Things you should know about Air Rifle Barrels before buying an air gun

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Did the white man say “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”?

The Chinese must have been very sincere in emulating this proverb. I recently spotted one counterfeit brand that threw me to the floor.

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Whoever thought of parading Microsoft as Michaelsoft must be a very funny fellow. What happened to patent laws? Anyway, that’s what happens to many other brands, at least as seen in the following:

  • Dolce and Gabbana – Dolce and Banana
  • Nike – Mike
  • Johnnie Walker – Johnnie Worker
  • Game Boy – Game Child
  • Starbucks Coffee – Sunbucks Coffee – Stars & Bucks Coffee
  • Playstation  – Polystation
  •  KFC – KFG

Anyway, this is not an anti-counterfeit campaign. We’re here to talk about air rifle barrels. Ever wondered why there is much insistence on Lothar Walther barrels as opposed to other barrels? Or to start on the same ground, what make is the barrel of your air rifle? Does it really matter if it is from the US or Germany or South Africa or China? Let me answer these questions one by one to demystify the misconceptions surrounding airgun barrels.

The function of the barrel

The air rifle barrel essentially guides the ammo from the moment the trigger is pulled to the moment it flies out into the air. It usually takes the shape of a rounded tube and is made of high strength metal. The hollow space inside the shooting tube is what we refer to as the bore, This has a specific internal diameter, the most popular being .177, .20, .22, .25, .357, .45, and .50 –  in short, the air rifle caliber.

=> For more on differences between .177, .22 and other calibers, see this post

Things you should know about Air Rifle Barrels before buying an air gun

Most air rifles involve propelling the ammo by means of rapidly expanding gases. The expansion of these gases is usually explosive in nature, and that’s what fires the pellets with such high velocity. It follows then that the barrel must be strong enough to contain these expanding gases, be it nitrogen, air, or CO2. 

The chamber

This is the compartment at the rear end of the barrel where the pellet sits in readiness for firing.  

The Bore

This is the hollow interior of the barrel. The ammo accelerates through this part once the air rifle is fired. 

To stabilize the ammo while still within the barrel, manufacturers designed the coveted rifled barrels. These have a series of helical grooves around the internal diameter of the barrel. 

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As the ammo surges forward, it spins along the longitudinal axis of the bore and is more likely to maintain a straight trajectory.  

Smoothbore rifles are those that don’t contain riflings.  

The muzzle

This is the front end of the barrel through which the ammo exits the barrel. The muzzle needs to be expertly machined so as to ensure great accuracy of the rifle. 

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Visualize a scenario where there are tiny gaps around the pellet as it jets out of the barrel. The pressurized gases are likely to destabilize the ammo and veer it off the intended trajectory. 

Factors influencing the accuracy of air rifle barrels

1. The rifling method

As already mentioned, a rifled barrel is more advantageous than the smoothbore barrel in terms of maintaining a constant projectile. This is the very start of the ballistic flight and it needs to be correct. 

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One thing you need to note is that the rifling size and configuration affect the twist rate of the barrel. This refers to the distance the ammo must travel for it to rotate once. There exists an optimum twist rate that makes the projectile most stable. Too low a twist rate will affect the stability of the projectile – and the same is true for too fast a twist rate. 

2. Steel used

Not all steel is of the same quality. You can expect what will happen if the barrel is made from low quality steel. The machining quality of the riflings, as well as the muzzle, will be compromised, and this will affect the stability of the projectile.

3. Rifling speed

The faster the rifling process the poorer the end quality of the product. Some manufacturers are known to rush through the process so as to lower the production costs. The worst-case scenario is having the barrel of the gun explode when firing pellets. Your investment will vanish in your own eyes and you risk fatal injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a rifled barrel?

A rifled barrel is one whose hollow interior incorporates longitudinal notches as opposed to being smooth. This helps to stabilize the pellet or BB as it accelerates along the barrel.

2. Do air rifles have rifled barrels?                

Of course, yes. But not all of them do. Rifling is a technology that requires high-capital investments to achieve. Not all manufacturers are willing to spend so much money on their production process. So quite a lot of air rifle models have barrels that are not rifled.

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3. Should I oil my air rifle barrel?                

No! Please don’t. There is a great possibility of the oil finding its way into the bore of the barrel. When you fire a pellet, the high friction may cause the oil to combust. When this is repeated with every shot, the airgun seals get damaged with the high heat and the gun stops working.

Instead of oiling, use a cleaning rod. Also, consider firing a cleaning pellet once in a while. 

For the exterior of the barrel, take care not to expose it to moisture as it may rust. Immediately you realize that water has splashed on the barrel, clean it with a dried piece of cloth. Purchase some rust protection spray for added protection. 

4. Is it bad to dry fire an air rifle?

Dry firing refers to shooting the air rifle without a pellet in it. Some air rifles are specially designed to allow dry-firing. This is especially seen in target shooting airguns, of which it is expected to dry fire time after time as you test the trigger and trigger pull. If this is the case, the manufacturer will state it plainly in the user’s manual.

However, some other guns, especially the spring-powered airguns, can suffer great damage through dry-firing. The seals can be easily damaged through dry-firing.  

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Conclusion

You now know what a good air rifle barrel looks and feels like. Do not stop for any old thing that you find out there. Quality matters for the longevity of your airgun and your safety. 

Sometimes it may be difficult to differentiate between good quality steel and low quality steel. Ensure that you read detailed and honest air rifle reviews before you make the final purchase decision. Better to be safe than sorry. 

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