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Barrel Length on Revolvers

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For CAS, what is the best barrel length. By best, I mean the optimal combination of sight picture, gun handling, and recoil characteristics.

 

I had a Dan Wesson Pistol Pack in .41 magnum, so the same gun had interchangeable barrel lengths of 4", 6", and 8". It sure felt like you were shooting entirely different guns depending which you were using. An 8" barrel made even the most stiff magnum load manageable, that would have been no fun at all with a 4" tube. Of course, it also made it quite a heavy hogleg. For Bowling Pin shoots, it was great for being able to have have low felt recoil for good times with the power needed to blow those pins off the table.

 

I realize CAS loads shooting say light .38 special is quite different, and I don't have the experience to judge what might be the best long term choice in barrel length. If you were to buy a new pair of pistols - what would you want today?

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You will get responses from 3 inches to 7 1/2 inches. If you go to some matches you will see most revolvers have 4 3/4 or 5 1/2" barrels. (For the sticklers, Rugers have 4 5/8 inch barrels.)

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Try and see what you like.

 

For me the 4 & 5/8 barrels balance best, others like the 5.5.

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For me it comes down to the weight of the pistol. I started out with 357 Mag Vaqueros with 4 5/8" barrels, then went to 45's with 5 1/2" barrels. I'm now shooting Sheriff's Model 45 Vaqueros that have 3 1/2" barrels. They feel really light and fast and I like them the best of any pistols I've had. The barrel length is a matter of personal preference.

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For CAS, what is the best barrel length

That depends on you alone - not CAS. Your hand size - arm length and 'how they feel in your hands ... weight and grip type'.

Go to the matches ad be the Unloading Officer. Tell the fellas your deciding and ask to handle a few

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Howdy,

Try before ya buy.

There are a boatload of 38 specials with 4 inch barrels.

S&W made tons of these for police all over.

Look at Ruger website, see the SASS vaqueros?

Whatdayathink?

Best

CR

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Guest Winchester Jack, SASS #70195

my first guns were NMV 357 Rugers with 4 5/8" barrels. Shot them for about 5 years. Now I shoot Uberti Cattleman with 7 1/2 barrels. I like it better and would like to re-barrel my Rugers to 7 1/2" also

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I prefer 7 1/2" but I'm to short for them. Either i have to holster them in my boot tops or i hit my armpits when i draw. I went to 4 1/2 and they balance great. However, i miss less with 5 1/2" barrels. So that's what i shoot

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I've always liked the 5-1/2" in the Colt or clone. Maybe because that's what I've always had.

 

I don't know about barrel length and recoil. We shot a S&W 29 8-3/8" that was just brutal. Shooting the same loads in 4" 29 didn't feel as bad. Maybe because it couldn't develop as much energy?

 

I feel shorter barrels with shorter sight distance are quicker onto the target than long barrels. Longer barrels with long sight distance are probably more accurate but would almost require a rest to bring that accuracy out. The difference between 4-5/8 and 5-5/8 is really too simulator to make a difference.

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For pure feel, the 1851 Navy percussion .36 with its 7 1/2 inch barrel balances best and points most naturally. However, short barrels are faster out of the holster.

 

So, if the targets you shoot at are mostly small and far away, the longer barrel and longer sight radius will be more accurate. If you are shooting with the up close and big target crowd, the shorter barrel and faster draw will help you be competitive.

 

If you are not competitive, it really won't make any difference. Shoot what feels best.

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don't forget that alot of the characteristics you are trying to define are also in the GRIP style.

 

Some prefer the plow handle, some the birdheads grips and some prefer the Bisley grip style.

 

To me, thats just as important as barrel length.

 

 

..........Widder

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I started with a 7 1/2, went to 5 1/2 and 4 3/4's after my shoulder started complaining about the "tall Draw". I'm fairly comfortable with either of those lengths as far as ability to hit targets and recoil :blush:

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As all the replies suggest, it's a matter of how the weapon fills your hand, balance and maybe recoil.

 

Given all that, there is the cosideration of weight. Remember that smaller calibers, such as .32-20 and .38 Special are going to weigh considerably more than a .44 or .45 caliber weapon, due to the weight of the barrel.

 

Since I usually shoot .38 special, my .38 revolvers have 5 1/2" barrels and balance very well for me, personally.

 

I agree with the earlier-stated observation that the Colt 1851 Navy percussion revolver in the original 7 1/2" barrel length is probably the best handling, best balanced revolver. Some don't agree, of course.

 

I also agree, that it's best to ask around and see if you can get others to allow you to handle their weapons. Personally, I don't buy into the thinking that the "toughest" or the "tank" description is a good reason to buy a revolver. They ALL, generally speaking, are reliable and serviceable. You just need to pick the ones that suit your own physical and esthetic requirements.

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Given all that, there is the cosideration of weight. Remember that smaller calibers, such as .32-20 and .38 Special are going to weigh considerably more than a .44 or .45 caliber weapon, due to the weight of the barrel.

