We all love accurate rifles. Col. Whelan famously said “Only accurate rifles are interesting” and we all love that gun that can shoot little bug holes to show off with. It instils confidence in your fire arm to know it is capable of such things and in a lot of cases that confidence can equal better performance. In America we always want the best, and when it comes to rifles one of the defining characteristics of ” the best” is being able to shoot the tightest group possible. The idea of the one shot kill holds a mighty sway on the american rifleman. So powerful is this myth that instructors have to teach students to shoot the bad guy to the ground and when a soldier hits a haji with his M4 he expects the bad guy to fall over dead just like in a movie. When it does not happen, complaints start up claiming something is wrong with the rifle or the caliber or what ever. Of course poor shooter skill and poor shot placement could not possible be the culprit. Because of this we see a trend demanding larger calibers and more accurate rifles.
There is nothing wrong with wanting more accuracy but the trend for more and more accurate barrels started earlier then you may think. When the lure of the sniper and the one shot one kill legend started first, it was in the 90s. The sniper became the new focus and sniper rifles became very popular. The use of the M16A2 in service rifle at camp perry to dominate also had a large hand. Now, years later with manufacturing processes and tricks and techniques learned over the years, we now have small shops that offer up barrels on their AR15s that can shoot close to 1/4 MOA. Of course with this ability to make the rifles that can do this, came the demand to have them. Even if someone could not possibly hold a 1/4 inch group at 100 yards, it did not stop the desire.
A lot of these high quality super accurate rifles could easily be used as sniper rifles and indeed are more accurate then military issue rifles. The problem is that all this is all the accuracy from these barrels and the time to make them and money spent is wasted away like a democrat spends your money.
Time after time I look through the popular gun boards and see users with Larue OBR, PredatARs and Noveske rifles doing rapid fire mag dumps at targets no further away then 50 yards. Most the time it is on man sized targets and they have mounted the popular T-1 or eotech or something there about. Why do they need a gun that shoots 1/4 MOA to hit a man sized target across the room? Some of them do not even take the gun off of a benchrest and restrict their shooting to 25 yards incredibly. I have even seen some shooting these match rifles using military surplus ball ammo. They do not even bother with the match ammo it takes to achieve the precious level of accuracy they so badly wanted and paid for. The biggest mind boggler to me is the mag dumps. Sure the rifles can handle it, but that accuracy level of the barrel will only last so long and after a certain number of rounds fired, it will go from 1/4 or 1/2 to 1 MOA or 2 or even larger depending on what goes bad or wears first.
Howard: -The first time I saw a LaRue Stealth Upper, it was being used to bump fire. All of the 5.56 OBR rifles I have seen have had either an Aimpoint or Eotech on it. Similar for Noveske rifles. Often they were just used for offhand rapid fire. The sort of shooting I witness these precision rifles used for could be achieved with any quality standard carbine barrel. While it is very nice to have a match barrel, why spend the money one one unless you actually require that accuracy.-
A carbine meant to defend your house and shoot across the room, does not need match accuracy. A carbine that will see mag dump after mag dump does not need this level of accuracy. A gun meant for SHTF or the end of the world does not need it either. In fact, a less accurate 2 MOA barrel with a proper NATO chamber, chrome lined , tested and made from the proper steel is more desirable to me in a time when conditions are at there very worst then some match barrel.
Further more, other then bragging rights, what do you need with it if you are the typical shooter? I do not mean beginner here either. I am talking about someone who shoots and trains regularly. If you train for urban fighting and typical carbine distance, you just do not need it and likely you wasted money on something you may not even or will ever, have the ability to shoot to its potential or even half of it. After taking a few carbine classes with high round counts or showing all your friends how you can shoot 15 rounds in 3 seconds like a magpul DVD you have just lost a little more of that expensive accuracy. A barrel starts to wear as soon as you start to use it. I would bet the farm that those who buy such match barrels are very meticulous about cleaning it. And why not? It is so precious and it cost so much!! Probably had to save up for it for months or trade a few guns to get it. Problem is they clean it so much they are wearing it more then the rounds they fired did. Of course if they buy into the myth of needing to “break in” the barrel by shooting and cleaning, they just started the process off at a faster rate then if they had just shot it. And they did not accomplish any “break in” either.
For those who think they still can benefit from such a high level of accuracy take a look at most targets used in 3-gun or IDPA or FBI Q targets. The areas marked as the zone needed to hit for the fastest stops, none of them need even 1 MOA most of the time. The head shot is some times used as justification. But I will not take a harder head shot under stress and risk a miss when I could take a body shot and know I am going to hit. Even if it takes two shots, at least there is greater chance the target will react from 1 hit then the zero chance of the target being slowed from a miss. A hostage shot you say? Do you really trust your self to zing a round past some kids eyeball to hit the CNS on a bad guy with only a few inches exposed? In the real world with no sand bags and comfy bench with a rest and a cold drink and shade you are sure you can take that shot with a red dot sight while the heart tries to beat out of your head? Maybe its best if those shots are left to snipers or until you got a better angle. if you are in this position things have gone very bad and probably is not going to end well anyway. If you are a civilian, rambo fantasy aside, there is probably no way this is going to have a happy ending.
A lot of the more well thought of and popular sniper weapons issued by the military these days does not meet the accuracy requirements and specs advertised in the more well known precision AR makers. The original requirement for the much vaunted USMC M40 rifle was 2 MOA. Carlos Hathcock pulled off all of his toughest shots with rifles that would not have printed under 1 MOA if Jesus, Buddha, and Cuthulu himself had blessed them. The current M24 SWS shoots just over 1 MOA at 1 hundred yards. For a fighting gun, you really do not need the accuracy it takes to win a NBRSA match.
Of course rifles with this high a level of accuracy have use and can really take you to the next level. The trick is knowing when your skill reaches a point that you can benefit from them and being honest with your self about the type of shooting you do, what the rifle will be used for and if you will need it. IF you are going to be using the rifle for the ITRC and need to make hits out to 800 yards and you are capable of making those hits, then it could pay off. If you compete at 3 gun and do most of your work at 50 yards with maybe a rare shot or two out to 200 on a 10 or 6 inch plate then you do not. Urban sniping on the SWAT team? Yes, it could do that, but there is a IF to that. Most of these guns will have a round from every group that will be a “flyer” that could take a 1/2 inch group to a 1.5. The Noveske barrels are known to fling a shot out of a group. It is still a tight group, but I am not comfortable not knowing for sure where the next round is going to hit. If I was a sniper taking a hostage shot, that would terrify me.
If you like to blast dirt clods, go to carbine classes, plink or run serious drills, you are way better served with a quality Milspec barrel. It is very important to note that just because you do not need a “match barrel” that does not mean you should go out and buy a cheap barrel or gun. There is a huge difference between a quality made barrel and some no name barrel from some cheap kit. A quality milspec barrel , with quality match ammo will often give a match barrel a real run for its money and make high end barrel makers blush. I have a milspec barrel that will keep 20 rounds inside 1 inch at 100 yards. That is no small feat for a military barrel and a lot of people trying to sell you a match barrel will tell you that can not be done. But that is a lie. Often good milspec barrels with proper ammo could hold their own in a lot of military type sniping rolls and you could not tell much difference between a quality Milspec barrel and a national match barrel in the hands of a top 3 gunner in a 3 gun shoot or rifle match. The best part is, the milspec barrels are hardened for combat with chrome bore and chambers and a NATO chamber keeping them running when things get hot and very dirty. In some cases this would choke a pure competition barrel and gun. Then where did the extra accuracy get you?
The proper barrel needs to be put in perspective with how you are going to use it and your skill level.