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Forum Index > Rifles general discussion > Technical help needed - barrel length

Technical help needed - barrel length

30 Nov 2017
@ 06:12 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

I've got a project percolating in mind. It won't qualify as long range, but it will be fun. I have had a little fascination with the .25-20 WCF for a long time. I even have a set of reloading dies. But I do not have a .25-20 rifle. I've watched for an affordable one for a while. They are not affordable. So I am plotting toward building one. Probably single shot. Can someone give me some direction on how to figure out what optimal barrel length is? It seems like rifles were built for this little cartridge with barrel lengths all the way from 16" to 30". I do realize that regardless of barrel length I will be dealing with a pretty tame cartridge. But I've not been able to find anything that explains how to figure optimal barrel length. Any advice is appreciated.

Replies

30 Nov 2017
@ 11:09 am (GMT)

Ed Sybert

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Hi Joshua:

Here's a parallel case that will give you an idea of how to use expansion ratio in selecting a barrel length. I hope it helps. -Ed

I think that you will continue to get benefit in terms of velocity as you increase barrel length, even beyond 26". The question is, "At what cost?" You see, you get diminishing returns all along the way, from the legal minimum barrel length all the way to ridiculously long lengths.

With a 140 gr spitzer bullet seated at normal depth, the .260 will have an expansion ratio of about 8.1 in a 26" barrel. Regarding expansion ratios, a reasonable rule of thumb is that you can get solid gains in ballistic performance as you increase the expansion ratio up to about 8.0, and you should try to do so if you don't have some significant restraint on barrel length.

This is about where you are with a 26" barrel in .260 Rem. You can still get somewhat smaller additional ballistic benefit as you increase the ratio, by increasing barrel length, up to a ratio of about 11.0, if you are not bothered by a rather long barrel. That barrel length in a .260 Rem would be 36". That's pretty darn long. It's about the maximum that you can buy from a barrel maker without an awful lot of fuss. Then you have considerations like, "Who makes a gun case that will fit this?"

Increasing barrel lengths beyond an expansion ratio of 11.0 yield progressively smaller ballistic benefits at the cost of increasing impracticality.

So I would say that if you hunt in wide open country and are not bothered by packing a longer barrel, fine, go for it, all the way up to 30" barrel length. You can benefit from the extra velocity there. If you hunt country that is the least bit forested or brushy, keep to a maximum of 26". If you hunt country that is very forested or brushy, a barrel of 18" to 22" may suit you better, and you might consider changing caliber upward to .308 or .358 in order to maximize bullet energy and ballistic performance from the shorter barrel.

Check this site and play with the numbers;

Powley Computer
30 Nov 2017
@ 01:34 pm (GMT)

John D. Hays

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Howdy Joshua,
What do you consider and affordable price for a .25-20 rifle? I saw a little bolt action today, but since I already have a Winchester Model 1892 in that caliber I didn't look at the price.
I can tell you that the .25-20 in a long Winchester lever-action makes just a little "pop" when fired.
Since it is so hard to find commercial ammunition I generally reload. Unless you know something I don't about the potential for this round, I just see it as a convenient means for firearms nostalgia. My Winchester 92 is 111 years old but I wouldn't care to shoot anything but rabbits with that caliber. I have even considered reboring it to .357 Magnum just to make it useful.
01 Dec 2017
@ 04:31 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Thanks, Ed. Very helpful.
Hi John, as much as I love the Winchester 92s and the Marlin 1894 lever actions in this caliber I've not seen one that is in good shape that is in my current budget. To put a number on it, I'd have to find a gun I really liked for under $500 to seriously consider a purchase. I have seen some (not many) Savage 23B rifles listed online for that or less that looked to be in decent condition but there's always been a hitch. And the ones I've seen in person have been around $1,000. I do realize the gun would be a bit of a boondoggle, in a sense. Though I would contend it'll be more useful than my buddy's AK-47. In my part of the world it would see service as a slayer of armadillos, opossums, raccoons, and perhaps the occasional rabbit or squirrel. The appeal for me is 1) something different, easy, and cheap to shoot once reloading supplies are in hand, 2) something that'd be useful on vermin and 3)nostalgia. It occurred to me also that if I were to hunt a state that allows rifles for turkeys it'd work just fine for that. How long have you had your Winchester, John? Is it accurate?
01 Dec 2017
@ 06:09 am (GMT)

John D. Hays

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Joshua,

No gun is a "boondoggle" if you can buy it, have fun with it, and resell it later for 60% - 75% (or better) than you paid for it.

The rifle they have here at Ron Peterson's Gun Shop is a Husquvarna Model 26 single shot in .25-20 WCF. I haven't looked at it but they say it has good rifling and a bright-ish bore. They want $695.95 USD for it, but usually they knock the price down for me, particularly since it is a buyer's market right now. You might get it for $550 or a bit more.

