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Longer Barrels On Small Caliber ML

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I would like to preface this by stating that I have never even seen a SMR or any other longer barreled ML in real life.

Also, I fully realize that good accuracy can be had with shorter ML.

I also know that different rifling can make a difference in accuracy.

With that said, this thread is for the folks that actually own a longer barreled, **small caliber** ML, or has shot them enough to know.

Generally speaking, are **small caliber** ML with longer barrels more steady to hold on target than shorter ML? And yes, I realize weight makes a difference. What I'm referring to is the actual hold steady aspect of a longer ML, especially offhanded or using a tree as a rest.

Are there any advantages of the longer barrels in, lets say, a .32 caliber, .36 caliber and possibly a .40 caliber?

I think it has to do with the hunter, the style of the hunt, and the chosen area of the hunt.

For example, is the hunter in woods, meadows, or large fields? Is the quarry being stalked, or flushed, or is the hunter waiting in ambush? How far is the hunter walking in a day?

Will there be time to set up a tight position on a distant critter or will the critter likely be moving and be aware of our presence and the danger?

For me, with my 42" barrel on my .40. it has a straight walled, Green Mountain brand barrel. So that's pretty heavy compared to a swamped barrel. It's very nice to hold when standing, unsupported, as the "nose heavy" rifle tends to be pretty steady. I think if I was in a meadow I'd likely be OK taking a shot at a rabbit in the classic "offhand" or standing-unsupported position.

BUT..., I really don't like that position, and wouldn't do it in the woods as long as there was a tree nearby where I could use my off-hand flat against the tree, and my off-hand thumb as a "gun rest" for the rifle while sighting. That's highly stable, and one of my favorite positions. Full disclosure, IF the grass wasn't too high in my theoretical meadow with a rabbit presenting itself, or if I was on a high enough rise in the same situation, I'd likely use a tight, kneeling position, and be more sure of a stable sight picture. My rifle is positively NOT a rifle to swing on a fast nor even slow walking target. IF I engaged a walking deer, I'd have to set up with a sight picture ahead of the animal, and it would need to then cross my sights at some point. Sometimes this works quite well, and sometimes the spot I've picked turns out bad because the deer decided to change direction, and didn't cross in front of me... sometimes the squirrel on the ground is moving too fast when it comes into my chosen shooting spot.... oh well that's part of hunting, eh?

The "advantage" then is in my rifle is really the sight plane..., the distance between the front and rear sight making it much easier for my human eye to get a head shot on a squirrel, then ADD to that the overall weight of the barrel mitigates the already low recoil from the 90 grain round ball, and then ADD again the "nose heavy" aspect reducing the effect of recoil on my sight picture, helping with follow through.

OH and flintlock "long rifles" look cool. Other parts of the country may differ, but when I walk out of the woods with half a limit of squirrels or a couple rabbits, and a 42" flintlock, the reaction I get from the guys with modern, scoped rifles that see me is like the Hobbits being reunited with Gandalf..., and I'm Gandalf.

SURE..., I could have a rifle in .40 with a 24" barrel, that would shoot as well, perhaps better..., it would be easier to work with in thick brush, lighter to carry all day especially in an area with steep hills, and since I very much dislike shooting game in the offhand position, having the much lighter and well balanced rifle would not be bad since I don't want to use it offhand.

So from what I've seen, read, and done, it comes down to how and where one is hunting, and no matter the rifle style it has to be accurate.

I have a Kibler Southern Mountain Rifle (SMR) in .40 cal. They come with a 44” swamped barrel. The “swamped” barrel is tapered to be slightly thinner in the middle section, reducing weight, but at the same time creates a balance that is, to my way of thinking, MUCH more steady to hold on target.

The 44” barrel puts the front and rear sights farther apart, and with the front sight farther away, my old eyes can see it more clearly than if it was closer. I have a tougher time with the sights on my 32” TC Hawken.