 

True, and with the added weight you'll have less felt recoil and less muzzle flip. My 5 1/2" 32-20s with 115gr bullets barely move when I shoot them, and the 90gr bullets almost don't move the muzzle. And it's a real period cartridge, unlike the .38 Special.

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You can throw in there, round, octagon and half round and half octagon barrels. They all impact to some degree your accuracy, weight and finally your overall confidence to shoot em at a fast clip.

I have gone from 5.5" round to 4" Octagon to 4.4" Round back to 5.5" Round.

If I was buyin new pistols, I would go with a 5" Octagon barrels (engraved ) with a big fat brass front sight!

OkD

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True, and with the added weight you'll have less felt recoil and less muzzle flip. My 5 1/2" 32-20s with 115gr bullets barely move when I shoot them, and the 90gr bullets almost don't move the muzzle. And it's a real period cartridge, unlike the .38 Special.

 

Yep, all true and the idea of shooting period ammo is a significant part of the game to a lot of shooters.

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"And it's a real period cartridge, unlike the .38 Special."

 

Let's not bad mouth the .38 Special. It was introduced as a black powder cartridge in 1898; it is period correct.

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And it's a real period cartridge, unlike the .38 Special.

Again-Your LACK of historical knowledge shows. :rolleyes:

You'll find more .38 Special shot than any other caliber in SASS/CAS.

LG

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For CAS, what is the best barrel length. By best, I mean the optimal combination of sight picture, gun handling, and recoil characteristics.

 

I had a Dan Wesson Pistol Pack in .41 magnum, so the same gun had interchangeable barrel lengths of 4", 6", and 8". It sure felt like you were shooting entirely different guns depending which you were using. An 8" barrel made even the most stiff magnum load manageable, that would have been no fun at all with a 4" tube. Of course, it also made it quite a heavy hogleg. For Bowling Pin shoots, it was great for being able to have have low felt recoil for good times with the power needed to blow those pins off the table.

 

I realize CAS loads shooting say light .38 special is quite different, and I don't have the experience to judge what might be the best long term choice in barrel length. If you were to buy a new pair of pistols - what would you want today?

You will just have to shoot some to see what fits YOU.

I use 5 1/2" BBL .44 Rugers.

My wife :wub: uses 4 5/8" BBL .38 Special Rugers.

Good luck,

LG

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i shoot the shorter 43/4" barrels in three of my revolvers and like the balance and carry in the holsters , they are just plain comfortable , but i far prefer the 51/2" i got used from a friend when i first started out for accuracy , the shorty 3" are fine for the fast and accurate of eye , and the 71/2 may work well for the tall and lanky , both have a place in my heart but not in my regular match holsters , im far from the vguy to tell you what to win with but in my mind you win when you have confidence in what your shooting

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"And it's a real period cartridge, unlike the .38 Special."

 

Let's not bad mouth the .38 Special. It was introduced as a black powder cartridge in 1898; it is period correct.

 

 

Yeah, but in this case, as Orwell might suggest, "All animals calibers are equal, but some animals calibers are more equal than other animals calibers." :lol:

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Great insights guys, much thanks..

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To your question of site picture, a 7-1/2" will give you a bit more accuracy than any shorter barrel. Regarding weight, In 45LC, a 7-1/2" Uberti weighs 2-3/4 ounces more than a 5-3/4" barrel but the "mass" (size and weight as it relates to setting it in motion) is different, and some shooters I know have commented that swinging a pistol with longer barrel from target to target takes a bit more effort (but I don't notice it). For this reason I comfortably shoot 5-3/4" in my cross-draw pistol and 7-1/2" in my regular right-hand pistol. (.38 barrels are heavier, but I don't have that data.) I'm chromo-iong 870fps with my 7-1/2" barrel and 820fps with 5-3/4" barrel (can't talk about loads). To question about recoil, it appears to be a bit less with 7-1/2" barrel, but it's really hard to tell. …RR

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"And it's a real period cartridge, unlike the .38 Special."

 

Let's not bad mouth the .38 Special. It was introduced as a black powder cartridge in 1898; it is period correct.

 

According to Lyman's reloading manual, the .38 Special was introduced in 1902...

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For CAS, what is the best barrel length. By best, I mean the optimal combination of sight picture, gun handling, and recoil characteristics.

 

I had a Dan Wesson Pistol Pack in .41 magnum, so the same gun had interchangeable barrel lengths of 4", 6", and 8". It sure felt like you were shooting entirely different guns depending which you were using. An 8" barrel made even the most stiff magnum load manageable, that would have been no fun at all with a 4" tube. Of course, it also made it quite a heavy hogleg. For Bowling Pin shoots, it was great for being able to have have low felt recoil for good times with the power needed to blow those pins off the table.

 

I realize CAS loads shooting say light .38 special is quite different, and I don't have the experience to judge what might be the best long term choice in barrel length. If you were to buy a new pair of pistols - what would you want today?

