Tyler Kee asked (paraphrasing here):

So what’s all this “barrel twist” hoopajoop? Does barrel twist impact my accuracy? And if so, what twist is best?

Continuing with my “AR for Dummies” kick, I figured this would be a great opportunity to discuss what is probably the most confusing part of buying an AR-15 and try to make it so simple that even Tyler will understand it. So let’s begin . . .

Modern firearms use a series of grooves inside the barrel called “rifling” to spin the projectiles (bullets) as they pass through the barrel. The bullets are sized to fit (snugly) down the barrel without the raised portions so when the bullet is pushed down a barrel with rifling those spiral designs cut into the side of the bullet and grab hold, forcing it to spin. We express the degree of rifling twist in a barrel by a ratio that describes the number of inches it takes to do one complete revolution (for example, 1:12 means 1 revolution in 12 inches).

There are two main reasons for why rifling is important, and both have to do with accuracy.

First, bullets are imperfect projectiles. No matter how well you make them, one side is always going to have more drag or a little more mass, and that imperfection will drag the flight path of the bullet in one direction or the other. Spinning the bullet forces the imperfections to be applied evenly to each direction, cancelling them out. Mostly.

Second, bullets in the real world don’t operate in a frictionless plane like they do in physics books. There are external factors by the boatload that impact where the round will hit, and spinning the bullet helps reduce the effect of those factors. The reason is that the spinning turns the bullet into a gyroscope, and as we students of physics know a gyroscope likes to stay oriented in a single direction and will resist changes. Changes that result from things like wind, for example.

So, one would assume that the faster you can get the round spinning the happier you’ll be. And, for the most part, you’re absolutely correct. The issue, however, is that if you spin a high velocity round (like the 5.56x45mm NATO) too much it has a tendency to disintegrate when it slams into the wall of air past the muzzle and no longer has the barrel to keep it together.

The other end of the spectrum is also no bueno. Bullets need to be spinning sufficiently fast to get that gyroscopic stabilization going (ever notice how gyroscopes will topple over after they slow down, even if the wheel is still spinning?), and if they aren’t properly stabilized they will begin to tumble. And tumbling is bad. The military ran into this problem when they tried using 1:14 barrels, and they’ve since spun things up quite a bit.

So the trick is getting the right level of spin on a given round, and thanks to decades of testing we pretty much know what works and what doesn’t.

As a rule of thumb:

• 40gr likes 1:12
• 55gr likes 1:9
• 77gr likes 1:7

Some people think that twist rate is a direct factor of bullet weight. Some people would also be wrong. Thanks to physics, we know that the ideal twist rate for a projectile is determined by the combination of the length of the projectile and the velocity, and not the weight of the projectile. But since we’re dealing with identical materials (lead, copper…) in a fixed diameter (.224 inches) and bullets are usually sold by the weight, we can use weight to determine which bullet is the right size for the rifling we have. Or, alternatively, we can determine what rifling we need based on bullet size.

The “rule of thumb” formula for twist rate, developed by George Greenhill, is:

Twist = (C x [Bullet Diameter in Inches, Squared]) / [Length of Bullet in Inches]

Where “C” is 150 when the velocity is under 2,800 feet per second, and 180 when above. There’s some extra bits that are thrown in when you don’t have a lead core projectile, but that’s the basics. This formula can be used to either figure out the ideal twist for a given projectile, or figure out what the ideal length of projectile for a given twist is.

So what is the “right” twist rate to get? What is best? Well, that depends.

If you’re the average shooter and you own an AR-15 for general shooting and/or home defense purposes, you’re probably going to be running either 55gr or 62gr rounds through it. That’s the standard weight for most bulk ammunition (thanks to the insatiable appetite of the military for it), and that stuff is best stabilized by a 1:9 twist barrel. Most “standard” AR-15 rifles come in 1:9 by default.

If you plan on doing some prairie dog hunting and need light, zippy rounds then a 1:12 is probably best instead. It will still stabilize some of the heavier stuff (like 55gr) to a degree, but not for very far.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and long range accuracy is your kind of thing, then 1:7 is the twist rate to go with. Heavier (and therefore longer) bullets are more resistant to external factors and have more mass, which means they maintain velocity longer and are accurate at longer ranges. In other words, ideal for long distance shots. 1:7 will stabilize the biggest bullets you can cram in the case and do it well, but it will also stabilize the lighter stuff (like 55gr) out to (in my experience, at least) 300 – 400 yards.

This video is me running my 5.56 competition rifle for the first time since the Crimson Trace match (where I was running 40th out of 105 or so until I DQ’ed myself, which is why I was a touch cautious this time), and at about 3:55 you can see me hitting targets from 250 to 500 yards using 55gr ammo out of a 1:7 twist Noveske barrel. The 500 yard stuff didn’t go so well, but I still got a hit. Eventually. Point being that 55gr WILL stabilize (mostly) in a 1:7 barrel.

So what’s the answer? For most people, 1:9 is perfect. It will shoot the widest range of bullets, and will be especially good with the cheapest ammunition.

[Email your firearms-related questions to “Ask Foghorn” via guntruth@me.com. Click here to browse previous posts]

## 79 Responses to Ask Foghorn: Barrel Twist, and Which is Right for Your AR-15?

1. Michael B. says:

Excellent post.

