For years, I have read accounts of users who report “My Bushmaster HBAR is a lasorrr!” and “My COLT HBAR SHOOTS DIMES.” In the not too distant past, the HBAR was forced upon prospective AR15 buyer’s as a desirable feature. The reality was it simply made the AR15 cheaper to manufacture. Less machine time and less material wasted turning down a barrel to a govt’ profile or otherwise. As we left the 2004 assault weapon ban behind us, we moved forward unto the war on terror. As consumers, we wanted the hardware and configurations carried by our fighting men overseas… and the HBAR became an undesirable configuration as consumer interest shifted.
Funny thing was, the HBAR was born anew in various other forms… the SPR profile, the Colt SOCOM, etc. These thick barrel profiles are stiff, they can handle high volume of fire, and they can toss lead with a high degree of precision… Yet HBAR remains a dirty word among consumers today. It’s just not sexy. Regardless of its popularity, how does the old “back of the gunsafe” chrome lined HBAR do compared to modern stainless steel pipes? Are the rumors true, or are all those shooters screaming about their HBAR and “MOA AAAALLL DAY LOOONG” crazy old coots?
The Colt HBAR:
I have tested this barrel before, but it was not free floated and it was not the focus of my attention. This is a chrome lined, COLT HBAR, 1/7 twist barrel with a Non F marked FSB. It is now free floated, bedded with rock set, and torqued to 65 ft lbs on the barrel nut. It was installed on a lapped flat top receiver. I have a mixture of factory ammo and hand-loads to test. I mounted my 3-10 weaver mil/mil scope. The precision of which I can shoot can likely be improved with a scope which has higher magnification, but 10x represents a practical middle ground in magnification. The trigger is a Larue MBT with the heavy spring. As I found during my shooting, the heavy spring really pulls you out of focus on occasional shots. This is a change I made because I wanted to evaluate how the heavy spring felt. While just as crisp as ever, the MBT and the heavy spring is far too much weight for precision work.
The ammunition I chose for testing was a variety of common loads and one handload. XM193 from Winchester. M855 from AE. Federal Gold Medal Match 77 Gr. 52 ELD match handload.
If you read here often, you know I fully subscribe to the 10 round group due to its statistical significance. The ten round group is a composite of rifle, rifleman, and ammunition… the performance of the three a snapshot in time. The ten round group is measured, most importantly, by the mean radius. What is the average distance a bullet drifts from the group center? The answer is the mean radius. Measuring the furthest two points negates 80 percent of the group’s data. Instead, the mean radius is a more important number. Anything below .4 moa is shiny in my eyes.
The Target and Shooting Conditions:
The target is comprised of 1/4 MOA squares. I used the large center diamond on each and every attempt as it was large enough to permit easy centering through my cross hair reticle. A 10mph wind was at a very shallow angle to my back, and shooter comfort was superb. I shot from a bench.
American Eagle XM855 Accuracy:
Federal Gold Medal Match Accuracy:
Handloads: Hornady 52 ELD match with 25 grains of Varget
Are HBAR’s accurate? With the right ammo, sure. Each barrel is so unique… accuracy testing can be a chore. Is it any wonder no reviewers really “REVIEW” a barrel? Think of all the time and effort that goes into finding a load, shooting statistically significant group sizes, and returning to the range over and over. A good load in 1 barrel might be a harmonic mess in another. You typically choose the best load you had that day, and negate to show the common fodder that 90% of consumers are going to shoot.
Let’s have a quick comparison between the HBAR and a totally different barrel. Look closely at the FGMM from a Ballistic Advantage SPR:
We have shaved a half-minute from the group with a short, stiff, SS, Wylde chambered barrel. “Well it’s a SS barrel” case closed right?
The Colt HBAR with 52 ELD match (same loading of Varget) out-shot the BA by .4 minutes. Each barrel is unique, but to proclaim in a blanket statement that chrome lined HBAR’s are irrelevant is to be ignorant of the precision they are capable of with the right load and workup. AR15’s are capable of tremendous accuracy, even the “standard issue” chrome lined stuff. Will a Bartlein outshoot my HBAR with my 52 ELD? Probably, but when chasing accuracy, both time and money become a diminishing return past 1 MOA. Your gonna need to spend *much* more money, or devote *much* more time, to chase that .7 MOA group. Ask me how I know.
Ultimately, the COLT HBAR is capable of any purpose you could imagine of it. Even with the “OKAY” FGMM, you would be able to reach out and touch any reasonable target to 600-700 yards out of a meek little HBAR. Out of pocket cost? $160 bucks. Want more? How much time and money you got?