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FAQ

Q. What is your opinion of the deep cryogenic processing of barrels?
Q. What is your opinion of the use of moly coated bullets?
Q. What is your opinion of the "BlackStar process and Fire Lapping" ?
Q. What are the differences between chrome-moly barrels and stainless steel barrels?
Q. What are the differences between 3 Groove and 6 Groove Barrels?
Q. Why do you have so many choices in twist rates?
Q. Rimfire Barrels: 16 or 17 Twist, which is best?
Q. What barrel "Life" in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?
Q. What is hand lapping?
Q. Why is there a saw cut near the muzzle end of your rifle barrels?
Q. Does Fluting cause stress in a rifle barrel ?
Q. Does Lilja Rifle Barrels Perform Rebore work?
Q. What does Lilja Rifle Barrels think of the use of bore solvents with ammonia?
Q. What are the advantages to purchasing a Lilja 22 rimfire drop-in barrel?

Q. Why do you recommend not using Stinger and Velocitor ammo in 10/22 barrels?

Q. What federal laws and taxes apply to rifle barrels?

Q. Can stainless steel barrels be safely fired in sub zero temperatures?

Q. What do you think of bore sighting equipment that slips into the muzzle?

Q. What is the difference between a drop-in barrel and a barrel that needs gunsmithing?

Q. Does Lilja have tours of their shop and facilities?

Q. Does Lilja have a recommended cleaning and break-in procedure?

Q. Does Lilja make sub-16" barrels for SBR's (short barreled rifle)?


Q. What is your opinion of the deep cryogenic processing of barrels?

A. The cryogenic treating of barrels at a temperature of -300 degrees below zero has been a hot topic of discussion lately. Our short answer is that it will not harm your barrel but we are not completely convinced of all of the benefits claimed by some. The only benefits that we feel are likely to result from the treatment are possibly a longer barrel life and a slight increase in machinability.

Claims for increased accuracy through stress relief are not founded in our opinion. When barrels are button rifled no material is removed, it is just displaced. This causes stresses to be formed in the steel. If these stresses are not removed problems will result. These negative conditions include warping of the barrel during other machining operations, an increase in the bore diameter towards the muzzle end of the barrel during the contouring phase, and in the extreme, lengthwise splitting of the barrel. Also, if there are stresses remaining in the barrel they can be slowly released as a barrel warms up during firing. This causes the barrel to actually move during the course of shooting, causing inaccuracy.

In our testing we have found that the only effective means to completely remove the types of stresses introduced during rifling are with conventional heat treating using elevated temperatures. The -300 degree treatment alone will not remove these stresses. We have been told by a knowledgeable metallurgist that the deep cold treatment will, at best, remove up to 6% of the remaining stresses in the type of steel used for rifle barrels. The key words here are remaining stresses. In other words if the barrel was not stress relieved conventionally, then only 6% of the original stress will be removed. If the barrel has been treated conventionally with heat and then brought through the -300 degree cycle, up to 6% of any remaining stresses could be removed by the cold treatment. We do know through our testing that the cold treatment alone will not remove any significant amount of stress and that the problems outlined above concerning stress will remain in the barrel.

So, because of the very limited amount of stress that could be removed with the cold treatment (if the barrel has been properly stress relieved with heat as our barrels are) we do not believe that there can be much if any accuracy benefit to the -300 degree treatment of our barrels. It is for these reasons that we feel the cold process has very little potential for increasing the accuracy of our barrels. In our opinion, other than the removal of these stresses, there are no other mechanical factors involved that could benefit accuracy in a rifle barrel, resulting from a heat treating operation, either hot or cold.

For reasons not completely understood however there may be an increase in the wear resistance of the steel. This type of wear however does not contribute greatly to barrel erosion. We invite you to read our comments on this type of barrel wear in the question regarding the use of moly coated bullets.

Another possible side benefit to the freezing process is a slight increase in its machinability.

Post Script:  Since I originally wrote this an excellent article by Kevin Thomas of Sierra Bullets was printed in the September, 1998 issue of Precision Shooting magazine.  Mr. Thomas found, in a controlled test, that there was little benefit to deep freezing match grade barrels.  He could see no difference in accuracy but probably a slight increase in useful life.  I would encourage anyone interested in this subject to take a look at this article.