2. Michael says:

Great article. Especially for a details junkie like me who’s just getting into shooting. Though you call it “AR’s for dummies”, there’s a lot of miscommunication out there. Many people could benefit from reading this.

3. RKBA says:

If 1:7 will stabilize lighter bullets out to ~400 yds, and is preferred for heavier bullets when shooting beyond ~400 yds, what would be the purpose of the 1:9 barrel?

Is the formula presented based on a 16″ barrel?

What then is better for shorter or longer barrels, say 7″ and 20″?

Or 10″ and 24″?

Thank You!

• The mathematically proper twist for a typical 55gr round is actually 1:12, as the math below shows:

(150 * sqr(.224) ) / .724 = 12.5

But since the military went to 1:9 so they can stabilize some of the heavier stuff (like 62gr and SS109) 1:9 became the “standard” twist. 1:9 will work perfectly fine for everything in that middle range of bullet weight, from 55gr through 68 or 72gr. 1:7 will still work, but I’ve had some accuracy issues with lighter rounds.

The formula is barrel agnostic.

• Gun collector says:

The military (at least the US Military) NEVER went with 1:9, it went from the M-16A1 with a 1:12 twist to the M16A2 with a 1:7 twist. The reason for that was to be able to stabilize the longer M856 tracer cartridge. 1:9 is a civilian invention that was the proper twist for the standard M855 cartridge since the majority of civilian shooters would never shoot the longer M856.

• Tomy Ironmane says:

Unless they get a deal on some match grade 70-grain 5.56 NATO…. I remember hearing from someone that the shorter barrel carbines actually liked it more, in terms of reliably cycling the action. The M855 Ball will work just fine out to 500 yards from a 20″ 1:7 barrel. There aren’t a whole lot of ranges that long where I am, though.

• Cav says:

But they are using the M4 carbine now which comes with a 14.5 in. barrel which is why they went with the 1:7 twist to impart more spin using a shorter barrel. Plus the military doesnt need tack driving assault weapons.

• Lew says:

In this example/formula, 150 should be 180 to get to 12.47.
Enjoyed the explanation, thanks

• Jim says:

We used the 5.56x45mm NATO 77 gr Blackhills OTM rounds in Afghanistan with great accuarccy becuase of the longer distances involved in mountain fighting. The match (OTM) rounds worked great at all ranges but excelled past 500 meters. You can put the flame out on a candle or hit a light bulb at 400 meters no problem 30 out of 30 times. Later since we had such great results with them we used them in late operations in Iraq with our unit along side the M855 then later they brougth out the M855A1 EPR round which had problems in the high temps of Iraq. The OTM rounds are Sierria MatchKing 77 gr rounds and tear a person body apart at just about any range but work better at long range.

• William Bell says:

Some discussions of optimal twist rate for barrels are clearer than others that the three primary deciding factors are the caliber, the length, and the weight of the bullet. Not so central to the calculation are things like velocity (although breaking the sound barrier at about 1,140 fps has a disruptive effect, so it is best to be rather higher or lower than that velocity), barrel length, temperature, air density, and so forth. If a bullet is lighter, smaller in diameter, or longer, then it needs a faster spin (fewer inches per twist) to achieve gyroscopic stabilization, and heavier, larger in diameter, or shorter bullets require less spin.

While a faster spin makes a bullet more gyroscopically stable, excess rotation may also decrease velocity as more energy goes into the spin and the barrel friction increases from more angled rifling. The GyroStabilityFactor in the formula below indicates the degree of stability achieved. If GSF is less than 1.0, then the bullet is unstable. 1.0 to 1.5 is fair, 1.5 to 2.0 is good, 2.0 to 2.5 is great, and over 2.5 is high. If the formula is reorganized to deliver the best twist rate for a bullet, then it is usually suitable to plug in a value of 2.0 as the “standard” GSF.

Here, then, I offer essentially Miller’s formula in a format that can be rather easily copied, pasted, and adapted to a spreadsheet. You need only supply three values to the formula, and this should give you results that pretty well match what is found in actual firearms of reputable manufacture. Since increasing weight reduces need for twist, but it also tends to cause greater length, which increases need for twist, the GSF results get to be rather varied. When there is a need to accommodate many weights and lengths of bullets, manufacturers tend to lean toward the faster spin needed in the range of bullets.

GyroStabilityFactor=30*BulletGrains/(Caliber^3*(BulletLength/Caliber)*(1+(BulletLength/Caliber)^2)*(TwistLength/Caliber)^2)

BulletGrains is the weight of the bullet in grains.

BulletLength is the full length of the bullet in inches.

Caliber is the inch decimal diameter of the bullet. E.g., a 30-06 uses a .308 bullet.

• Chris Dumm says:

The purpose of 1:9 barrels is for optimum stabilization and accuracy with 55-grain bullets. 55’s are the most common and usually the most affordable 5.56 ammo available, and this is why 1:9 barrels are the de facto standard for AR-type rifles.

As an illustration, the 1:7 SCAR 16S shoots nice tiny cold-barrel groups with 62 and 64-grain 5.56, but its 55-grain groups are considerably less consistent. A good 1:9 AR will be pleasantly (or amazingly) accurate with 55s, but you’ll see a slight accuracy drop-off with the heavier bullets.

.223/5.56 barrels aren’t commonly rifled any faster than 1:7, because that twist rate works best with any heavy bullet that the .223/5.56 cartridge can throw to reasonable velocities.

