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24" vs. 20" rifle barrels for CAS


Jed Irons

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I figure some of it has to do with personal preference, but I would like to hear some opinions on which you shoot and why.

 

I'm looking to get my first rifle for CAS, and I like the look of the octagonal barrel. I've been leaning towards the 20" Short Rifle in either 1866 or 1873, but have seen some good deals on the 24" Sporting Rifle length as well. And I'm wondering if those extra 4" will make a huge difference for CAS or not, and if there are benefits both ways.

 

Caliber I'm looking at is 44WCF, if that makes any difference.

 

Thanks, everyone.

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A 24" barrel is actually quite a bit different. The extra weight steadies the barrel, but makes it harder to swing between targets, which happens usually 2 to 9 times a stage. Since this is not really an accuracy game when shooting rifle, almost everyone goes with a shorter barrel. Even down to 18 inch carbines. 24" inch and even 30" barrels shine in the side match lever-action pistol cartridge event, but that is an optional ten minutes out of your whole match, and you don't need to worry about that yet. (Besides, those side matches are only offered at annuals or bigger shoots, usually) And the length makes it slightly more cumbersome to carry around props, through doors, etc. The best fit for the longer barrel is someone about 6'2" or taller.

 

.44-40 is a wonderful rifle caliber, if you have a little extra cash. Ammo is more expensive and harder to find. Shoots slower due to more recoil and slightly less slick cycling (compared to .38s).

 

You need to get your mitts on a couple of rifles before your plunk down $1200 or more. Get to a local shoot, now that shooting is going strong! Change your profile to show what state you are in, and we'll suggest some clubs to visit. Oh, I see you are from the Norco area! Get out to the Cowboys, man, and talk with the originals in the sport! They will set you straight!

 

Good luck, GJ

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This is simply my opinion, but the 20" will handle a little quicker and be less likely to get tangled up with something during movement or transitions. The most logical reason to opt for a 24", however, is if the front sight is a little bit easier to pick up due to your eyses preferred focal length.

 

I shoot 24" 95% of the time but also have 30" and 20". Can't say that I really notice the difference.

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Whoa there Garrison Joe.

 

Where are you getting your data about almost everyone going with short barrels? Perhaps those who frequently know what the inside of the winner's circle looks like, but lot's of us average Joe's like the longer barrel. Regarding the difference in weight, we are talking a few ounces for a 24" octagon barrel vs a 20" octagon barrel. If you are talking about the weight difference between a 24" octagon barreled rifle, and a 20" carbine, then you are talking a significant weight difference because carbine barrels are round, and tapered. But I don't see much weight difference between a 24" octagon and a 20" octagon. I have a nice little '92 saddle ring carbine that is so light I can almost shoot it like a pistol. But it's a carbine, and a '92 to boot. Automatically lighter than any '73.

 

I sure ain't 6' 2" and I prefer 24" barrels. I also prefer long barrels on a shotgun.

 

Of course, your answer to try as many as possible before plunking down hard earned cash is the best answer of all.

 

Yes, 44-40 is a terrific cartridge, particularly if you ever entertain the thought of shooting Black Powder.

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I sell and work on the CAS rifles. I can tell you without a doubt, for CAS I sell more 20" octagons than any other configuration. The 16' rounds won't hold enough rounds, usully just 9. The 20" round will hold 11 and is fast swinging in tight places. The 24" octagon isn't but with it's forward weight it stables up on target better. What that all means is the 20" octagon is the best of both.

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I have shot a 24" 45 for more than 20 years and I like the way it steadies. Having said that, if you are shooting a 20" .38, you probably come close to the weight of a full length 45 and a 24 would be over kill. As you aptly stated, it is a matter of opinion.

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I'm new so take my comment for what it's worth, which may not be much. I shoot an 18.5 inch Uberti in .38/.357, straight stock, octagonal,and I love it. Eight matches so far and I've yet to miss with it, though I'm not what most would call fast. No recoil to speak of and it handles a lot better than I'm capable of taking advantage of at this point. Down here the targets are pretty close, don 't know how they set them up in your neck of the woods. Good luck!

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If weight is a concern, I think it would depend on caliber. With the bigger hole, I don't imagine that a 24" .45 would weigh much more than a 20" .357 rifle.

 

For myself, I like the 20" .357 just fine.

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Thanks, guys, this is all very helpful. One thing I was looking for in particular was simply, "does anyone in CAS use/prefer the 24" barrels," so thank you Driftwood for that answer. I'm 6' even, so, not a giant, but not a short guy either. It sounds like, at this point, it could go either way. Right now I'm looking at a 20" used Uberti '73 with an antiqued finish, and a 24" like-new/unfired Uberti '73. The used gun has a slicked up action. The new gun costs a tiny bit more (negligible difference) but is stock.

