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Semi Building my first MSR mostly for coyote/varmint and bench rest shooting, not sure which barrel length would be best for my intended purposes?

WVgoodguy22

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Mar 29, 2019
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I am going to build my first MSR, which I should have started 8 years ago or so, but political fear reasons (a bear den sized hole I don't want to go down) and the fact that my Marine brother left his old school Bushmaster AR-15 at home since he didn't need it in the service and said that I or anyone in the family could use it/shoot it for fun or hunting. I upgraded it with a flat top receiver, Warne one piece scope mount, and an engraved dust cover as a Christmas present. I even did some hunting reloads for it (65 grain Sierra GameKings in front of CFE223), went as heavy as I could for a 1:9 twist barrel (18 inch). Well long story short, he finally did take it back and is going to use it for hunting in SC for hogs and deer, etc... So I want to build my own AR, make it kind of my own. I mostly want it for coyote/varmint hunting and some fun bench rest target shooting. I live in West Virginia so most shots would be under 300 yards, usually under 100. But wouldn't mind taking it out to more wide open spaces if I have the opportunity for coyote, groundhog and prairie dog hunting.
For my first one I plan on building a complete lower receiver and ordering a complete upper receiver in 5.56/223 Wylde probably from BCA or Palmetto State or another reputable company site. My original thought was to find one in either 18-20 inch barrel, stainless preferred but not necessary, in either 1:7 or 1:8 twist rate to accommodate a wider range of bullet sizes. But with the shortage of availability of some products with many people buying up many MSRs and their build components because of the uncertainty in the world over the last few months (another rabbit hole I don't want to go down), I was wondering what people thought of even going with a 16 inch carbine length barrel for my purposes or keep waiting and looking for another 18-20 inch rifle length upper to come back in stock.
Usually longer barrels add velocity regardless of platform until a point of diminishing returns, hence also adding energy on target. From what I have read or watched a 20 inch has 150-200 fps more velocity at the muzzle vs a 16 inch barrel. I have heard that shorter barrels to an extent can be more inherently accurate since they are more rigid and have less whip, etc... I am not sure of the weight loss or gain trade off between a 16 on one end and 20 on the other, I know other factors matter as in barrel profile, the handguard, etc... so it would be difficult to tell. I don't have the budget to buy the lightest and best components. Even though it would be cool to be able to build the lego of rifles one piece at a time, I don't have all the tools needed for the upper nor the experience yet even though I have watched dozens and dozens of videos, but it isn't the same as hands on.
My youngest brother whom recently came back to civilian life after 4 years in the Army said that their assigned weapon had 16 inch barrels and they had to shoot 300 yards with them. i am not sure if it was iron sights, but that is my guess.
I do have a Nikon P-223 4-12x42 BDC scope (with sun shade) waiting for it thanks to an awesome fellow Hunt Talker, so I am looking forward to starting and eventually completing this build (I will probably base my rear stock style and size based on what size and length upper I get for balance considerations). I know have quite a bit of more research to do and I am not in a big hurry, hopefully by the end of the year, but the earlier the better so I can shoot it more. lol So any help would be appreciated.
I am also thinking of putting a .450 BM upper on it later for straight wall restricted deer states like Ohio, as well as wild boar hunting and thicker cover black bear hunting in PA, WV or NC. Plus big bores can be fun to shoot (obviously in a safe manner like anything else). 6.5 Grendel is another consideration, but my brother is doing that to go with his .350 Legend (what a cocky name for a newish caliber haha) that he will eventually let his kids use since they can grow with the platform and they don't recoil as much.
I know that buying a bolt action .223 or .22-250 or even a MSR would be easier for my purposes, but this is something that I have want to try to do for a while now as stated above. Any help would be appreciated.
 

p_ham

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18-20" are good all around barrel lengths for the 223, you'll lose a little bit of speed with a 16 but you can still get a med or HBAR contour and have a great shooter. Max I would go is 24" and you are pretty much limited to bull or varmint contours for that.

