Quantico Tactical

Adam Wilson Talks Barrels

Adam Wilson of 1MOA Solutions asked us to share this article. We agreed in the spirit of stirring debate. We want to hear your opinion.

During carbine classes the topic of “What is The Best Fighting Rifle?” frequently comes up. This is a subjective question in my opinion because “best” is dependent on each individuals requirements. A shooter in a rural area may need the ability to engage mid range targets beyond 200 to 300 yards, while someone in a urban area typically deals with threats at much closer distances. My first recommendation is to ensure you tailor your rifle and training towards the scenarios you are most likely to encounter. While we can’t prepare for all scenarios we can train to overcome the majority.

The second thing I tell shooters is to be honest about their needs and abilities. The shooter is often the weakest link when it comes to accuracy. Lets take a moment to discuss “Fighting Rifles” and the balance of accuracy and durability. The biggest factor in your rifle’s inherent accuracy, is the type or quality of barrel used. There are two primary choices when it comes to AR15 barrels, Cold Hammer Forged (CHF) or Stainless Steel (SS). The accepted theory is that a CHF barrel is more durable than a stainless steel barrel but you compromise accuracy for longevity. There is also a significant price difference between a CHF barrel and a SS barrel. Daniel Defenselists their 14.5″ CHF barrel for $279.00 while Noveske Rifleworks lists their 14.5″ stainless steel for $455.00

For some individuals the increased accuracy may not be worth the higher cost. The $176.00 saved in this example could be invested in ammo, training, or a rifle optic. If a shooter chooses to go that route and picks up a CHF barrel instead of a stainless steel barrel how much accuracy are they sacrificing? Is that rifle still effective on a man sized target from 100 to 500 yards?

Based off of the performance I’ve seen with the Daniel Defense CHF barrel I will say yes, without a doubt! The Army Marksmanship Unit considers the issued M4/M16 rifle to be a 2-3MOA rifle. My personal experience has shown it to be a 3-5MOA rifle dependent on unit maintenance procedures. That equates to a 3-5″ group at 100 yards and 15-25″ group at 500 yards under ideal conditions.

I shot the rifle pictured below from the prone position for groups using a bipod and sand sock for rear support at 100 yards with a 4.5-14x Leupold Optics MK4 scope. It is a Legion Firearms LF15 with a Daniel Defense 14.5″ CHF barrel mid-length gas system and a SureFire, LLC muzzle device. Three different ammunition selections were used during testing. The best performance was with Federal 69gr SMK but each group fell within the 2MOA standard. This equates to 2″ at 100 yards and 10″ at 500 yards. If the average 5’8″ male is 40″ from the waistline to the top of the head and 20″ from shoulder to shoulder, a 10″ cone of fire at 500 yards gives you room to err under less than ideal conditions.


Is this what I would consider acceptable accuracy for a stainless steel barrel and match grade ammo? No, but it provides enough accuracy for the majority of shooters who also value the increased barrel life the CHF barrel provides.

Bottom line, be honest about your abilities and expectations so you get the maximum return on your investment.

1MOA Solutions was founded with the sole purpose of developing reality based training necessary for survival during deadly conflict. Our curriculum is built upon the knowledge and experience gained while serving as US Army Snipers. They challenge each shooter to constantly learn, evolve, and prepare for that one moment when accuracy determines life or death.

Comprised of a dedicated group of Military shooters with a background in precision marksmanship the 1MOA Solutions team can be found competing in Multigun, Long Range Tactical, and USPSA matches throughout the country when not training in the El Paso area.


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11 Responses to “Adam Wilson Talks Barrels”

  1. cimg says:

    Interesting, but I would argue that the majority of AR barrels are neither CHF or SS, but are traditional cut barrels. I would like to know his opinion on chrome lined vs melonite.

  2. Joe says:

    What kind of camo pattern is on that rifle in the picture? It looks familiar but I can’t quite place it.

  3. Orrin says:

    I am assuming the author is an accomplished shooter based off what it says on the website. A better test would have been to get an average shooter or two to shoot with the different barrels. An average shooter, what ever that is, will probably never have as good of groups as someone with extensive experience and whatever the desired platform used. Please do not get me wrong. I am not challenging the man but the method in this case. I consider myself an average shooter. If the Army allowed me to buy my own weapon I would go with the better barrel. The only reason being of course is that I am not the best shooter. I would not go crazy over a few extra hundred dollars to help get my team or myself home.

    • Sgt E says:

      I disagree and the reason for that is you want to know the limitations of the equipment and not the shooter. Of course the shooter’s ability comes into play, but this was showing which has the possibility of better groups. An individual can improve their marksmanship, but if you’re stuck with the limitations of the rifle you’re using.

      • Orrin says:

        The limitations of the gear is not very difficult to figure out over the internet these days. The point of the article was to find out if one barrel made a significant difference in performance that the average person should spring the money for the more expensive one. An experienced shooter can make a below average rifle or pistol perform better then someone who is an average shooter without the experience to realize the shortcomings of a cheaper weapon. A high end rifle will not make an average shooter great. Nothing will make a shooter great without practice. On the other hand a better rifle will allow an average person to make mistakes that he or she may not be aware of and still hit the target. A low end rifle may or may not allow an average shooter to make the same mistakes and still hit the same target. So yea in this case the shooter is more important when you are answering the question should a person spring the money for the more expensive barrel. It would be way more relevant if he would have allowed some of his students do the test instead.

  4. Russ says:

    All snuggled in with a tight sling and iron sights many Marines can go ten for ten at 500 meters with a rack grade M16. That’s a 20 inch bull making it what? Four MOA at worst. It takes a lot of work and concentration and a stationary black on white meatball to do it. The diminishing returns that each incremental improvement brings to reach one MOA or better for non-sniper weapon really aren’t worth it for the off chance of ever shooting a stationary meatball in combat. This isn’t to say being able to put rounds in a nice 20 inch beaten zone at 500 meters isn’t useful when shooting at dust clouds and muzzle flashes but nobody would want to take a NM A4 into combat.

  5. Stefan S. says:

    My Noveske Afghan with SS barrel (14.5) with match ammo is the Bee’s Knees. Your average shooter will NEVER wear out a SS barrel. Ammunition is still expensive thanks to the Demorats. I’ll take accuracy over longevity any day. If you miss what you shoot at, it may cost you blood or your life. Just thinking out loud.

  6. Mohican says:

    I am a fully ignorant regarding ballistics so excuse me if I am asking stupid questions, but I wonder what’s the maximum effective range of 5.56 NATO. I remember reading somewhere that 5.56 bullets have a low terminal performance when their speeds drops below about 700 m/s, i.e. after a bit more than 200 meters, because fragmentation is not as much. Is that right? Is that valid just for M855 but not for other ammo? Does it make sense using a 5.56 NATO for a range over 200 meters or should I choose .308 in that case?

    Thanks for the comments.