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Q. What is your opinion of the use of moly coated bullets?

A. First, as described in our section on barrel break-in, we do not recommend the use of moly coated bullets for break-in. The break-in process requires the use of an uncoated jacket if it is to be successful.

Secondly, at the risk of offending those that promote the use of moly, we can't see much benefit to it for a couple of reasons. There are two basic claims made for the use of moly, reduced fouling and increased barrel life. We'll look at both of these.

We agree that bullet jacket fouling in a barrel can and will cause accuracy problems in a barrel. But for the most part, jacket fouling in a hand-lapped, match-grade barrel is minimal. For the small amount of copper fouling that does remain in most barrels, conventional cleaning methods can and will stay on top of the fouling. We recommend cleaning solutions like Shooter's Choice and/or GM Top engine cleaner mixed with Kroil oil and the limited use of Sweet's solvent. Our suggestions for cleaning can be found in the Cleaning and Break-in section.

We have examined barrels with our bore scope that have had an excessive amount of moly fouling layered with powder and jacket fouling. The only way we could remove this buildup was through relapping of the barrel. Perhaps part of this type of problem results from a mindset that says "Hey, I'm using moly now and I don't have to clean very often." So if you do elect to use moly coated bullets we recommend that you still clean as often as before.

So, the obvious question to us is, if regular cleaning is still required with moly and if a bullet/cartridge/barrel combination does not foul to any great degree without moly, what is the advantage to moly?

This leads us to the second part of our answer. Some of the promoters of moly claim an increase in barrel life. While this sounds good on the surface we must ask the question: what causes a barrel to shoot out? Barrels wear out, or no longer shoot up to their original performance levels, because of erosion to the throat area of the barrel. This erosion is caused by heat and pressure created by burning powder. As a throat lengthens, velocities fall off and accuracy can suffer too. Eventually more and more of the throat will be eroded and moved forward. Also the diameter of this eroded section will increase. We have seen take-off barrels that had fully 1/2 of the length of the rifling completely eroded.

The key to this type of erosion is that it is caused by hot powder gases under high pressures and not by friction between the bullet and the barrel. We have read a report from a military test that examined this type of barrel wear. It was found that over the course of tens of thousands of rounds the actual groove diameter of the barrel was only increased by a few ten thousandths of an inch. It is this type of wear that moly might prevent or slow down. But in this test the throat area grew progressively longer and larger in diameter from gas erosion, not friction between the bullet and barrel.

So from our point of view, moly coated bullets are not going to prevent the type of throat erosion we have described, that the type of wear caused by friction between the bullet and barrel is insignificant, and that the prevention of jacket fouling through the use of moly is marginal at best and that moly may add another type of fouling to the barrel.

There is one type of shooting that may benefit from the use of moly coated bullets, in our opinion. In an effort to find the "perfect" bullet, target shooters using the 50BMG cartridge have manufactured solid bullets that are lathe-turned from materials like brass, bronze, copper and even soft steel alloys. These bullets can cause a considerable amount of barrel wear caused by friction between the barrel and bullet. The bore and groove diameters of these barrels do increase in diameter as a direct result of this friction. And this wear is not caused by the hot powder gases that will erode a throat in more conventional barrels.

In this case it seems as though, in our testing, that coating bullets with moly will help reduce this type of barrel wear.

We realize that our opinion of moly does not go along with the wisdom and promotions of the day. But we're willing to listen to opposing views if you have one.

Post Script:  In the January, 1999 issue of PRECISION SHOOTING  Magazine there is an excellent article by Kevin Thomas of Sierra Bullets about his experiences with moly.  I would suggest that anyone considering using moly read that article first.  In summary, Kevin found almost the same results as we've outlined above.  In short he found that moly had no effect on extending barrel life in their controlled accuracy testing of bullets during production.  He did not see any improvement in accuracy and to the contrary even found some degradation in accuracy at times, and that moly could create its own fouling problems.  Mr. Thomas found that moly did reduce jacket fouling a little but that a regular cleaning schedule was still required.  Like us he wondered what if any benefit there was to using moly?

