Monday, June 21, 2010

Toy, Tool, or Trophy?

In a recent thread on one of the well known tactical rifle forums a member asked "how hot is too hot?" He was asking how hot can you allow the rifle barrel to get before you allow it to cool.

I let this sink into my head for a few minutes then let loose with my reply. My position is simply that you allow the rifle barrel to get as hot as it gets while you do what you need to do. If that's a ten round rapid fire string, then so be it. If it's twenty, then fine. If when you are done you can burn your hand on the barrel.....then don't touch the barrel. I went on to state that barrels are disposable, much like tires on a car. If you use your rifle you will replace the barrel. This apparently worried some members.

Let me clarify my position here. We come from different backgrounds and use our rifles differently. In my current line of work I am unlikely to need to fire more than one round in an engagement. Two or three would be an incredible stretch, and if I run through a twenty round box of ammo, the world is coming to an end. However when we train, we don't fire one shot and take a break. We fire numerous shots to simulate a worst case scenario. We may do it against time to create stress. We do it to force the student to run the bolt and reload smoothly. We do what we need to do.

When I compete the stage of fire determines how many rounds I shoot and how fast I do it. Some stages are "barrel heaters". So be it.

When I was in the military and issued a rifle, we used them. They got banged about, heated up, frozen, rained on and drug through mud. We cleaned them and cared for them. It wasn't abuse, it was USE.

In my current life I come in contact with a VAST range of civilian shooters. I run into like minded shooters who use their equipment as hard as it needs to be used, but they care for it. I run into shooters who abuse their rifles through ignorance or intent. I also come across shooters who treat their rifles like a fine sculpture. They place it on display and marvel at the form of the thing. They "ooh and ahhh" over the color, shape or the price tag. They wipe the fingerprints off the steel and they lament nicks in the paint. If they shoot the rifle at all, it's only to confirm the itty-bitty group it's capable of. When they are done, back in the safe it goes.

So what is your rifle? Is it a Toy, a Tool or a Trophy? Regardless of what it is, to be proficient with it requires that you shoot it. If you shoot it, you will eventually wear out the barrel. How quickly depends on how often and how rapidly you shoot. Some of us shoot every week or several times a week. Some shoot once a month. If I put 100 rounds a week through my rifle I am going to burn that barrel up quite a bit faster than someone who shoots 40 rounds once a month. Which shooter do you think will be more proficient?

Use your rifle the way you need to use it to reach your goal. "The Mission drives the Equipment." Not the other way around.



  1. To each his own, John, though I may not always like it.

    I treat my weapons, vehicles, etc, etc as a tool, not a trophy. Each serves a purpose. I suppose this is attributed to my minimalist, function before form, lifestyle. Despite my utter abuse of said items, doesn't mean they aren't taken care of and maintained. Our fighting men and women, both stateside and abroad USE their weapons for their intended purpose...and for me, there is a bit of delight in that.

    Keep up the good fight. Lookin forward to learning on some bolt manipulation, God only knows I need help.

  2. I am mostly a tool type. Long ago I decided that if if a weapon didn't have a place and purpose, I didn't need it. Like a lot of us along the way I have collected a few things that don't really have a place. But those are few and the things I consider working weapons get treated as such.
    I have gun Glock's so dry they were literally running on carbon with a little rust on the sights. Do I make a habit of it, no, but I am willing to treat them as tools and much like the transfer shovel in my garage, it may get a little nicked up here and there. I know the weapons will go the distance and can withstand the abuse.
    If people want safe queens, so be it. I will use mine and not worry.

  3. I do have a few rifles that I treat extra special. One is my Grandfather's M1 Garand. It gets taken out and shot. If it gets bumped and accrues a new nick in the stock, then so be it. However I try to be nice to it in it's "retirement" phase. I don't drag every rifle through the dirt, but if it is required to accomplish the mission at hand I don't cry over it.

  4. I am with you 100%. They are a tool, not a display piece. I also have a few heirlooms that are treated nicely in comparison, but at the end of the day they are a tool just like the others.

    A few old Winchesters will get used from time to time, they just get more care after.

    We sometimes get people who think they will break their gun after a few thousand rounds. I usually tell them after a few thousand it will be broken in, not broken.

  5. This reminds me of growing up and having school clothes and play clothes. You didn't purposefully put holes and stains on your play clothes, but if it happened you just moved on. However, momma wasn't ever too happy if I came home with a hole or big grass stains on my school pants.

    Someday I think I will probably have both "play" and "school" rifles, but right now I can only afford one kind and I choose "play".


  6. It's unlikely I'll ever make any money using my guns, I still consider all of my guns to be tools. I never understood the purpose of pretty guns or collectors guns.

  7. I would say primarily tools, for use not abuse. I wouldn't just throw a rifle or shotgun in the back of a pickup bed, but see some that look like that was their life. Or seeing stupid rust on an old S&W revolver because you were too stupid to oil it. I think my view is summed up by something I read as a kid. If the guy looked at his stock and saw a nick or a scratch that reminded him of a good day hunting that was okay and just honest use. But to simply abuse because it can double as a canoe paddle is idiotic. Or abuse by not properly maintaining. I shoot as often as I can and am not a cleanaholic, but I don't neglect anything either.

  8. I have three long guns, a semi auto 22lr and a pair of bolt guns, one each in 223 and 308. I hunt with my bolt guns and take them to the F class line when I can. they get used as hard as they need to and receive proper care and maintenance. I don't over clean but my guns are not dirty either. they are far from trophy queens but they don't get abused. They get done what needs to get done.

  9. I agree with you, being from military backgrounds im sure that has something to do with it. I usually have one motorcycle in the stable that gets the trophy treatment for a while. My firearms get USED ... I have had people freak when I was bangin around a $2500 USO SN3 ... I would reply ... thats why I buy USO ... It still works. Train like you fight so you will fight like you train.

  10. John, of course you are right - rifle is a tool, and its barrel is a consumable - like brake pads.

    On the other hand - some of us just don't need rapid fire strings of 20 rounds. E.g. there's nothing wrong with sedentary driving style: some of us tend to slam the brakes a lot, others strive avoid slamming the brakes - and there's nothing wrong with the desire to prolong/extend the life of consumables (especially in this economy!).

    So a question "hot hot is too hot" is perfectly legitimate: why not prolong your barrel life if you can, all other considerations being equal?

    Occasionally you need to run "barrel heaters", such is life - and training is training. But if you just plink (as the majority does most of the time anyway) - why go out of your way to "heat the barrel" (and shorten its life) just for the fun of it? Sounds like a teenager just getting behind the wheel - black tire marks, engine revving, brakes screaming... Drivers with more experience usually don't leave tire marks during their regular "use", though they may attend advanced driving school once in a while to hone their emergency techniques...

    (Oh and I'm also coming from military background - but now I have to pay for all of my toys directly. This changes the perspective somewhat!)