Faster-twist barrels are possible, but if you try to spin the projectile up to speed too suddenly, the abrupt jump from 0 RPM (for the unfired bullet in the chamber) to over 6,000 RPM for a bullet exiting the muzzle of a hypothetical 1:6″ barrel at 3,000 FPS, can chew up the bullet jacket and damage the rifling.

Roy Weatherby managed to increase the twist rate of his super-magnum rifles without shredding the bullets or causing dangerous pressure spikes, by using ‘twist-gain’ rifling.’ These are complicated and expensive barrels, which start with a very slow twist rate which gets tighter and faster as the bullet moves down the barrel. Even with CNC machining and cold hammer-forged barrel technology, these barrels are rare and costly so you won’t see them on 5.56mm ARs.

If you insist on shooting a 5.56mm bullet at targets beyond 400-500 yards, you need to shoot the heaviest bullets you can find through the longest 1:7 barrel you can find, and hope for the best. Or maybe just switch to a caliber more suited to long-range work, like a 6.8.

• Eric B. says:

Also note that “gain-twist” barrels have a nasty tendency to rip apart the jacket as the rifling changes the angle of engagement. This is the main reason that gain-twist barrels are often limited to use with monolithic bullets that employ driving bands to engage the rifling.

• Chris Dumm says:

I meant ‘revolutions per second’ not RPM.

• Greg in Allston says:

Chris, most people don’t realize this fact but bullets have some of the highest rotational rates of any man made object. Your calculation above are a little off, by a factor of about 60.

A 55gr bullet running at 3200 fps in a 1:7 barrel will be rotating at 329,142.86 rpm. Yes, you read that right. 12/7 = 1.714286 rotations per foot of travel, times the velocity of 3200fps = 5485.7143 revolutions per SECOND, times 60 seconds per minute = 329,142.86 revolutions per minute.

In a 1:8 match barrel running 69gr SMK’s @ 2950fps at the muzzle, the rotational rate would be 265,500rpm.

In a 1:9 barrel, a 62gr FMJBT @ 3020fps will spin at 241,600rpm.

I’ve seen hot, home brewed 220 Swift rounds disintegrate not long after leaving the barrel at > 4400fps, I suspect due to centrifugal forces, although I’m sure that going from zero to close to mach 4 in a few milliseconds may have contributed to the bullet’s demise as well.

• TheDude says:

I don’t think so.

4. J. Nelson says:

Hmmm. Here’s a question. How do ‘polygonal barrels’ factor into this?

• Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

Polygonal and other types of rifling don’t affect the twist rate. They’re different approaches to “grabbing hold” of the bullet and causing it to rotate.

“Square bottom” rifling grooves tend to be more difficult to clean, load up with copper or lead fouling, etc. They’re easy to cut because making a button broach for the rifling is easy to make with square corners.

Polygonal and other non-square bottom rifling try to improve upon classic rifling cuts by not having deep grooves that retain fouling, or are easier to clean, or are easier to form with hammer-forged barrels.

5. Matt in FL says:

Nick, I really appreciate your “AR for Dummies” kick. It’s provided me with a lot of good info, or at least the jumping off point to find more good info, in my quest to figure out what I want to do with my first AR.

• CarlosT says:

Another demonstration of why the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. And yes, that includes semi-auto rifles and normal capacity magazines.

6. Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

I’d like to amplify on your article here Nick, and hope you don’t mind too terribly much. Everything you say for the AR platforms is true, with perhaps the 77gr 1:7 twist rate being a tad tight for just 77gr pills. With a 1:7, you could also launch the 80+ gr pills used in single-loading situations. If one is never going to shoot any bullets that cannot be fit through the magazine, I think 1:7 is not needed (but it absolutely will work) and one could gain some more versatility by going with 1:8.

My amplification isn’t so much addressed at the AR but rifling twists in general.

Here’s a more expansive treatment of bullet stabilization:

http://www.jbmballistics.com/ballistics/bibliography/articles/miller_stability_1.pdf

The first thing people need to remember about Greenhill’s formula is that bullet shapes have changed dramatically since Greenhill’s time. Back in Greenhill’s day (late 19th century), bullets were usually cast lead. They didn’t tend towards the highly elongated copper jacketed (or pure copper) pills we’re increasingly seeing today. Greenhill’s formula is a great starting point for lead and classic spitzer pills of a light jacket over a lead core, but it is increasingly insufficient when we start looking at modern VLD/long-range bullets and all-copper hunting bullets (eg, Barnes TSX’s, etc).

Second thing people need to understand about twist rates is that there isn’t “one” magic rate for a particular bullet. There’s a range of twist rates (and the range might be narrow) that will adequately stabilize a particular bullet length/diameter/weight combination at a particular velocity. On the over-spun end, the bullets fragment going downrange as Nick indicates and on the low end, they start a precessional yaw which results in a “keyhole” effect on a paper target downrange.

Another downside to overly tight twists is higher pressures in the chamber & barrel. The 6.8SPC has discovered this in a roundabout way because they started by using barrel twists intended to launch 150gr .270 Winchester pills which are much longer than the approximately 100gr pills used in the 6.8. Now 6.8SPC barrels are coming out with a 1:11 to 1:12 twist and chamber pressures are lower because of it. Some early 6.8 loadings would blow their primers or walk their primers out of the pockets as a result of running too tight a twist.