And flintlocks are awesome! The SMR is my first, and I love it.
I have shot the Kiber in .40 w 44” bbl pretty extensivly at paper. I have shot some 3” 5 shot groups at 110 yards. I have regularly shot tight groups at 50 yards But anything seems to do that. The gun does not carry as well as it is barrel heavy. It would not look as good but would be much easier to carry.
as for the long barrel one can shoot very good groups with a 6” barrel if the principals of marksmanship are observed. I doubt 6 “ difference in a rifle barrel could be noticed.
Accuracy is generally fouind when barrel vibration is consisten. This should happen with a shorter stiffer barrel.
I have an original Pennsylvania percussion with a 46.5" barrel. The rifle is in very good condition and has a good shiney bore. Should make someone a good squirrel gun.
I have had 3 rifles that would qualify. A .40 7/8" x 40" barrel, a .38 13/16" x 42" barrel and a .36 13/16" x 36" barrel. Most of my shooting was done in competition and like many match shooters I prefer a rifle that is nose heavy for offhand shooting. All 3 were super accurate off a rest providing the wind wasn't blowing, the .36 seemed to be the most affected by the wind. Offhand the .40 was the most accurate, it was nose heavy and bringing it down on target it would just hang there. I probably won more matches with it than any other rifle I have owned. The .38 was a little nose heavy and was a good offhand rifle Just didn't have it that long before it found a new home. The .36 the balance point was actually behind where I held the rifle when shooting, it just wandered all over and just wouldn't hang on target. That combined with how the wind affected it made for a terrible offhand target rifle. Gave it to one of my ex's grandsons.
I was enamored with a 32. I like the idea of using small amounts of lead an powder. Be aware a 32 with a slow twist requires more powder than you think for best accuracy. I would not get one slower than 1:36. Also, the 32 is fiddley to load. For me 36 is as small as I can manage easily. If you can not load it consistently it will not shoot well. 32 is blown around by the wind quite a bit.

I gave up on a 32 caliber barrel. It had wide lands and narrow deep grooves and a slow twist. When I first looked at it my heart sank. Then I got angry. I made some calls. Against my better judgement I decided to try it. As expected, accuracy was poor. After several range sessions it was obviously a tomato stake. A 32 needs to hit a squirrel consistently at 50 yards, this one could not do that. Also any rifle I use for NMLRA competition or club shoots needs to hold the 10-ring.

If I am delivered any barrels in the future with narrow deep grooves I will reject them immediately. Funny thing, the guy who rifled it insisted that the rifling form does not matter for accuracy. His excuse was that the rifling cutter wears and it is narrowed by sharpening. I no longer buy any barrels he makes.

I had Bobby Hoyt rebore it. It is good now. It was a shame to rebore a new barrel.

I sure wish Green Mountain made ML barrels under 45 caliber. I'd roll the dice on a Green mountain 32. It is a pity they have mostly turned their back on us.
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I have the Kibler SMR, old style with 46" barrels, in both .36 and .45 cal. I shoot both extensively and can only say the problem I am having is that my 71 year old eyes are starting to have a hard time focusing on both sights and the target at the same time. My shorter barreled guns are easier to focus on both sights. As far as balance of the longer barrels, the longer barrel balances great and is easy to hold on target.
Thanks for the input, FC. I was hoping you would comment.

And yes, I am more interested in a .32 or .36 caliber for squirrel hunting. Per my own standards, I much prefer a any rifle with a shorter barrel. However, as you have stated, I had a feeling there was more to this one might think. Barrel balance is important.

What I am interested in researching is specifically for squirrel hunting. After a lot of actual squirrel hunting in the mountains of the SE, I cannot help but think that a longer barrel might very well lead to a steadier hold on many shots, either offhanded or trees are used to get a rest off of.

Perhaps my thinking is flawed, IDK? If so, someone out there please correct me if so.
Your logic is sound IMHO....I prefer longer...36" or longer barrels in any cal. for offhand shooting. Whether it is the length or the weight...I'm not sure but a short light barrel is the most difficult to shoot offhand. I'm not commenting on accuracy. Assuming the barrels are "accurate", however that is defined,....longer and heavier are easier to shoot....My "wabbles" are much slower and I can usually get off a good shot more often than with a shorter/lighter barrel.
Longer barrel has more inertia than a short one, even if they are equal weight (think swamped barrels). It takes more energy to get the longer one moving, and likewise more energy to stop that movement. Long equals steady. Inertia is your friend especially when shooting offhand. Portability is a whole nuther matter. I'm still looking for my free lunch.
I have told a variation of this story before...

I have had two rifles that were to muzzle heavy, one was a Dixie Gun Works TMR, if I still had it I would cut about a foot off the barrel and make a shooter out of it as there would be minimal loss in value.

The other was a copy of the John Schriet rifle except it was made with a Goodoien target barrel and it was not swamped. Off the bench it was a tack driver, Goodoien is a VERY good barrel.

Off hand keeping the butt on your shoulder was almost impossible, the balance point was so far forward that the butt would rise at any twitch and adding weight to the rear was impossible unless you wanted a 14lb rifle.

