Do Barrel Tuners Work?

If you are unfamiliar with what a barrel tuner is, it is a device that is designed to tune the harmonics, vibration, and the whipping motion caused by these to yield the most consistent rifle performance.

Depending on barrel design, ammo, current size of the groupings, etc. a barrel tuner will almost certainly improve the accuracy and consistency of most rifles.

It is likened to tuning ammo through reloading, except you are tuning the performance of the barrel to better handle the ammo. How to make bulk rimfire ammo more accurate Since reloading is out of the question, finding the right rimfire ammo that will shoot accurately from your rifle is a real time consuming pain.

In addition it can get really expensive because the top of the line stuff is usually what shoots best if you experiences are anything like mine.

Let’s take another approach to this problem. Instead of tuning the ammo or in this case, finding the right ammo, why not tune the barrel to fit the ammo. I know your next question is how in the heck do you tune a barrel.

A quick explanation is when a bullet moves through the barrel, it cause vibrations an a whipping motion. How much of each is determined by bullet shape, velocity, barrel design, rifling twist, and any number of other variables.

The object of finding the right ammo is to cause this vibration and whip to be consistent so the barrel does the same thing every time it’s shot. You can affect the amount of whip and vibration by dampening the barrel whip and vibration with a barrel dampner. They are made from different materials from rubber to stainless steel but the purpose is the same

Where this tuner is located on the barrel changes the barrels reaction to the bullet moving through it. For every barrel design and ammo combination there is an optimum amount of whip and vibration that allows the bullet to exit the barrel when it is in the same position on every shot.

Therefore, a barrel tuner allows you to tune the barrel instead of the ammo.

What is barrel whip?

Every rifle barrel has a whipping motion when shot. It’s not anything you can see with your eye. It is caused by the energy of the high speed bullet traveling down the barrel while turning in the rifling. Some call it oscillation of the barrel.

See the diagram below. In addition, there is a thing called harmonics going on in the barrel when a shot is made. Anything that causes this motion to be inconsistent causes a loss of accuracy – like the barrel randomly touching a high spot on the stock or the action moving within the stock, etc.

This is why glass bedding and free floating of a rifle barrel helps improve accuracy. These two actions help ensure the barrel can react the same way on each shot. To obtain optimum accuracy for any barrel, rifle, ammo combination the whip and harmonics must allow the bullet to exit in the exact same position, or very close, on every shot.

How do barrel tuners work?

Barrel tuners work by reducing the amount of whip you see in the diagram above while controlling it. Of course the amount of whip you see in this diagram is exaggerated but hopefully you can get an understanding of how a reduction in this movement drives better accuracy.

Also if the whipping of the barrel is minimized it is more likely to return to the same point as the bullet exits. This results in improved accuracy by making the dispersion of bullet impacts smaller. Sometimes drastically improved.

By moving the tuner to different positions on the barrel you are changing the amount and severity of the whipping motion and vibration. The design of the barrel twist, taper, thickness, etc. determines where the optimum spot is.

Think about sliding your finger up and down the string of a guitar. This changes the whip and vibration of the string until you get the right note. When doing this with a rifle barrel, the tuner is your finger and the barrel is the string.

Moving the location of the tuner allows fine tuning for each specific brand or lot of ammo to match the affect the specific ammo is having on it. I have seen these things make bulk ammo that shoots 1 inch at 50 yards without a dampener start shooting clover leaf patterns once the right position is found. No kidding.

Now don’t expect a tuner to work miracles with ammo that is total garbage but it can improve the performance of a normal lot of bulk ammo considerably.

Does it work on rimfire rifles?

One might think that this is not important with our little rim fire rifles. It is easy to understand how a big center fire could benefit from reducing / controlling whip, but a rim fire barely has any vibration. Especially with a big heavy bull barrel.

Wrong. The same action occurs on rim fires. Maybe to a lesser degree but it still happens and is more than enough to throw shots off target, especially at long range.

The theory behind the bull barrels we use is the same. A thicker, stiffer piece of steel will whip less therefore accuracy of the shot is improved. This is why bull barrels are produced. But barrel whip and vibration is still present and can be tuned further to an optimum point. Check out the video below by Richard Utting

Will it work on any rifle?

I am not an expert on this technology nor am I a ballistics engineer but based on what I know from many years of long range shooting, I don’t see why this won’t work on any rifle in sound condition.