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Q. What is your opinion of the BlackStar process and Fire Lapping?

A. We feel that any internal finish treatment of our barrels, performed by another source, will only serve to degrade the extremely smooth and uniform finish we achieve through hand lapping.  Over the years we have developed a proprietary lapping system that allows us to create a superior internal finish.  We have found through our testing what is the optimum lapping material and grit.  With the finish our barrels are shipped with (especially the stainless steel barrels), bullet jacket fouling  is almost nonexistent, and accuracy is at its peak.

One of the reasons we believe that fouling is minimal has to do with the direction of the surface finish in relation to the rifling.  When a barrel is lapped, the resulting surface lies parallel to the rifling.  The bullet does not have to rotate "against the grain" as it would have to with an unlapped barrel or with a barrel treated in another manner.

Another factor in surface finish has to do with its smoothness.  While it is very desirable to have a finish running parallel to the rifling, the finish can be too smooth.  In our extensive testing we found that a lapped barrel could be made too smooth and that these super smooth barrels would foul more than our conventionally lapped barrels.  We have drawn an analogy between these "too smooth" barrels to racing slicks on race cars.  These tires have no tread so they can get better traction (or more friction) on the asphalt or concrete surface.  It seems as though a similar situation results between a bullet and barrel if the finish is too smooth.  But in this case, the result is increased fouling, not increased performance.

Many of the comments made about the BlackStar process also apply to the Fire Lapping procedure. But the big problem with Fire Lapping in our opinion is the rapid deterioration of the throat in the barrel. We know of barrels that have had the throat advanced very rapidly to the point that the chamber had to be set back.

So, it is for these reasons that we do not endorse the BlackStar process nor suggest that customers have their Lilja barrels treated by this firm.  The same is true of the Fire Lapping system. If we thought that we could improve the internal finish of our barrels we would do so in-house, not rely on an outside source to do so.  Further, if a customer has a complaint about a barrel and it is shown that our original internal finish has been tampered with, any warranty claim is void.

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Q. What are the differences between chrome-moly barrels and stainless steel barrels?

A. We buy our steels directly from the steel mills. Our steel is made to our specifications as far as chemistry and heat treatments are concerned. Our chrome-moly is a modified 4140 type steel and the stainless steel is type 416 with a few extra steps and tests in its manufacture. We have used steel of both types from several different mills and have settled on what we feel is the best available.

The primary difference between the two types, as far as rifle barrels are concerned, is that chrome-moly can be blued and stainless steel cannot, using conventional methods. Rifle barrels made from stainless steel will last longer, as related to throat erosion, than chrome-moly. Stainless steel resists heat erosion better. Also we can get a slightly better internal finish when lapping with stainless steel.

Approximately 90% of the barrels we manufacture are made from stainless steel. In our experience, most of the chrome-moly barrels we make go on high-grade custom hunting rifles that are going to have a nice custom made wood stock. And some shooters insist on having a blued barrel.

An exception to the above is the large number of 50BMG barrels we make from chrome-moly. Our recommendation for steel choice with 50BMG barrels depends on the bullet type the shooter intends to use. If you are going to use conventional jacked bullets, such as the Hornady or ball ammunition, then the stainless steel barrels will probably last longer and foul less. But if your choice is one of the custom made lathe-turned bullets made from brass, bronze, copper, or even steel, then the chrome-moly barrels will probably last longer and give better accuracy. Please see our comments on moly coating and these types of bullets. If you plan to shoot both types of bullets then the chrome-moly barrels are a better choice.

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Q. What are the differences between  3 Groove and 6 Groove Barrels?

A. Almost all of the caliber and twist combinations in the rifle barrels we make are available with 6 lands and grooves. A few years ago we started to make barrels in a 3 groove configuration too at the request of some varmint hunters who were looking for longer barrel life. They were chambering barrels for hot 22 caliber varmint rounds and shooting the throats out of conventional 6 groove barrels fairly fast. We reasoned that if we reduced the number of grooves to 3 but kept the ratio of land to groove width the same (ie. the lands are twice as wide in a 3 groove barrel as compared to a 6 groove) that there would be more land area to resist heat erosion.