Lastly, people need to understand that jacket deformation of the bullet results in an increase in group size downrange. As you “spin up” a bullet faster and faster (in RPM), any small error in runout or concentricity will magnify. This is why benchrest shooters (who value a tight group size) will tend towards using the slowest possible twist that will stabilize a bullet under their shooting conditions. The way to think of this: If you’re running a tighter twist than you need, you’re going to get a bigger group size than you could possibly achieve with a slower twist.

By how much? Well, that requires measurement of the deformation of the bullet and a bunch of math. I’ll bottom-line it for people: It could turn a rifle that’s capable of a 0.3″ group into a rifle that can’t get a group less than 0.5″. To your average AR shooter, a 0.5″ group is grounds for skipping circles around other people on the range. For the benchrest shooters, that’s grounds for chewing the ass of their gunsmith when they get back home.

You can either “buy” bullet deformation (ie, the bullets had slight errors in jacket formation or lead core formation from the manufacture), or your bullet can be deformed when loaded into the case, or when exiting the case and jumping the leade, in the barrel, etc. This is why benchrest guys obsess about how their rifle barrels are chambered, and they spend so much time worrying about whether their case necks are concentric with the bullet and whether their necks fit snugly into the chamber, and whether the chamber is coaxial with the bore just forward of the throat. They don’t want bullets deformed in the jump out of the case and into the lands – or rather, they want to minimize this deformation.

The upshot of twist rates is this: If you’re going to shoot one bullet all the time, you can optimize your twist rate pretty well for your shooting conditions. If I’m shooting long range with an AR, I’m going to try to maximize my ballistic coefficient, and this means going to heavier, longer bullets. These will require a tighter twist rate, but if all I’m doing is shooting long range matches with that barrel, then I’ll have a barrel optimized for 77gr Sierra Match Kings (as an example) and my twist rate will be in the 1:8 area. I will generally attempt to reckon the slowest twist rate that will stabilize the bullet over all my expected conditions – and sometimes, I can’t get that from a barrel maker. There are “standard” twists that barrel makers make and if I want a special twist rate, I usually have to talk to a barrel maker who is willing (and able) to produce a funky twist – and then I have to wait a good long time, because most all the barrel makers are backlogged, thanks to the buying frenzy caused by our Greatest Gun Salesman Ever Born in DC.

When you start trying to stabilize a range of bullet lengths and shapes, you start having to make compromises, and an example of this would be running a tight twist to allow you to stabilize the longer VLD pills loaded in an AR will prevent you from being able to shoot 40 to 50gr varmint pills out of the same barrel, or a 1:9 or even 1:10 barrel which allows you to shoot the light varmint pills on prairie dogs and ground squirrels means you can’t launch the 77gr match pills and have them stabilize properly.

• Paelorian says:

Well, I’d been thinking 1:8 but this sealed the deal. That’s my go-to twist rate from now on. From what I understand, it’s the best compromise when firing standard (should be good for 55gr) and long-range ammo (should be good for heavy ammo up to 77gr). If you’re a generalist and “tactically-minded” enough to not care about light varmint loads it looks like the way to go. 1:12, 1:9, and 1:7 still have their place for more specialized roles designed around one weight class of bullets.

• Paelorian says:

And thank you, Dyspeptic Gunsmith. You’re the best writer on this website.

7. Joseph says:

The standard military twist rate is 1:7. This best stabilizes the 62 grn. steel core green tip and the 63.7 grn. M856 tracer round, but it is reported that the SEALS are using the Daniel Defense MK-18/HK 416 in 1:7 with 77 grn bullets…of course they can use what they want. The 1:9 twist is kind of a catch-all, as it will stabilize both the 55 grn. and 62 grn bullets adequately if not ideally, and is indeed the best twist rate for civilian/law enforcement use. Good article Nick.

8. I_Like_Pie says:

You kinda touched on it, but why not just pick a 1-7″ for everything?

Here is why…
What many people don’t think about is how fast those projectivles are spinning. 1/12 twist is easy to calculate if you don’t believe me (1 foot = one spin)

Most rifle bullets are spinning between 200,000 and 250,000 rpm!
THAT is why a light bullet in a fast twist barrel flies apart in midair.

9. Eric says:

Split the difference and go 1:8

• Hoth says:

My 1:8 (Stag 6H) dislikes the 55s, but loves the 68s. @ 100yds it’s 2moa vs .75moa with 55gr Hrn FMJ and 68gr Hrn BTHP. Oddly enough, I’ve found that 55s and 62s are identical in length, as are 68s and 75s.

10. Eric B. says:

A few random thoughts:

1) The “ideal” spin rate for a given bullet needs to take into account not just its length, but also the location of its center-of-gravity and center-of-drag. Since that information is usually not easily found, and since different bullets still have similar general shapes, we can make reasonable approximations using characteristics that are easy to measure.

2) It’s typically better to spin the bullet too fast than too slow. An exception to this is when one really pushes the limits of thin-jacketed varmint bullets; this isn’t usually a problem with the .223 but can get interesting with rounds like the .22-250 and .243 (running one of those little 55gr bullets at 4000 fps through a 1:10 barrel already has it spinning at almost 290,000 RPM; push it down a 1:7.5 barrel and it’ll pick up another 100,000 RPM – but not for very long!).