1-8" twist will get you the most flexibility in weight.

Do your research on your barrel brands and pick a reputable source. Lots of lemons out there.

The 223 wylde chamber is a good way to go if you want the option of shooting 5.56x45 but wouldn't scoff at the standard 223 chamber either.

Get a low profile gas block and a free float hand guard. Drop in a good trigger and I think you will be very happy with the results.
 

WVgoodguy22

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Mar 29, 2019
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384
18-20" are good all around barrel lengths for the 223, you'll lose a little bit of speed with a 16 but you can still get a med or HBAR contour and have a great shooter. Max I would go is 24" and you are pretty much limited to bull or varmint contours for that.

1-8" twist will get you the most flexibility in weight.

Do your research on your barrel brands and pick a reputable source. Lots of lemons out there.

The 223 wylde chamber is a good way to go if you want the option of shooting 5.56x45 but wouldn't scoff at the standard 223 chamber either.

Get a low profile gas block and a free float hand guard. Drop in a good trigger and I think you will be very happy with the results.
Thank you for the advice. Your thoughts are right up my alley, as I stated above am leaning strongly to the 18-20 medium to heavy contour type barreled uppers. I could piece it all together myself bit by bit as I have the $$$ I could get a bench block and some armorers tools on a deal somewhere I am sure. 1:8 is what I have seen the most of in the uppers that I have seen. The 1:9 in my brother's gun shot those 65 grain SGK reloads I mentioned with no issue, so the 1:8 should be even better. I am mostly reloading using .223 once or more fired brass.
I have looked at lower end Trigger Tech, Timney drop ins so I don't have to mess with those springs and start out with quality.
I wouldn't go above 20" mostly to save weight and be more mobile in the woods and field edges here at home.
I am excited, but I will take my time do some research, make lists, etc....
 

WVgoodguy22

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I have a 20", will go 18" on my next build. Those extra inches are just more area to clean lol.
Hahaha totally understandable especially with a smaller caliber. The 18 is a good "compromise" and what my brother's old AR had. Now to be able to find the right one for me with many places being out of stock.
 

WVgoodguy22

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You might want to check Precision Firearms website for some barrel options. I've shot one of their 6.5 Grendel rifles and was very impressed with the accuracy.
Thank you I will have to check them out and see what they have to offer. I know that my youngest brother was looking at Faxon fluted barrels for his 6.5 Grendel build. It would be nice to compare, etc...
 

marksjeep

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If you are planning to walk a lot while hunting yotes, medium contour or lighter would be my preference. Heavier is nice on the bench, or on pdogs or woodchucks, but can be ungainly to carry all day between sets.

LaRue triggers are hard to beat for the money.
 

Schism

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If you are planning to walk a lot while hunting yotes, medium contour or lighter would be my preference. Heavier is nice on the bench, or on pdogs or woodchucks, but can be ungainly to carry all day between sets.

LaRue triggers are hard to beat for the money.

^^^True

I have a handful of MSR's. When I first started building them I had longer barrels with heavier profiles. Now the majority are running 16-18" lightweight profile barrels. Carrying long, heavy barreled rifles through the snow while hunting coyotes was not a lot of fun. If the rifle was specific to shooting prairie dogs or the like, a heavier barrel will be more beneficial.

I have barrels from PSA, Olympic Arms, Columbia River Arms, and Shilen. The Shilen shoots the best but I've been pleased with the Columbia River barrels I've received. A few times a year they will run 25-30% off sales making them pretty affordable.

I have many Geissele triggers but as Mark said above, the Larue MBT is really really good for the price. Lately I've been using the Larue's on my builds.
 

WVgoodguy22

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^^^True

I have a handful of MSR's. When I first started building them I had longer barrels with heavier profiles. Now the majority are running 16-18" lightweight profile barrels. Carrying long, heavy barreled rifles through the snow while hunting coyotes was not a lot of fun. If the rifle was specific to shooting prairie dogs or the like, a heavier barrel will be more beneficial.