Well, it turned out that barrel life did increase and that accuracy stayed at least the equal of comparable 6 groove barrels. It is hard to put a percentage increase on barrel life but a conservative estimate might be 20%.

Benchrest shooters are always experimenting and looking for a competitive edge. Before long a few shooters, including Dan Lilja, were putting 3 groove barrels in 6PPC and 22 Waldog on their light varmint and heavy varmint class benchrest rifles. And these barrels proved to be very accurate. They started winning benchrest matches and soon became popular among the benchrest shooters. .

On the right is Dan with a .193" 200 yard group fired at a benchrest match in Billings Montana in 1998.

This was with a 6 mm PPC 13" twist 3-Groove Barrel.

And we found that as a side benefit the 3 groove barrels seemed to foul very little and clean up quickly. We attributed this to the reduced number of corners inside collecting powder and copper fouling.

This answer to 3 groove - 6 groove question is not meant to discredit the 6 groove barrels. They have consistently shoot extremely well over the years. Dan continues to shoot both 6 and 3 groove barrels on his benchrest rifles. But if you haven't tried a 3 groove you might consider one the next time you need a barrel. We do not offer them in all of our caliber and twist combinations. Our page with caliber and twist listings indicates if a 3 groove barrel is available. And we are frequently adding 3 groove buttons to our offerings. If you don't see that a 3 groove version is offered in the caliber and twist you're looking for, ask, we might soon be making it.  

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Q. Why do you have so many choices in twist rates?

A. We offer a number of different twist rates in the various calibers that we make. This allows you to pick the optimum rate for the particular bullet you plan to use. This is especially true for target shooters who will probably use just one or two bullet weights and styles for their type of shooting sport.

However if you plan to shoot a variety of bullet weights in your barrel then you must choose the twist rate for the heaviest bullet that you plan to shoot. For example, let's say that you're going to build a 300 Winchester Magnum for longer range deer hunting. A bullet weight of 150 grains might be the best choice for your type of hunting. And a 12" twist would be correct for that bullet. But someday you might hunt elk or moose and think that you might want to use a 200 grain bullet for the bigger animals. Then the twist requirements change and a 10" rate is the choice. But, you can still shoot the lighter weight bullets in the 10" twist with good accuracy.

As bullet weights increase the twist rate required to adequately stabilize the bullet increases. The fact is though, that actual bullet weight has little to do with twist. It is overall bullet length that has the most influence on stability. The reason we base twist on weight lies with the fact that bullet length usually increases as weight increases. And some bullets are especially long for their weight. For example the Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets are all longer than comparable weight bullets of another weight because of the plastic tip. And as a result the ballistic Tip bullets sometimes need a faster twist rate than is normal.

Target shooters, especially bench rest shooters, like to use the slowest possible twist rate they can get away with in an effort to get the very ultimate in accuracy from their barrel. For example, most benchrest shooters using the 6PPC cartridge and 62-68 grain hollow point flat base bullets use a twist rate of 13-14" and some even use a 15" twist! For normal target shooting, varmint hunting and big game hunting though, it is much better to go with a twist rate that is on the fast side rather than the slow side. While that 15" twist 6mm barrel we just mentioned might do well on a nice warm summer afternoon on the benchrest range, the same combination might shoot wildly on a cool spring morning of wood chuck shooting.

When twist rates are offering marginal stability atmospheric influences such as temperature, altitude, and even normal fluctuations in the barometer can have noticeable effects on the target. As the temperature and altitude go up so does bullet stability for a given twist rate. Conversely, a lowering of the barometric pressure increases stability.

The newer VLD design bullets require a faster twist rate than is normal for their particular bullet weight and caliber. But with high quality bullets accuracy is still very good.

Choosing the correct twist rate for your barrel is an important consideration. To help you choose the correct rate we've made up the following chart. If you have any questions, please ask.    

