Bulls vs. Bushings: Which 1911 Barrel System Is Better?

By Robert A. Sadowski
Posted in #Guns
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Bulls vs. Bushings: Which 1911 Barrel System Is Better?

July 20th, 2023

5 minute read

Spend some quality time with 1911s, and you’ll soon see not all are built the same. Sizing and finish are the most obvious differences, but be sure to take a look at the business end of the 1911. If you’re perceptive, you’ll notice some distinct divergences in muzzle design.

bull barrel vs bushing
When comparing a bull barrel to a standard 1911 with a bushing barrel, do you know the advantages or why you might want one instead of the other?

Some 1911s use a barrel bushing, as the 1911 was originally designed, and others use a bull barrel with no bushing. So, what’s the difference between a 1911 with a bushingless bull barrel or bushing barrel?

The Differences

The bushing’s job in a standard-configuration 1911 is to help keep the barrel properly aligned. The barrel bushing mates with the muzzle end of the slide, and the barrel protrudes slightly from the bushing. A bull barrel is thicker, with a larger diameter at the muzzle end than a barrel on a bushing gun.

trp with bushing and emissary with bull barrel
The Springfield Armory TRP (left) uses a barrel bushing while the Emissary (right) uses a bull barrel. Either set up, when built properly, can provide excellent accuracy.

You might hear a bull barrel referred to as a cone barrel because the barrel is thick at the muzzle and tapers off as it goes toward the chamber, so it looks like a cone. A bull barrel does not use a barrel bushing; instead, the thick part of the barrel rides against the inside of the slide to help keep the barrel aligned.

Bull barrels became more common as the size of 1911s shrunk. At one time you could get any size 1911 you wanted as long as it was a 5”-barreled, full-size “government” model. Manufacturers making 1911s with barrels shorter than 4.25” found there was not a lot of room to use a barrel bushing. However, a bull barrel worked just fine.

1911 barrel thickness comparison
Note how much thicker the bull or coned barrel (top) is compared to a traditional bushing barrel (bottom). The bull barrel tapers from the muzzle toward the chamber.

But things have changed from those early days. Today, a bull barrel is not just found on short-barreled 1911s. In fact, many manufacturers use bull barrels on 4.25” and 5” barreled guns.

The Why

There are pros and cons for both barrel designs. Let’s start with the traditional bushing barrel. On the plus side, a bushing barrel offers easier takedown and there are far more replacement options available if desired. On the negative side, a bushing barrel pistol has a light front end. That means more muzzle rise, which translates to slightly slower recoil recovery time and back on the target.

field stripped 1911 with bushing barrel
The field-stripped Springfield TRP shows the slide, barrel and barrel bushing. The barrel bushing helps keep the barrel aligned.

The pros and cons of a bull barrel are almost the inverse of a bushing barrel. Pros of a bull barrel are it’s heavier with forward weight for the pistol, which means less muzzle rise and in theory faster time back to target after recoil. The cons are what you would expect: More complex takedown, heavier pistol and fewer replacement options available.

Is one type more accurate than the other? Not necessarily. Accuracy of either barrel design type is going to be based on the quality of the 1911 build and the sum of the parts. Either barrel type is capable of superb accuracy, if built properly. Match grade pistols of both barrel types when they go head-to-head on accuracy are mostly identical. Both can be built to operate smoothly.

Taking It Down

Bushing barrel 1911s fieldstrip differently depending on the recoil spring set up. Standard G.I. 1911 pistols use a use a recoil spring and recoil spring plug. Others use a recoil rod that requires a slightly different technique to fieldstrip. Some require use of a hex wrench to first disassemble the recoil rod, then remove the barrel bushing.

bull barrel from the springfield emissary
The field-stripped Springfield Armory Emissary employs a bull barrel that keeps the barrel aligned by mating to the inside of the slide.

The most common bushing takedown method, however, is done by pressing in on the spring plug and rotating the barrel bushing clockwise. No tools are required and that was how the original 1911 was built, so a user in the field could easily disassemble the pistol to clean it.

bull barrel vs bushing barrel
The bull barrel (right) from the Emissary is much thicker this is because the bull barrel mates up with the inside of the Emissary slide.

With a bull barrel pistol, you will need a tool to hold the compressed recoil spring. Typically, a paperclip is employed to trap the recoil spring so the pistol can be disassembled. Some use a small plastic takedown piece which you place over the exposed portion of the guide rod when the slide is locked back.


So, is one or the other better? That question is more of a personal choice as to what you like better. The question you need to ask yourself is: What is your intended use of the gun? Some shooters like the added weight of a bull barrel and how it feels when cycling. Some prefer the simplicity of a bushing barrel gun. Life is full of choices. There are plenty of choices with 1911s, too.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Robert A. Sadowski

Robert A. Sadowski

Robert A. Sadowski has written about firearms and hunting for more than fifteen years. He has trained with some of the country’s finest firearm instructors in handguns, rifles/carbines, shotguns and long-range shooting. He is the author of numerous gun books, including 9MM — Guide to America's Most Popular Caliber, a #1 New Release on Amazon. He is a contributing editor to numerous gun-enthusiast magazines and websites, including Combat Handguns, Black Guns, Gun Tests, Gun Digest, Gun World, Ballistic, range365.com, SHOT Business, and others. He also edited Shooter’s Bible Guide to Firearms Assembly, Disassembly, and Cleaning; 50 Guns That Changed the World; and Gun Traders Guide.

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