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Education / Training Does cocking a breakbarrel gun bend the barrel over time?

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.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

20 thoughts on “Does cocking a breakbarrel gun bend the barrel over time?”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


  3. 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?

  4. 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.


  5. 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!

  6. 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.


  7. 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!

  8. 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.


  9. Hello,

    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.

  10. Andreas,

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. Anonymous…break the barrel and slightly open it..,

    Yes, that's fine. If you don't fully cock the barrel thereby compressing the powerful spring contained within no damage can occur to your break barrel spring gun.

    The major problem comes with breaking the barrel completely open then firing to close it or firing it without a pellet. Bad things happen to the gun.

    Many airgunners slightly break the barrel open, without cocking, then insert a pellet and then finish the cocking stroke.

    It's a safer method since you haven't compressed the spring and aren't risking the barrel slamming your finger(s) in the breech.

    Another method is to fully cock the gun, hold onto the barrel (to prevent a premature barrel slam on your fingers), insert a pellet and then close the barrel.

    Keep in mind that if you fully cock the barrel and don't want to shoot a pellet many break barrels with allow you to de-cock the gun by grasping the barrel FIRMLY, pulling the trigger on the gun and riding the barrel back into it's original closed position.


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