 

I'm planning on making my trips out to the Cowboys of Norco a regular thing, but last month's shoot was canceled, and then this month falls on Easter, so I may not get out there until end of May. I've already done their New Shooters Clinic twice, which was great, but I didn't get to compare any 20" vs. 24" octagonals. It was mostly Marlins that were (graciously) provided for us.

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If you want to be a fast shooter I expect you will want whatever rifle you buy to be slicked up at some point, which isn't cheap especially if you have to have it shipped somewhere to have it done. Think FFL fees both ways as well as shipping. I bought mine used, with a Cody action job and a short stroke kit. You will probably want a lever wrap and leather on thebstock as well. If the used one has been slicked up it probably already has those?

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I run both a 20" & 24" bbl. Marlin in .44 cal.

Like'em BOTH and wouldn't sell either.

Cheers,

LG

 

 

Yep, me too.

 

My 20" and 24" are Marlin Cowboys in .38/.357 and enjoy both.

 

I usually use the 20" in competition and use the 24" for backup and practice.

 

The main reason I use the 20" in competition is for me, it handles better AND my eyes seem to pick up on the front bead alittle better than the 24". It an eye problem.

 

 

..........Widder

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My main rifle is an 18.5" '73 half-oct in .38/.357. I like the weight.

My 20" Marlin and Rossi '92 are quick to get on a target but bounce around while working the lever.

I have two original Winnies in 24" that are slower to get on the fist target but the gun sits still while I run the lever.

If I were starting over: Uberti '66 in .38 WCF octagonal 24".

With that siad, I get see some shooters doing well with a range of longguns.

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I am 6 foot even and own and love Marlins,92s, 66s and 73s in both rifle and carbine configuration in all 3 barrel lengths and various calibers.

 

If you ever intend to get serious and competitive go ahead and get the used 20" gun. I shoot 'em all but when I get serious or go to a big match I reach for the Long Hunter slicked and SSed 357 Cimarron 73 Border Deluxe pistol grip 20 incher. No finer rifle tool have I ever held.

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Borrow both and do some 1-shot drills over and over and over until you're convinced. For me, the 24" was a thousand's or 2 slower off the table to first shot UNTIL I figured out that I was driving it to the center of my shoulder rather than driving the front sight to the 1st target. From then on the times were more a matter of whether I fumbled it or not.

 

Then what I really noticed was how incredibly smooth the 24" is from target to target. There is no doubt that I shoot it more consistently more SMOOTHLY than the 20". So much so that I recently sold my 20" gun and kept my 24" and backup 24". Note that I shoot 200 gr. 45LC and both/all were in the same caliber.

 

Maybe in a race with 38's it would be more noticeable....

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I recently got a 44 WCF 66 with a 24 " barrel. I was shooting a Marlin also with a 24" barrel in .38/.357.The 66 is for sure a heavier gun.I am still getting used to having the brass fly up in front of me instead of to the side.I suspect there will be plenty of cowboys that would be willing to let you try what they think is best and then decide for yourself what feels better for you.Being a Darksider I am really liking the 44WCF.

 

 

 

Sgt Hochbauer

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I started out with a 24" then switched to a 20" for reasons already stated. I like my 20" BUT if I'm shooting at a match where the rifle targets are out there (not too often), I would like to have that 24" back. I shoot 38's so the heavier barrel weight is more stable. When choosing consider what your target distance is gonna be most of the time. In a perfect world one of each would be the best choice! Good luck!!!!!!

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How much is the weight difference between an octagonal, a round, and a half & half in a 20" '73 shooting .38s?

 

Actual weights would be interesting, as would perceived experiences.

 

I am getting the impression that the octagonal would be unusually heavy in a .38, is that right?

And the round barrel in a .38 would be a little whippy, slower to aim?

 

This is a fascinating thread, even as we try to be objective about subjective matters.

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I figure some of it has to do with personal preference, but I would like to hear some opinions on which you shoot and why.

 

I'm looking to get my first rifle for CAS, and I like the look of the octagonal barrel. I've been leaning towards the 20" Short Rifle in either 1866 or 1873, but have seen some good deals on the 24" Sporting Rifle length as well. And I'm wondering if those extra 4" will make a huge difference for CAS or not, and if there are benefits both ways.

 

Caliber I'm looking at is 44WCF, if that makes any difference.

 

Thanks, everyone.

I shot a 24" for years, but now a 20". I think the 20" is slightly better for CAS, because the targets aren't far. For hunting, 24" better, because of the distances and the aiming.

 

But It's no big deal, to me. If I got a deal on a 24", I'd take it and shoot it. It is not the major aspect of a rifle in my choice.

 

More important: What maker, quality, what kind ('73, '92...), what bore...

