Barrel Length

Dear Technoid,

Is there any difference ballistically between shooting a 26” and a 28” or longer barrel when shooting 3” and 3.5” steel shot shells? Am I sacrificing anything other than a shorter sight plane when shooting a shorter barrel with steel shot. I value your opinion and always learn from your responses.

Thanks in advance,

Dear Julio,

Most of my experience is with modern lead shotshells, not steel. Just about all lead shells today obtain their maximum velocity within the first 18″ of the barrel. This means that they get full velocity in any barrel length longer than 18″. I’m not so sure about the powders used in steel shot because they are selected for higher velocity. But I would be very doubtful if they didn’t develop their full velocity well under 26″. If that is so, and I suspect it is, then there is no velocity difference between a 26″ or 28″ barrel.

Choke has nothing to do with barrel length, so we can forget about that.

So, I don’t feel that you are sacrificing anything in the way of velocity or or pattern by selecting a 26″ barrel.

As to longer vs shorter sighting plane, once the gun is up to your face all barrel lengths are the same. The only perceived difference is as you are raising the gun. It is really all what you get used to in a sighting plane. There is no good or bad.

Of course, the 28″ barrel will weigh a bit more up front, usually around 1-1/2″ to 2 oz for a single barrel auto or pump. A touch more for O/Us. You may or may not want that. The shorter barrel will be quicker. The longer barrel will be steadier. Your call.

And do remember, if you are thinking of an auto or pump for that steel shot, don’t forget to add the extra 3″ of the receiver to the barrel length as compared to an O/U or SxS. A 26″ barrel on an auto or pump equals the length of a 29″ O/U or SxS. A 28″ auto would equal a 31″ O/U.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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