What is a bull barrel? If you’re in the market for a new weapon, then you might be quite curious about this type of weapon barrel and why so many hunters and sport shooters prefer it.
Rifles come in four different barrel designs, which include tapered barrels, bull barrels, fluted barrels, and carbon fiber barrels.
Out of these four main types, the bull barrel is probably the most discussed. In this guide, we take a closer look at this specific weapon barrel so you can see why so many choose it and whether it is a worthy investment for your specific shooting discipline.
What Is a Bull Barrel?
A bull barrel is also known as a bull pipe, and can be used on rifles, pistols, or shotguns. This is a type of barrel that doesn’t taper outward like a standard barrel. Instead, it’s completely cylindrical with an even size throughout the barrel.
There is a bit of controversy about where these weapon barrels originally came from.
Some say this barrel style was first used by the British gunsmith Philip Webley in 1876 and was used on his revolver weapons for target shooting (bullseye targets). He produced this type of barrel in an attempt to enhance the accuracy and precision of his firearms.
Others believe that the bull barrel was developed by Freeman R. Bull in the 1800s when he experimented with the barrel thickness in order to enhance the weapon’s accuracy. It is believed that he later became a sharpshooter.
This barrel design tends to be stiffer and helps reduce vibrations that the barrel creates when the weapon is fired. These barrels can come in different designs and can be made from steel, aluminum alloy, or other metal types. They do tend to be quite heavy compared to other barrel designs.
Advantages of Using a Bull Barrel
Choosing a bull barrel over other barrel designs can offer you quite a few benefits. These advantages can be enjoyed for rifles, pistols, or shotguns. Here is a quick look at the main advantages of this type of weapon barrel.
- Reduced vibrations – The solid design of this type of barrel will absorb more vibrations. This can increase accuracy when firing with a heavy barrel.
- Reduced recoil – The barrel causes less recoiland a decrease in muzzle jumps because it is heavier. This enhances your shooting comfort and keeps shooters from flinching.
- Greater rigidity – The solid barrel design is stiffer which gives greater resistance to twisting forces. This can make it more suited for long-distance shooting.
- More accurate – Because the barrel has less recoil and fewer vibrations, it tends to be more accurate compared to other weapon barrels.
- Consistent temperature – The solid design of the heavy barrel deposits temperature more evenly throughout the barrel. Where other weapon barrels might start to expand if the metal warms up, this barrel stays cooler for longer and doesn’t change dimensions as much. This offers a great level of accuracy for rigid shooting expeditions at the target range.
Disadvantages of Bull Barrel Weapons
Despite all of these advantages, bull barrels do have a couple of disadvantages that weapon owners need to keep in mind before they start shopping for one of these weapon accessories. Here’s a quick look at a couple of drawbacks to these types of weapons.
- Weight – Bull barrels tend to be heavier compared to other barrel designs which can make it difficult to maintain good shooting accuracy as your arm grows tired. The excess weight also makes the weapon heavier to carry and, as such, unsuitable for tactical or military purposes.
- High price – Weapons with these types of barrels tend to be more expensive compared to non-barreled weapons.
- Resilience to impact – The barrels are not quite as resilient to impact, because they’re very rigid and don’t easily bend under stress. This can mean a lot of damage should you accidentally drop the weapon from a height or drive over the barrel.
- Doesn’t always offer adequate results – The bull barrel might enhance accuracy and performance, but these benefits can be offset if there’s an accuracy issue in the weapon’s overall design.
Who Should Use a Bull Barrel?
Bull barrels can be suitable for a wide range of firearms and even handguns. These barrels can be a great option for long-distance accuracy shots. This can be functional for sharpshooting, long-distance target shooting, or long-distance hunting.
Some people do prefer a bull barrel for tactical purposes because it gives good stability and accuracy for multiple shots. The extra weight of this type of barrel does, however, make it a challenging option for most tactical applications.
In handguns, bull barrels tend to be a better option because the weight difference isn’t quite as significant in these shorter barrel lengths. For tactical handguns, a barrel design can be just as functional and it will give better accuracy over greater distances.