3) Faster-twist rifling can cause higher chamber pressures for a given load, which means that choosing too fast a twist rate can sometimes cause a loss of velocity.

4) The shape of the rifling (conventional, polygonal, “ratcheted”/5R, etc.) really shouldn’t influence the selection of the numerical twist rate.

11. Amarante says:

And for .308 Win and 7.62×51 NATO?

• Sanchanim says:

The 308 I believe is better suited to a 1:10 or 1:12 twist rate.

• Eric B. says:

What weight bullet do you intend to shoot? The 1:12 barrel on my Rem700 SPS does just fine with 168gr or 175gr SMKs, but 1:11.25 is considered optimum for bullets in that range.

12. Sanchanim says:

Nice article Nick!
I have to admit, I have been researching uppers for a while now. I am more than likely going to go with a 1:9. Like Nick said most ammo out there is 55 gn. It is what I will shoot most often, so a 1:7 seems overkill.

13. uncommon_sense says:

Here is a related question. Before I can choose an appropriate twist rate in a rifle, I need to know which bullet I am going to shoot. So, what .223/5.56 bullet is “best” for home defense in a SHTF scenario?

Unlike the military application where wounding someone is desired (two more soldiers remove themselves from combat helping their wounded comrade), in a SHTF scenario I want to immediately stop the attacker/s with one shot ideally. That is the point of a rifle. (Otherwise I might as well use handguns.) That seems to dictate that standard military ammo is not the best choice for self-defense. Am I wrong? What is the best bullet choice? Then I can match up a barrel with appropriate twist.

• Tomahawk says:

I’ve been looking in to this too (I’m a newbie). For home use, I’ve seen a couple people suggest something like Hornady 55 gr. VMAX (or ZMAX) .223 ammo: because of the polymer tip, you get good expansion and a “reduced” risk of over-penetration. I’ve also seen people suggest something like Hornady TAP. I’ve been told to avoid FMJ ammo. I’m going to be using it out of a 1:9 twist Mini-14. “tnoutdoors9” did a pretty convincing video on the ZMAX/VMAX ammo.

• chris from canada says:

use a shotgun with a rifled barrel and #4 buckshot for home defense … it is like shooting twenty Ar15 in their direction with one pull of the trigger… and the rifled barrel makes the shot pattern spread like a tornado which is awesome for close range defense. make every-other round in the magazine a slug if you want longer range and barrier/obstacle breaching/penetration capabilities too…. and shoot a minimum of 4 times at a threat [this aint the movies folks] you decided to shoot because you know it is time to shoot with defensive deadly intent, so don’t second guess yourself by restricting your shots. do your think police/military are trained to shoot only once??? take care and be well my friends.

• Shane says:

Down here in the USA our main concern is with the large population of walkers. The 5.56mm has low recoil for rapid followup head shots with adequate penetration to put down any undead varmint we might encounter.

14. Joseph says:

I use 55grn. Federal (XM193) or Winchester (Q3131) 5.56mm for LE and home defense With proper shot placement you are good to go. Don’t use .223 in my opinon. YMMV

15. BRIAN E. DUNN says:

For those buy in bulk because they want to shoot cheap, a fifty five grain flat base
like the “varmint nightmare” out of a 14 twist is a great way to go. It is capable of three inch groups, or even less less, at three hundred meters if the shooter can read the cross wind. I have mounted hundred dollar Adams and Bennett barrels on ARs and bolt actions and never had a single complaint from anyone whose barrel I switched. In fact. when the barrels were “shot out,” my friends brought them back to be chopped and chambered for another go around. Again, no complaints. A 9 twist is great with 68s and up, but for the tried and true 55 flat back a 14 is the only way to go for maximum accuracy at short to medium ranges.

• Tomas says:

Then my question is; if I want to shoot hogs, Keith Warren style ( behind the ear ) what would be the right twist if I need precise placement at no more than 100 yards or so?

16. Shane says:

I wish I would have read this article when it was younger because I have several questions.

As Nick stated, “55gr WILL stabilize (mostly) in a 1:7 barrel.” He indicated that his 1:7 stabilized 55gr well enough out to 500 yards to hit the target. That seems more than good enough since 55gr is not going to be the first choice for long range shooting anyway (right?).

If I’m right on that first point, then a 1:7 barrel is just fine for 55gr ammo, which is the most common and cheapest available (right?).

But with a 1:7, the shooter also has the option to shoot heavier bullets for longer range.

Also (and here is my biggest assumption), heavier bullets will have better penetration and therefore would be better choices for close and mid-range defensive purposes (right?). My understanding is that 5.56mm isn’t a spectacular penetrator and it seems like maximizing that penetration would be desirable, especially if the bad guy were partially concealed by a light barrier of some kind.

So my current conclusion (possibly entirely wrong) is that 1:7 would be the best choice for someone who:
• wants to shoot less expensive 55gr ammo reasonably well for target practice.
• has no particular interest in bullets less than 55gr.
• would like to play around with long range shooting using heavier bullets (even though he is by no means a serious marksman)
• wants to load the most effective self-defense cartridges.

Please let me know where I’m right and where I’m wrong. Thanks.

• Larry says:

I wish someone would have answered this. I am wanting to get a new mid-length upper to replace the upper on my M&P Sport. The Sport upper will eventually be a dedicated long range upper/second AR for parts or whatever.

