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.