Different Bull Barrel Variations
Bull barrels can vary in design for different weapon brands, types, and functions. Here’s a quick look at the main variation categories of these weapon components.
Groove or Flute Variations
To reduce the weight of these types of barrels, gunsmiths often create these barrels with grooves, flutes, or cuts along the barrel. These grooves or cuts can give the barrel a more aesthetically pleasing look and will reduce the weight of the gun. But for every groove introduced into the barrel, the stiffness is reduced, which can impact the accuracy of the weapon.
It’s very important for weapon owners not to attempt to create grooves on their own. These types of modifications can be challenging to make and can impact the stability and shooting accuracy of the weapon if done incorrectly.
While flutes or grooves can make the weapon lighter, a barrel will still be a lot heavier compared to other types of weapons.
Another common variation is materials. These weapon barrels can be made from a wide range of material types, including the following:
- Stainless steel or 416R stainless steel
- Carbon fiber
- Aluminum exterior with steel bore liner
- Aluminum alloy
- Chrome molybdenum steel
- Titanium-cobalt alloy
Caliber and Design Variations
Bull barrels can also be used on several different types of weapons and calibers. The barrel will have a different design for most of the different calibers to make it more compatible with the weapon. One thing that’s the same for all caliber types is all bull barrel design weapons tend to be more accurate and stable.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s always good to ask plenty of questions before you decide on the right type of firearm to purchase. An even better way to determine whether a bull barrel is a suitable pick is to give it a test drive at a range so you get a better idea of the weight and handling.
Here’s a look at some of the FAQs other weapon owners have had about this type of barrel.
Is there a difference between a heavy barrel and a bull barrel?
No, there is no difference between a heavy barrel and a bull barrel, since both of these names refer to the same type of barrel. Bull barrels are simply called heavy barrels because they’re much heavier compared to other types of barrels.
Are bull barrels useful?
Yes, bull barrel weapons can be very good weapons, but not everyone will love them.
Competitive shooters and sharpshooters tend to favor bull barrels because they’re more accurate compared to standard barrel designs, especially with long-distance shots. Bull barrels are also preferred for target shooting because they don’t heat up as much and won’t lose accuracy.
In most cases, bull barrel weapons tend to be too heavy for tactical shooting or defensive purposes, and are often more expensive.
Can you use a bull barrel weapon for hunting?
Yes, you can use a bull barrel weapon for hunting. Bull barrel rifles tend to be more accurate over long-distance shots, and they produce less recoil which is favorable for preventing a flinch when you pull the trigger.
However, these weapons are much heavier and are therefore more difficult to carry over rough terrains, through woods, or over mountains. Hunters traveling long miles by foot with bull barrel guns can become quite fatigued.
What does a bull barrel do?
Bull barrels offer quite a few significant benefits. The thicker barrel materials will stay cooler for longer while firing a magnitude of shots since the metal will evenly deposit the heat through the barrel. As a result, the metal warms up more evenly, and doesn’t expand as much when it warms. This keeps the weapon accurate during target practice expeditions.
The solid design of this barrel also reduces recoil and vibrations, which results in more accurate shots over longer distances.
Are there plastic bull barrels?
Yes, there are plastic bull barrels, but these types of barrels are not considered actual bull barrels, as they’re mostly made for aesthetic appeal. They’re simply used to cover standard barrels to enhance the weapon’s appeal. Standard bull barrels with a plastic coating can make a slight difference in shooting comfort. They’ll also help reduce vibration and recoil, but not nearly as much as a solid metal bull barrel.
So, what is a bull barrel and is it worth the extra money? For those who are looking for a way to get the highest level of accuracy over long-distance shots, these types of weapons can be a worthy investment. For those who prefer a lighter weapon and are not that worried about hitting the tiny bull of the target, these weapons might not be worth the higher price.
We hope this guide made it a little easier for you to decide whether to get this type of weapon or to settle for one of the other barrel designs. If you want to learn more about weapon barrels or need a good cleaning kit so you can take care of your newly acquired weapon, have a look at some of the other guides we have on Gun Cleaning HQ.