Q&A: Fixed barrels or break-barrels?

The Walther LGU underlever has proven sucessful in competition

The Walther LGU underlever has proven sucessful in competition - Credit: Archant

Is it true that springers with fixed barrels are more accurate than break-barrels?

GURU SAYS: A break-barrel rifle with a positive breech lock-up mechanism is, in theory and all other factors being equal, potentially every bit as accurate as a fixed-barrel rifle of equivalent build quality, but in practice, ‘potentially every bit as accurate’ warrants closer examination.

The break-barrel’s Achilles’ heel is, of course, the fact that the barrel is not fixed in relation to the cylinder and hence the scope. In time, and with a lot of use, break-barrel breech lock-up mechanisms can wear and the springs weaken, which can allow the breech to move slightly in relation to the breech jaws as the rifle recoils. In addition, wear in the breech pivot pin or bolt can allow the barrel a small degree of movement, and both can reduce the rifle’s accuracy.

If a break-barrel is properly maintained, the breech lock-up mechanism kept well greased to lessen wear, and the latch spring renewed before it weakens, it should be potentially as accurate as a fixed barrel. There is, however, a difference between potential accuracy, and real-world accuracy, and it is the weight of the rifle.

A fixed-barrel rifle needs a separate lever to compress the mainspring, and it has to be fairly sturdy, which means heavy. If a break-barrel and fixed-barrel rifle shared the same barrel, piston, spring and piston stroke, then the fixed-barrel rifle would have the lesser recoil simply because it was heavier. The lighter break-barrel might be potentially as accurate as the fixed barrel, but in practice, it will be more difficult for the user to achieve that accuracy due to the greater recoil.

If you visit an FT or HFT event and count the number of break-barrel and fixed-barrel springers in use, you will find the break-barrel very much in the minority, and that’s because the seasoned competitors know that their accuracy is better when using a heavier fixed-barrel rifle.

So, should we all be selling our break-barrels and replacing them with fixed-barrel springers? No, we should not, because the very weight that makes the fixed-barrel rifle easier to achieve accuracy is not always desirable. Away from the world of competition and out in the field of hunting, carrying the extra weight of the fixed-barrel rifle can tire the user, and tired muscles are anything but conducive to accurate shooting, so the break-barrel can give better real-world accuracy.

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So, the answer to the question of whether fixed-barrel springers are more accurate than break-barrels, is yes – and no.