Effects Of Barrel Length

Dear Technoid,

I was wondering why manufactures sold Turkey guns with a 24″ barrel and Waterfowl at 28 to 30″? I have been told by one resource that maximum muzzle velocity is achieved on a shotgun with 20-24 inches barrel length, anything over that and friction reduces velocity. I also understand, hopefully correct, that patterns are developed in the last few inches of a barrel with the use of choke tubes.

Are there any benefits one way or the other to the differences in barrel lengths. I use mine, the 835 Mossberg, for Turkey, Goose and Duck, as well as clay. The only change I make is on the choke tube with respect to shells used.

E-mail me back if and when you can, I’d be interested with reference to my next purchase.



Dear F,

Modern shotgun target powders are quite quick burning, but the powders used in heavy field loads and steel loads are not. Thus the velocity loss due to short barrels can vary from a few fps per inch to 15 or 20 fps per inch. Either way, it won’t make enough difference to really matter. I can’t think of any instance in which velocity has increased by shortening the barrel. Velocity is a highly over rated attribute when it comes to killing game. Being able to hit what you aim at is what counts.

As to patterns, they really don’t have anything to do with the length of the barrel. A pattern is totally dependent on the amount of choke used. You can get the same pattern from a 20″ barrel that you can from a 30″ barrel if you use the same choke.

The main difference in barrel lengths comes in two areas

1) sighting plane and

2) balance.

The longer the barrel, the more precise the gun will be on longer targets and the less the perceived lead will be. On the other side, a barrel which is too long will make the gun harder to swing quickly for the close shots. It’s all a question of compromise. Turkey barrels are really closer to rifle barrels in the way that they are used than shotgun barrels. Same with slug barrels. Both emulate rifle lengths, not shotgun lengths for ease of maneuverability.

Barrel length for a wingshooting gun is also somewhat a question of the size of the shooter. The overall size of the gun should sort of fit the size of the gunner. Remember too that a pump or semi with a 30″ barrel will be the same length as an O/U or SxS with a 33.5″ bbl due to the extra length of the pump/semi’s receiver.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC

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2 Responses to Effects Of Barrel Length

  1. nathan says:

    does a long barrel increase range ?


    • Bruce Buck says:


      In these days of modern gun powders, barrel length has very little to do with “range”. By range, I’m assuming that you are talking about the distance which the shot will travel. That translates into muzzle velocity. The faster the shot leaves the barrel, the further it can travel.

      Back in the days of black powder, longer barrels really did help velocity. That’s because the black powder took a relatively long time to burn. A longer barrel gave the powder that longer burn time. A short barrel might not let all the black powder burn before reaching the muzzle, so some of the powder energy would be wasted.

      But modern powders burn quite quickly compared to black powder. Many reach their maximum pressures in the first 18″ of the barrel. They would develop full velocity even in a short barreled gun.

      Another thing to consider is that the longer the barrel, the more friction there is on the wad which is pushing the shot. Friction slows the shot down, though only to a minute degree.

      So, all things being told, longer barrels really don’t have any effect on range.

      Of course, for some shooters, longer barrels allow more precision on longer shots, but that’s not really a range thing.

      Bruce Buck
      Shotgun Report’s Technoid


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