Criterion 18″ Hybrid Barrel Full Review: Ongoing accuracy Testing!

Criterion 18″ Hybrid Barrel Full Review: Ongoing accuracy Testing!

***If you already read the first article, jump down to Session 2: Ongoing Accuracy Testing. I have changed this article from a first look, to a full review.***

When I was researching stainless steel barrels for my “SPR” style rifle project, I was poking around many forums looking for a solid product for my build. I ran across a name I hadn’t heard before, that company being Criterion Barrels Inc. I shot off an email to the company for a product suggestion and was pointed to the Hybrid line. I told Criterion the barrel would be getting a workout in both competition and in rifle practice. My intended use is for 2 gun / 3 gun and High Power Open Optics classification.

18 inch Hybrid Features:

  • Chrome Lined bore and chamber
  • Tapered Countour
  • .750 Gas Block with set screw dimple
  • Button Rifled and Hand Lapped
  • .223 wylde chamber
  • M4 Feed Ramps
  • 2.23 Lbs
  • Parkerized
  • .093 gas port

Retail was $269 at Brownells. I won’t lie, I am not a fan of $400-500 dollar boutique barrels, and the price point of the Criterion was more my speed. I am not at a point at my shooting career where I need to sweat competitors over 1/4 an inch groupings. I cannot wring out the accuracy of those products, and… frankly I do not believe most readers need to spend close to $500 on a barrel.

criterion barrel profile

The CBI barrel’s taper from breech to the step is .850 to .690. The gas block diameter is .750. The Hybrid is dimpled from the factory for a gas block.

Properly choosing the right ammunition is a key factor in barrel performance and many chrome lined barrels will out-shoot their owners capability with the right ammo… yet many perfectly serviceable barrels are tossed to the parts bin because the owner believes his rifle needs an expensive accuracy upgrade. I am a fan of chrome lined barrels and I know very well that a good chrome lined barrel will offer great service life and be accurate as 99% of most shooters will *ever need*. Criterion claims their barrel is both match grade *and* chrome lined. Bingo.

Range Session 1:

Heading out to the range was welcome respite from cabin fever. The range had been frozen shut for two weeks and several matches were canceled due to shooters getting stuck in the range ice. I decided to chance it and park on the side of the road if I had to so I could run this barrel. Luckily, the drive was thawed. Initial sight in was at 25 yards with a waterproof Right In The Rain M16A2 zeroing target and the TA31F.

Criterion Hybrid Barrel

Working with the rifle at 25 gave me a feel for its recoil characteristics.

I noted that the setup of .093 gas port, 18 inch barrel, and the Griffin compensator resulted in mild recoil. The recoil characteristics put it at the control-ability of my full size heavy A2 rifles while having the advantage of lower weight and shorter length. Recoil impulse was very flat on the vertical plane with little horizontal movement. The taper profile was a bonus to handling; balance was right at the barrel nut assembly. The M4E1 played well with the barrel as well. Zero malfunctions for my initial range session.

criterion barrel grouping

One of my initial promising loadings from range session 1

I felt that I was limiting the barrel with the ACOG and my shivering butt, so I wrapped up the ice cold range session and decided to work on a few of the promising loadings at home.


No malfunctions. A good first sign of a proper chamber and adequate port pressure to cycle the weapon in cold weather.


After I ran the gun at 100 yards, I took the gun out to the long course to play with the steel targets. My Ta31F BDC was close with the 69 grain SMK. A lower third hold with the 500 meter marking yielded frequent hits on the steel silhouette. Once the service road thaws, I will be checking my groupings on a B27 with the rifle at 500 yards. Round Count is 75 Rounds of mixed loadings and some XM193.

Session 2: Ongoing Accuracy Testing

I originally tested the barrel with a 4x ACOG, but I found it limited my shooting due to a few factors, so I stepped up and purchased a Vortex Razor HD II for this seasons shooting. The change from the 4x ACOG to the 6x HDII was a good change for a number of reasons, including the change from a chevron to a traditional cross-hair style reticle. So I had to start over with new glass and a new range session.

The first time I tested the barrel, range conditions were miserable. I had some promising loadings that I explored further. The second test day was a much better day and the fact that I wasn’t shivering with numb hands *probably* helped my shooting.

Criterion Barrel with Hornady 55FMJ reloads

Hornady 55 grain FMJ with 23.5 A 2230 reloaded with lake city brass and a CCI #400 primer. Even with the flyer, this 5 shot group was under 1 MOA.

Typically FMJ bullets aren’t known for accuracy, but the Hornady 55 grain FMJs have a good reputation. I shot the above group squeaking in at under 1 inch at 100 yards. I am going to try some Hornady Varminters with my next order from Midway. I would like to explore the 55 grain stuff further with this barrel.

Criterion Barrel 60gr Sierra Varminter

60 grain Sierra Varminter with 23.8 grains of accurate 2230 on lake city brass and a CCI #400 primer.

