SBR Episode II: Short-Barreled Rifles – Worth The Work

Written by Rob Leatham
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SBR Episode II: Short-Barreled Rifles – Worth The Work

July 13th, 2019

3 minute read

In our SBR Episode I: Short-Barreled Rifles – A Short Crash Course article, we outlined a super-condensed history of rifle development and touched on the U.S. National Firearms Act (NFA) and NFA Firearms. In part 2 of our SBR series, we are going to talk about the pros and cons of an SBR and why we think it’s worth the work and investment – the process, the wait and cost involved to become a legal SBR owner. 

SBR Shortcomings?

Since the dawn of modern firearms, larger-platformed guns have been downsizing. Often with the goal of replacing other firearms, be they pistols, rifles or shotguns (at least in many applications).

The SBR and its close cousin, the personal defense weapon (PDW), are often packaged to do just that. But since they are expected to fulfill multiple purposes, it is unlikely that they are able to do every single thing great. 

Such is the cost of compromise, and as with most things cool and improved, there are pros and cons. The SBR is no different.

The most significant aspect of what makes the SBR smaller is the shortening of its barrel. Obviously – that’s where the name comes from after all. And this is the one major shortcoming that prospective buyers may be concerned with.  

So exactly what is the cost of that shortened barrel?

The V Factor

Well, the cost of the shorter barrel is primarily velocity. The 11.5″ barrel gives the bullet less time to accelerate down the barrel. As with most ammunition designed for .223 / 5.56, a 20-inch or 16-inch barrel was expected. The shorter barrel on an SBR equates to less travel distance and therefore less velocity.

But how much velocity do you lose? As usual, that depends.

Different loads lose varying amounts of velocity, but for comparison sake, I will summarize information I have obtained from a reliable source and pass that along. V stands for vague also.

For several loads tested with bullet weights from 55 to 75 grains, on average, somewhere between 300 and 400 feet per second (FPS) is lost when barrel length is reduced from 16 inches to 11 inches. 

That seems like a lot, but let me put it into perspective.

20″ RIFLE VELOCITY:

Standard .223 55 grain ball ammo leaving a 20″ rifle muzzle at 3240 FPS is shown to have dropped down to 2874 FPS at just 100 yards. That’s a loss of 366 FPS. Most of us would be perfectly happy with that performance out of a .223 at 100 yards.  

11.5″ SBR VELOCITY: 

In comparison, the SBR has the same affect at the muzzle as the rifle does at 100 yards. So, if you like your .223 rifle out to 300 yards, then your SBR is good at 200 yards. #BallisticsTalk

Most military and LE groups in need of a powerful, more-compact firearm have already decided that the SBR velocities are more than acceptable. Me too.

In reality though, seldom can a compromised design perform specific tasks as well as the specialized platform it was created from. The SBR, though, comes pretty close to checking ALL of the boxes.   

Jack of All Weapons

And what does an SBR do better than almost any other “long gun?”

An SBR does A LOT of things really well, meeting many criteria for a variety of needs and uses. 

  • Light weight
  • Easy to carry
  • Easy to shoulder
  • Compact
  • Easy to handle and operate
  • Extremely maneuverable, especially in tight spaces
  • Enhances operator’s speed
  • Enhances operator’s accuracy
  • Easy to transport
  • Easy to store
  • Powerful
  • High capacity
  • Accurate
  • Reliable
  • Intimidating
  • Ultra Cool 

An SBR is far smaller and lighter than either a rifle or carbine – notably smaller. This allows for its use in places and spaces in which its larger “family” members physically do not “fit.” This has to be its greatest feature. SBRs have become commonplace with LE agencies, SWAT Teams and Spec Ops groups, because it’s a perfect fit for a variety of challenges and scenarios.  

An SBR is also easy to handle / maneuver and it’s fairly easy to learn to shoot. With practice, the average shooter can be faster and more accurate with an SBR, more so than a far-more-skilled shooter would be with a pistol. It is a way of tipping the odds in your favor.

As a matter of fact, within the limitations of its chambering, the SBR would be my first choice for a lot of things. Specifically, an SBR would be my first choice as a truck gun or a home defense gun. With the compact size, it fits easily and out-of-view in a vehicle and there are many options for storage and easy access within a home.  

If you are looking for a powerful, reliable, easy to shoot, compact firearm and are willing and able to go through the NFA-required steps to own one, the SBR is a great choice. #WorthTheWork

And now that I’ve convinced you that you want an SBR, let me tell you about my favorite models.

Check back for our SBR Episode 3: Springfield Armory®’s SAINT™ and SAINT™ Edge SBRs.

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 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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Rob Leatham

Rob Leatham

Rob Leatham, captain of Team Springfield, has been with the Springfield Armory family since the late 1980s. He is a world-renowned competition shooter and firearms instructor who is highly regarded as one of — if not the — most-winning Practical Pistol Competitor in history. Rob's sheer number of National and World Shooting Titles make him unique in the firearms industry. He has trained shooters from all walks of life — from IPSC World Champions to Military Special Forces Operators and from Law Enforcement Officers to civilians for Self Defense. In the competitive shooting world of IPSC, USPSA, Steel Challenge, IDPA and NRA Action Pistol, Rob’s competition career has spanned decades.

© 2019 Springfield Armory. All rights reserved.

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