Who else thinks fluted barrels are really cool? Are they really functional or is it just a useless cosmetic add on? I have had many engineers stop by our shop wanting us to produce a fluted barrel for them that is going to change the face of the firearms industry and make them rich. Being an Engineer myself the idea is intriguing and I have spent many countless hours in thought experiments, SolidWorks analysis and outlining machining procedures to design the greatest new barrel for the AR 15 marketplace.
So, let’s take a look at a few reasons why you might want a fluted barrel and then discuss each of them in detail.
- It makes my barrel stronger.
- It makes my barrel lighter
- It cools off my barrel.
- I look good in a fluted barrel.
Stronger? How can you remove material from any metal object and make it stronger? This is just not possible. You can increase the strength to weight ratio of a metal structure by strategically placing holes, groves or dimples in and about its construction. This is done in a countless number of applications including the aircraft industry where weight has a detrimental effect to flying but strength cannot be compromised. Let’s face it, we are on the ground so, barrel rigidity, the dampening of vibrations and the reduction of whipping all play a critical role in accuracy and repeatability.
We can however strategically remove material where it is not needed and beef up the parts of the barrel where strength is important but this is not achieved at Ballistic Advantage by fluting. Let’s discuss the other elements and then revisit Ballistic Advantage’s design options.
It makes my barrel lighter. Well, of course it does and a lighter weight barrel has many benefits including reducing fatigue for the shooter. At Ballistic Advantage we accomplish a lighter weight design by strategically removing material where it is not needed and beefing up the barrel where necessary. Not by fluting our barrels.
Barrel flutes are effective in reducing heat buildup. This statement is true and through mathematical calculations, manual data scrutiny and computer analysis it can be fully supported. The effective thermodynamic gain though, can be related proportionally to the increase in surface area about the barrel. Unfortunately, in order to gain enough surface area the fluting must be so intense that the barrel is greatly weakened and any benefits are quickly lost.
The above barrel does effectively disperse heat but due to the deep grooving and the fact that all the grooves are perpendicular to the bore it is inherently weak and not very repeatable due to heat induced distortion.
Another factor to think about… the metal itself is a heat sink and an unfluted barrel with more mass will take longer to heat up but, in turn will take longer to cool down.
So how does my new fluted barrel look? I think we all agree that fluted barrels are visually appealing and if this is the reason you are shopping for a fluted barrel by all means continue to shop but I urge you to take a look at the Ballistic Advantage line up of Hanson barrels that take advantage of smooth contours and the lack of right angles to produce a lightweight barrel that minimizes vibrations and improves accuracy and guess what… they too look really cool.
by: Gregg Fikes