RECOMMENDED TWIST RATES

Grain/Cal .172 .204 .224 .243 .257 .264 .277 .284 .308 .338 .358
17-20 9-10                    
25 10                    
30 9 12                  
33   12                  
35   12                  
37 VLD 6                    
40   12                  
50-52   9 14                
55     12                
60     12                
68-69     9,10 13,14              
75     9   14            
80     8                
85     7 12 12 12          
90     7 10              
100       10 10   12 14      
105-107       8              
120         10 10   12 15,16    
130             10   14    
140           9 10 10      
150                 14    
140-160           8 10 10 12,13    
150-168               9 11,12,13    
150-180                 10,11,12    
160               9      
175               9      
180                 10,11,12    
200                 10,11 10,12 12,16
220                 10    
225                   10,12 12,16
240-250                 10 10 12
300                   10 12

This chart is based on jacketed lead-core bullets. With some monolithic and plastic-tipped bullets the above twists may be too slow. The reason for this is that copper and yellow-metal bullets are less dense than lead-core bullets and so with bullets of an equal weight the monolithic bullets are longer. And length has a lot of influence on twist required. The plastic tips on some bullets aslo add length without weight.

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Q. Rimfire Barrels: 16 or 17 Twist, which is best?

A. Our answer is; we don't know. We offer our rimfire barrels in two different twists, a 16" and a 17" twist. We've shot both and can honestly say that we can't tell much difference, they both seem to shoot very well. Some of our customers seem to prefer the 17" twists and others say the 16" is best. The 16" has been the standard for rimfire barrels for a long time and they are very proven. But the 17" twist is an excellent choice for BR-50, IR50/50 and NBRSA benchrest competitions.

To further complicate the issue, we also offer both twists in two different inside diameters. Our standard dimensions are a .2215" diameter groove and a .217" diameter bore. The `tight' barrels are .2200" by .215" diameters. Again, we can't see much difference between them. We sell a lot of all four combinations and can't say that any one configuration is a runaway favorite. The 17" barrels do seem to becoming more popular all of the time though.

All four types have shot very well in the competitive rimfire sports. They have won major tournaments and set records.

Rimfire barrels require a little different cleaning procedure than centerfire barrels and we have a separate page listing our suggestions for cleaning these barrels.

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Q. What barrel "Life" in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?

A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers.  But again there is not a simple answer.  In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life.  Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question.  But there is also absolute barrel life too.  That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild.  The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question.  To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where  group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything.  But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important.  And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog size animals, the difference between a .25MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5MOA may not be noticeable in the field.

The big enemy to barrel life is heat.  A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel.  Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too.  The throat erosion is accelerated by he at.  Any fast varmint type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.  A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too.  For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.

And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels.  This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.

The benefits of deep cryogenic processing of barrels and the use of moly coated bullets in prolonging barrel life are discussed in our answers in this section on those specific subjects.

I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional aggregates that I've fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had a number of rounds through them.  I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.

I fired my smallest 100 yard 5 shot aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho.  It was a .1558" aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class.  And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.  Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200 yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time.  I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper foul quite a bit.  But accuracy was still good.

Incidentally, neither of these barrels had been frozen or had any moly coated bullets fired through them.

As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3-4000 rounds. And varmint type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.

For medium size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester,  7x57 and even the 25-06, 2-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.

Hot .224 caliber type cartridges will not do as well and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.

Bigger magnum hunting type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds.  But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won't do as well, being closer to the 1500 round figure.

These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels.  For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.

The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I'm pressed to predict a figure.

The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.

Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject.  You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel.  Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.

As of January 2009 we have added some public domain articles published by the Australian military and their studies regarding barrel lilfe of small arms. You can download these articles as .pdf file by clicking on the title: barrel_life1.pdf barrel_life2.pdf barrel_life3.pdf These were brought to our attention by Sylvain Benoit.

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Q. What is hand lapping?

A. The hand lapping process, that all of our barrels undergo, ensures that you will receive a rifle barrel that has the very best and most desirable type of internal finish that we can provide.  The lapping operation brings the final internal dimensions up to size and also improves the finish.  No production barrels are hand lapped, only the finest custom barrels receive this very important operation.  And it is partly for this reason that hand lapped barrels cost more than lower grade production barrels.