Another promising loading from last range session was with the sierra 60 grain varminter. I ran 23.8 grains of 2230 to get this group which was actually supposed to be a five shot group, but I miss counted and shot a sixth. Group size was 1.1 inches skipping the 6th flyer. Stepping this one back to 23.5 grains might we a wise experiment based on my first range session. Round count this session was 150 rounds with some reloads, but allot of Federal 233J as I was shooting the steel targets for a blog video. No malfunctions.

Criterion Hybrid Barrel Review

Still cold, but not as bad as last time!

6/10/15 More Accuracy Testing:

In order to prepare for the re-opening of my rifle ranges 0-700 yard line, I took the barrel with me for some more testing. After reading the article MOLON on wrote about smaller group sizes, I decided to shoot a 10 round group with a 69 SMK and 25 grains of Varget. I switched to VARGET for accuracy testing as I wanted to take advantage of the powders temperature stability and sure enough, it tightened up groups further.

Criterion Hybrid 18 inch

I believe two rounds went through the same hole in the main body of the group. I discounted the left most shot as a true flyer. I accounted for all 10 brass cases so this was ten shots. Impressive. Very tight group and the amount of rounds fired eliminates the statistical problems of 3 shot groups. In summary, this chrome lined barrel can do amazing things. This is from bipod prone with the Vortex Razor HD II. With the Criterion Barrel, you will have a barrel well suited for a SPR and yet have the longevity of a chrome lined barrel.

Wrapping Up:

I believe this barrel does justice to my idea of a modern rifle. I wanted to build a rifle that breaks from traditional builds of the HBAR SPR style builds vs the M16A4 clones or the like. Both of those are fine to build, but I was set on building something lighter, better handling, and just as accurate from a practical perspective. The Criterion Hybrid really fits well with the spirit of the build by offering me a balance between the weight of a HBAR and a Government Profile yet giving my do all rifle plenty of accuracy for any event.


Overall, this barrel should be suitable for any task you could throw at it. For 3 gun builds, you have an chrome lined, accurate platform that should give you a long service life. For shooters looking for an SPR barrel, the barrel is lighter than full HBAR profiles and has plenty of accuracy for precision shooting. 

I will continue to update this review with range sessions and accuracy tests linking it to the blogs main feed.


Written by lothaen


  1. E.D.M. · February 20, 2015

    I really like the features of this barrel. I was planning on using a very similar one in .308 flavor (but branded as Fulton Armory). Would you mind expanding on why you don’t think the ACOG worked well for your purposes? I’ve been back and forth on optics choices for my 20″ government upper. I was pretty settled on the Elcan SpecterOS4x with crosshair reticle, but I’d be curious about your findings using a similar ACOG.

    • lothaen · February 21, 2015

      IT was mainly due to reticle bloom, and the small size of the target. I was trying to align the tip of the blooming chevron with the tip of that tiny target, and it did not do the barrel justice since my eyes were really struggling with that goal. I have a new optic on the way that will let me better evaluate the barrel as it is a traditional fine cross hair setup.

      Overall I am ready to move away from the fixed combat optics to something a bit more adjustable. Part of it is I want to begin to experiment with maximum point blank range zeros and start competing with “one” gun. The ACOG could do some things well, others not so well, so I sold it for a setup that will allow me to excell to my capabilities in both competition and experimentation. If I do something poorly, let’s just say I can’t blame it on the optic anymore. 🙂

      • E.D.M. · February 21, 2015

        Ok, got it. Your issue had more to do with the reticle design and illumination than the limitations of 4x magnification (which there are some). That’s encouraging to me, as that’s one of the main reasons I’ve swayed against fiber optic reticles.

        I look at the lower powered fixed optics (3x, 3.5x, 4x) as a kind of general purpose deal that is good at most things, but not all. In comparison, my more powerful optics (2.5-10) are better for some things, but worse for others. It’s all a tradeoff, I suppose.

      • Matt · February 22, 2015

        It’s kinda of academic since you’ve now sold your ACOG, but there are easy solutions to the problems you mention. Yes the chevron does bloom, and rightfully so as this is part of the quick Bindon Aiming Concept. When more accuracy is desired, simply cover all, or part, of the fiber optic collection fiber with tape. Doing this you can bring down the chevron intensity all the way to a sharp black color.

        As far as consistently aligning the tip of the chevron on the target, a bottom corner of one of the legs would have been far superior. You can accurately align the tip with a vertical edge and then snug it up to the bottom. I find that my best accuracy from the ACOG comes from using a 3″ – 4″ black square aiming reference on a white target and using the lower right (or left) corner as the aiming reference. This combined with the tape technique yields great accuracy.


        • lothaen · February 24, 2015

          The bloom was mitigated a bit by the shooting glove I slapped on top of the ACOG to reduce some of the bloom, but I think a bit more magnification will assist me with this test. I wish I had tried a different approach like you mention, but my new optic should be here any day now. 🙂

  2. Will Krause · February 20, 2015

    I’ve been debating buying one of these for a while now, and it’s settled: this barrel is going on my next build.

