Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Does cocking a breakbarrel gun bend the barrel over time?

By B.B. Pelletier

The myth goes like this - "If you cock an airgun by its barrel, surely the barrel will bend over time." This is an urban legend and is completely false! But, it illustrates that some shooters are thinking about the strength of the barrel, and that can lead to some dangerous "experiments" that could bend a barrel in an instant.

Airgun barrels are strong!
To prove my point about the strength of airgun barrels, consider this. A Haenel barrel on a breakbarrel model made in the 1930s is still straight today after hundreds of thousands of shots and even some accidents over the years. What about a Diana model 65 target rifle used by a shooting club? Still in service after several MILLION shots by hundreds of club members since the gun was new in 1970, the barrel remains straight enough to win an important match. The mainspring may have been replaced 20 times by now and all the bluing has been worn off the barrel at the front sight where hands have grabbed to cock over the years, but the barrel is still as straight as the day it left the factory. Breakbarrels don't bend with normal usage.

It's EASY to bend a breakbarrel simply by mistreating it!
By deliberately mistreating an airgun, the barrel can be bent in an instant. What some "curious" owners do is break open the barrel, then fire the gun with the barrel broken fully open to see how fast the mainspring can close the barrel. Sounds like great fun, huh?

When the barrel closes with the force of more than 100 lbs. of spring behind it, the end of the barrel where the front sight it mounted wants to continue moving long after the breech slams into its locked position. The result is an upward bend in the barrel at the point where the barrel passes through the breechblock. You can achieve the same effect by running rapidly through a narrow doorway holding a stepladder sideways. The Three Stooges demonstrated that numerous times. Judging from what I see on America's Funniest Home Videos, there are still some idiots dumb enough to try it today!

Shooting with the barrel broken open is DANGEROUS!
A rapidly closing barrel will cut off fingers! People have been hit in the forehead by front sights when the rifle wrenches out of their grasp from closing rapidly. And half the time the stock splinters, in addition to bending the barrel. Stocks cost nearly half the price of the entire gun, so there are several good reasons to NOT TRY this DANGEROUS experiment.

The barrel-bending myth helps sales of sidelevers and underlevers
There is nothing wrong with either a sidelever or an underlever cocking mechanism, as long as you understand that both add weight to the gun. The breakbarrel will always be the most efficient design from a weight standpoint. Some people just will not accept that an airgun barrel can be strong enough to cock a gun millions of times without bending. I wonder how many bottle openers these people wear out in their lifetimes? Or crowbars? Or shovels?

The powerful Webley Patriot is a breakbarrel with
no barrel-bending problems, despite a heavy mainspring!

Exhibit A - The Webley Patriot Export
The Webley Patriot Export breakbarrel is one of the most powerful spring rifles in existence, and it uses the barrel to cock the gun! A force of approximately 50 lbs. is required each and every time the rifle is cocked; yet, the Patriot barrel remains rifle-straight indefinitely. Why? Because they made it that way.
Breakbarrel rifles don't bend their barrels over time. As long as you use them as intended, they will last for centuries.


At May 01, 2005 5:28 AM, Blogger NovaScotiaAirgunner said...

So does that mean when my break-barrel is equiped with an automatic safety, it will prevent me from having accident ? Myself i always make sure that my finger is not inside the trigger guard while i am cocking the gun.

At May 01, 2005 7:45 AM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...

Don't ever rely on automatic safeties. There are many cases where the safety has failed and the gun fires unexpectedly. One test of an automatic safety is to pull the trigger when the safety is engaged. I have seen guns that fire 50 percent of the time when the automatic safety is pushed off, after this test is done, so I would never trust one of these things.

The safest thing any breakbarrel owner can do is to never let go of the barrel while the other hand is loading a pellet.


At May 05, 2005 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding silencers. I would like to make an extension to mount iron sights on the webly raider to the same dimentions as the original equipment silencer. How can i get a drawing and would a muzzel extension require ventilating holes or would a simple hole with clearence enough to allow for no disturbance to ballistcs be sufficeint? Is this ileagal?

At May 05, 2005 5:50 PM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...

I see no reason why an extension would not be legal. As for drawings of the OEM silencer, Webley & Scott, Ltd. is the place to go. Concerning the holes, since your extension will try to function as a silencer, it might be nice to either have holes aroung the periphery or to leave the muzzle bored out all the way (with a large diameter hole). It depends how long your tube is, whether a single large hole will be enough, but if it's only a few inches long, one hole should do it.


