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Free Floating Barrel

Discussion in 'Rifle Discussion' started by etrain16, Jul 12, 2014.

  1. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Hey folks, I wanted to get some input from the forum on this topic. I've looked for threads on this but haven't found any. I've done some online research, but seem to get quite a variety of answers, and not all agree.

    From what I understand, it's generally thought that a free floating barrel is more accurate than a barrel in direct contact with the stock - especially if the action is glass beaded for a nice fit.

    So, my question is this - does it really make a big difference in accuracy? By how much - 5%, 10%, more? I'm not a hunter, I just enjoy plinking with my rifles, so big accuracy increases aren't critical to me at this time. But I'm looking at some Boyd's gun stocks for 2 of my .22's and possibly another rifle, and noticed some of the designs leave you with a free floating barrel. So, I'm just wondering if there is any real advantage, or would it really make a difference for someone like me who only competes against myself for accuracy. Just curious is all.

    Thanks for your input folks.
     
  2. Darkker

    Darkker Mesa, Wa Active Member

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    The honest answer is truly: It depends.

    There cannot be one answer.

    IF the barrel had a known stress, OR the pressure points were specifically tuned. Then non-floated with be tremendously accurate. But was it specifically tuned? With what components and load? No mfg will likely answer that.

    IF the pressure point was not tuned, then floating can help by allowing the harmonics to be at a more natural state.

    Realize that both of those options require some fairly significant ASSumptions about the rifle. And in general requires one to accurately be able to "listen" to the gun while tuning your specific load, and tailor to what makes it happy.
    Again, in general, most people are morons when it comes to that. How many times have you seen a post online, where someone asks for "the best" load; or "the best, with these components"?
    It's everywhere.
    I won a case of beer from one such fellow, who refused to believe I could get a 25-06 to hold MOA at 1k, with an 87gr. TNT.

    So your answer is, it depends.
     
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  3. Heywood

    Heywood Prineville Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Exactly, it depends on harmonics as well as weather or not the different stresses will be put on the barrel in exactly the same manner for each shot. Such as when using a bipod, sling or other kind of rest.
    If you do not know the exact specifics of your rifle and do not know if you can perfectly recreate the stress on the barrel from the stock, then free floating it is a big help in removing some of the variables.
     
    etrain16 likes this.
  4. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Interesting. I figured it was something that was much more involved than a simple plinker like me would need to worry about. One explanation I found online was that if a barrel begins to heat up quite a bit, the metal will expand, pushing into the stock (assuming the barrel is tight up against the stock), which would cause some temporary deformation, which could affect your accuracy.

    I seriously doubt, based on what I've seen so far, that I would recognize any actual benefit myself. Now as for how the floated barrel looks - that's a different matter. Some of those stocks look pretty nice :)
     
  5. DieselScout

    DieselScout S Clackamas County Well-Known Member

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    Also, consider the stock is going to expand and contract with heat and moisture. This will also put stress in the barrel and can cause accuracy changes. This will occur less with stocks that are not wood. Its just something that changes and you cannot compensate for. Then again you may or may not shoot well enough to notice. My hunting rifle is not floated, uses an old "pressure bedded" wood stock. The two deer I have shot at and harvested with it didn't have an opinion on bedding, they just died. My 308 which I want to use for target shooting is free floated.
     
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  6. Darkker

    Darkker Mesa, Wa Active Member

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    Think of it a little like cleaning.
    Some clean a rifle if they only touched it. My match gun (Painless), which I shoot to 1760 fairly frequently; doesn't like a clean bore. Takes about 10 shots to settle, and groups at extreme distance don't drop off until about the 500 shot mark. So I only clean it when groups start to drop off.
    I have other guns that drop accuracy by about 100 shots. So which cleaning schedule is "right"? Both are, it just depends.
     
