While considering what barrel length is ideal for you there are many factors that play into your decision. In this segment we will cover several key factors to help you in making the right choice for your needs. These factors include Shot Distance and Overall Effectiveness, Use of Weapon and Everyday needs Vs Accuracy Shooters, and The Different Calibers and Malfunction Issues. These topics will cover the AR-15 Platform only using .223 and 5.56.
First we will look at shot distance or the distance from yourself to your target. There is no mystery to solve when it comes to the capabilities of a round shot from a 16” barrel vs. a 10.5” barrel, the 16” wins every time, however the question may be why. With the longer length to travel velocity is gained, more gas pressure assists in reaching the bullet out to further distances. With a 16” Barrel using 55gr FMJ 5.56 Nato and .223 Rem., your average muzzle velocity is between (3,260fps-2,943fps) with .223 Rem on the low end. This gives you a Max Effective Range of (656 yards) and a point range of (547 yards). Using a 10.5” barrel, the stats will slightly change with the average muzzle velocity reducing to (2750fps-2516fps) on average using the same rounds. This gives a rough estimate of max effective range of around (300 yards) based on research. With so many other variables to consider this is just a round outlook of the capabilities while making a decision.
Now let’s look at a practical application, what is the intent or purpose you are basing the decision off of? There are many uses that will help to determine the length that best suits you. A 16” barrel is an excellent choice for all around purpose, from targets shooting to self-defense and for training purposes. With so many options the 16” barrel is the most commonly seen, but say you what something for home defense only. Getting around corners of your home may prove difficult with a longer barrel, having a shorter length barrel will allow you to traverse tighter environments with ease while maintaining your weapon safely. A shorter barrel can also make a great training rifle or target rifle however as mentioned before, longer distance shooting will be a challenge. If reaching out and touching your targets is your preference then a longer barrel is for you. Adding a few more inches in length with a high quality barrel can get you to greater distances but at a cost: more metal, more weight. Optics, barrels, and any other attachments add weight which will reduce your mobility, something to keep in mind when shopping.
Finally we end with Caliber Choice, in recent years the AR-15 market has expanded to a significant amount of caliber options, 22Lr, .223 rem .224 Valkyrie, .5.56 NATO, 300blk, 308win and many more. As the industry expands its options people need to consider their barrel length options carefully when purchasing. An AR pistol built in 5.56 NATO may not cycle .223 rem due to lower gas pressure. With so many options of calibers there are as many failures to consider when buying. Be sure to always use the proper ammo for your firearm and if any issues do occur ask a local gunsmith for solutions or your gun nut friends who live for shooting. Remember to always be safe and train so you will have the knowledge to teach others.
Carbine Instructor/Operation Manager