    • lothaen · February 21, 2015

      I think you will like it. I will be doing much work with this barrel over the next (warmer) months. I can’t wait to take this gun to a NRA High Power Open Optics event.

  3. CJR · February 23, 2015

    The boxes on your test target are 1/2″ square, not 1/4″.

  4. Ryan · February 27, 2015

    I had a similar concept last year. I used an 18″ stainless green mountain barrel and I used a 3-10x weaver mil/mil scope. Ive been thinking about switching to a carbine stock and a 1-4x for a more general use rifle as its not quite there yet.

    What are you replacing the ACOG with? Are you planning on useing a sling or a bipod for long range field work?

    • lothaen · February 27, 2015

      Oh yes…. I went with a very well known variable that I will post in the next few days. Let’s just say that it was a compromise. I just couldn’t find that perfect optic so I had to make a choice.

      For the sling setup, I was going to go with a rifle-craft sling:

      This way I can sling up quickly with a more modern take on the traditional USGI web sling. Since I will compete in any optics / open rifle High Power shooting I can use it and remain legal.

      I will have both the sling and bipod available. I am currently exploring classes I can take with the rifle in the future, but in my spare time I will be seeing how my shooting evolves around the bipod / sling combo.

      • Ryan · February 27, 2015

        Thanks for that link. That is a most excellent website. I might need to try one of those slings out. Ive been stubbornly clingling to my issued sling.

        • Andrew E. · March 1, 2015

          For what it’s worth, I have one of his RS-1 slings, and I think it does the speed sling pretty darn well.

          Obviously for a deliberate sling-supported position, a more traditional loop (or a “sniper’s cuff” type, perhaps) will be more appropriate, but the Riflecraft sling seems best suited to quick shooting positions. Almost a “hasty sling” but with far better support.

          Anyway, I like mine for that purpose. It’s not replacing my M1907 leather loop for slow target shooting, but it’s on my “field” rifle.

  5. RDSII64 · February 28, 2015

    My next AR15 build will be with a 20 inch CBR hybrid barrel. I’m that wierd sold who wants a full length 20 inch barrel. 7 twist with a wylde chamber and considerably lighter than an HBAR is a combination I can’t pass up.

    • lothaen · March 1, 2015

      Hey Velocity never goes out of style. I am writing a big article over the advantages of shooting a rifle over carbines… Particularly the advantages over the recent SBR / Pistol craze.

  6. Ryan · March 2, 2015

    Cant wait.

    Longer barrels are great for shooting, carbines are great for carrying, MOUT, pretty much everything that an 03 does on a day to day while on deployment.

  7. Dave · March 20, 2015

    I’m most interested in finding out what kind of velocities you get from that barrel. Request: if you do get to chrono it, run some XM193 or XM855 as a known basis of comparison.

  8. Ryan · March 20, 2015

    Id love to see how that barrel shoots the heavier stuff. 77 etc

    • lothaen · March 20, 2015

      I have 69s in it now, but the accurate 2230 has set me up to a pressure wall since its a fast burning powder. I believe it’s running around 2600-50 fps and thats a little pokey… On top of that primers are flat with a light ejector swipe.

      I have some Varget I will be picking up tomorrow for additional accuracy testing with 69 and 77 grain stuff. Its a slower burning powder which let’s me get more out of the barrel without blowing primers and I am hoping to reach 2800 fps with it.

  9. MrStorm · June 28, 2015

    What are you feelings on clamp on fsb/gas blocks vs having them pinned?

    • lothaen · June 28, 2015

      I saw some testing of a clamp on system a few years back where they literally applied torque to the clamp on base until something failed. What failed was the receiver extension on the barrel. The clamp on gas block didn’t move. I feel confident that it won’t go anywhere without significant trauma to the weapon, and yet my investment will be able to move from rifle to rifle down the road as well.

  10. rdsii64 · August 26, 2015

    I know this is an older post but I have finally come up with some funds to start gathering parts for my next rifle build.
    As far as a good load goes, If you want to see a miracle at 750 yards,
    put 25.2 grains of AA2520 in a lake city case and top it off with a 77 grain match bullet (I’m using 77 gran Nosler CC’s with a Cannulure).

    According to my magnitospeed. My 20 inch RRA predator pursuit launches these at 2908 FPS and still hold the Company 3/4 MOA accuracy guarantee.

    I hope my new Criterion 20 inch hybrid will do just as well.

    • lothaen · August 29, 2015

      This post is very much still active as the search engine people keep coming to it! I wish I could try that, it sounds like a smoking load! I am gonna use my Varget for a bit, but when I run out I will keep that in mind.

  11. TG · March 1, 2016

    who’s gas block/ front sight and free float are you using in the test??

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