In practice, a lap is cast around a rod placed inside the barrel.  The profile of the rifling is cast into the lap ensuring a very precise fit with that individual barrel.  The lap is then "charged" with lapping compound, oiled, and pushed and pulled repeatedly  through the length of the barrel.  The lap is "recharged" and oiled many times and several new laps will be cast before the lapping procedure is completed.  The man doing the lapping judges when the barrel is finished by a very experienced feel for the job, inspecting the internal finish as it develops with a full length borescope, and by measuring the diameters of the lands and grooves.

We have, over the years, developed a process that we feel gives us the very best finish and uniformity of diameters the full length of the barrel, that we can obtain.  And the proof is, in our opinion, in the very minimal amount of bullet jacket fouling that our barrels produce, and in their outstanding accuracy.

Our process completely eliminates all tooling marks from the inside of the barrel.   And very importantly the resulting finish runs parallel with the rifling.

It is for these reasons that we discourage anyone from submitting their new Lilja rifle barrel to any subsequent internal finishing operation.  Please see our comments on the BlackStar operation in this section too.    

The picture to the right shows hand lapping a barrel.

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Q.   Why is there a saw cut near the muzzle end of your rifle barrels?

A. Almost all of our barrels have a bandsaw cut one inch from the muzzle end of the barrel.  This indicates that the barrel is not useable beyond that point.  When we hand lap our barrels, we do so from each end of the barrel.  Because the lapping compound is applied to the lap directly next to the ends, the bore becomes worn slightly oversize.  This oversize condition does not extend more than .50"-.75" into the barrel but we put the saw cut one inch back to ensure that you do not use any of the oversize bore.

This same condition occurs at the chamber end of the barrel too, but when the chamber is cut into the barrel, all of this oversize portion is removed with the chamber.

For example, most of the barrels we send out are 28" overall length.  With the saw cut one inch back from the muzzle, these barrels will finish up to 27".  With some special contours or exceptionally long barrels however, we may have already trimmed the barrel to its maximum finish length.  For example, a 30" finish length barrel in a #5 contour (long and skinny for its length) will already be trimmed to make the contouring phase of machining easier.  If there is not a saw cut, the barrel has already been trimmed to its maximum finish length.

The 15" finish length XP-100 type barrels we make do not have the saw cut.  The entire length of these barrels is useable.  And our finished drop-in 22 rimfire barrels do not have this saw cut either.

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Q: Does fluting cause stress in a barrel?

A: We've been asked if machining flutes into a rifle barrel causes stress in the steel. The short answer is no, it does not. There are some operations in the manufacture of a rifle barrel that can cause stress to develop in the steel, but fluting is not one of them. To the contrary, fluting can and will relieve stress if it is already present. The same is true of any outside machining work performed on a barrel.

The type of stress that can exist in a barrel is called compressive stress. Under normal conditions the stress could form from two processes. When steel is manufactured, the round shape is formed through a rolling operation in the steel mill. This forming can be performed either hot or cold. Cold rolling generates a great deal of internal stress in the steel. Usually, with steel used for rifle barrels, this stress is relieved by heating the steel to just below its transformation or critical temperature. We have the steel mill that makes our steel do this as their very last operation, ensuring us that the steel is stress free when we receive it.

Secondly, stress can be formed in a rifle barrel during a cold forming operation, such as button rifling. Since no material is removed from the barrel when the rifling is formed, rather it is displaced, it causes compressive stress in the steel. If this stress is not removed, through a heat treating operation, it will remain in the steel where it can cause other problems. Any subsequent machining operations, such as turning the outside diameter of the barrel, will allow some of those stresses to come out. The result can be an opening of the inside diameter of the barrel, more so towards the muzzle where more material is machined away. It can and probably will also cause the barrel to warp. And if these aren't enough, the temporary heating and cooling of the barrel that occurs during normal firing will also let the stress come out by warping the barrel. Poor accuracy is the result.