I will use the upper for…..

* Plinking/Target Practice
* Carbine Drills on my own property
* Possibly a Carbine class or two
* Hunting white tale deer
* Home defense

When doing the first three I will get whatever to blast through which is basically 55grain or 62 grain green tip because its more available and cheaper. For the last two I want either 75 or 77grain XTP or TAP rounds for maximum wounding on soft targets. For hunting white tale where I live the max range I would probably engage is 200 yards (flat with lots of trees), usually less than that.

That all said I would think a 1/7 would be the best all around choice?

• djw663 says:

The 1/7 twist is still Marine Corp standard and will shoot 55 grain just fine. Everyone seems to say stick with 62 grain or greater with a 1/7 twist barrel but I can put 55 and 62 through the same hole and cannot tell the difference.
77 grain CDC OTM by Magtech ammo states it will reach out and touch someone up to 700 meters in an 18″ barrel as does Black Hills ammo. It depends on the length of your barrel; you lose a little velocity and energy in a shorter barrel just like you would gain velocity and energy in a longer barrel. My 16″ SS barrel in my AR seems to like anything I put in it from 55 grain steel case to high end 62 grain American Eagle, Federal or Hornady. I just ordered 77 grain CDC OTM it uses a Sierra Matchking OTM projectile. I’m looking forward to seeing how far and accurate in a 16″, regardless, the heavier bullet is what snipers use and OTM is not considered HP so you can use it for hunting. They say the difference would be like throwing a ping pong ball versus throwing a golf ball. I’m sure by now you have found what ammo works best in your AR just throwing in my wisdom from my experiences. Happy shooting! Need something bigger checkout onlylongrange.com beautiful long range 10 round semi-auto AR’s up to .338 Lapua.

17. jon says:

I’m with you on this one. I went with 1:7 barrels because I’m not shooting anything less than 55gr. I cannot even find gr less than 55 anyway. I have just found a case of 62gr green tips by Federal/American Eagle.

18. Tim says:

For Home Defense the 300 blk.

if it can drop a wild boar with one shot, imagine what it will do with someone in your house at night!

30 cal out of a ar-15 platform!

19. David Rosario says:

Thanks for all the info… Although just barely mentioned above what does NICK think of the the hybrid 1:8 twist?

20. Lance Wickum says:

Great article for a paper puncher.
If you want a varmint gun the makes bullets explode on impact. Go 1:7 twist. a 1:9 or 1:8 twist may not kill a gopher or rabbit, but a 1:7 is impressive.

21. Ryan says:

Just wanted to know how you could measure a diameter in inches squared? Are you referring to an area or was that a mistake? It seems that the C must be some sort of unit-less constant. Are there truly only two values or can you interpolate between those values?

Thanks

• Ryan says:

I see, it is the diameter itself squared. I saw the math done in one of the comments. I guess that answers part of my question!

• Matt in FL says:

Yeah, I came here to tell you that. Even though this is a year-old post, I’m going to insert a comma to make that clear.

22. David P. says:

This is my first time building a AR and After reading all the great post I would think the 1:8 would be the best overall barrel.

23. John Anderson says:

Thanks for the excellent article! It’s a little aged now, but it’s still a very good read! This entire time, I thought I had it figured out, and in my mind I had correlated mass to spin. It was shocking to read that this “fact” isn’t true at all.

In a round about way, mass is definitely related to ideal spin, however, just by proximity. Over a year later, and this article is still blowing the mind of the previously misinformed.

24. Michael M. Tabor says:

Michael says:
I am not a gunsmith. I am a Vietnam era vet. I was in the infantry for four years. My M-16s all had 1:7 twist. We fired nothing but 55gr rounds.We were told that they had a maximum effective range of 480 meters. I could consistantly hit a man at 520 meters.The only trouble I had was the front post was bigger than a man at 520 meters and you had to aim over his head.
I baught an AR 15 with a 16″ barrel and a 1:9 twist . It is chambered in 5.56 and I think it is crap.
I’ve read some of the comments and formulas on 1:7 vrs1:9 and the ones on this site have it backwards. If you put the same load behind a lighter projectile, how can the heavier round travel futher ? Especially with the drag of a faster spin in the barrel?
The truth is you have to concider a lot of veriables.lingth of the barrel. muzzle velocity, 5.56 or .223, etc…
The 1:7 in a 20″ barrelis is perfect for 55gr to 62gr.
Heavier bullets need a slower not faster rotation. If you don’t believe me, why do 7.62 NATO @ 168 to 173grs. uses a 1:10twist
The reason, I believe. the 1:9 was invevted was for the civillian carbines because it is a compromise to allow for just about any grain bullet while sacraficing accuracy.
The only thing that made the M-16 better than the Ak-47 was its accuracy, The 1:9 twist took that away,

• Chuck Rupert says:

“Heavier bullets need a slower not faster rotation.”

Bullet weight is not the deciding factor–it’s bullet length. LONGER bullets DO need a faster rotation. This is not just science, but hundreds of thousands of hours of practical use by shooters everywhere.

