As a gun enthusiast, this question has probably entered your mind more than once.
Maybe it was triggered while you were reading an AR 10 barrel installation article on the internet, or maybe you’re seriously considering getting a machine gun for yourself.
Before we answer this question, let’s first get into the nitty-gritty on why you need to change machine gun barrels in the first place.
Why do we need to change machine gun barrels?
Simply put, the velocity of each round of bullets causes friction. Friction causes heat. With machine guns, this heat can increase rapidly.
In cases of heavy fire, with the gunner laying a finger on the trigger non-stop, a barrel will burn out in a matter of minutes.
The heat generated by this kind of firing, in turn, causes the barrel to warp (in some cases, explode) and cause the strikes to deviate from the intended targets.
In warfare, this significantly increases the gunner’s vulnerability and can lead to fatality. As you can imagine, this isn’t an ideal situation.
It is possible for a handgun to become too hot if it is fired repeatedly.
How often do we need to change machine gun barrels?
It depends on what kind of machine gun you’re using.
For this article, we’re going to focus on an AR-15 machine gun, which has a barrel with an average lifespan of 20,000 rounds.
However, it’s important to note that the same principles apply to any gun barrel.
After all, the physics that surround ballistics stay consistent regardless of what type of firearm you own or use.
So, let’s get into it, shall we?
As an example, say you’re an ordinary gun enthusiast who goes to the range once a month and fires 100 rounds per session.
If you’re consistent at this rate, your AR-15 barrel will need to be changed out every 16 years.
Not too bad, right?
However, if you transition as a professional competition shooter, your yearly average can shoot up (pun intended) between 20,000 and 30,000 rounds. This means you’ll have to change your machine gun barrel every year (and maybe even less).
How do you know when it’s time to change barrels?
There are multiple ways to figure that out.
Tip #1: Refer to the instruction manual
For every machine gun with an interchangeable barrel, the manual will indicate the recommended fixed number of rounds per barrel.
It’s important not to take this lightly, as going beyond the limit can cause more harm than good.
These recommendations are based on multiple test firings, either inside the gun factory itself or during army test firings. Listen to the experts!
Tip #2: Refer to the number of ammunition belts used
For others, they keep track of the number of rounds by each belt. However, the downside to this method is the amount of mental work you need to put in just to keep track.
You may opt to keep written records as your reference. However, in cases of active use – whether competition- or battle-related – this may not be a realistic option.
Tip #3: Refer to your gun’s performance
With years of practice, however, the gunner will know from intuition when it’s finally time.
They can tell by how the machine gun performs or how the barrels react.
In some cases, the machine gun’s response times become slower and less accurate than when it was first fired. In others, the barrels glow red hot, indicating that the barrel has reached the end of the line.
Tip #4: Refer to your own judgment or that of an expert’s
You won’t be a responsible gun owner if you don’t do a thorough checkup of your firearms on a regular basis, especially if you use them constantly at the firing range.
A simple visual inspection will do the trick.
Look for bulges, cracks, and other kinks. If you’re not well-equipped to tell the difference, your safest bet is to go to your most trusted gunsmith and have them do the inspection.
This saves you from a lot of dangerous situations when you have to use your gun. There have been multiple instances of guns exploding or backfiring because of overused barrels.
And there you have it — the answer to how often you have to change your machine gun’s barrel and some additional tips on how to tell if it’s ready to be retired.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to how much you’re using your firearms. It’s important to note that even with extreme care, machine gun barrels can still be subjected to signs of natural wear and tear.
To be safe, do regular inspections and never think that your firearm can go beyond what is recommended.
Stay safe, shoot responsibly, and stay happy!