Barrels – F.A.Q.

For those that do not want to read this article all the way through, just gonna say this…. For the best choice in a barrel, match your paint size with the bore size of the barrel. This will provide the best accuracy available. There is no ONE barrel that is more accurate than another. That is fact! I have made charts for both paint sizes and barrel sizes to help in this matching. Good, quality barrels are made by CP, Dye, J&J, Lapco, and Smart Parts. Barrels made by them should be considered.Also, do not get a barrel that is longer than 14″ or shorter than 10″. A paintball will need 8-10″ to get up to the desired fps. The remaining 2-4″ is needed for guidance. No more. A short barrel will hurt accuracy. A longer barrel will use more gas.Those are the basics in barrels. For a further, in depth, discussion of barrels, then continue reading.

Choosing the right barrel for you.

First, I need to dispell some of the myths about barrels. There is no ONE barrel that is the best over any other! It is fact! You really should not believe somebody that says “XYZ” barrel is the most accurate. It may be a good barrel for him/her. But doesn’t mean that it would be the best barrel for you. Also, the longer the barrel is NOT the most accurate. You can get a great barrel for under $60. My favorite barrel for medium size paint cost me $35. No need to get the $100 “super reach out and touch someone” barrel. There is one exception to this. The Freak barrel system by Smart Parts. I will go into it later. Finally, paintballs are not the straightest flying object and will loose speed the further it travels.

Finding the right barrel can be a difficult process. There are so many to choose and so many manufacturers. You will ask one person what barrel to get, and he will say that “XYZ” barrel is the only one you need and most accurate. I really cannot say that is true. There are several factors that will effect the accuracy and range of a barrel.

Paintball Accuracy and Range

For information on Range and Accuracy, please read my Range and Accuracy article.

Paint to Bore Match

I cannot stress this enough on how important this is. As I said before, paintballs are not a perfect sphere. You cannot go through and measure each paintball and find the ones that are in perfect shape. That is silly. There is one thing that you can do to help the paintball get to your target. That is a paint to bore match. Earlier in this F.A.Q., I provided links to two charts. Refer to them to get a close match.

These charts should not be taken as absolute. Paintballs are affected by the surrounding environment. In cold weather, they shrink. In warm humid weather, the expand. Also, how long they have been exposed to the air. I am not going to discuss everything about paintballs.  The only best way to find the best paint to bore match is this little test.

Place the paintball inside the barrel. Now, blow! If the paintball rolls out before you blow, the paint you are using is to small for the barrel. If the paintball gets stuck in the barrel, the paint is too big. If you blow it out without it getting stuck or rolling out, you got yourself a good paint to barrel match.

A good quality, well machined barrel that has a smooth, slippery bore will improve accuracy. A paint that fits perfectly will add to that accuracy. Paint comes in various sizes. You may have seen players with different barrels. That is not because they bought those barrels for the “cool” factor. Those barrels that they have more than likely have different bore size. I have 3 barrels. One is for small paint, one for medium paint, and one for large paint.

There is one barrel that is unique in thise topic. That is the Freak barrel system from Smart Parts. This is a 2 piece barrel. The front portion can have porting in the design of any of there barrels. The rear portion will except inserts to match a paint. A very unique setup. But expensive.

The Length

The Length of a barrel does matter. A nice length for a barrel would be between 10-14″. Long barrels are kinda clumsy when on the field. Particlulary when moving about. In paintball, if your pinned down behind something, you will need to snap shoot to keep your opponents in place until you figure out what your going to do. Your opponent will see the barrel start to come around the bunker. By the time you get into position, there may be 1 or 2 balls heading towards you. Or you may need to sprint to a new location. You could get your barrel caught on something. Not good. Short barrels on the other hand are typically loud.

What about performance for a barrel length? A paintball will need 8″ to 10″ of barrel to get up to your desired velocity. It also needs some guidance when it reaches this velocity. Typically, that is from 2″ to 4″. Something longer, this will cause unneeded friction on the paintball. The friction will slow the paintball down. Thus, more gas is needed to keep the paintball the right speed. A short barrel will not have the proper guidance for the paintball.

