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Twist Rate 101 : From Basic to Pro

By March 8, 2023January 10th, 2024No Comments
Twist Rate 101 : From Basic to Pro - Stealth Vision

If you’re still trying to wrap your head around rifle twist rate, you’re not alone. Even seasoned shooters may not grasp the full significance of twist rate and how it affects accuracy.

Twist rate plays a crucial role in shooting. In this post, we explore what it is and how you can optimize it to achieve precise long-range shots.

What is Twist Rate? 

Twist rate refers to the rate of spin inside your rifle’s barrel.

A rifle’s twist rate is represented as a ratio. The ratio expresses how many inches of the barrel it takes for the bullet to complete a single rotation.

For instance, a 1:8 twist rate — common in AR-15 rifles — means the rifle spins the bullet one revolution every 8 inches of rifling (more rifling in a sec). 

A barrel with a 1:10 twist means rifling will spin the bullet one revolution every 10 inches. The lower the second number in the ratio, the faster the twist rate and vice versa.

So, a 1:8 twist rate is faster than a 1:10 twist. A 1:12 twist, on the other hand, is slower than a 1:10 and so on.

Faster twist barrels are ideal for longer bullets, while slower twist rates are used for shorter bullets.

Side Note: Modern rifles, like Stealth Vision custom-made Element, feature spiraling grooves on the barrel’s inside. These grooves are known as rifling.

Rifling grooves spin the bullet as it moves down the barrel’s length. The spinning continues as the bullet travels through the air toward the target. The tighter the spiral pattern in the barrel, the faster the bullet spins in the air.

 

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Why Does Twist Rate Matter? 

Knowing your barrel twist rate can be more crucial than you think. 

Different bullets require different twist rates to stabilize and deliver accurate shots downrange.

A slow twist rate can compromise your ballistic coefficient if you’re using heavier bullets, causing them to tumble mid-flight, especially in extreme long-range shooting. 

Slower rates for heavy bullets result in “keyholes,” evidenced by an oval shape on the target instead of a circle.

Conversely, a tighter twist might cause instability in the projectile if you’re shooting lighter, shorter bullets.

If you choose the optimal twist rate for your ammunition, you can look forward to better shooting and improved accuracy at the range.

Matching Your Ammo and Twist Rate

Your rifle’s twist rate and bullet should complement each other to optimize performance.

Standard rifles used by the military have a twist rate of 1:7. That’s pretty fast and it works well to stabilize heavier projectiles used in combat zones.

Short-barreled rifles like the AR-15s come in three twist rates; 1:7, 1:8 and 1:9.

The 1:8 twist rate is the most versatile. It offers the most flexibility, and enough spin to stabilize projectiles up to 80 grains. The 1:9 barrel is ideal for stabilizing lighter and mid-weight bullets between 45 and 77 grains.

The custom-made Stealth Vision Element can fire 7mm & 28 Nosler & 6.5 PRC at a twist rate of 1:8 and the larger 300 PRC at 1:10, making it a super-versatile, long-range shooting beast.

If a bullet has a twist rate recommendation of 1:10, it’ll be stable when fired from a 1:10 rifle or faster. So, a 1:9 would work fine, but a 1:11 may not.

Sticking to the recommended twist rate ensures stability in all conditions, but there are some situations when the bullet may be stable from a slower twist, such as in high altitudes.

Handguns and Hunting Rifles Twist Rate

When it comes to hunting rifles and handguns, the twist rate chosen by the manufacturer is typically appropriate for the intended cartridge. Most hunters don’t even know they have a choice, so rifle makers don’t give them one.

While there are some exceptions, the differences in performance and accuracy will be minimal.

A slower twist rate may generate less pressure and deliver greater accuracy when paired with lighter bullets. These slower rates generally stabilize heavier bullets, especially when the target is within a practical hunting range.

The only reason a hunter would need a hunting rifle with a faster twist rate would be shooting heavy projectiles beyond 500 yards.

How to Find Out the Twist in Your Barrel

Your rifle or barrel maker’s official website is the best place to start. Sometimes, this info isn’t available. In such cases, you can find your barrel’s twist rate by using the cleaning method.

  • Place a dry, loose-fitting patch on a jag and put a rod into your barrel from either the chamber or muzzle end.
  • Move the rod back and forth to verify it can spin as freely and turn the rifling.
  • With the rod in the barrel, mark it with a Sharpie at the point where it enters the muzzle or the action.
  • Place a piece of tape near the end of the rod. Push your rod into the barrel.
  • You’ll see the tape travel one full revolution as the rifling turns the rod.
  • When the tap is back to the top, make another mark with your Sharpie where it enters the muzzle or the action.
  • Pull the rod out of the barrel and measure the distance between the Sharpie marks.

If the distance is 12 inches, your barrel’s twist rate is 1:12. If the distance is 8 inches, you have a 1:8 twist barrel, etc. 

Repeat the process at least three times for the best results. 

Side Note: If the measurement is 9.2 or 9.8 inches, you can shoot bullets recommended for a 1:10 twist. However, you may be unable to shoot bullets recommended for a 1:9 twist rate. 

The Bottom Line

Twist rate is just one of the several factors that affect your shooting accuracy.

While matching the twist in your barrel with the appropriate ammo won’t guarantee pinpoint accuracy, it’ll ensure your bullets are properly stabilized in flight.

On the flip side, using a bullet too heavy for your barrel’s twist is a promise of poor accuracy and ineffective performance down range.

That said, finding the right combination of the barrel twist and weight may be the fine detail you need to take your shooting to the next level.

 

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