SLW Barrel Shootout

16 inch precision semi light weight barrel shootout.  yea that is happening.

 “Damn sweet groups man!”
“thanks my gun is half minute of angle all day long”
“wow that three shot group is LEGIT”
Welcome to the internet where everyone lies and the groups are made up.  We decided we wanted to test out these Sub MOA shooting barrels that don’t fill the standard role one would stereotype with precision shooting.  We figured we would bury ego and put every single round up because it is all data and too many people think they are a terrible shot or having something wrong with a barrel because they can’t split pennies in half at a football field.

 THE CONCEPT

We wanted to test three light profile 16 inch barrels that all claimed MOA capability.  We put all three barrels on identical uppers with identical bolt carrier groups and identical ALG mlock 13″ rails.  We want to blind test the barrels and are assembling them all so they are basically the same and then we hope to hide the barrel so the shooters won’t know which barrel they are shooting.  Mix into this that we will have a pile of different ammunition brands and types to shoot over the course of the test.  The shooter will shoot 10 shot groups with no clue what ammo or barrel he is shooting.  A second shooter will then fire the same ammo types and barrels over a lead sled to compare and contrast with.

THE TEST

The shooter will have a rifle placed in front of him without knowing the make of the barrel. The upper will have a Vortex Razor II 4.5-27 EBR-2C in an ADM 34mm QD mount for quick changes between the uppers.  A single load follower and will use reloading plastic boxes with the 10 rounds in side to insure they are protected while waiting to be shot. A heat reading will be taken at the beginning of each group and at the end using a Fluke IR thermometer. The rounds will be fired at a slow pace without rushing the shooter. The cadence of fire will be tracked for each group with a pocket pro II shot timer. All atmospherics will be captured with a Kestral 4500 in a weather vane configuration with a second on hand to confirm and make spot checks. As soon as the shooter has fired his lot of ammo the next lot will be brought to him.  We will continue this until we make it through a 10 shot group of each ammo used in the official blind test. When the first shooter has completed the full rotation of ammo with gun one he will rotate to gun two and repeat. After shooter one has fired all rounds for all three guns shooter two will take up a position and fire each type of ammo in a random order. All velocities will be logged thanks to a lab radar. The targets will all be at 100 yards which will be confirmed with a couple laser range finders.  Every single round will be logged and accounted for. There will be no cherry picking of any kind. Each ammo type will have at least 60 rounds fired over 6 groups between 3 barrels and 2 shooters.

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

THE BARRELS

This was tough to decide on. We played with several ideas but landed on lighter profile barrels some of which have claims of sub-moa groups.
First is the Ballistic Advantage BA Hanson 223 wylde 16″ Stainless
The full spec sheet for the barrel can be found here one important spec is 22 oz.
An important note comes from the Accuracy Guarantee tab which reads “All Ballistic Advantage barrels are guaranteed to give sub Minute of Angle (MOA) accuracy with match grade ammunition” this has a caveat stating “We define sub MOA as a group size of 1 inch or under at 100 yards with a 3 shot magazine fed group, or 5 shot single loaded group” We won’t be shooting 3 shot groups because….science Break in procedure will be followed and covered in the setup procedures covered below. They are found HERE

Second is the Larue Tactical Predatar
Specs are found HERE The website does not give a weight but independent scales have show 26.5 oz. If anyone has an official weight I would appreciate it so I can keep this accurate.
The website states “PredatAR owners enjoy lightweight maneuverability with sub-MOA accuracy”

I could not find break in information. I asked in the Larue Tactical industry section on ar15.com and was told
1) Buy quality ammo
2) Shoot quality ammo
3) repeat steps one and two until accuracy degrades
4) When accuracy degrades clean (every 100-200 rounds) clean then repeat steps one through three.

This was quoted by the LaRue_Tactical industry partner on the site as being the answer you seek.

Now this is difficult because the 100-200 round threshold will be in the middle of our test. We will see if the final data shows us a decline in accuracy at the end of the test.