It was sold to a non-shooter who wanted it for his collection.

I like swamped barrels and rifles that are neither to muzzle heavy or to light.....Me and Goldilocks like everything just right.
I have several 32 caliber MLs, a 41 1/2" DGW Squirrel Rifle, a TC Cherokee and a TC Renegade
with a 28" GM barrel. I call that one "The Truck Axel". All shoot great with 15 grain of 3f.
The Cherokee caries the best and is very accurate. The DGW isn't bad to carry and is just as
accurate. The Renegade is a great shooter but it's like, well a "Truck Axel".
IMHO, and that’s all it is, is that ALL the advantage of long barrels is cosmetic and stylistic. How many guys on this forum have cloverleafed beyond practical range for a round ball?
A small caliber ball, by which I mean below .40 just isn’t a big game killer. And small game are mostly taken in the fifteen to fifty yard range. A 26” senaca rifle will easily hit a squirrel eye as far as you can see it.
Longer sight radius makes a gun easier to aim but not more intrinsically accurate.
Original rifles were short barreled, as small as eighteen inches. Jager rifles tended to be closer to thirty than forty.
However in the eighteenth century when rifles were first made in America shooter went with long, the same sort of barrels seen on fusils and muskets.
With the dawn of the nineteenth century we see a return to short. The US Harpers Ferry, and the light Ohio style became very popular. And in the west makers moved to short barrels on big bores for the plainsman gun.
Yet the SMR came in to its own at this time. Real pea shooters often as small as .28, but barrels well over forty inches.
And they stayed that way well up to the 1930s. Enough so Bugs Bunny could make fun of them.
We know that short doesn’t add anything ballisticlly. A fact known at least to the 1790s and the appearance of the British sporting rifles.
I like the looks of long, I don’t find it a handicap in the woods. I can justify it with stories of sighting radis and ‘hanging’ on target.
But the real reason is looks right.
Short, under forty inches, just looks wrong to me. Even the Isaac Hines with its 38” looks like a carbine to me
I agree with the long barrel benefits of increased sight radius as well as 'hold inertia'. There is however another aspect of long barrels yet unspoken. 'In the day' the quality of the powder was not as we have today. Quality was erratic and often poor. Longer barrels give an opportunity for the full charge to burn and thus provide maximum acceleration to the ball. Today this is less of an issue with the quality powders, however I do occasionally still see folks on the line spitting a stream of burning powder out the muzzle.

