Does Barrel Length Matter?

Terry Blauwkamp’s Reloading series

Terry Blauwkamp is a seasoned hunter, gun-expert and reloader. He has been to Africa more than 20 times. Terry has been a consistent part of DSC Publications through his reloading column.

Last month we talked about barrels and what rifling twists different calibers come in and why. Now, let’s go a step further and add barrel length to the equation.

There seems to be constant controversy between hunters as to how long a barrel should be. There is one school of thought that wants short 22” barrels because they feel quicker and lighter, and another group that wants 26” barrels so they can squeeze out every last foot per second of velocity possible.


Hoping to shed some light on this, I dug around in my shop to see if I had some barrels in the same caliber of different lengths to compare.


Starting with the .308 Winchester, I found that I have both a 22” and a 24” that I could shoot and compare side by side. It seems that 99 percent of all .308 Winchesters are made with a 22” barrel and seldom does a 24” come along, but the results were interesting.


Here are six loads and the velocity in the two different barrel lengths for the .308 Winchester:


The .308 Winchester load gave a 65 fps average increase by going up to a 24” barrel. Not that I’d run out and trade my 22” barrel in and order a new custom 24” just to get the additional velocity, but each to his own.


Most .30-06 Springfield rifles also come with 22” barrels, and again only a few with 24”, but I also found that I had a 24” I could use for comparison:


To sort of round it off, I also found both 24” and 26” .300 Winchester Magnum barrels to compare:

The difference between the 24” and 26” barrels in the .300 Winchester Magnums was more than I expected, with a 92 fps average increase. Even though 92 fps is a tempting addition, I’ll bet the shooting public would be split about 50-50 if they would opt for the longer barrel or not.

I only had 24” and 25” .338 Winchester Magnum barrels to compare, and there was virtually no difference at all between them.

Of all three calibers tested, the two inches of extra barrel on the .30-06 made the most difference with a 116 fps average increase. There are a couple rifle manufacturers that still produce .30-06 rifles with 24” barrels, and if I had the option, I’d buy one of those.


On the opposite end of the scale, I have a 20” .243 Winchester that I adore because it works so well in a deer blind. With Federal 100 grain Grand Slam ammo it gives me 2641 fps, and that is plenty for Texas deer under 100 yards.


Each barrel length has its particular strong or weak points, and in each caliber, there are reasons for one or the other. Just like scopes and binoculars, some like lightweight over magnification, etc.


It’s sort of like religion, politics, and cars. Each person has their own convictions or preference.

It still all boils down to the age-old fact, “Nothing beats bullet placement.”

Feel free to write Terry anytime at


NOTE: The loads stated are the results of my personal tests and are in no way to be construed as recommended data for your gun. The publisher and the writer take no responsibility for it or for your use of if it.

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