Saturday, November 19, 2016

Carbon Fiber Barrels: Worth the money?

In any sport, everyone is looking for better technology to help them be better, faster, more accurate.  One of these technologies is the use of carbon fiber.  It is a lightweight material, as strong and often times stronger than steel.  It has been used for years in the automotive and aerospace industries.  Its major drawback is cost. 

Carbon fiber technology is also available to the shooting sports.  One form is in carbon fiber wrapped barrels.  I was curious about this technology so I purchased a couple of these barrels to find out for myself if carbon fiber wrapped barrels are worth the money. 

The barrels I chose were manufactured by Proof Research, a leader in carbon fiber technology.  (Proof Research)

The first barrel is a 16 inch barrel for an AR15 chambered in 223 Wylde.  It is of medium weight configuration.  The barrel Starts at one inch diameter at the chamber, tapering down to .75 inches at the muzzle.  This barrel was assembled into an AR15 by myself.  

16 inch barrel AR-15

 Close up #1

Close up #2

The second barrel is a 20 inch heavy target barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.  It is 1.2 inches at the chamber and necks down to .875 inches at the gas block. 
This barrel came assembled into a complete rifle manufactured by NEMO arms.  (NEMO Arms)

NEMO Arms 6.5 Creedmoor Rifle.

Close up

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of carbon fiber barrels.

The big advantage of carbon fiber is saving weight.  Proof Research claims up to a 60% savings in weight.  The amount of weight savings depends on the diameter and length of the barrel.    

The 16 inch barrel I chose is 26 ounces.  As compared to 33 ounces for an equivalent steel barrel.  This is a 22% savings in weight.

The 20 inch 6.5 Creedmoor barrel is 3 pounds.  The equivalent steel would be 2-3 pounds heavier.  Up to a 50% weight savings.  Now you are talking some serious weight savings. 

I found the carbon fiber wrapped barrels to be just as accurate as steel barrels. 
Typical accuracy is 1 inch and better.  With the heavy target barrel giving me a consistent .6 inches.  (No pictures available of heavy target barrel accuracy)

 First 3 shots - cold bore.
(Australian Outback, 69 grain SMK)

 Next 3 shots - New ammunition

Last 10 shots of shooting session.  Approx. 20 shots between first shots and these last shots.
(Yep getting a bit tired and I forgot my rear bag.  So not as stable as I wanted to be)
(Yes, I'm making excuses for my poor shots.)

This is the category carbon fiber barrels lose.  They are 2-3 times the cost of a steel barrel. 
Most run approximately $900 - $1000.  Most steel barrels are $250 - $500.

Are carbon fiber barrels worth the money?  No and Yes.  Your end use and configuration of your rifle will determine if a carbon fiber barrel is worth the money.

In the lighter weight 16 inch barrel, I would say no.  It is not worth the money.  The carbon fiber barrel is three times the cost ($1000 vs. $300) and only saves 7 ounces.  Hit the gym and get stronger is a better solution. 

In a longer, heavy barrel configuration I would say yes.  Carbon fiber barrels are worth the money.  Especially if your end use is a run and gun type competition or hunting the back country and high degree of precision and accuracy are needed minus the weight.

On the 20 inch NEMO AR10 I purchased, I am saving 2-3 pounds of weight.  I have the benefits of a heavy target barrel without the weight penalty.  Yes, worth the money.  Overall I have a 10 pound rifle versus a 12-13 pound rifle.   

By Mez