Subgauge Tube Length


Does the length of a barrel affect subgauge tube performance. In other words if you had a gun with a 30″ barrel and a gun with a 32″ barrel would you select one over the other to have tubed? Thx.


Dear Steve,

Basically, the length of the carrying barrel has no affect on the performance of a subgauge tube set. Well, sort of.

You have to consider any tube installation from a number of points of view. To my mind, first and foremost is the balance of the gun. Subgauge tubes are heavy. The longer the subgauge tube and the longer the barrels that carry them, the heavier it is and also the further forward the weight is. Subgauge tubes will significantly affect the balance of the gun. You may or may not care about this. Most American-style skeet shooters have learned to live, and even prefer, grossly nose heavy guns. The average full length Briley/Kolar tube set weighs something around 9 ounces. It’s just about all in front of the hinge pin. That’s a HUGE amount of weight to add to a set of barrels. The fact that virtually all the AmSk records are set with just such tube sets is certainly proof that shotgunning is a game of horses for courses.

It wasn’t always that way. Among the first of the tube set producers was Browning with their Super Tubes. These all aluminum subgauge tube sets were only 16″ long. They were quite light and, due to their short length, kept the added weight well to the rear. I had a set and their use in a 28″ Superposed wasn’t particularly noticeable. They patterned fine too. I’ve often considered getting short tubes made using current technology. That way I wouldn’t upset the balance of my guns too much. It would be ideal for subgauge sporting clays where a lively gun is more important than it is in skeet.

You can go even shorter. These are subgauge chamber inserts. These are basically the shortest skeet tubes possible, being only 2-3/4″ long. If you think in terms of a standard 12 gauge shell made of aluminum which has been drilled out to accept a 16, 20, 28 or 410 shell you won’t be far off in the concept. Velocity in the 410 suffers, but in the 12 gauge gun the 16, 20 and 28 perform normally. It’s amazing. The patterns are the result of whatever choke is in the 12 gauge gun. When I tested them I found the Little Skeeters to be perfectly adequate for casual shooting, but too much trouble to go through to use for serious skeet competition.

So, ballistically, you can have tube sets of literally any length. If you do use short tubes, like the Browning Super Tubes, you do have to be very careful to properly clean the 12 gauge barrels when going to from tube usage to 12 usage. If you shoot the short tube set a great deal a hard deposit of crusted carbon can build up right in front of the end of the tube set. If this isn’t cleaned out before the 12 gauge barrel is used with a 12 gauge shell, a bulged barrel could result. This is the main reason why Briley/Kolar don’t encourage the use of short tubes in long barrels. Today makers of contest skeet tubes want to make the tubes as long as the barrels that carry them.

And now, finally, to answer your question. Should you tube 30″ or 32″ barrels? Darned if I know. Depends on whether you like 30″ or 32″ barrels. Depends on how much weight you like up front. Depends on which clay game(s) you will be playing. There won’t be the slightest ballistic difference in the extra 2″. It will all depend on the balance and weight you prefer.

How’s that for a long, aimless, meandering, unfocused answer to a short, specific question. You get what you pay for.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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