25. […] rounds). Bullet weight and barrel twist rate affect accuracy, and this explains better than I can: Ask Foghorn: Barrel Twist, and Which is Right for Your AR-15? | The Truth About Guns Accuracy aside, you can shoot pretty much anything […]

26. Travis says:

I have a Lothar Walther Stainless 20 inch 1/8 twist Wylde chamber barrel. It shoots the 62 grain FMJ through the 68/69 grain HP ammo at 0.5 MOA. The 55 grain stuff is too light and the 75/77 grain stuff is too heavy. The 1/8 twist allows you to shoot everything well and the 60 grain stuff awesome. The Wylde chamber allows you to shoot both .223 and 5.56. That’s my long range gun.

For home defense I have the 7.62x39mm upper that I just pop on there and throw in the closet by the bed. 2 uppers, 1 lower, solves both purposes. Also, the 7.62x39mm has the same ballistics as the 300 AAC Blackout out to 300-400 yards at a fraction of the cost. The cheap wolf HP ammo shoots 1 MOA at .21 cents a round, hard to beat it!!! Also, it drops Hogs and deer out to 300 yards no problem with less drift than .223. Just my experience so far, I’m enjoying both calibers out of 1 gun.

Have fun and Good luck.

• Tomas says:

Agree with you on the price and effectiveness. From what manufacturer did you get the 72 upper?

27. Joe says:

Great article i have been a shooter for years. Just picked up a mew ar-15 and never had one before, anyone know what some of the best compontents are to make this thing shoot more flat? So many things out there to choose from.

28. Paul says:

I would not suggest an AR for home defence. Bullet overtravel could cause serious injury to your neighbor or other bystanders. Best weapon of choice for home defense is the tried and true shotgun approach. There are several articles on the web that can guide you to a good home defence posture. None of which suggest you go after a armed assailant in your own home. Barricade yourself in a room with a phone. Call the police let them know what room you are in, that you are armed…stay on the phone. If the assailants attempt to penetrate your barricade shout out and let them know you are armed and will defend yourself. If they persist you have done everything legally to protect yourself and the assailant from harm and may now use your weapon. This is the proper and legal way to defend yourself, protection of your home and it’s contents is a very thin line to walk legally. I would not want you to go to jail like many others have thinking they have the right to use a weapon for home protection. Your possessions may be replaced you cant.

• Shane says:

I believe that the 5.56mm is not much of a barrier penetrator because of the low mass of the bullet. My understanding is that 9mm, 40 S&W, and other center-fire handgun cartridges penetrate barriers more readily than a 5.56. I suspect that buckshot and slugs from a shotgun would penetrate walls in American-style homes (cheap 2x4s and sheetrock) very easily.

29. Dane Becker says:

I have an ATI with an Omni Hybrid 223/556. It has a 1/7 twist but it seems to like 55 grain better than 77 grain. That said, I am a riflle novice and maybe I just need to try more different kinds of ammo. What do you think?

• Dane Becker says:

I forgot to mention I am shooting at 75-80 yards. That’s as far as the range goes.

30. Harry Orrick says:

What is not mentioned, and is EXTREMELY important is your barrel length. Lots of talk on twist and stuff, but no mention of how the barrel length raises and reduces the velocity. 20″ barrel at 1:9 might be great for 55g, but say you are running a 14.5″ barrel? you just dropped about 600 fps + or – off the velocity. Do the math, a 20″ barrel at 1:9 will spin the 55g pill at a faster rate than the 1:7 twist will in a 14.5″ barrel. Therefor the best twist rate HAS to include your barrel length and velocity. I get same accuracy out of my 1:7 14.5″ barrel at 500 meters as I do with a 20″ 1:9, all using Hrn 55gFMJ, it opens a little with the shorter barrel, but with iron sights I blame the shorter sight ‘radius’. Velocity is 2400 with 14.5 and 3050 out of the 20″….same ammo…..and the 1:7 twist is running about 20,000 slower than the 1:9 twist.

31. Bob says:

You imply that bullet spin will help resist wind but common sense tells me that bullit spin will do no such thing. Spin clearly does stablize the bullet as you describe but wind will should have have the same effect on any bullet no matter how it’s spinning. After all, wind simply pushes agains the surface area of the bullet and the surface area does not change.

32. Bob says:

I am a bit surprised by Michael’s comment. He is a Vietnam vet and says that his M16s used during the war all had a 1:7 twist rate. I did not know that any M16s during the Vietnam era had such a fast twist rate. If I’m not mistaken, they were 1:12.

Secondly, he incorrectly claims that faster twist rates are optimal for lighter bullets and visa-versa. That goes against all known, accepted and tested information. To prove his point, he points to the twist in a heavier 7.62 round. If that isn’t an example of comparing apples to oranges, I’ve never seen such an example.

• ROB says:

He never said he was a vietnam vet..He said he was a vietnam era vet.And you are correct, Rifles in that time period did in fact have 1/12 twist rates. I served 80-86 Infantry.. All 1/12 twist rate weapons.

33. Mat says:

So this poses a question on barrel length vs twist rate; We would assume a 1:7 16.5″ barrel would apply more spin to the bullet than a 1:7 14.5″ barrel due to the longer exposure to the rifling and more rotations during barrel travel? Is this a correct statement? If so, would a 1:7 on the shorter barrel provide more stability to a lighter bullet (55gr) vs the same twist in a longer barrel or is the barrel length irrelevant to the twist rate?