At May 21, 2005 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been shooting air rifles for just a couple of months. I am shooting a Beeman R7 break barrel springer. Have been captivated by the notion of chopping fingers off by inadvertantly pulling the trigger when the barrel is open.. So, this leads to my question.

I have not discovered a technique which feels either efficient or secure, for keeping a left-hand grip on the rifle barrel while loading a pellet. Tucking the stock under my right arm seems very awkward while loading and using the pellet seater.

I have only practiced this left-hand barrel grip from the standing position. Gotta believe that gripping the barrel left-hand while loading the rifle from kneeling, sitting, and prone positions would feel even more awkward. I have no interest in shooting from a bench, so seldom do that. Guess I should explain that my interest is in firing several shots at a paper target when I get into position.

I wonder if you might have any suggestions for me to improve my technique.

Thanks. And I enjoy your daily offerings!

At May 21, 2005 1:01 PM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...

With an R7, I flex my legs just a bit and put the rubber butt against the top of my right leg.Then I hold the barrel at the front sight with my left hand. Now, I don't use a pellet seater, so that will add some complexity to this operation, but I think if you had it on a tether, it might not be too bad.

I agree that holding the butt under the arm doesn't feel good. I have seen lots of people do it, but I always forget something and find that my right arm is then pinned to my side, unable to move much.

When sitting at a bench, I put the butt on my right leg and against my gut, so my torso will stop the action if the gun fires.

You are correct that prone is the hardest position to load from, but that's been the case for me with every loading situation, even firearms.


At May 22, 2005 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank-you for the quick reply.

I will go try your suggested technique this pm.

At January 27, 2006 6:11 PM, Blogger PhillyAirgunner65 said...

What I do is slightly break the barrel without fully cocking, load my pellet with a pellet seater, when I am ready to take my shot that's when I fully cock the air rifle!

At January 27, 2006 6:37 PM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...


That's a good technique for hunting, as long as you remember the gun is loaded at the end of the day.


At March 27, 2007 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have a bsa tactical and i think i have bent the barrel on it because i cocked it and i pressed the trigger accidentaly! do you think i need a new barrel?

At March 27, 2007 8:50 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

You probably did bend the barrel, but it can be straightened.

First though, how does the rifle shoot? If it's still okay then no problem. But if it shoots higher than before (you'll notice it), then you need to straighten the barrel.

A good gunsmith can do it.


At May 27, 2007 12:32 PM, Blogger andreas said...


I definately accept that a break barrel WILL NOT bend. BUT I hear that break barrels are not airtight. Basically after some thousand shots, they start linking air out of the joint in the barrel. Is this true, or is it just another myth?

Thanks a lot.

At May 27, 2007 4:28 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...


Breakbarrels don't start leaking at the breech after time. They ALWAYS leak - right from the start. This is factored into their design and does not significantly detract from performance.

The world's most powerful spring piston air rifle - the Whiscombe - exists as both a breakbarrel and a fixed barrel.

At May 28, 2007 6:07 AM, Blogger andreas said...

Thanks a lot for clearing that out. and thanks for the quick reply.

I am going to buy a Gamo airrifle. )yeah, it must be a gamo) I am stuck between the CFX and the Hunter 890. I really don't know but I am leaning towards the CFX. It's much harder/longer to reload than the 890 though.

At May 28, 2007 6:13 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...


I'd go with the CF-X. Yes, it is harder to load. But hitting the target is the whole reason for getting an airgun in the first place.


At May 28, 2007 6:58 AM, Blogger andreas said...

Thanks for the quick one B.B.

I guess you are right on that one. It's my first gun ever so I need something good. I read your review on the CFX.

Thanks again

At April 04, 2008 4:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a beginning pellet-gun pistol user I find your write-ups and tips on proper safety, aiming, what pistol to buy for a certain intended usage and tips on proper gripping. I have followed your advice and my accuracy has gone up exponentially. Thanks. Dave in Nova Scotia Canada.

At April 04, 2008 7:50 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Dave of the North,

Thanks for taking the time to write. This blog is meant for people like you, so it's always nice to know we're doing what he hoped to do.



Post a Comment

<< Home