Lastly, for you players that have not converted to a Low Pressure setup, you can generally use a barrel with no problems that is between 10″ to 12″. You LP users may need a barrel from 12″ to 14″ because of the slower velocity acceleration.

Barrel Characteristics

Barrels come in all sorts of sizes, material, shapes, and overall construction. I will go over some of the differences of barrels.

Porting

Porting in a barrel can be a good thing and a bad thing. I think it was Bill Gardner of the All Americans that ‘invented’ porting to barrels. Today, most all of the manufacturers add porting in a barrel. The difference is the size and how much. Porting in a barrel will make a paint marker quiet. Not ‘sniper’ quiet, but noticeable compared to say…. a stock barrel. Be warned, a heavily ported barrel may cause your marker to be a gas hog. Because of the extra holes, gas will exit too soon from behind the ball. So more air is needed to accelerate, if not keep, the ball at a velocity. Smart Parts All American is just about in this pig pen.

The purpose of porting is this, when you fire a paintball, the gas you are using wants to expand as quickly as possible. With this in mind, gas can and will get around the paintball when the paintball stops accelerating in the barrel. This causes turbulence in front of the ball when the ball exits the barrel. This may cause the ball to travel in other directions besides straight. Porting is added to help decrease this turbulence, by giving the gas a secondary escape route. Another purpose is to quiet the barrel.

For the players that want to convert there marker into a Low Pressure beast now, there is a general rule to porting for this type of setup. As was mentioned before, 8″ is a minimum to get the paintball up to speed. So for the LP system, it is a must that there is no porting for this 8″ or the efficiency will go down. You could get away with 6″ of no porting. LP helps your marker become efficient in gas usage. If the gas escapes too early, you will be using more gas then is needed.

Bore Size

Another different part of a barrel is the bore size. This refers to the inner diameter of the barrel. Not every paintball is made the same. Paintballs come in various thicknesses of fills, shell wall thickness, and how there manufactured. Also, what type of weather are you playing in. humid weather makes paintball want to soak up the moisture and swell. Cooler weather will make a ball shrink and become brittle. For excellent accuracy, match the paint size with the bore size of the barrel your using. When at the field, do that barrel/blow test. Many of the barrels available come in many different bore sizes. The average paint size is medium. So, you could get away with one barrel of medium bore. With me traveling to many different fields, I tend to use different types of paint of different sizes. Personally, I will have 3 different barrels with me. One in a small, one medium, and one large bore. Sure, my stainless steel barrel looks odd on my all black Spyder, but atleast I will have accuracy on my side.

There are different companies that will custom make a barrel for you to a certain bore size that you ask for. That way, you can get several barrels that share the same look, but will have different bore size (or length). As mentioned earlier, the Freak barrel system sounds like a good idea also. I do not have one. With the varying inserts of bore sizes, matching paint should prove easy. A “one barrel fits all”.

Length

I have already discussed the importance of length. I will just add that it is true a longer barrel can help the individual aim. But doesn’t mean that there super accurate. They are akward in the field as well as a gas hog. I have seen all lengths of barrels that are used. From a stubby 4″ barrel all the way to a 24″. Just look at barrels that are 10″ to 14″ in length and you will do fine.

Honing

Honing is a process of finishing the inside of barrels. There are two types of honing that a manufacturer will use – flex-honing and stiff arbor honing. Both of this accomplishes the same thing… sort of. Let me try and explain. They both polish the inside and get the roughness out.

The differences – the flex hone is a brush that follows the bore while it polishes. This process will not remove any imperfections in the bore. So, in reality, the inside bore is not nice and straight. These imperfections will allow gas to get around the paintball. The stiff arbor honing is a much better quality hone. The finish is from a stiffer, non-bending brush. The result is a much more precise, concentric size. This type of honing will remove all of the imperfections in the bore. As far as I know, Smart Parts uses the stiff arbor honing process exclusively. You are able to re-hone your barrel (yourself or pro-shop). However, by doing this, you will increase the inside bore alittle, changing the size paint you use.