• Eric says:

The greater spin he was speaking of from the longer barrel is due to greater velocity, the bullet spins at the same rate per distance traveled, it just covers the distance faster- the revolutions per second increase proportional to velocity while the the revolutions per distance traveled remain constant.

34. lexluthor364 says:

Blah blah blahahahahahaaaaaaaaaa. I run a 16″ 5.56 nato heavy barrel carbine with a 1:7 twist and group a size of a bagel at 500+ yds with the 55 grn federals (15 yr old Simmons 3-9 x 40 scope) Inside 150 yds to 75 yds well let’s just say this, I’ve shot into the opening of water bottles as well as in the holes of bowling balls. (1x utg red dot reticle) Inside 75 yds to 25 yds I can out shoot my buddy with a shotgun on clays, with the iron sights.my opinion, 1:7 on a 16″ is the most versatile and all around accurate setup to have on that platform.

35. Roger Hensley says:

I have a colt AR15 HBAR A3 Elite with a 24 in barrel. 1/9 twist. I would like to shoot hornady 75 grain match hollow points. do you think the longer barrel with 1/9 twist will stabilize.

36. Roger Hensley says:

I forgot to say it is a 556 hornady boat tail hollow point match 75 grain cartridge. the reason is I would like to use one cart. for all shooting. varmints to white tail deer. nothing long . 300 yds at most. thanks in case the other post gets lost I will be shooting a colt HBAR A3 Elite with a 24 in bull barrel stainless.

37. Gene says:

I just bought the ATI Omni Hybrid 1:7 16 inch barrel a month ago. took it to the range and zeroed with 62 grain and then did some shooting with alot of 55 grain I had purchased. We used a range finder so the distances were accurate. Within 75 meters I can put the rounds through the same hold with 55 grain. 100 meters I got so much tumble I was hitting nearly 8 inches above point of aim. At 200 meters I couldn’t hit paper aiming center mass. I was Army for 10 years and was far to use to the M16A2 and was a bit troubled when I couldn’t hit a 100-200 meter target with my brand new M4 style AR15. After some reading I have found multiple sources indicating the Special Operations community is sold on the 77 grain 5.56 round due to their 14.5 inch barrels and 1:7 twist. I just purchased 50 rounds of 77 grain today and hope this will solve the distance issue for me. I will respond on this blog when I have the results.

38. Dan l says:

The Bible of proper rifling test was written by Brian litz (may have the last name wrong) he has written several excellent books on long range shooting and spends alot of time discussing twist rates, barrel length and bullet weights in his work. He works for berger now developing there super high bc long range bullets. Google him and you can find posts he has made at snipershide,long range hunting, and other forums. His research shows to get the highest bc out of your bullets you want as fast a twist rate as possible. His research has also shown negligible degradation of accuracy using high twist rates. From his research I have learned to go with the highest twist rate u can get. He is a main reason for the giant increase in popularity of the 1 in 7 and 1 in 8 ar-15 223/555 barrels. The info is out there, but my advice to anyone getting a 223 ar barrel is go 1 in 7 or 1 in 8 irregardless (lol) of what bullets u currently plan to shoot. If u don’t reload the Hornady steel match 75 grain load at .40 each is hard to beat for off the shelf long range ar work….

39. Bill Barnum says:

I am assuming that the rate of twist after exiting the muzzle, increases dramatically. Merely to satisfy my curiosity, what is the formula to determine the maximum rate of twist a bullet will reach for a known caliber, velocity, bullet weight, barrel length, rate of twist, and point of impact distance?
I.e. (withholding weather and atmospheric conditions)
A= barrel length
B= rate of twist
C= caliber
D= bullet weight
E= muzzle velocity

• Terry R says:

The rate of twist can not change after leaving the barrel. A 7 inch barrel with a 1:7 twist and an 18 inch barrel with a 1:7 twist have have the same exact spin, BUT the 18 inch is traveling so much faster the spins per second are much more so thus the rpm is as well higher, BUT the bullet is still making 1 revolution every 7 inches of travel in both cases if the barrels are both 1:7 twist rate. A finer calculation would also indicate the slower bullet rpm would slow down also much faster due to air friction and drag over the same time frame too

40. Edwin Baez says:

Thank you for the article!!! I inherited a 1:12 twist barrel and did not know which round to use. Again, thanks a million.

41. Terry R says:

I have 7 AR’s from 8.5 inch to 18 inch and for the pistol barrels any twist is as good as the next because beyond 150 meters or so you need a long barrel anyway BUT all of my pistol length are 1:7 or 1:8 and they shoot EXCELLENT. I have a 16 inch 1:9 and it shoots 55 grain all day at 300 yards 1.2 MOA. I have an 18 inch heavy Stainless 1:7 and it will shoot 55’s to 400 meters about 3 MOA. Put 62 grains in it and all of a sudden it shoots 1.0Moa @ 400 meters. 77 grain drops off to 3 MOA. So some barrels just like certain food better than others. Find the favorite and enjoy the shooting is my advice

42. […] you’re exclusively targeting small game, a twist rate of 1:10 or even 1:12 is suitable. For larger game, or to accommodate a wider range of […]

43. […] you’re exclusively targeting small game, a twist rate of 1:10 or even 1:12 is suitable. For larger game, or to accommodate a wider range of […]

44. […] Ask Foghorn: Barrel Twist, and Which is Right for Your AR-15? […]