Why Buy a Long Barrel AR?

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March 13, 2024 Edited March 13, 2024 953 view(s)
Why Buy a Long Barrel AR?

In the ever-evolving landscape of firearm preferences and configurations, the allure of long-barreled AR-style rifles has captivated enthusiasts and shooters seeking enhanced performance and versatility.

While the standard AR platform offers a compact and maneuverable design, investing in a long-barreled variant introduces advantages that extend beyond the barrel's length.

As we take a look at the various benefits and real-world applications, we'll unravel why an extended-length barrel might be the right fit for your shooting needs. 

Welcome to our comprehensive exploration of long-barreled ARs! 

AR History

The AR-15 and AR-10 are iconic firearms that trace their origins back to the design work of Eugene Stoner, an American firearms designer and chief engineer for ArmaLite. 

The AR-10, designed by Stoner in the late 1950s, was a revolutionary rifle that utilized lightweight materials and innovative engineering. Chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO, the AR-10 was developed as a battle rifle for military use. It featured a gas-operated, selective-fire system and a straight-line barrel design that helped mitigate recoil.

Despite its advanced design, the AR-10 initially faced challenges in gaining widespread military adoption. Still, it laid the groundwork for future developments in firearms technology.

Following the AR-10, Stoner and his team at Armalite developed the scaled-down AR-15, chambered in .223 Remington and featuring a gas piston system. In 1959, the design was sold to Colt's Manufacturing Company, which marketed it to military forces worldwide, with much better luck than Armalite had marketing the AR-10.

During the Vietnam War, the US military adopted the AR-15 as the M16 rifle. Its lightweight design, select-fire capability, and modular construction made it a rapid success. The civilian version of the AR-15 also became popular in the United States as a semi-automatic sporting rifle. 

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the patents for the AR-15 expired, leading to various manufacturers' widespread production of civilian versions. The term "AR-15" has since become a generic name for civilian versions of the rifle, and virtually every rifle manufacturer makes at least one AR-15-style rifle and an AR-10 frequently.

Why Use a Long Barrel?

Here are some reasons why AR shooters might opt for longer barrels:

Precision Shooting and Long-Range Accuracy

The primary benefit of an extended-length barrel is improved precision shooting, especially at extended ranges. The extended barrel length allows for a more gradual bullet acceleration, increasing muzzle velocity. 

In competitive shooting, the increased muzzle velocity, improved ballistics, and enhanced accuracy of longer barrels can contribute to higher scores and better overall performance. However, they’re also a massive asset for recreational long-range target shooting.

Hunting

AR-15s and AR-10s with 22-inch or 24-inch barrels are well-suited for big game hunting, where longer shots may be necessary. The increased muzzle velocity and improved accuracy can be a great asset in making precise, ethical shots on larger game.

Varmint and Predator Control

Longer barrels are incredibly useful for varmint and predator control, where shots on small and elusive targets are typical, and it may take a lot of work to get up close to your target. 

The enhanced accuracy and extended effective range provided by the longer barrel make these rifles well-suited for situations like varmint and predator control, where quick and precise shots are essential for success.

Long-Range Shooting in Challenging Conditions

Rifles with longer barrels are useful for environments with challenging conditions, such as strong crosswinds or unpredictable atmospheric changes. Just like with longer distances, the improved stability of the projectile from the longer barrel helps reduce the bullet’s susceptibility to external factors that can affect its trajectory. 

Enhanced Suppressed Performance

Longer barrels can also improve the performance of suppressed rifles. Suppressors typically add length to the barrel, and longer barrels allow for more effective utilization of the expanding gases within the suppressor. 

This can result in better sound suppression and reduced muzzle blast, enhancing the firearm's overall effectiveness in discreet or tactical operations.

Of course, this comes at the cost of a rifle with a very long overall length, impeding maneuverability. 

Less Perceived Recoil for Precision Shots

Recoil management is another benefit of running a longer barrel, especially for precision shooting. Reduced felt recoil allows for quicker, more accurate follow-up shots and helps shooters stay comfortable during longer shooting sessions. 

Optimal Ballistics for Specific Cartridges

Specific cartridges benefit from longer barrels to achieve optimal ballistics. The extended burn time within a longer barrel can maximize the potential of high-velocity cartridges, leading to superior downrange performance. Shooters using specialized ammunition or handloading for specific purposes may choose longer barrels to extract the full potential of their chosen rounds.

