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Accuracy Evaluation of a COLT HBAR Barrel

Accuracy Evaluation of a COLT HBAR Barrel

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.

Colt HBAR (2)

77 Gr FGMM in all its Glory.

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.

Colt HBAR (3)

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.

Group Size: 

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.

XM193 Accuracy:

M193 Colt HBAR

M193 Group 1: Mean radius of .72 – On this group, its hard to identify the center via eyeball, but the shotgroup software identified the average center. This was the first group on an un-zeroed scope. I was aiming at the large diamond to the top right.

Colt Barrel HBAR M193

M193 Group 2: Dialed in, mean radius of .084 – nothing special to report.

American Eagle XM855 Accuracy:

Colt HBAR 62 M855 American Eagle

M855 Group 1: The green tip has plenty of “fliers” but I don’t beleive they were me. This group really lets green tip speak for itself. Use in case of up-armored 1990s steel bodied Buick LeSabres and mild steel armored wasteland bandits. Otherwise, there are better choices.

Federal Gold Medal Match Accuracy:

Colt Barrel HBAR FGMM 77gr

FGMM was a better performer out of the Colt. At near $18 dollars a box of 20, you are paying for that accuracy. Out of the HBAR, it did’t quite live up to the accuracy the load is capable of. See my Ballistic Advantage SPR profile review. It was capable of MOA ten round groups. One group even had a 8 round CLUSTER and two outliers. Very impressive ammo out of the right pipe.

Handloads: Hornady 52 ELD match with 25 grains of Varget

52 ELD Match 25 Varget

This load is becoming my go-to load for accuracy testing. Out of the straight jacket, this load was capable of a ten round .78 MOA group and that was a Criterion barrel chrome lined host. (Hint, a barrels stiffness matters). Out of the Colt, we have a group just above MOA with a mean radius of .36 which is a devastatingly accurate load out of this rack grade barrel.

Wrapping Up:

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: FGMM BA

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?

target_image (2)

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. 

Ontarget 53 eld TT barrel 25 varget

Teludyne Tech Straight Jacket /Criterion with 52 ELD match. Devastating accuracy. Cost? The barrel was free for testing, and my ultimate cost was the time it took to find a load that let me see what the Straight Jacket was capable of.

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?

-Lothaen

Written by lothaen

8 Comments

  1. Bryan Snyder · June 6, 2019

    A better trigger would likely have done wonders… A trigger tech 1.5lb ….hell yeah.

  2. C. Jay · June 6, 2019

    I would think the results would be even better of not for “…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…” Good write up!!!

    • lothaen · June 6, 2019

      I gave it a shot. I may bring the colt back out as is with a Wisconsin Trigger Co. MkIII and re-shoot the ELD.

    • HRB · June 7, 2019

      Most of the weight goes to the 1st stage, and shouldn’t be more than 5lbs total. You’re getting soft on us, Lothaen. 😉

  3. Taylor · June 7, 2019

    If I did a report on the accuracy of a Faxon firearms flame fluted 20 inch rifle length gas system barrel would you post it here

    • lothaen · June 7, 2019

      Yes I would. Guest posts are welcome! Accuracy evalutation should be comprised of several known quantities such as federal gold medal match, m193, and a tuned hand load. 10 round groups. I can do shot analysis if you dont have the software.

  4. rdsii64 · June 7, 2019

    As usual, your work is of great quality. With that said, I would love to see what a standard chrome lined nato chambered barrel (think BCM, FN, or smiliar) would do if the rifle in question had a free float hand guard, a match trigger, and a 10 powered optic. HINT!

  5. Leland Kores · July 9, 2019

    This makes me feel a little better of my performance yesterday at the range, I was firing my new AR15A4 rifle with a FNH ‘heavy’ chrome lined barrel and not knowing where to begin I just picked up a can of Federal M855
    Considering everyone around me was using scoped 6.5 creedmores I was disappointed with my first time out with my new Spikes Tactical retro rifle using irons
    I know I have room to improve but it’s hard not knowing what’s a realistic group using irons

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