Monday, November 26, 2012

Measuring a Barrel's Twist Rate

When we studied the basics of rifling a while back in this blog, there was mention of a term called "twist rate" for a barrel. The twist rate is defined as the length of the barrel required for a bullet to make one complete turn of the barrel. For instance, a standard M16A2 barrel makes 1 turn for every 177.8 mm. of barrel length. It is very important to match the twist rate based on the weight, diameter and length of the bullet to ensure accuracy. We studied a couple of methods on how to calculate the twist rate for a given bullet using the Greenhill formula and the Miller Twist Rate formula. All this is good in theory, but how do we actually measure the twist rate of the barrel? This post discusses a simple way to do so.

Recall that about 16 months ago, we discussed various tools used for cleaning firearms. Well, people can use some of those very same tools to measure the twist rate of a barrel. All that is needed is a standard cleaning rod with a rotating handle, a jag and a cotton cleaning patch. The user simply attaches the cleaning patch to the jag end of the cleaning rod and then pushes it into the barrel until the cleaning patch engages the rifling of the barrel. The user then takes a piece of sticky tape and attaches it around the back of the cleaning rod near the handle like a tiny flag (or uses a marker and marks a spot on the cleaning rod). The user then measures how much of the cleaning rod is sticking out of the barrel (a ruler measuring the distance from the barrel's base to the start of the flag or mark point should do it). Then the user pushes the cleaning rod into the barrel. Because the cleaning patch has engaged the rifling, the rod rotates as it is pushed into the barrel. When the flag or mark point has made one complete rotation, the user then measures how much of the cleaning rod is sticking out of the barrel again. The difference between the two gives the twist rate. For instance, if the rod initially has 22 inches sticking out the barrel when the first measurement is made and 12 inches sticking out of the barrel when the second measurement is made, this means that the twist rate is 1 in 10 inches.

For those of you who would like to see a video of the process:

Happy viewing!

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