shotgun barrel length

shotgun barrel length

This is a discussion on shotgun barrel length within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I have an 870 20 gauge with a 26" barrel. I was disappointed to find it has the same performance as shorter length shotguns. Does ...

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    Member Array condition1blog's Avatar
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    shotgun barrel length

    I have an 870 20 gauge with a 26" barrel. I was disappointed to find it has the same performance as shorter length shotguns. Does anyone know the difference in ballistics between a 18" barrel and 26" barrel?


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    In shotgunning, the length of the barrel isn't driven by performance of the projectile, but rather by the fact that it's easier to get hits on target while sighting down a longer tube than a shorter tube.

    A lot of medium-to-heavy rifle rounds achieve higher velocity with longer barrels, and that's a function of the slow-burning powders used. Shotguns operate at much lower pressures than rifles, typically 25-30% of rifle pressures - which is why shotgun barrels have relatively thin walls. The powders used for shotgun loads are relatively fast-burning, as well (which is why you find a lot of shotgun powders used for pistol loads), so the powder charge is mostly consumed by the time the projectile reaches even 16 inches or so.

    Realistically, at some shorter barrel length the load velocity will start to drop off, but that length will probably be in the 12-16 inch range, depending on the load.
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    Quote Originally Posted by condition1blog View Post
    I have an 870 20 gauge with a 26" barrel. I was disappointed to find it has the same performance as shorter length shotguns. Does anyone know the difference in ballistics between a 18" barrel and 26" barrel?
    When you are talking performance, are you talking about velocity of the round, or pattern of shot?
    SIXTO likes this.
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    Depends on the primary use. For HD, an 18-20 inch is pretty good. At longer ranges, the longer barrel provides a better
    sighting plane. Either way, you have to aim it! My 870 has an 18.5 inch barrel.
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    VIP Member Array Brad426's Avatar
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    I have two 870's... one with an 18.5" barrel and one with a 26" barrel. I was surprised at how little difference I saw in my accuracy with the two. Yes, at really long ranges the 26" barrel is better, but even at long SD ranges (say 25-50 yards) the Express Tactical is surprisingly accurate.
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    VIP Member Array Smitty901's Avatar
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    Longer barrels Bird hunting ,short slug barrels deer. Shorter other barrels people stopping.
    Keeping the over all length to about 38 inches makes a flexible defense and hunting weapon.
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    Nowhere in the original post were PG shotgun grips mentioned, the OP asked about shotgun performance in regards to barrel length.

    Keep this thread on track.
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    Sorry for going astray.

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    how about slugs? still about 16" barrel to maximize burn?

    how much will pattern be affected by barrel length?

    (assume 2-3/4" 00-buck)

    my opinion has always been a HD shotguns barrel length selection is more driven by balancing ammo capacity, since most are tube fed. a shotty w/16" barrel is only a 5 shot, usually, correct? my 590 has a 20", but holds 8 shots (2-3/4")

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kavalander View Post
    how about slugs? still about 16" barrel to maximize burn?

    how much will pattern be affected by barrel length?

    (assume 2-3/4" 00-buck)

    my opinion has always been a HD shotguns barrel length selection is more driven by balancing ammo capacity, since most are tube fed. a shotty w/16" barrel is only a 5 shot, usually, correct? my 590 has a 20", but holds 8 shots (2-3/4")
    16" is under the minimum legal length for a non-SBS.
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    Member Array condition1blog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buckeye .45 View Post
    When you are talking performance, are you talking about velocity of the round, or pattern of shot?
    both actually, I prefer a tight shot pattern

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    the primary purpose of my 870 is hunting, but I support the idea of a single firearms serving more than one purpose.

    I might get a shorter barrel for ease of transport, (i cant fit this thing in my car)

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    Quote Originally Posted by condition1blog View Post
    both actually, I prefer a tight shot pattern
    Your shot pattern is going to be more determined by the combination of choke & shot type.

    As Smitty pointed out, with the powders shotguns use, there isn't going to be much, if any change in velocity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    In shotgunning, the length of the barrel isn't driven by performance of the projectile, but rather by the fact that it's easier to get hits on target while sighting down a longer tube than a shorter tube.

    A lot of medium-to-heavy rifle rounds achieve higher velocity with longer barrels, and that's a function of the slow-burning powders used. Shotguns operate at much lower pressures than rifles, typically 25-30% of rifle pressures - which is why shotgun barrels have relatively thin walls. The powders used for shotgun loads are relatively fast-burning, as well (which is why you find a lot of shotgun powders used for pistol loads), so the powder charge is mostly consumed by the time the projectile reaches even 16 inches or so.

    Realistically, at some shorter barrel length the load velocity will start to drop off, but that length will probably be in the 12-16 inch range, depending on the load.
    It's really refreshing to read something by somebody who knows what he's talking about!
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    I own shotguns that range from 18" to 28". I think that aside from HD a 22" would be a close to an ideal all-around shotgun length. JMHO.
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