While shopping around for guns, you've probably encountered the term “bull barrel.”
Perhaps you don't know what a bull barrel is (or does), which might explain why you're here, but you recognize the phrase as an ‘upgraded' barrel due to the higher price compared to traditional barrels.
By the end of this post, you'll:
- Understand what a bull barrel is;
- Know why some shooters use a bull barrel;
- And understand the advantages and disadvantages of a bull barrel.
What Is A Bull Barrel?
A bull barrel, also known as a bull pipe, is a gun barrel that does not taper outward like a standard barrel, making it completely cylindrical. This makes the barrel stiffer, which reduces the amplitude of the vibrations in the barrel created by the sudden increase of air pressure in the chamber when a gun goes off.
The bull barrel is known as such due to its resemblance to the male cow's reproductive organs, which are also cylindrical and large in circumference.
A bull barrel can be made from steel with a “bull profile,” or a company can make it from aluminum alloy. It is typically a thick and heavy barrel.
Based on some reports, the bull barrel concept was first used by British gunsmith Philip Webley in 1876 for his revolvers designed for bullseye shooting. (Some say Freeman Bull was the inventor, but some also disagree.)
However, bull barrels were not particularly popular at the time because bullseye shooters were more interested in a pistol's trigger action rather than its barrel profile.
In recent years bull barrels have been popularized by bullseye shooters, long-range shooters, defensive shooters, and hunters alike.
Why Use A Bull Barrel?
Using a bull barrel has several advantages, whether you're shooting rifles, pistols, or shotguns.
First, a bull barrel is stiffer than a normal barrel, which positively reduces vibrations. This effect can give bull barrels an accuracy advantage over other types of heavy barrels.
The bull barrel's rigidity reduces the potential for twisting forces (torque) on the gun to affect its accuracy.
Secondly, a bull barrel's temperature remains consistent during firing. Metal expands when hot, so maintaining an even temperature prevents a hot barrel from changing dimensions, ensuring consistency from shot to shot. Consistency is the key to high accuracy.
Thirdly, a bull barrel is heavier, which can help a shooter better manage recoil.
Lastly, for rifle shooters, a bull barrel tends to shift the rifle's balance towards its muzzle. Many shooters find this to help maintain their rifle's orientation when offhand shooting.
Who Uses Bull Barrels?
The bull barrel's reduced vibration (which can increase accuracy) and greater rigidity (which gives greater resistance to twisting forces) make bull barrels particularly suitable for long-range precision shooting where accuracy is essential.
As a result, long-range precision shooters and bullseye shooters make up the largest market of bull barrel users.
However, many defensive or tactical shooters opt to use them, too, for the highest degree of accuracy and increased firing stability due to the extra weight. Some say the heavy barrel results in less recoil, while others mention the lower recoil is negligible.
Bull Barrel Variations
Flutes are sometimes used on bull barrels to reduce weight without compromising stiffness. Flutes are grooves cut into a barrel. The grooves remove some metal, but the barrel is thicker and more substantial than a typical barrel. However, a bull barrel need not have flutes.
Occasionally plastic is used in bull barrels, but this is mostly for aesthetic purposes. Since they are plastic, they don't add much weight, even though they are thicker. Metal bull barrels are the best.
Disadvantages Of A Bull Barrel
Bull barrels offer greater rigidity, which is good when you want to be accurate. However, bull barrels are stiffer than traditional or cylindrical barrels and do not bend very easily under stress.
This can be a disadvantage for bull barrel shooters because the barrel's rigidity does not offer as much resilience to impacts.
The bull barrel also offers greater airflow than other types of barrels. This, too, can be an advantage, or disadvantage, depending on the needs and preferences of bull barrel shooters.
A bull barrel is considerably more expensive than non-bull-barreled firearms. A bull barrel's accuracy benefits may be offset by any inherent inaccuracy in a firearm's overall design and performance.
A bull barrel is a type of gun barrel that does not taper outward, making it completely cylindrical. This makes the barrel stiffer, which reduces the amplitude of the vibrations in the barrel created by the sudden increase of air pressure when a gun goes off, providing increased accuracy to shooters.
The bull barrel's rigidity also offers greater resistance against twisting forces (torque) and is consequently better suited for long-range precision shooting where accuracy is essential.