Barrel/overall length for dangerous game rifle?

de1216

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Good day, all!

The question arises not for the sake of choosing a rifle for Africa, but I'm asking here because of the knowledge base represented amongst experienced hunters of a variety of dangerous creatures.


The debate is over the barrel length and overall rifle length to be chosen for a levergun for the mean stuff on the North American continent, in partcular Marlin 1895 and Winchester 1886 rifles chambered in 45-70 (no, I am not conspiring to choose one for Africa over long established "standard" arms).


There is a well established market, developed over the years, for lever action "guide guns" with 18 1/2" barrels, long touted as the best choice for the big bears over here. I, however, have been bothered by the observation that these guns are well shorter than the classic dangerous game rifles long established for hunting and defending oneself against dangerous things in Africa.


So..... with these short leverguns, are we needlessly giving up precious velocity by carrying a rifle barely longer than a yardstick when bolt action, double rifles, and even the classic single shot falling blocks in African hunting history have generally been quite longer for a LONG time?


My 1895 Marlins are 22" barrelled and I consider them quite handy, not at all slow to present for quick firing. Likewise my 1886 Winchester.


The question to you good people, then, is "what barrel / gun OA length would you consider for quick handling without surrendering too much velocity"?


Thanks for your thoughtful responses.


Best regards,


D.
 

Von S.

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Hello D,

Lots of knowledgeable guys here who have first hand experience and with that some first hand opinions.

My favorite African/ bear gun is a custom 458 ,,Winchester Magnum with a 21 inch barrel. Very light and very fast swinging. Luckily I am somewhat "recoil proof,".

My favorite PG rifle is the 378 Weatherby with a 300 or 270 great bullet of a custom configuration. Stock length.

The rifle I use if im feeling like I might get stompped on is a 460 at factory length.

I thing it's all a personal choice.

Good luck.
 

Luvthunt

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I think you have asked one of the most difficult of all firearms questions to answer. So much is dependent on personal preference it is impossible to get an answer.
There re Probabely more variables to consider that the foremost personal preference but it will win always.
 

1dirthawker

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D,
an interesting question, but i agree with the others above. personal preference has a lot to do with it, and...who is to say that anyone is right OR wrong.

I have a 45/70 that i have used as a backup gun (I'm a part time brown bear guide) it has a 20" barrel. i have backed up several hunters with it, works good. i think sometimes guys want the short barrel in case one is in the alders?

how much velocity is really lost for the 2-4" of barrel loss? will it matter at close range? my 375 ruger that i also use has a 20" tube as well. both have killed everything i have shot at with them.
good bullets and good shot placement are most important. barrel length...a distant 3rd, maybe.

i think more than 24" for a bolt gun is excessive for quick handling, 24-28" is considered right sized for double rifles (which don't have the action that lever or bolt guns have and are 4 or more inches shorter)

i hope someone is able to answer your question to your satisfaction. i have my preferences, just not sure if they are the best.
 

Red Leg

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As others have stated, it depends. It especially depends what my intent for the rifle would be. Were I a PH. I would want something in a .400 - .500 caliber in a compact package capable of quick instinctive use at close range. I should add, quick, also means fast first shot recovery. That tends to eliminate all of the super magnums. Dimensions essentially would be those of a typical English double rifle. As noted, in a bolt action, the same package would yield a rifle with a barrel length three - four inches shorter. Interestingly, I have yet to see a PH armed with a bolt action rifle so configured. Open-sighted .416 and .458 (WM or Lott) bolt actions are the most common, and every single one that I have seen was in factory configuration. I think that is the case because custom gunsmithing is relatively expensive, and secondly, few see a compelling need to bob the barrel of their CZ. My PH list, includes some pretty experienced African hands, such as Dirk-de-Bod, Jamy Traut, and Phillip Brockhorst.

With respect to intended use, the characteristics of an ideal PH rifle make it a pretty awful client’s choice. While the PH must be prepared to sort out an issue quickly at very close range, our job is to make sure the situation never occurs. That means our DG rifle needs to be able to deliver a very precise first shot. I am hardly the first to advocate a scope-sighted .375 in standard configuration as the ideal rifle for a first time (perhaps only) dangerous game hunt. (Though I just took my fourth buffalo with a .375 because it makes such an ideal one rifle battery.). It is an easy transition from a deer rifle, overall length is not an issue for the client, and the chances for a lethal first hit are very high. The same, obviously, can be accomplished with a .40, just be comfortable with the recoil and added carry weight.

Finally, I have had three different PHs comment they are most nervous when a new client pulls out an open-sighted double. To quote one in his smooth Rhodesian accent, “too many clients are steeped in the mystique - not the skill set.” No reason for us not to take that double. Just be competent with it when we arrive.
 

BeeMaa

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Welcome to AH de1216 and didn't you just jump into the deep end of the pool.