Love my 46 inch barrel, 40 caliber, and my 48 inch barrel 54 caliber. I don't find it an issue in the woods.
I started out in 1970 trying to find my a$$ w/both hands at using muzzleloaders. All the allure of jaeger rifles and long rifles launched me on a mission to figure out the truth for myself. Luckily , I was learning to assemble rifle guns from scratch , again on my own , with Chuck Dixon's "Art of building the m/l Rifle" , and other diagrams , and instructions gained from m/l magazine advertisers , and Dixie gun works catalog. Looking for gunbarrels made friends with Getz Bros. , 1974 , and they sent me to Fred Miller for shaped m/l gunstocks. I was on my way to a level of experimentation only dreamed of yrs. , previous. Anyway for experimentation, I scratch built a .32 cal. long rifle , 42 " oct . G.R. Douglas Brl. . Smallest oct. they offered was 7/8 oct. . Not knowing anything about anything , I took the .32 down to my Dad's home to show him my creation. We went down to the Monongehela river , and fired the rifle flat to the water and watched the .32's skip out of sight on a two mile long , open water section. I was satisfied the percussion rifle fired , and learned that I needed to build a lighter rifle. Next experiment after talking to a guy , jager rifle "expert" , from Old Westmoreland M/L Rifle Club , visiting a local m/l club shoot and reading adinfinitum German Jager information , a trip to see Getz's gun barrel shop , Dick getz handed me a .69 cal. 28" Jager barrel. That gun was a fun to shoot , and dream to carry deer hunting , but it lacked the accuracy for open woods shooting at deer. I didn't know enough about big cal. m/lers. back then , as well. Started shooting competition then , and built a .50 cal. Getz "Cwt. " 44" long taper and flaired long rifle. I was young and strong , and far sighted , so learned about real long rifles. This rifle was a dream , on the target/and silouette range to 200 yds. and a killer beyond all expectations , in the deer woods. Over time , the 9 1/2 lb. longrifle was replaced by a shorter , light weight .50 cal. longrifle. Giving consideration to historical records , the shortest "longrifle" used on the Eastern frontier was 38" , and before 1800 , the calibers were between .47 to .60. I settled for a 7/8" .50 cal. 38" Colerain that rendered a 6.5 lb longrifle , with a modified for tang , Johnson Peep sight , to compensate for my old eyes. A tack driver out to 125 yds. off a rest. Built and used several Jager length rifles , but for my eyes , the longer barrel sights were better. Back when my eyes were still young , I built a .38 " long rifle in .62 cal. w/ 1" oct. barrel.. This rifle was my lifetime overall favorite deer rifle , while still young enough to handle fairly stout recoil. The upper sweet spot for powder charge , was 90 Gr. FFG black. It was accurate to a fault with younger eyes and open sights. Longest shot on a deer in an open field using an old stone foundation for a rest was 165+ yds. . The shot was on a driven doe walking in the open. I held the front sight between the nose and eyes , with top of the ears elevation. Took the .62 ball a while to get to the doe , and I heard the "smack" of the impact through her neck. Last comment........I 'm in love w/ a walnut stocked Mountain long rifle , .40 cal. , 3/4 " oct. 38 " long barrel. Weighs almost nothing , two sweet spots in the powder loading to allow for squirrel size game , 35 gr. FFFG , and 60 gr. FFFG for coyote , and anything harer to kill. Absolutely love this rifle for woods chasing. that's a laugh , only woods I chase is around the hunting camp , and target butt. ..........I hope this helps someone..oldwood
Your logic is sound IMHO....I prefer longer...36" or longer barrels in any cal. for offhand shooting. Whether it is the length or the weight...I'm not sure but a short light barrel is the most difficult to shoot offhand. I'm not commenting on accuracy. Assuming the barrels are "accurate", however that is defined,....longer and heavier are easier to shoot....My "wabbles" are much slower and I can usually get off a good shot more often than with a shorter/lighter barrel.
I concur on a shorter, lighter barrel being difficult to shoot offhanded. Without doubt weight adds to a steadier hold. My heavier GPR holds as steady as a rock where as my Crockett rifle does not. Same barrel lengths but the GPR is heavier.

I have never been able to shoot my Crockett rifle very well when trying to shoot offhanded.
My view is that squirrel hunting is done in a sitting stance, not still hunting, so the gun length doesn't really matter. Most likely you'll be using a tree to hold the gun anyway.
Most of my hunting is still hunting. I do a lot of it in fact. Many times I get caught out in the open between trees. That is my biggest issue.
I shoot a custom l.h. flinter 50 caliber rifle with a 46 inch oct.rd. barrel and have no problem head shooting squirrels if they stay in the tree cussing at me...they get on the ground..forget it.
View attachment 274057View attachment 274060
Love my 46 inch barrel, 40 caliber, and my 48 inch barrel 54 caliber. I don't find it an issue in the woods.
I'm glad you like your rifles with 46" and 48" barrels, as well as you don't find issue with them in the woods where you hunt. However, I can promise you for this thicker, brushy, mountainous terrain, they would be problematic packing them around. I often have problems with getting my 32" Crockett through the brush and thickets. I can also see where too long of a barrel could be difficult trying to reload them on some of the steeper hillsides.
After yesterday and more missed squirrels this past week that were close up, offhanded shots, it has come down to the realization that either I practice with that little Crockett rifle more in an attempt to rectify this conundrum, or I find another squirrel tool. I am a well seasoned hunter of over 50 years that has taken more game while shooting offhanded than any other means. With all sorts of different rifles including ML's. I know how to shoot and I am a good shot. I can promise you that out of many, many rifles I have owned and shot in my life, no other rifle has been as picky and difficult to shoot accurately in a hunting situation, especially offhand shooting.

With that said, I have a couple of quick ideas to work on first with that little ML in an attempt to nail down just exactly what the problem is. One being I plan on taping some weight to the barrel or forward stock area and seeing if that makes any difference with steady of hold during offhand shooting. Second, I plan on lightening up the set trigger a tad.

The Crockett is a fun to shoot, accurate ML when shot from a bench. Its also light and easy to pack around the mountains/woods. But I find it to be terribly unforgiving of anything but perfect shooting form. Those conditions rarely present themselves on the hillsides of mountains during a squirrel hunting scenario. Whenever they do, and I know I have a good rest, its very accurate.

I'll say this about it. That little ML has provided me with more enjoyment in the last year than anything else. I have killed many squirrels with it.
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