Sporter barrels on .22s are usually long and thin. This means they’re lighter when carried in the field, but they can also be whippy and harder to control than bull-barrelled rifles. Another way to achieve that relative stiffness in the barrel is to reduce the length of it.
I’ve had two Norinco JW-15s, and while the 22.5-inch barrel is okay, the 16-inch barrel is a real shooter. If you head on over to nzrimfire.com you’ll find plenty of people who have taken full length Norincos and cut them down to as little as 13 inches with great success. I guy I used to shoot with cut his down to 14 inches and found no drop off in accuracy.
Thankfully in New Zealand there are no minimum barrel length laws, just minimum overall firearm length rules – which means you can take full advantage of this, and make your rifle more manoeuvrable, easier to get in and out of your truck and pretty accurate to boot. In the video below I’m shooting an old Voere that I bought for parts – the barrel has been cut down to 8 inches and lets out a little burst of flame with standard velocity CCI.
So, what is the trade off with cutting down your .22? Well, you can burn off all the powder in your average .22LR case in about 12 – 13 inches of barrel. However, you still won’t have achieved maximum muzzle velocity. You’ll also get more variation in muzzle velocity, as the longer barrels allow for a more consistent burn, resulting in a more consistent muzzle velocity. While you can still gain a lot more speed out of a longer barrel, 16 inches is often said to be the “sweet spot” for .22s.
After that point, muzzle velocity still increases, but in much smaller increments per inch, and your follow through becomes much more important. I suppose if you wanted to teach yourself excellent shooting habits, a target rifle with a 28 or 30-inch barrel would be ideal. However, if you just want a nice shooter, go for a 16-inch tube, or do it yourself if you have the confidence/competence. Some manufacturers do release 13 and 14 inch options for their rifles (Anschutz has a 14-inch sporter), however, if you’re doing the job yourself, give it the extra couple inches to be on the safe side. I guess I should put my money where my mouth is and trim down that 22.5-inch Norinco… Oh well, add it to the list.