Third is the Criterion Barrels hybrid contour. This is the variant sold by ADM spec sheet here The weight is our heaviest at 32.5 oz.
Again an accuracy claim of “Barrels are offered in Hybrid contour which promotes ease of handling, as well as typically providing sub MOA accuracy with match grade ammunition and an experienced shooter from a bench rest. ”

Break in procedures were found here and will be followed

 

THE AMMUNITION

We hope to test several brands and offerings of ammunition but each type needs 60 rounds at a minimum which becomes expensive. We compiled things we had on hand and cut out a majority as they were common and not ‘match grade’. We then made a request to our military brothers who came out in full force. The final count was.
Black Hills 52 grain match hollow point blue box
Black Hills 69 grain matchking HP red box
PPU 69 grain HPBT
Federal Gold Medal Match 69 grain
Australian Outback 69 grain Seirra HPBT matchking

PPU 75 grain HPBT
ASYM 77 gr SMK OTM BTHP
PMC XTAC MATCH 77 GR OTM
CBC OTM 77 grain
Federal gold medal match 77 grain (*dHutch)
IMI razorcore 77 grain OTM (*21BoomCBTENGR/Tim_McBride)
Federal XM193 55 grain
There may be some other offerings that will be fired after everything else is done just to get a lock on velocity and accuracy potential in this capacity. We will chose from these rounds.  There are some we will definitely shoot simply because we want data for them.  Others we may only fire for several groups of 10 rather than inserting them into the more rigorous round robin test we are doing.  Shooter fatigue is a very real thing.  If we can put another adequate shooter on the line and get velocity and group data through one barrel over the course of 30 or 60 rounds that can be of benefit and will be shared down the road.

THE SET UP

I’m going to start by saying this is really hard to set up. Every tiny thing we do offers possible logistical or accuracy issues. People automatically assume you have biases right off the bat and instead of just having a good time shooting you are finding ways to help insure that you aren’t giving in to bias. Here are some of the measures we are taking to ensure our one time use data is as accurate as we can get it and that we don’t show any bias towards one specific company or item. No matter what we do someone will think something is set up and that is fine. We will have several go pro cameras on sight and they will be up and running throughout with at least one stationary camera throughout the entire event.  The raw video would be saved.
First thing is the build. As mentioned we have 3 complete uppers they all have the same brand of bolt, upper and rail. The same scope will be used with all three uppers. The uppers themselves are all of the same make and all of them are being checked over by all around good guy Rudy from Macon Armory Now checked over in Rudys words means “Put ’em on the optical comparator and confirm that they are in spec, and square the nose of the receiver if necessary.” Talk about great guy. The uppers are on the way and will be back to us before the big day. Those uppers will randomly be paired with a barrel and all will be attached at the same time. Might have to make a time lapse or something like that just because. All the uppers will be built and set up ready for the test. The barrels will not have any kind of muzzle device. Extreme care will be taken to protect the crown and any time they are being moved we will put on a thread protector.

The first thing we will do on test day is set up the lab radar chronograph and true it with a magnetospeed chronograph. This will be in place through out the cleaning process that two of the three barrels require. After those two barrels have received a break in they will be set out as barrel 1, 2 and 3 at random by someone while the two shooters are not around. They will be out of sight of the shooters covered and out of the sun. The ammo will be broken down and separated into ten shot lots. When the shooter gets into position he will not know the barrel or the type of ammo he is firing. This helps to defeat confirmation bias. The targets will be labeled as Upper 1 Ammo 1 down the line until you hit Upper 3 Ammo what ever we land on. A recorder will be in charge of monitoring the Labradar and marking velocity of each round. At the end of the 10 round group the recorder will write down the corresponding splits between shots and the before and after temp readings. Temperature is not something we are actively trying to control but it is something we want to loosely track. We do not suspect we will have a major issue with the slow fire nature of the event and the fact that it will be November in Iowa. After the shooter finishes the first round of testing the full rifle will be taken away the upper and scope removed. The lower will then have the next upper placed as well as the scope and will fire 2 rounds to confirm approximate accuracy. We will use the terms accuracy and precision as the same concept except for this one point here. It needs to be clear that we are testing for precision. The mount will be moved to a new upper and we are simply verifying that the groups will be in an easily score-able position.


After the shooter fires all rounds for each upper the groups will be photographed with a ruler for futurer scoring using computer software called On Target. Each group will also be confirmed with calipers and manually computed. They will clearly say in the group picture an upper number and ammo number. After all is said and done we will define which upper is which as well as which ammo is which.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

It must be noted that we are just a few individuals that are spending our own money to test out a handful of barrels and a few ammo types. There isn’t enough statistical data to really account for much but this is our findings under as strict of circumstances as we care to compile. I have tried to the best of my ability to highlight any time something was donated to the cause and we are not profiting in any other way. We gain absolutely nothing in one brand looking favorable over another. It could be said that to test any brand of barrel we would need to test one round through several of the same make and model of barrel. We do not have that luxury. The same could be said for a bullet over several types of barrel and lots of that same bullet. We are not the owners of an ammunition vendor or make any money off of the buying and selling of barrels. We do hope though that with the levels of quality control in American manufacturing today that no barrel or bullet is coming off the line that does not meet the standards those companies represent.

 

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