Just be competent with it when we arrive.

I agree with Red Leg, be competent with what you bring regardless of action, overall length or caliber.
For the hunt of a lifetime, you should prepare like it's a hunt of a lifetime.
 

450 Dakota

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I think you have asked one of the most difficult of all firearms questions to answer. So much is dependent on personal preference it is impossible to get an answer.
There re Probabely more variables to consider that the foremost personal preference but it will win always.
I agree it is personnel preference. A lot of guys like short barreled shotguns. I can't stand them because I over swing with them
 

Dr Ray

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Personally I like barrel lengths of 22 inches. I have a Marlin in 45/70 though. My bigger calibers in bolt actions are around 24 inches.
For quick action that you are talking about I think a compromise between the velocity drop and barrel length would mean a barrel not shorter than 20 inches.
Losing a 100 feet per second is not an issue really!
 

cmk

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Aside from practical issues of handling, balance etc, there is probably an 'ideal' length for a given cartridge/powder/bulletweight combination in order to make the most efficient use of the powder (low muzzle pressure, bullet velocity etc).

I *think* the general formula was something along the lines of 'barrel volume = 6.65×case volume'. By this calculation, a .308Win 'should' have a 20" barrel, and the popular 300WM and 7mm RM need a 33-34" barrel to burn all the powder.

The 45-70 however, would only need a 13" barrel to allow the powder to burn completely.

In a DG rifle, the economics of powder consumption is most likely a non-issue, but I think this shows that you wouldn't sacrifice a lot with a short-barreled 45-70.
 

ve7poi

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Welcome to AH de1216 and didn't you just jump into the deep end of the pool.



I agree with Red Leg, be competent with what you bring regardless of action, overall length or caliber.
For the hunt of a lifetime, you should prepare like it's a hunt of a lifetime.

For the life of me I cannot understand why one wouldn’t practice I took a double 470NE with a aimpoint on it and practiced of sticks firing up to six shots a day for two months to get use to recoil and getting second shot off accurately and quickly worked on buff hunt don’t remember recoil at all did same with 404 Jeffery win 70crf for first buff with trijicon 1x4 German #4 green dot both worked wonders. As a hunter we owe it to the animals we hunt a quick ethical killing first shot.
With dangerous game at 20 yds to 50 yds - practice makes you confident in making the best shot
 

Von S.

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For the life of me I cannot understand why one wouldn’t practice I took a double 470NE with a aimpoint on it and practiced of sticks firing up to six shots a day for two months to get use to recoil and getting second shot off accurately and quickly worked on buff hunt don’t remember recoil at all did same with 404 Jeffery win 70crf for first buff with trijicon 1x4 German #4 green dot both worked wonders. As a hunter we owe it to the animals we hunt a quick ethical killing first shot.
With dangerous game at 20 yds to 50 yds - practice makes you confident in making the best shot

Your dedication to accuracy with your chosen caliber and firearm is not only commendable........ It's also prudent.
 

Eric Anderson

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If I had to do it again, I would have purchased my Ruger .375 with a 23” barrel. Don’t get me wrong, I love my 20” version, but if I hadn’t found one for a song on the equipment exchange on AR-15.com, I would prefer the free velocity. You can always download a few grains to get down to a desired velocity, but their is a hard limit on how much powder you can safely stuff in.
 

Velo Dog

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Hello de1216,

And, welcome to the greatest forum in the world.
Since you asked for opinions, I shall toss mine in.
Foremost, I totally agree with others here that say it is a personal choice thing.
With that, you perhaps answered your own question in describing your 22” barreled .45-70 lever action rifles, both Marlin and Winchester brands.

Anyway, the following applies in my case to dangerous game rifles but also, regular hunting rifles and shotguns alike, whether for hunting or self defense:

For doubles and single shots, I prefer about 26” barrels.
For bolt actions, lever actions and pump actions, I prefer about a 23 to 24” barrel.
Also, strictly for iron sight use, (rifle and shotgun alike), I need about 2.5” drop at the heel of the stock for fast acquisition of sights.
And 3” is not excessive for me with iron sights.
I’m about 6’ tall and medium build.

The barrel length preferences I described are my favorites for the way such rifles and shotguns “balance and swing” for me.
Admittedly, I think double rifles and single shots also look better with 26” barrels than they do with the more commonly shorter barrels of today.
So, there is that as well but, for dangerous game rifles, aesthetics is not important, when it is compared to reliability / function.

All that having been said, I have in years gone by, had both rifles and shotguns with barrel/barrels as short as 18”.
Plus I also had an issued H&K MP-5, with as I recall only a 10” barrel.
All of these shot well enough, in terms of accuracy but again, balance in the hands, when things start happening fast, is best for me with the barrel lengths I prefer, as already mentioned.

Best regards,
Velo Dog.
 

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