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Barrel rifling and twist rates

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The Rifle Barrel

By Chuck Hawks

Rifling twist rates

The rate of twist, expressed as one turn in so many inches (i.e. 1 in 10"), is designed to stabilize the range of bullets normally used in a particular caliber. It takes less twist to stabilize a given bullet at high velocity than at low velocity. At the same velocity in the same caliber, longer (pointed) bullets require faster twist rates than shorter (round nose) bullets of the same weight and heavier bullets require faster twist rates than lighter bullets of the same shape. It is undesirable to spin a bullet a great deal faster than necessary, as this can degrade accuracy. A fast twist increases pressure and also the strain on the bullet jacket.

Fortunately, the rate of twist chosen by the rifle maker is usually appropriate for the intended cartridge. Anyone ordering a new barrel for a rifle will generally do well to specify the standard twist as supplied by the major rifle manufacturers for that caliber.

Once in a great while, though, a manufacturer makes a mistake. One such case involved the .244 Remington. When first introduced, barrels for this caliber were made with a 1-in-12 twist, because Remington anticipated that their new cartridge would be used primarily for varmint shooting. The 1 in 12 inch twist is ideal for best accuracy with varmint weight bullets (70-85 grains) in a high velocity .24 (6mm) caliber rifle. The heaviest spitzer bullet that a .244 with a 1 in 12 inch twist barrel could stabilize was 90 grains. The customers, however, also wanted to use their new .24 caliber rifles for hunting medium size big game, with 100 grain bullets. Needless to say, customers ignored the new .244 Rem. Remington soon saw the error of their ways, and changed the rifling of their .244 barrels to 1 turn in 9 inches, but the damage was done. Sales remained so slow that eventually Remington had to discontinue the .244. The following year they reintroduced the exact same cartridge as the 6mm Rem. and produced all 6mm rifle barrels with 1 in 9 inch twist barrels, which can stabilize all .24/6mm bullets.

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