Regarding the Winchester 92 I have in that caliber. When I got it the bore was dark and the rifling evident. I have Wipe-Out-ed the bore several times and finally got clean patches. It is now shiny, but that is also due to a bit of cutting oil I have in it. Accuracy is good, which means about as good as any of the Winchester lever-actions due to their barrel and tube construction. I can group 1.5 - 2 MOA out to 100 yards if I am shooting well. It just depends how well you shoot with iron sights. I don't do well since I am somewhat blind in my right eye, but am not naturally a lefty.

I have 9 or 10 Winchester lever actions, as I buy up pre-64 Winchester 94s when I see them at an deep undervalue price. Someday I will sell them all at a very tidy profit (or my widow will sell them all at $50 a piece, ha!)

Around here, the Winchester 92s go for about $1100 USD in .25-20 WCF. Larger calibers go for more, and obviously condition has a big effect on asking price. I will not be buying any more of these 92s as they have probably reached peak value for the foreseeable future.

If you want to play with a rimmed cartridge in .25 caliber you might think of the .25-35 WCF which was originally produced for the Winchester Model 1894. There are still late-model/new European rifles around for this cartridge designated as the (near identical) 6.5×52mmR. It packs a bit more of a punch than the .25-20
01 Dec 2017
@ 11:29 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
If I were doing a project like that, I would contact the barrel maker of your choice and tell them what the rifle will be used for, etc.

At one point I did just that and obtained great advice.
01 Dec 2017
@ 11:43 am (GMT)

Thomas Kitchen

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
I can't be much help but been reading thread out of interest
not sure if you have many martini actions around where you are? Think there's 3 sizes large (303) medium (310 cadet) and small (22lr) I could be wrong as they aren't that common any more
the medium could make a nice base to work off, I have read an article on a guy that built a 256 win mag (25-357 mag) on one.
Not sure if the 256 win mag would be of any interest it? The ruger bolt action set up for 357 mag would make a very nice rifle.

02 Dec 2017
@ 08:34 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Hi Joshua, your barrel length question is two fold. The optimal length for power may only be somewhere between 18 and 22". But the optimal length for your personal needs (balance, portability etc) may be entirely different. I suggest you build based on what you want personally. If the rifle is to produce a very low report, you can go short and suppress, or long with a clean muzzle to keep the noise and flash further away from you. It all depends on what your end goals are.

It would have been nice a .25 caliber rimfire had survived the ages. There was one in circulation for a short while but its name escapes me now, about the same size as the .22 magnum and vastly more useful than the .17HMR. I can see where you are going with this, the slight increase in bullet weight and frontal area for small game. But do keep in mind that velocities will effect your bullet options. The .25-20 is right in the 1800-2100fps zone. 1800fps is as an example, a darned nice velocity for small game work, but most Roberts / .25-06 bullet jackets will not allow for expansion at around 1600fps versus very light target resistance. To initiate some trauma (regardless of expansion) at 1600fps, you will need a flat point bullet.

Quite often we think of the flat points as being relative to tube magazines. However by chance, the flat points also work well relative to the power levels of the cartridges they were designed for. It can for example be a real bummer, loading a pointed soft point bullet into the .30-30, only to find that it shows no improvement in killing performance over the previous flat soft points because we neglected to take impact velocities into consideration. So do keep this in mind.

Hornady currently produce a 60gr flat point with a notched varmint jacket (very soft bullet). This will prove most useful if you go ahead with this project. I do not currently know of anybody making a flat hollow point or exposed lead HP which would be useful below 1400fps (past 100 yards). Note also that the flat points are becoming harder to obtain now, generally made in batch runs. You will need to research this before committing. Buy the Hornady bullet in bulk if you can.

Keep an eye out for any worn out Hornet actions. This may fit the bill nicely if you want a bolt action.
02 Dec 2017
@ 01:02 pm (GMT)

JOHN HAYS

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Joshua and Nathan,

I have a remnant bag of 500 hard cast bullets for the .25-20 that I got back in the 1980s, and I have been reloading with those. I bought them from Meister Lead Cast Bullets who appear to still be in business and still selling the .25-20 85gr. RNFP ( http://www.meisterbullets.com/AWSProducts/415-C-22-P-0/25-20-85GR-258-RNFP ). The cost is about 8.5 cents each.

Since the cartridge was designed for the tube-fed Winchester 92 lever action, the default bullet nose is flat -- this to prevent recoil induced auto detonation in the feed tube.

These have worked well for me, but I haven't hunted anything larger than a jackrabbit with them.

02 Dec 2017
@ 01:13 pm (GMT)

JOHN HAYS

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
BTW,

Uh-oh, perhaps we are talking at cross purposes. There is also a .25-20 Single Shot cartridge that has nothing to do with Winchesters and is a rather straight walled casing. It started as a black powder round and apparently they quit making rifles in this caliber in the 1930s.
05 Dec 2017
@ 03:57 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Thanks, everyone. You've given better direction to my research.

Bryan, good thought on contacting the barrel maker. Makes too much sense.

Thomas, I only recently became aware of the 256 WM. An interesting little cartridge, for sure. I'll do a little looking into Martini actions - that name is new to me.