 

And if I grew to love the 24" and years later wanted to cut it down, I could (or have it done). :)

 

Aunt Jen

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I have two rifles in 45, both with 20" tubes. Length was chosen due to weight since I have a shoulder injury that makes it hard for me to hold up a rifle for very long (injury is in the off hand side, my left). My 92 has a plain barrel and I can continue to hold it up and cycle the action for the ten rounds, however the 73 has a tapered octagonal barrel and is a bit heavier so I have to drop it down to waist level during the ten rounds a couple of times just to make it through. Your choice of course, but the 92 is a real sweetheart of a gun. Smithy.

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I shoot both my two favorite rifles are a 66 ,20 inch and a 92 , 24 incher ....................... In .45 Colt...

 

But the nicest gun I ever shot was a 24 inch "Winchester" 73 in .38-40 ,,,, talk about slick running, it was not a modified gun just one "Worn-in" through use ..... Made in 1898 ....

 

 

 

Jabez Cowboy

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I have a 20" 92 carbine that seems a bit small for me. I also have a 20" short rifle and a 24" rifle. Although the short rifle is in .357 and very smooth, I've been shooting the 24" rifle in .45 most often in the last two years or so. For me,it's more about caliber than length of barrel.

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How much is the weight difference between an octagonal, a round, and a half & half in a 20" '73 shooting .38s?

 

Actual weights would be interesting, as would perceived experiences.

 

I am getting the impression that the octagonal would be unusually heavy in a .38, is that right?

And the round barrel in a .38 would be a little whippy, slower to aim?

 

This is a fascinating thread, even as we try to be objective about subjective matters.

 

You will have to ask some else about actual weight difference but I can say this. The half oct/round has a really good balance to it IMO and isn't as front heavy as a 20 full oct. The shorter bbl plus the round bbl for the front half does give it a different feel....kinda' lays flat in yer hands. Since all the weight is coming off the very end of the bbl it does have a bigger impact than you might think.

 

Plus 70% of the shooting I do is from store fronts...standin' on porches shooting in and out of windows so the shorter the rifle the better.

 

Of course what you are use to is going to feel "normal" to you and you may not like the balance but if you are looking for a rifle that isn't so front heavy and lays more flat.....you will like the oct/round 18.5.

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And if I grew to love the 24" and years later wanted to cut it down, I could (or have it done). :)

 

Aunt Jen

 

 

 

Great point. It's really hard to find a smith that is capable of adding that 4" back on, Sort of like.....oh, well, never mind.

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I have 2 Cowboy Limited Marlins, both 24 inchers and one is in 357 while the other is in 45LC. The 357 weighs 7 lbs and the 45 weighs 7-1/4 lbs. I personally can't tell any difference when shooting either of them, as far as barrel weight is concerned. Having shot the 20 inchers before, I truly like the 24 inch barrels best. For me they are just as fast, and much smoother swinging, and there is no question that the longer sighting plane is the more accurate, especially when speed shooting. I do shoot the 357 the most, as the 45LC is really my back-up rifle.

 

As has been stated, it's a matter of personal preference, and I suppose it depends on the shooters strength also. I stand about 5'8" and weigh a tad over 200 lbs.. Short and a bit rotund, but supporting or swinging the rifle is no problem for me. The extra weight simply is a smoother shooting gun, at least for me.

 

RBK

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Again, more good opinions for both 20" and 24". My thanks.

 

Other question: I've seen those Brush Popper half-round/half-octagonal '73s, but a local gun dealer said they only held 9 rounds. But I've yet to see anyone else say this, so is this dealer wrong or does it depend on the caliber?

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Again, more good opinions for both 20" and 24". My thanks.

 

Other question: I've seen those Brush Popper half-round/half-octagonal '73s, but a local gun dealer said they only held 9 rounds. But I've yet to see anyone else say this, so is this dealer wrong or does it depend on the caliber?

 

Dealer is wrong, they will hold ten in the calibers that they are sold in.

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I've always leaned towards using the shortest barrel that gets the job done. This is why my precision .308 rifle has a 20" barrel, my AR has a 14.5" barrel, and my '73 has a 19" barrel. The 19" barrel on the '73 carbine is short, light, and still holds 10 rounds. I don't see any need for a longer or thicker barrel to hit targets that are 10 yards away. If someone just prefers the look or feel of the longer barrel, that is a different matter.

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I have a 73 in 24", 20" and 18" all in 44WCF, I began shooting the Texas Brush Popper in November last year, believe me it holds 10 rounds of 44 WCF. I like the shorter barrel lengths for all of the CAS shoots. I shoot the 24" for long range pistol caliber rifle side matches.

 

JMHO

 

TB

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I have a Spencer and 73 in 20", and a Burgess and Lightning in 24". Just got the last two over the winter, but I plan on using all four rifles in each match from now on. I'm neither fast nor particularly accurate, so I'm concentrating on variety and style.

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