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  7. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    I'm happy with my 10-22 just as it is.. bone stock.
     
    etrain16 likes this.
  8. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I've been testing the idea that you don't necessarily have to clean each time you shoot. While it goes against what I learned growing up, I have found it's not hurt my performance on some of my guns to let them go just a bit between cleanings. Now, if I'm shooting a .22 or using corrosive ammo, that's a different story.

    I've got 2 Marlin Model 60's - one of the stocks is a bit beat up, so I wanted to replace it. I like the look of the Boyd's stocks, particularly one that leaves the barrel free floating - I haven't made my decision yet, but I do like the look of it :)
     
  9. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    I hear you.. so you're talking a couple model 60's?
    How do they group as is?
     
  10. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I can only address that from a plinker's point of view. I don't have a big varmint scope on them - just a small scope on one, open sights on the other. Both have been reliable and accurate for me. To be honest, I've never taken the time to try and measure the accuracy. I've had no reason to complain, they simply hit what I'm aiming for. I just joined up at DRRC, so perhaps I'll take the time down the road to put them on a bench rest and really see what they can do. The rifles are both 31 years old and continue to be some favorite plinkers of mine.

    From what I'm reading here, it would appear that free floating or not free floating would have no impact on my type of shooting. It may even have no measurable impact on something like a .22 rifle. Interesting topic though.
     
  11. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Ok, so here's some basics... (I'm going to touch on a number of the points above)

    What makes an accurate rifle? Well, there are two factors that most people agree make an accurate rifle, one that maintains zero, and one that always puts all the bullets in the same place.

    That said, why is free floating important to make a rifle accurate?

    1) Barrels are made of steel, as great as modern steels are there are always minute differences in carbon content and alloying elements, plus minor differences that are induced during manufacture. No two barrels are identical. That said, isolating the barrel will allow the barrel to move in free space according to it's harmonics (this is actually a resonance pattern the barrel undergoes when loading, if you see high speed videos, even most of the carry-able heavy barrels undergo a small amount of whip when firing, accuracy is the sum of all accrued errors being small). Additionally, as the barrel heats up, it is likely to warp slightly, an accurate gun will usually show no more than 1/8 MOA POI change as the barrel warms up.

    2) As others have pointed out, stocks were originally made of wood, wood changes it's shape when exposed to temperature and humidity variations. If the stock is pressing against the barrel, POI will change, and the factors mentioned in point 1 will not be consistent.

    3) Every material we deal with will change slightly when exposed to varied temperature (such as exposure to hot gun barrels) so even plastic stocks are susceptible to creep.

    4) One of the other issues that comes up frequently in non-free-floated guns is sling loading. If you have mounted a bipod, a sling, or combination of these things, depending on how much force you're applying you can get variable torque on the barrel, which as seen in points 2 and 3 can change POI, the really insidious problems here is if you're not aware with it, the amount of torque may change depending on how much you pull the sling, how much you lean forward on the bipod. It's a really simple way to ruin perfectly good shots.

    Now, you also asked about bedded actions, bedding is simply the process of putting a material into the stock that will keep the action from moving around, this makes the stock "fitted" to the action. Glass-bedding is simply a fiberglass reinforced polymer. With most modern stocks, I tend not to worry too much about bedding. Most modern stocks use pillar bedding, or some similar method to make sure nothing moves around provided the screws are torqued properly.

    Bedding is something I've never really messed with, but at the same time, on the guns I was trying to squeeze accuracy out of, it seemed pointless to put some bedding compound onto an aluminum mount.
     
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  12. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Good information, thanks for posting that :)
     
  13. coop44

    coop44 Tacoma ,WA Well-Known Member

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    I agree with AMP, with a couple of exceptions. Depending on the barrel and caliber, most rifles benefit from free floating the barrel. The exceptions being featherweight barrels, in medium to long calibers. Say .243 and up, maybe, .308 and up most definitely. The barrels are so "whippy" full length bedding is almost always an improvement, or even a slight bit of upward pressure between the stock and barrel. Also I am in full agreement with him on the uselessness of bedding an action into a stock with a bedding block. I suppose pillar bedding has its merits, but I have seen no noticeable improvement over a good bedding job on the action.

