The AR-15…what else can we say about it that has not already been said? We can talk about accessories…nope, they’re almost as played out as the platform itself. How about optics? Nope…that will undoubtedly carry us into rabbit holes that we do not want to venture into with this article. We can talk about Carbon fiber…and how it provides a medium to hit targets from 1,164 yards with a 5.56.
Let’s take major functioning parts and talk about them. By part, we mean one, the barrel. How many can you think of that are out there? Which one is best, which one outperforms all the rest, and more importantly, have you evaluated the price to value behind any of them? We have not gotten our hands on every barrel that fits the AR platform, but we would like to think that we have made a dent with some. Some companies claim hyper-performance due to cryogenics, profile, materials and a slew of other buzz words and phrases that surely sell products; and they may hit the nail on the head.
For us, there is one barrel that fits about every profile that we require for our hard end use, a barrel that is lite, versatile and accurate as hell. So, accurate in fact; that while attending Follow Through Consulting’s scoped carbine course, it [the barrel] aided in our consistent 12” head shots at 1,164 yards while shooting Hornady’s 75-grain Superformance Match loads.
Straight Outta Carbon
Surely you have heard of Proof Research. A company that in our opinion paved the way for carbon fiber wrapped…anything. Proof mastered the sorcery of wrapping barrels with carbon fiber, and other businesses followed suit; if someone can tune a barrel and prove it to be hyper-accurate, anything else can be wrapped with the strong and super light fiber and be functional.
At first, a Proof barrel was something like a mythical creature that we have only read about. We could not fathom dropping a grand on a barrel when the ones we used up to this point proved to be effective. Granted [I have said in the past] I am not a sniper. Though I can demonstrate proper fundamentals of shooting at distance, my preferred tradecraft is up close, housework and firing and maneuvering. How on earth can I justify spending close to $1000 on a barrel for engagements that take place within 100 meters the clear majority of the time? This was my train of thought…a single facet thought process, one that pigeon-holed me into thinking that a Proof Research barrel was only good for long distance shooting, up until now!
After day one of Buck Doyle’s course I was convinced that I not only needed; but HAD to outfit as many of my rifles with Proofs carbon wrapped greatness. FTC scoped carbine course is tailor made for the gunfighter. Not snipers, and not assaulters alone, but the general purpose… [break glass in case of emergency] gunfighter. There was not a set or particular target distance that we consistently engaged. Every evening while we sat around and talked about the day’s activities, the retired Recon/MARSOC Marine was repositioning the LaRue steel targets against the face of a mountain that we used as our backstop. Buck was adamant on switching up the landscape of the targets so we could not get complacent and game his course. In some cases, Buck placed targets that were within 25 meters and in other most extreme instances 1,000+ yards. In both cases, there is a lot more to gunfighting than just pulling the trigger. Shooting, moving, communicating and evaluating feedback are what will get you through a two-way live fire range [targets shooting back].
Sheri Johnson and Sterling Becklin brought down some of their hand-built rifles from EraThr3. The guns were among the most practical that I have ever shot (though the color schemes were the furthest from tactical, which made them that much cooler). From weight to accuracy, running and gunning through each iteration of fire proved to be both efficient and effective. E3’s carbines were light and couldn’t have been balanced any better.
We credit both weight and balance to not only the precision machine work is done in house at E3, but the 16” Proof carbon wrapped barrels. FTC scoped carbine course was developed, and Buck facilitates it from a practical and tactical point of view. Running…sprinting from each piece of cover sucked…and being a former Marine, I would have been damned if I didn’t represent accordingly. The E3 Grunt with Proofs barrel took the “boat anchor” aspect off the table and allowed for minimal wasted movement and less fatigue at the end of each iteration. I found myself reverting to muscle memory when shooting and moving and distinctly remember the heavy (comparatively), cumbersome battle rifles of “back in the day”. Equipped with Aimpoints, PEQ2A, vertical for end grips, Surefire flashlights and aftermarket SOPMOD stocks. Times have changed, so have our habits, the only accessories that I had mounted to E3’s Grunt for this course was Leupold MK VI, and Dueck Defense offset iron sights. The rifle was significantly lighter than the ones I’m used to carrying OCONUS and target acquisition seemed easier because of all of the weight loss.
