Yes! Maybe.. The truth is it depends on if the barrel you're looking for is for a rifle or a pistol. The short of it is that if it's for a pistol, you're probably safe to go for it! If your new barrel is for a gun like an AR15 or a bolt action rifle, then you may want to consider a few important factors. In this article we’ll cover what fluting is, barrel rigidity, weight reduction, types of fluting and more below.
What is a Fluted Barrel?
A Fluted barrel is a barrel that has had cuts made into the metal, generally in a pattern, in order to remove weight from the barrel. Previously, before testing largely proved this was negligible, it was often done to increase surface area and therefore cooling.
Fluted Barrel Benefits
A fluted barrel comes with two main purported benefits and a third benefit. Foremost is weight savings, sometimes as much as a quarter pound removed from the front of the rifle. Secondly, heat transfer allows the gun to run better for a little longer when burning mags. Thirdly, fluting can look very cool and add a unique touch to the weapons aesthetics.
Weight reduction is the foremost reason to use a fluted barrel. The barrel is often the part that can have its weight reduced the least, but given its position at the front of the rifle and its effect on the balance; every ounce matters.
Heat transfer is an often mentioned benefit from fluted barrels, however it’s not at all true. The increased heat transfer to the surrounding air is only possible to increase surface area, however even the most aggressive fluting of standard caliber barrels only increase the surface area marginally resulting in negligible differences.
Fluting the barrel will harm the rigidity of the barrel, hard stop. More stiff metal is better than less, barrel manufacturers do not argue this point. But not all fluting effects are the same; dimpled fluting will be noticeably stiffer than straight flutes due to the harmonics of the barrel whip. Fluting is often used for competition weapons with short ranges, but the further the targets are the less they are used.
At the far end, bull barrels with maximum mass and thickness, i.e. rigidity, are used. Bull barrels are barrels that are the maximum thickness allowed for the whole length of the barrel. They are all about maximum mass to increase rigidity, reduce all barrel whip and absorb as much heat as possible.
Fluted Barrel Design Types
Fluted barrels come in a variety of patterns. While mostly seen for their visual aspect, different fluting designs can have different physical effects on the weapon’s performance and cost.
Photo Source: Bikings Firearms
Straight fluting is the most common as it is the simplest and easiest to manufacture. It has an excellent clean and timeless appearance and removes substantial weight. However, it does reduce the stability of the barrel the most.
Photo Source: CBCPFA
Very similar to straight fluting and still relatively easy to manufacture, spiral fluting can add wonderful visuals and performance to your barrel. It will be slightly stiffer than straight fluting, but it will also add a slight change in the arc of the barrel whip due to the asymmetrical fluting.
Diamond / Dimpled
Fully asymmetrical, these are noticeably stiffer than standard fluting and also the most uniquely looking. For some, these are the most beautiful fluting you could get. Diamond can vary in how much it reduces stiffness as some can actually increase it due to having less material. Dimpled barrels are known to have more stiffness than any other barrel fluting method, however they are by far the most expensive to manufacture.
Fluted vs Non Fluted Barrel
These days, fluted barrels for pistols are becoming more and more affordable due to the increasing amount of competition in the market. This is a great thing because it means you can build that fancy handgun you've been wanting since forever! The potential issues that you may find in a fluted rifle barrel are not impossible to find in fluted barrels for pistol but it is exponentially lower.
The bottom line is that non-fluted barrels will almost always be more reliable, if not at least more durable and will have less risks to use than a fluted barrel.
Fluted Barrel Issues
Heat can be an issue. Fluting a barrel will remove mass from the barrel and it is mass that holds the energy of the heat and retains the stiffness. Barrel heat comes from the friction of the bullet forcing its way down the barrel, not the explosion of the gas. Testing a barrel with heating it up hundreds of degrees for only ~5 seconds would not heat the barrel up hardly at all compared to a mag dump lasting the same time period.
This is because what’s missing is the friction. The more mass removed, the more heat will cause the barrel to sag and whip harder than it did when cold. Understanding the purpose of the barrel and what is expected of it will determine how much fluting is acceptable. Working backwards from the desired results with experts will save a lot of headache and produce those results.
Where to Get Your Barrel Fluted
Getting your own barrel fluted is uncommon. Most people purchase barrels that are already fluted. There are a plethora of options on the market, so there is no shortage. If however, you have a very specific barrel that is otherwise not available then you could reach out to the manufacturer of the barrel for further questions.
During research for this article, our team did find this custom order service from Long Rifles Inc. While not an endorsement of them, they could likely answer further questions that you might have.
To flute or not flute? Hopefully we've helped you answer that question today and like always, you should know that it depends on what you plan to do with it. What a shooter wants the barrel to do, the barrel’s purpose, will determine whether fluting is a good idea and what type. So don't just buy any new barrel just because it looks cool! Or do that, this is America.
Here at 80% Arms, we are fans of doing things ourselves and doing it uniquely. Whether it is for reducing weight or just for looks, fluting a barrel can be a great idea. If fluted barrels fit the desired performance or looks of a build, then go for it. Be sure to understand the performance gains and losses and know what is the desired end goal. With one of our AR15 lowers, you too can build your one of a kind, fluted, rifle or pistol.