Material

Material of barrels can come in aluminum, stainless steel, and brass.

Aluminum can be anodized to a variety of colors easily, are the most common material used in a barrel and are lightweight. A perfect hone will last a short time (about 30 cases of paintballs) in an aluminum barrel. You can get it re-honed at a number of custom shops or do it yourself.

Stainless steel barrels are heavier barrels and cannot be anodized that well. If you want color, get out the Dutch boy paint. But if honed correctly to a mirror finish inside the bore, the honing will last longer that your marker. It is also far slicker than aluminum due to the mirror finish.

Brass is an “old school” paintball material. The PGP is still made of this material like is always had been since 1983. Brass is very rare material for a barrel on the more conventional markers of today. Personally, I like it. It is easy to work with, but tarnishes easily if not taken care of properly. It is a far softer material than the other materials. With it being soft though, a do-it-yourself hone is easy.

Guess I better add ceramic and composite to this material list. This is the newest thing on the market (along with Teflon coating). These offer a nice, slick surface for the paintballs to travel on. It is advertised with the JJ Ceramic that if a ball breaks, shooting about 2 to 3 more balls will clean the barrel. I have one of these barrels, but yet to experience this with mine as I have yet to break a ball. These materials also offer a super light barrel if weight is a concern.

*A little tip I learned from a more avid ‘professional’ player. Coat your barrel with Rain-X. Yes, the same stuff used on car windshields. This will add a slick travel surface for your paintballs in any of your barrels. Just make sure you wipe off the access. This acts the same way as the ceramic barrel from J&J. Ball breaks in the barrel, shoot a few shots and the barrel is clean. You may need to reapply the Rain-X after so many cases of paint.

Shape

The shape of the barrel (both inside and out) have added to the selection. There are barrels that has internal rifling. You know, spirals inside. I have heard of only 2 praises of how well it works over the years. I have used an internal rifling barrel and had bad results. Could have been the paint, could have been my marker, could have been the barrel. Not sure of the problem. Tom Kaye’s extensive studies of paintball physics found that a paintball would have to attain a very large RPM to get any benefit from a spin imparted from rifling. This is virtually impossible to do for a paintball barrel. Not only that, the spirals will let air escape around the ball to ’cause a controlled distortion’ in the air. In my book, that is a gas-guzzler because you have to use more gas to push the ball out of the barrel.

I have come across and excellent barrel that is used for the Phantom. It is the stock barrel. It is very impressive. It is all smooth inside. But about 1″ from the end is porting AND straight rifling called a crown. The barrel keeps air behind the ball until the very end. When the air reaches these crowns, it enables the gas to escape from behind the ball and to give it an “air” barrel extension. Controlled turbulence. It could also be the paint to bore match. Though, it is something to consider.

The best type of internal do-dad’s should be a smooth and slick surface. No rifling. No rough surfaces. Just plain and simple, smooth and slick.

The flatline barrel has been threatening to come on the scene for the Spyder for several months. Will it? Not sure. Either way, not worth it. Sure, this barrel WILL give you longer range. But hold the barrel a little slanted and you are shooting balls that are curving. Also, as the paintball travels farther and farther, it looses momentum. If it looses too much momentum, it will not break and mark your target.

Well, that is about it. Choose your barrel wisely. And remember; match the bore size of the barrel to the size of the paint you are using. If you’re not sure what type of paint your field uses, go with a medium bore. That is the average. And never get longer than 14″. Also, no barrel will give you more distance over another barrel.

Just remember this when you do go to a field, most fields will have a velocity limit and use only there paint. A paintball from an Angel traveling at 285fps will travel just as far as a paintball from a Spyder traveling the same speed. So, all is equal. The only difference is paint to bore match that effects accuracy and range along with a regulator to keep things consistent. All else for a barrel is personal preference.


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