It won’t work miracles and tighten groups on a rifle with a shot out barrel, a worn chamber, or a loose action, but assuming all of these issues have been addressed properly and are functioning correctly, optimizing vibration and barrel whip should benefit any rifle.

If you have a rifle that is shooting one half inch at 100 yards, I wouldn’t expect much improvement. But if your rifle is shooting 1.5 or 2 inches and there are no other inherent issues like the ones mentioned above, you should see at least some improvement.

Why doesn’t everyone use a tuner?

Actually there are several rifle manufacturers who have installed this technology on their rifles from the factory. Browning at one time had a feature they called their BOSS system that was touted as one of the largest breakthroughs in rifle accuracy.

It was nothing more than a weight on the barrel with a locking ring to lock it in place. There were several others who had their own “tuning” systems in the past. They all seemed to go by the wayside though. I don’t actually know of any manufacturer now that is doing this. If this technology works so well, why did it disappear?

It really hasn’t disappeared. There are many after market bolt on type tuners available today that work on the same principle as this one but are much more expensive I have no idea why the technology is not in mass production by manufacturers.

Was it because ammo is more profitable than the rifle mark up due to this device? Was it because rifle purchasers didn’t want to feel like they had to work on their new rifles to get them to shoot correctly? If you know someone who works in the industry and they know the answer to this question I would be interested.

With the manufacturers not supplying this technology on new rifles anymore most of the public is not aware it exists and by the discussions I see in the forums, most people think it doesn’t work anyway. Well I have seen it work. It is only worthwhile if you are interested in optimizing the accuracy of your rifle.

One of these units can improve a 1.5 inch group at 100 to less than 1 inch under the right circumstances. May be most people aren’t looking for that kind of accuracy.

Does it require fitting to my rifle?

The device is one solid piece of rubber. The one I use is manufactured by Limb Saver who produces dampening devices for archery equipment. Installation is as simple as it gets. Just move any flash hider or suppressor from the end of your barrel. Use a small amount of lubricant and slide it on to your barrel.

The fit should be very tight. To move it might require a little lubricant each time but the fit should be tight enough that it stays where you put it. The barrel tuners come in two sizes. One to fit standard barrels and one to fit bull barrels.

When just the right combination of position, ammo, and rifle are found most rifles are capable of shooting much smaller groups than without this device. It takes a little bit of experimenting with each combo to find the right spot on the barrel.

They are very inexpensive and well worth the cost. To maximize the improvement seen using this device make sure your barrel has been free floated and you have no action movement in the stock. These two things are always prerequisites for making any rifle more accurate.

They do add weight to your rifle. You may not want the extra weight if you are going on a hunt where you have to walk for miles and shoot off hand. But shooting from a bipod prone, or from a stand the improvement you see can be shocking with ammo you didn’t think was capable of being accurate.

How to tune your rifle using the barrel tuner

Assuming your rifle has already been zeroed, you need to establish a base to use for comparison as you make changes to the location of the dampener. You can use whatever distance you feel comfortable with. For testing purposes with my rim fire rifles I always use 50 yards.

I suggest shooting from a sled to remove as much human variability as possible. Our objective here is to find where the rifle performs the best. Except for the best shooters, this is almost impossible without the sled. Fire a 5 shot group at your chosen distance before installation of the dampener.

Install the tuner using a little lubricant if necessary. Move the tuner about an inch and continue to fire 5 shot groups. I would not get so close to the stock that the tuner actually touches it. This introduces other errors.

Once you have tried all positions within an inch of each other you should see at least one group that shows marked improvement. That is where you want to leave the tuner.

Will I have to constantly monitor the position of the tuner?

If you buy the correct size, once installed it should not move easily. A little lubricant is usually necessary to get on the barrel initially and move it around to find the perfect spot but once it’s in place and the lubricant is cleaned it shouldn’t move again.

If you switch ammo type, it might be necessary to tune it again.but this should be easily accomplished with a little more lubricant.

Conclusion

As inexpensive as these devices are, and the amount of improvement you can see in the performance of your rifle, it really doesn’t make sense not to try one. It can even lower your ammo cost by allowing you to use bulk at times when you would have used premium ammo in the past because more accuracy is needed.

Give one a try, I think you’ll like it. You can achieve pretty much the same thing using an old piece of rubber clamped to your barrel in the right spot. I have seen a couple of horrendous home made attempts at this. They looked pretty bad but they worked. Just go ahead and buy one of these units. They are very inexpensive and you won’t have to worry about it falling off somewhere.

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