    Speaking of bedding the action. There are two schools of thought, bed just the action and free float the barrel or bed the action and the chamber area of the barrel. I have seen no accuracy difference between the two, but, with heavy barrels having the chamber area bedded will take some stress off of the rear action screw. the barrel acts as a lever with the recoil lug as the fulcrum trying to pull the rear action screw through the stock.

    even with modern stocks bedding the recoil lug may help, things vary, use a bit of modeling clay in the area that is suspect and install the action and tighten the action screws, remove it and look at how thin the clay gets and where it "mushes" to.

    (Classy guns still have wood stocks!!)

    BTW acraglass is a mess and sucks, microbed is far superior.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2014
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  14. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Good input guys, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
     
  15. 3MTA3

    3MTA3 DMZ between Liberty and Tyranny Behind Enemy Lines Bronze Supporter

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    Your greatest opportunity to improve accuracy is
    1. Work on shooting technique first, then
    2. Experiment with different loads
    Learning your rifle could be more effective than improving it. When I was kid we had a cheap pool table with a couple of warps in it. I got to where I could shoot real well on it, but when I played on a good table I sucked.

    It's a lot like the golfer who spends thousands of dollars on fancy gear and can't improve his score, when lessons and practice would have done some good.
     
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  16. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    The best ever 3 shot group I had was with a stock that had a pressure point for the barrel.

    However, the same gun never again needed the scope "zeroed" after being placed in a stock that free floated the barrel. Before, I would need to make small adjustments each season...

    That gun went to my oldest nephew when he graduated high school. It's replacement was only fired while breaking in the barrel before being placed in a stock that free floated the barrel. As it is, it's a keeper. But, if I had a gun that wouldn't group well with a free floated barrel, the first thing I would try is a pressure point.

    Didn't others mention "depends"? :)
     
  17. Beefcake

    Beefcake Portland Active Member

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    Did this happen to be a Ruger M77 Mk II? They commonly need a pressure point to be consistent.
     
  18. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Oh yeah. My favorite rifles, bar none. All of them came that way, as do the Hawkeyes (MKII part 2), at least the ones in wood stocks.
     
  19. erudne

    erudne The Pie Matrix PPL Say Sleeping W/Your Rifle Is A bad Thing? Bronze Supporter

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    In the fewest words possible; If your rifle barrel has a pressure point as the barrel heats from sustained firing that pressure will push the barrel and your bullets will change point of impact in relationship. bedding the barrel and action equalizes the pressure along the length of the barrel but there are other uses for pressure points that can improve accuracy by creating vibration dampening nodes just behind the fore end
     
  20. Mr Smith

    Mr Smith 54 68 65 20 73 74 69 63 6b 73 Active Member

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    I can't speak for non free float as all of my weapons have free floating barrels, but I can say that after getting better scope rings on my 15-22 (since we are on the topic of a .22 and free floating vs non free-floating) I haven't had to re-zero my scope since.

    That rifle is not babied either. I toss it on the back seat of the truck let it get bounced around. shoot the crap out of it. clean it when it gets filthy, but otherwise only clean it every other plinking session...

    the scope is just a cheap $30-40 scope but the rings are an $80 AR-15 scope mount. before putting the good rings on, that scope would never hold zero... after upgrading to a nice scope mount, it hasn't lost zero since. even after tossing the rifle in the back seat of the truck and it falling on the floor off the seat landing on the scope... still holding zero and dead on accurate every shot.

    basically what I'm trying to say is regardless of floating or not, most of your accuracy will come from a good solid scope mount, and consistent ammo.

    as far as ammo goes: in my .22lr rifle I run CCI Standard Velocity. Rifle loves it, it's silent/subsonic with the can, and it holds tight groups with consistent reliable cycling and ejection.