The Perfect Barrel Length for Your AR-15

One thing that we love and emphasize here at Bootleg Inc, is that the AR-15 is almost completely customizable. There are so many components that you can add, takeaway, shorten, lengthen, and switch. You can check out our accessories here. There are a lot of things you can do, but what components are right for you? In this blog post, we’re going to try and help you by discussing the perfect barrel length for your AR-15.

16” Barrel

When it comes to the length of a barrel on ARs, there is a diverse spectrum you can choose from. All have different advantages and disadvantages, but in this blog, we’re going to make a case for the 16-inch barrel. This length of barrel is known for its overall effectiveness. It should be kept in mind that legally, the shortest barrel you can get for an AR is 16″. You might be able to get away with a 14.5″ barrel if you pin a muzzle device on it to make the barrel 16″. Moving forward, the 16″ is perfect for any use, extremely reliable and most importantly, it is very accurate. One thing to keep in mind is that the shorter the barrel is, the gas system moves back as well. This means once you go below 10 inches or into that pistol length gas system, reliability with your 5.56 round goes down. It is a common misconception that the longer the barrel is, the more accurate the gun is. This might be because every sniper rifle has a barrel of 20 inches or more. This is simply not the case because a longer barrel just means more velocity which we will touch on later. A longer barrel just means you have a greater range because of the increase in velocity. Shorter barrels tend to be more accurate which again, we will go into more detail later on.


As mentioned earlier, the longer the barrel, the higher the velocity of the bullet. 16” is obviously shorter than 20”, which is the barrel length for the classic M-16. But what does more velocity mean? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be more accurate. Although, a longer barrel means a greater trajectory of the round and that means that there is going to be greater energy forced into your target. It also allows you to extend the range on your AR. For the 16” barrel, a round travels at around 2,800 ft/s (feet per second) while the 20” barrel slings bullets at around 3,000 ft/s. Although you are losing some velocity with the 16” barrel, it is still highly effective. Another important point that was mentioned earlier is that the 16” barrel is going to be slightly more accurate.


If you’ve been shooting for a long time, you might have realized that shorter barrels are a little more accurate because we’re cutting down on barrel whip. For those of you who are new shooters, the longer the barrel, the more of an effect barrel whip will have. Barrel whip, or “barrel flex”, is a result of the velocity of the bullet slightly moving the barrel from its static state. The 16” barrel is perfect because it’s not too long where you’re losing accuracy, but it’s not too short where you’re losing velocity effectiveness. Now, when it comes to range, this isn’t necessarily the case. For long-range targets, the longer the barrel the better. This is really the only case when velocity equals accuracy. That’s why your standard hunting rifle has around a 22” barrel.


Another reason why the 16” barrel is the best overall is that it is easily mobile and if you are in the scenario where you’re checking tight corners, rooms, etc. then this is the perfect barrel for that. With longer barrels, it is harder to check those corners because you have more to move and it’s harder to move around in tight spots.

Gas System

Another important aspect of your perfect barrel is the type of gas system that you use. Again, for those new to shooting, your gas system in your AR is an integral part of your upper assembly. Simply, the point of your gas system is that when you pull the trigger of your AR, a bullet will come out and that bullet is pushed by an explosion caused by gun powder. The powder makes a gas that is pushed through a gas tube. This gas essentially pushes out the bullet case, making the need for a bolt-action unnecessary. This allows for semi-automatic fire. You can read more about that in “The Advantages of Adjustable Gas Blocks.” You can also check out our gas tubes here.

When it comes down to it, you’re going to customize your AR-15 the way you like it. If you like a longer barrel, then shoot with a longer barrel. If you like a shorter barrel, shoot a shorter barrel. Whatever you choose, Bootleg has a quality selection of handguards to cover your barrel and for you to add all sorts of other accessories on there. For the 16” barrel, we recommend one of our 13” Bootleg Piclok Handguard, our 13” Bootleg Camlok M-Lok, or our 13” Bootleg Picmod Handguard that’s on sale! Check out our other handguards as well! All of these handguards will keep your AR accurate, safe, and lightweight.

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