Long Barrel Twist Rates

While not discussed as much as it should be, barrel twist rate is an essential factor for optimizing performance, particularly at extended ranges. 

For AR-15s, a 1:7 twist rate is a classic choice that helps to ensure stability for heavier bullets in the 70-grain and higher range and enhances long-range accuracy. A 1:8 twist rate provides stability for a large range of bullet weights, so it’s very versatile. 

Even though the 1:9 twist is often associated with shorter barrels, it can be a viable option for longer-barreled AR-15s, offering stability for bullets in the 55 to the 69-grain range.

For AR-10s, you’ll get slower twist rates. A 1:10 or 1:11 twist rate, suitable for rifles chambered in .308 Winchester or similar calibers, provides stability for a broad range of bullet weights and accommodates various shooting applications, including long-range precision shooting. 

While less common, a 1:12 twist rate is better suited for lighter bullets and less optimized for the performance of heavier projectiles in longer barrels.

Best AR-15 & AR-10 Calibers for Long Barrels

Choosing the right caliber will help you get the most out of your long-barrel AR-10 or AR-15. 

6.5 Grendel, 6mm ARC, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .22-250, and .243 Winchester, among others, are particularly well-suited for longer barrels.

6.5 Grendel excels at maintaining accuracy over extended distances, making it an ideal choice for precision shooting. 123 or 130-grain bullets help optimize performance for long-range applications.

6mm ARC (Advanced Rifle Cartridge) is versatile and accurate, providing a balanced combination of low recoil and impressive ballistic performance. Generally speaking, bullet weights around 105 grains are your best option for maximizing accuracy and energy downrange.

6.5 Creedmoor is another favorite among long-range shooters. Its accurate and consistent performance is well-suited for extended distances. Bullets in the 140 to the 147-grain range will best allow 6.5 Creedmoor's ballistic efficiency to shine in longer barrels.

.308 Winchester is a classic, popular choice for AR-10 rifles as it performs well for various purposes, including hunting and precision shooting. Bullet weights around 168 to 175 grains are popular for optimizing accuracy and performance.

While not as commonly associated with long barrels, .22-250 and .243 Winchester can also offer strong performance. .22-250, with its high velocity and flat trajectory, is suitable for varmint hunting and precision shooting. 

.243 Winchester provides a good balance between manageable recoil and sufficient energy for hunting, particularly with bullets in the 95 to 100-grain range.

Bear Creek Arsenal offers a variety of barrels and uppers in these calibers, allowing shooters to customize their AR-15 and AR-10 rifles for specific uses. When selecting a caliber, consider things like intended use, shooting preferences, and ammunition availability to ensure you’re choosing a caliber that suits your needs and goals.

Where Short Barrels Shine

Of course, none of this is to say that short barrels aren’t good. Despite the fact that Stoner designed the AR-15 with a 20-inch barrel, most AR-15s these days have 18-inch barrels, and 16-inch barrels aren’t uncommon either. There’s absolutely a time and place for the little guy!

One key factor contributing to the popularity of shorter barrels is their enhanced maneuverability. These compact configurations are designed for versatility in dynamic environments and allow quick target acquisition and easy handling in tight spaces.

While longer barrels theoretically offer greater velocity and precision, short barrels excel in scenarios where speed and agility are paramount. Close-quarters engagements, rapid transitions between targets, and tactical maneuvers are much easier with a shorter barrel, making these ARs ideal for home defense, urban environments, dense forests, and other confined spaces.

An additional advantage of shorter barrels is their compatibility with suppressors. Using a suppressor with a short barrel is more practical since the added length doesn’t inhibit the gun’s overall maneuverability as much as it does with a longer-barreled rifle. 

Parting Shots

Whether you're a precision shooter, a long-range enthusiast, or someone seeking a versatile platform for various applications, an extended barrel AR configuration can offer a multitude of benefits.

From the enhanced muzzle velocity and superior ballistic performance that can improve your accuracy at extended ranges to the versatility offered by a longer platform, long barrel ARs are a great way to take your shooting to new heights — or lengths.

I guess, as they say, size does matter. 

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