I have barrels from PSA, Olympic Arms, Columbia River Arms, and Shilen. The Shilen shoots the best but I've been pleased with the Columbia River barrels I've received. A few times a year they will run 25-30% off sales making them pretty affordable.

I have many Geissele triggers but as Mark said above, the Larue MBT is really really good for the price. Lately I've been using the Larue's on my builds.
Thanks Mark and Schism for the advice as well. I would be carrying up hills to hilltop fields and openings that we have here in West Virginia. So the lightweight/pencil barrels or medium contours would definitely work best to save weight. Plus it’s not as if I will be putting hundreds of rounds in a short period to worry about those thinner barrels.
I have heard of the LaRue brand and that they are quality. I will have to check them out as well as the barrel manufacturers (I have checked out Shilen before) you mentioned. One could definitely spend weeks doing their research on something like this.
 

FLS

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Don’t skimp on the barrel or trigger. The rest doesn’t matter as much.
I shoot an 18” Wylde chambered Black Hole Weaponry barrel. Ive used that length/ chamber for 3 gun rifles, precision ARs, and hunting. I can push a 77 SMK or TMK 2750 out of it. I smack LR steel, killed coyotes, deer and hogs with that combo.
 
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Firemedic92

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Apr 24, 2019
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I built a mk12 clone for last one. 18” heavy barrel 1-7 twist. It will eventually be suppressed when I get approved. So far it’s a sweet shooter with my hand loads. Really likes the heavy 77 OTM’s. Topped it with a vx3i 3.5-10x40.
 

WVgoodguy22

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I built a mk12 clone for last one. 18” heavy barrel 1-7 twist. It will eventually be suppressed when I get approved. So far it’s a sweet shooter with my hand loads. Really likes the heavy 77 OTM’s. Topped it with a vx3i 3.5-10x40.
Sounds like a pretty sweet setup indeed. Most of the complete uppers that I have found (223 Wylde Or 5.56 in 18-20 inch) that I can possibly afford are out of stock and are heavy profile barrels. Shooting with a suppressor sounds awesome but I am far away from that stage right now. Hopefully down the road.
 

MO Betta

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If you want a good mid tier quality build look at Aero Precision/Ballistic Advantage. I did an LR-308 build using their hardware for most of it, and have a few 556 builds waiting to be put together. Quality to price ratio is pretty good on their stuff, just get it from a third party vendor like Primary Arms, Brownell's, Arm or Ally, etc. If you're patient you can get awesome deals on Black Friday. I really like to pick and choose on some things though, Larue has great triggers and mounts, ALG (one of the Geissele ladies owns it) has some pretty good handguards, etc.
 
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WVgoodguy22

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If you want a good mid tier quality build look at Aero Precision/Ballistic Advantage. I did an LR-308 build using their hardware for most of it, and have a few 556 builds waiting to be put together. Quality to price ratio is pretty good on their stuff, just get it from a third party vendor like Primary Arms, Brownell's, Arm or Ally, etc. If you're patient you can get awesome deals on Black Friday. I really like to pick and choose on some things though, Larue has great triggers and mounts, ALG (one of the Geissele ladies owns it) has some pretty good handguards, etc.
I have heard of both of those companies and I was looking for those but with world events many AR and handgun items are out of stock. I have watched some reviews on Aero Precision and how they are the best value on the market. I really wanted a one piece design so that I didn’t have to worry about putting in a trigger guard. I was at my local Cabela’s today and a buddy of mine that works at the firearms counter showed me a couple rifles that he built using Aero Precision lowers. I ended up buying an ATI Aluminum one at a semi local gun shop instead of waiting on one to arrive at an FFL and paying extra fees. If I get another lower I will go that route and get one. I will try and be patient and look for the best deals.
 
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