Although a barrel would not normally be welded on, this can also cause stresses to form in steel. At times though, gunsmiths will heat barrels to sweat-on barrel bands and sites. Too much heat can cause some problems as well.

But, the fact remains that normal machining operations, such as outside turning, fluting, drilling and tapping site holes, etc. do not cause or introduce stress. They can and do allow residual stresses to come out of the steel though.

We flute about 50 rifle barrels per month and have never had a problem with our barrels related to fluting.

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Q. Does Lilja Rifle barrels perform rebore work?

A. No, we do not, for several reasons. The primary reason being that button rifling does not lend itself to re-rifling a barrel. When a button is pulled through a barrel no material is removed from the barrel. Rather the steel is displaced, forming the rifling. It is important that the button has equal resistance to it as it is pulled through the barrel. If not, the internal diameters will grow larger as the button is pulled through a barrel that has a decreasing outside diameter towards the muzzle. So, all re-bored and re-rifled barrels should be cut rifled. We only button rifle.

Usually a person will elect to have a barrel rebored when the barrel has some hard to duplicate exterior work on it such as engraving, inlays, octagon work, or is on an older rifle with some collector value.Return to top


Q. What does Lilja Rifle Barrels think of the use of bore solvents with ammonia?

A.  While we're aware of "bad press" associated with the use of cleaners with ammonia as part of the solution, we have never seen any damage in one of our barrels caused by the use of ammonia.  The rumor is that copper-removing cleaners with ammonia will pit and damage the interior surface of a barrel.  Ammonia is very effective as a copper remover.  We use solvents, such as Butch's Bore Shine, to remove copper during the break-in.  We routinely leave Butch's solution in the barrel over night too.  Again, I repeat, we have never seen a problem with ammonia in the concentrations found in commercial cleaners, in either our chrome-moly or stainless steel barrels.  This includes examination with our borescope. Return to top

Q. What are the advantages to purchasing a Lilja .17 or .22 rimfire drop-in barrel?

A. There are several good reason for buying a drop-in barrel from us if you own one of the above mentioned rifles.

  1. Quality and accuracy. Our barrels have become the dominant barrel for use in the demanding BR/50, IR 50/50, NBRSA group shooting and other competitive rimfire shooting events. Our reputation was built on making accurate rifle barrels and in providing the type of service our customers expect.
  2. Delivery. We make every effort to keep our standard configuration drop-in barrels in stock for immediate delivery. This means no waiting for us to make you a barrel after you place an order and no waiting for a benchrest quality gunsmith to fit and chamber your new barrel to your action. At times we're asked to make a special contour or length barrel and that can cause some delay.
  3. Price. While the price of our drop-in barrels may seem high to some, especially compared to some of the Ruger 10/22 barrels on the market, bear in mind that you're purchasing a true match-grade stainless steel barrel. The price for our .22 & .17 drop-in line is $395. Compare this to our retail price of $340 for an unchambered but contoured stainless steel barrel. You are paying just $55 additional for a best-quality chambering job, performed by us, and we keep them in inventory.

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Q. Why do you recommend not using Stinger and Velocitor ammo in 10/22 barrels?

A. We chamber our 10/22 drop-in barrels with a Bentz semi-auto match type reamer. This type chamber is shorter and tighter than a standard sporting type chamber. As a result higher pressures are developed when the longer Stinger and Velocitor type ammo is fired in a shorter match type chamber. The end result can be a blown extractor slot in a 10/22 barrel with a match chamber. The following is from CCI:

"Where the problem resides is that the Stinger case is 0.100" longer than
a Long Rifle case, their chamber is not made to ANSI Sporting Chamber
dimensions, it's shorter, the Stinger case is then engraved by the
rifling and increases pressure. See the Warning on the back of the
Stinger packaging, ensure you know which chamber your rifle has. If not
an ANSI Sporting Chamber, do not use Stinger."

Q. What federal laws and taxes apply to rifle barrels?

A. We are asked if barrels can be sent directly to individuals or if they must be sent to a Federal Firearms Licensee. Rifle barrels can be purchased by individuals and sent directly to the buyer. There are no federal laws that prevent this. Rifle barrels are no different than other gun components such as scopes or stocks. The only restricted part of a firearm is the receiver.