Transitioning between targets was smooth with little overcompensation for gross motor skills, credited solely to the Proof research barrel. Arm pump was nonexistent when running, walking or shooting while doing both. Multiple target/multiple shot engagements were more efficient than I have experienced in my entire shooting career. If you find yourself engulfed into a significant emotional event where guns are involved, the chemical cocktails; whether in their entirety or partially, always seem to rear their ugly little faces. For me, working through the loss of dexterity was always the kicker…They say that these cocktails are involuntary…meaning no matter what you do or how you try, you’re not supposed to be able to prevent it. I guess to a point that is true, but the more enabling equipment you have the easier it is to work through whatever you may experience.
For me, a lighter more balanced barrel means efficient movement, allowing me to take follow-on shots or continuously evaluate what is going on around me. The quicker threats are mitigated, the quicker you get your team off the X, or treat wounded…or whatever other scenarios we have trained for all these years.
In the mountains of Montana, Proof puts quality and craftsmanship before anything.
The aerospace-grade carbon fiber they use has a specific strength up to about 30 times that of typical stainless steel barrels and a stiffness up to 7 times greater than “regular” carbon steel.
Strength and stiffness are only part of the tedious equation that completes Proofs recipe for unsurpassed performance. Heat conductivity and thermal expansion are of equal importance. Proofs helical wrapping pattern favors the longitudinal thermal diffusivity of the carbon fibers along the entire length of the barrel. TRANSLATION: Simply due to the craftsmanship and attention to detail, Proofs barrels dissipate heat more efficiently and effectively than any other stainless steel barrel. The carbon fibers ditch the heat instead of holding it in. All this combined and what you have is a barrel with increased lifespan and consistency in follow-on shots, during rapid fire or heavy engagements.
Understanding how the barrels are made helped me appreciated the price point for them. Proof manufactures each of their products in house…right here in the United States. Their materials are sourced from reputable, quality vendors. Once the material reaches Proofs facility, the stainless barrel blanks are significantly turned down (in house) to accommodate for the precision wrapping of the carbon fiber.
Think of the process like this:
Take a barrel that has been cut to length. Now put it in a machine to reduce the circumference. Now take the carbon fiber and high strength resin and fill in the area where you just turned down. Leaving everything else out [barrel extension, crowning, cutting, and threading] and what you have is the rudimentary beginnings of a Proof research barrel.
Proof has mastered the process of reducing the overall weight of barrels by close to 70% without sacrificing accuracy and functionality. As a matter of fact, Proof got so anal about keeping both aspects intact, that both improved.
Not Just for Tacticians
Tacticians…that just hit us…a more refined way of saying “operator”. We digress…Proof research has a plethora of the who’s who across all areas of the industry on their rosters. From big game hunters to competitive shooters and a couple who do both. The common denominator is that each of those representing Proofs brand believes in the product. Travis Gibson, former dirt biker turned 3-gun master relies on Proofs barrels to keep his reputation of “Yoda” validated, that’s about all we’re going to say on that!
Luke Carrick is another big name that depends on Proof Research products to ensure his successes as a big game hunter who backpacks over 600 miles per year in pursuit of large game. Equipping his rifles with Proof significantly light barrels are crucial to Lukes success rate of trophy animals. Walking that far, any weight that can be shed…needs to be!
Regardless of your hard end use for Proof Research Barrels, there is an application where the cost is easily justifiable, especially if one of these applications has potential where your life can be put in jeopardy or taking ethically clean shots on game is your job. I will trade a few dollars for weight and accuracy every time.
You can click around on Proof Researches website and watch videos of the processes, read about their brand ambassadors and read about their custom rifle shop where “Rifles don’t go out the door unless they shoot ½ MOA or better” according to KK Jense (Proof Research President). It is our full intention to eventually test and evaluate one of Proofs custom guns and put it up against a similar rifle with “stock” barrels and parts.