll achieve max velocity very quickly (usually within 4-5" of barrel). Additional barrel length yields little velocity gain with these powders.

Traditionally, .357 mag uses a slower burning powder. That's why you'll gain fps w/ a .357 mag in a lever action carbine barrel (to the point where it will have .30 carbine type ballistics).
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