Further, if you already own a receiver you can send it directly to a gunsmith in any state to have it rebarreled. And the gunsmith can return it directly to you without going through an FFL. The BATF considers this as a 'repair'. Sometimes a carrier, such as UPS, will insist that a firearm be sent only to an FFL and have at times demanded a copy of the receiver's FFL. There is no regulation requiring this and though uncommon, seems to be at the whim of a local manager. It should be noted that pistols and handguns cannot be sent through the U.S. mail and when sent through a carrier like UPS or FedEx they must be sent using a next-day delivery. The rational behind this is that they are less likely to be stolen by employees.

Rifle barrels can be exported to many countries. To do so the seller must be registered with the U.S. State Department Department Office of Munitions Control. Each shipment is allowed through an approved license. Each license application is evaluated by the State Department and is issued depending on the destination country and the intended use. We are registered with the State Department. For more information on exporting - Click Here

Rifle scopes can be exported and the authorization for scopes is through the U.S. Commerce Department. However, Night Force policy prohibits us from exporting NF scopes. We do not export rifle scopes.

There is no federal excise tax on rifle barrels. If a gunsmith or manufacturer builds fewer than 50 firearms in a year then the manufacturer is not liable for the 11% federal excise tax. This threshold exemption took effect on August 10th 2005. Prior to this date individuals were exempt from the tax because the BATF looked on them as 'incidental manufacturers'. The law was not applied uniformly to gunsmiths prior to this and has caused confusion and grief for some until the 2005 change.

Montana has no state sales tax and we do not charge any tax on our product regardless of the destination.

For information on SBR's (short barreled rifles) - Click Here

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Q. Can stainless steel barrels be safely fired in sub zero temperatures?

A. Yes they certainly can be. There is a myth going around that stainless steel alloys used in rifle barrels loose their strength in sub zero temperatures. There is no truth to that. We have made many thousands of barrels that have been fired safely in below zero temperatures as have all of the other custom barrel makers as well as the major arms manufacturers. This is an urban legend that should be chilled

Q. What do you think of bore sighting equipment that slips into the muzzle?

A. The short answer is don't use them. We have seen barrels damaged by the bore spud. The tops of the lands and crown are scuffed very easily by these spuds and accuracy can be degraded with one insertion. With a bolt action rifle the best method, in our opinion, to bore sight is as follows: set the rifle on sandbags, removed the bolt, look through the bore and 'aim' the barrel at the target, adjust the scope to the point the barrel is 'looking' at. This method should get you to within a foot of your aim point. Again do not use a bore sighting mechanism that places anything in the bore of the barrel.

There are laser bore sighters available now that insert into the chamber of the barrel and project a red-dot laser beam downrange. These devices are fine to use in a quality barrel.

Q. What is the difference between a drop-in barrel and a barrel that needs gunsmithing?

A. The drop-in type barrels, like our AR barrels and various rimfire drop-in's, are completely finished by us and ready to slip into your receiver. All of the machine work required has been done by us in our facility. This includes cutting the chamber, setting the headspace, cutting the barrel to its finished length and crowning the barrel. With an AR type barrel the gas port hole has been drilled and the barrel extension is torqued in place and pinned.

Our barrels that require gunsmithing work do not have threads cut to fit the receiver, the chamber cut nor is the barrel cut to length and crowned.

We also offer a hybrid version of a drop-in barrel with threading and chambering for the Remington 700's. Here's a link to more information on this variation - Click Here

Or we offer threading-only for these action types - Click Here

Q. Does Lilja have tours of their shop and facilities?

A. The short answer is no we do not. In the past we have but we no longer offer that opportunity. We've come to the decision that we have too many proprietary processes.

Q. Does Lilja have a recommended cleaning and break-in procedure?

A. Yes we do and it depends on the type of barrel: rimfire, centerfire, .50 BMG

Q. Does Lilja make sub-16" barrels for SBR's (short barreled rifle)?

A. Yes we do on a special order basis. For more details - Click Here

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