I used the 5 1/2" for quite a few years cause they handle nice and I think they're the nicest looking. Since I've gotten into 4 3/4" I'm really hooked. At the distances we shoot the 4 3/4" is fine and it's easy to draw. There's a reason they called it the "Civilian model".

 

Rye

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Rule of thumb: 43/4 for speed, 51/2 for balance, 71/2 for style points. I shoot 71/2 new vaqueros because the way I shoot I'm better off going for style points.

 

The O'Meara Himself

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According to Lyman's reloading manual, the .38 Special was introduced in 1902...

 

 

I don't own a Lyman's manual; I suspect they are referring to the smokeless .38 Special rather than the black powder loading.

 

I generally don't like Wikipedia but the following statement appears under the topic ".38 Special; History", and at least it is supported with a footnoted reference:

 

"The .38 Special was introduced in 1898 as an improvement over the .38 Long Colt which, as a military service cartridge, was found to have inadequate stopping power against the frenzied charges of Moro warriors during the Philippine-American War.[9]

Upon its introduction, the .38 Special was originally loaded with black powder, but the cartridge's popularity caused manufacturers to offer smokeless powder loadings within a year of its introduction.[10]"

 

The superscript reference number (10) is : Smith, Clint (2005). "Special specials: what, where and why?". American Handgunner. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-25.

 

This same entry shows a picture of a Smith and Wesson First Model 10 M&P revolver captioned, "First model M&P revolver designed in 1899 for the .38 Special cartridge. This particular revolver left the factory in 1900." The S&W Second Model M&P was introduced in 1902.

 

Elmer Keith in his book "Sixguns -The Standard Reference" says, "The War Department gave Smith and Wesson a contract for 3000 revolvers with swing-out cylinders, caliber .38 Long Colt, during the war with Spain...No doubt some of these first long S&W guns were used in the Phillipines along with the Colt .38 Army. Both failed to stop the blood thirsty Moros. This led Daniel B. Wesson to design the .38 S&W special cartridge with 21 grains of powder and a 158 grain bullet instead of 18 grains of powder and a 150 grain bullet of the .38 Long Colt." Mr. Keith does not provide dates or footnotes for this statement, but I think we can infer that it was 21 grains of black powder. I don't think those guns would survive a .38 case packed with 21 grains of smokeless powder.

 

Finally, John Taffin states in his book "Action Shooting Cowboy Style," published in 1999, on page 226; "Most shooters probably do not realize that the .38 Special started life 100 years ago as a black powder cartridge." Unfortunately he does not provide a reference for his statement, but I'm going to accept Mr. Taffin's encyclopedic knowledge.

 

So, the .38 Special apparently sneaks in by a whisker. Kinda like winning a match by one rank point!

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If you think you'll ever go to/through Canada keep them at least 4 1/2.

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There is nothing more fun than going to the line with a 3" Sherrif's model on your right hip, and 12" Buntline on the left.

 

(Both in .44 Special)

 

But seriously, I've got barrel lengths at every known standard length in between those two extreems. I shoot equally mediorcely with all of them.

 

So in the end, try differnt things, and pick what you like.

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... Bisley grips...

 

:P

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The Lee manual says 1902 as well. And they do give correct dates for the blackpowder rounds, too.

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Howdy,

Try before ya buy.

There are a boatload of 38 specials with 4 inch barrels.

S&W made tons of these for police all over.

Look at Ruger website, see the SASS vaqueros?

Whatdayathink?

Best

CR

 

I haven't ever really been interested in the New Vaquero, and haven't been intrigued by the SASS New Vaquero either, but I took this advice just now... I found it odd that there are only two SASS models available, one 357mag - with 4 5/8" barrels, and one 45 - with 5.5" barrels. Have they always been this way, or is there some other reason you can only get one barrel length in each cartridge, and why might the bbl length be different for the two?

 

I personally have always preferred 5.5" barrels for SASS, but that may be because I shoot .44mags. I shot 4 5/8" 45 Big Vaquero's for a time, and 4 5/8" 32H&R Single Sixes, but always came back to the 44mag 5.5" models.

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I started with a 7 1/2, went to 5 1/2 and 4 3/4's after my shoulder started complaining about the "tall Draw". I'm fairly comfortable with either of those lengths as far as ability to hit targets and recoil :blush:

Funny. I went the other way. Started with 4 3/4s, then 5 1/2, and I've been shooting 7 1/2 barrels for ten years now. As others have said, go with what feels good to you!

 

Laz

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I shoot 8" 1860s, both Cap and Ball and RM, I do have 7 1/2 73s. I like the longer barrels. like others have said go to a match handle a few go to a gun shop see what you like.

Rafe

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I'm new to CAS, but I went with 4 5/8 barrels because my experience from other shooting sports makes me think the shorter the barrel the faster the gun is in a match. I figured the handgun targets are so close, it would be virtually impossible to find a gun so inaccurate it would make a difference, so any barrel length and sight radius should be fine.

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