Nathan, I need to handle more rifles, particularly single shot models, before I settle on a design. I don't know how far I want to chase power, especially with a cartridge like this, but I do know I won't be sacrificing handling and balance. At this point, odds are steeply against me putting a suppressor on this rifle. The plan is definitely to utilize flat points. It appears as though different bullets pop up on the market sporadically ranging from 60 gr. to 86 gr. I will keep an eye out for the Hornadys. Also Hornet actions - thanks for the tip.

John, you were correct at the beginning - I am interested in the WCF, not the Single Shot. I hadn't been aware of the .25-35 before you mentioned it. You got me researching. It's more power than I want for this project but I'm filing it away for later.
05 Dec 2017
@ 04:50 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Many years ago I had a .25 Stevens. It was a falling block action single shot that would collapse to fit in a day pack.

Shot a lot of cougar with that.
05 Dec 2017
@ 01:38 pm (GMT)

JOHN HAYS

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Hi Joshua,

I thought I would be the first to tout in this forum an octagonal-barreled antique rifle.

Here is that Husquvarna 26 on sale at Ron Peterson's Firearms in Albuquerque, New Mexico ( http://www.ronpetersonfirearms.com/ )

I'm sure this is not what you had in mind for your project, but if you got it for $550-$600 USD it would be a beautiful working firearm, and you could likely sell it in a few years at a profit.











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05 Dec 2017
@ 02:03 pm (GMT)

JOHN HAYS

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Joshua,

Since I am being garrulous as Polonias I will tell you how I came to know the .25-35 WCF.

Last year, just before Christmas, I cruised AmmoSeek.com looking for out-of-production ammo for my .30-40 Krag and my .25-20 Winchester.
I was shocked to find the Winchester ammo not only in stock but at only 35 cents a round -- with free shipping!!!

Not a second to lose, I slapped down the credit card to buy 1000 rounds. No sooner did I hit "Complete Transaction" than it hit me that I had bought a huge amount of .25-35 WCF, a round I didn't even know existed!!!!

Of course I instantly tried to cancel online -- nope -- then I called and they agreed to terminate the transaction with a 25% return fee AND return shipping (even though these "free-shipping" heavy boxes had never left their warehouse). Mind, this is just ten minutes after I had placed the order.

The return would have cost me half the purchase price.

So . . . I got on Gunbroker.com, found a $750 USD Winchester 94 in .25-35 (only 102 years old) and bought it.

After I shoot up all my super-discount ammo, I guess I will re-sell the Winchester (and maybe make a little profit).

And that is how I accumulate firearms, like a little old lady with cats.
07 Dec 2017
@ 05:05 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
John, I would be proud to own that Husqvarna. One of my great flaws is that I have a hard time selling something that I like so your point about selling it later at a profit is something I probably couldn't factor into the formula. I got a kick out of your history with the .25-35. Well played, Sir. Well played.
07 Dec 2017
@ 02:20 pm (GMT)

JOHN HAYS

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Joshua,

Selling a firearm is not so hard, Gunbroker tends to get the best price. The hard part is a year, or years, later when you go to the safe because you have a jones to shoot it, and remember you sold it.

These guns will outlive us. Best to move them along to be someone else's love, and make room for a new honey. I will be selling several to buy a couple of Remington Senderos for this LR project.

In the early 80s I bought seven Enfield rifles, Mark 3 & 4 for $25 each. I kept one at random and gave the rest away. I thought the supply and price would never end. Same with a couple of Webleys. Those days of military surplus prices are gone, gone, gone. I regret being so profligate, they are worth upwards of $500 USD now.

I will go over to Peterson's tomorrow or next and see what kind of deal could be had. If it goes through you will need a local FFL.

Regarding the .25-35 ammo, that was not any triumph but just me making lemonade from a sour lemon experience. Unfortunately, I have hundreds of life stories like that. Some might call it serendipity, but it is just impulsive stupidity.
07 Dec 2017
@ 05:59 pm (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
John, don't put yourself out with Peterson's for me. After talking with my brother I think I'm going to commit the money I've got in hand to a build. I do appreciate the willingness to help.

My grandpa picked up a 1917 Enfield - Remington made - that was in good shape sometime in the sixties or early seventies at the hardware/gun store in town. I have it now. I hunted with it for some years before deciding I did not want to ding it up in the woods and hills anymore. It's a prized gun and one I hope to someday "give a birthday," as I believe Mr. Foster puts it.
07 Dec 2017
@ 07:39 pm (GMT)

John Hays

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Joshua,

A build is probably the way to go. With that Husqvarna you would not learn much that wasn’t evident in the 1920s. Pretty though . . .

Good luck.
09 Dec 2017
@ 09:12 pm (GMT)

Phil Van Zuylen

Re: Technical help needed - barrel length
Funny after reading this thread I was browsing Trade me our online auction site here in NZ and spotted a lever action Winchester .25-35 for sale.Had never heard of one before..learning everyday.
 

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