Barrel Longevity and Cost Per Shot
How much does it cost you to send a round downrange? Ask most shooters this question and they’ll start adding up the cost of components: bullets, powder, and primers. Then they’ll figure in the cost of brass, divided by the number of times the cases are reloaded.
For a 6BR shooting match bullets, match-grade primers, and 30 grains of powder, in brass reloaded ten times, this basic calculation gives us a cost per shot of $0.51 (fifty-one cents):
Bullet $0.33 (Berger 105 VLD) Grafs.com
Primer $0.02 (Tula/Wolf SmR magnum) PVI
Powder $0.08 (Reloder 15 @ $19.15/lb) PVI
Brass $0.08 (Lapua @ $82.30/100, 10 reloads)
Total = $0.51 per round
NOTE: If you shoot a larger caliber that burns more powder, and uses more expensive bullets and/or brass, your total cost per round will be higher than $0.51.
$1.00 Per Shot True Cost? Yikes!
OK, we’ve seen that it costs about $0.51 per round to shoot a 6BR. Right?
Wrong! — What if we told you that your ACTUAL cost per round might be closer to double that number? How can that be? Well… you haven’t accounted for the cost of your barrel. Every round you fire down that tube expends some of the barrel’s finite life. If, like some short-range PPC shooters, you replace barrels every 700 or 800 rounds, you need to add $0.60 to $0.70 per round for “barrel cost.” That can effectively double your cost per round, taking it well past the dollar per shot mark.
Calculating Barrel Cost Per Shot
In the table below, we calculate your barrel cost per shot, based on various expected barrel lifespans.
As noted above, a PPC barrel is typically replaced at 700-800 rounds. A 6.5-284 barrel can last 1200+ rounds, but it might need replacement after 1000 rounds or less. A 6BR barrel should give 2000-2600 rounds of accurate life, and a .308 Win barrel could remain competitive for 4,000 rounds or more.
The table below shows your barrel cost per shot, based on various “useful lives.” We assume that a custom barrel costs $540.00 total to replace. This includes $300.00 for the barrel itself, $200.00 for chambering/fitting (conservative number), and $40.00 in 2-way shipping costs. These are typical costs shooters will encounter when ordering a rebarreling job.
The numbers are interesting. If you get 2000 rounds on your barrel instead of 1000, you save $0.27 per shot. However, extending barrel life from 2000 to 3000 rounds only saves you $0.09 per round. The longer you keep your barrel the more you save, but the savings per shot decreases as the round count increases.
How to Reduce Your TRUE Cost per Round
What does this tell us? First, in figuring your annual shooting budget, you need to consider the true cost per round, including barrel cost. Second, if you want to keep your true costs under control, you need to extend your barrel life. This can be accomplished in many ways. First, you may find that switching to a different powder reduces throat erosion. Second, if you’re able to slow down your shooting pace, this can reduce barrel heat, which can extend barrel life. (A varminter in the field is well-advised to switch rifles, or switch barrels, when the barrel gets very hot from extended shot strings.) Third, modifying your cleaning methods can also extend the life of your barrel. Use solvents that reduce the need for aggressive brushing, and try to minimize the use of abrasives. Also, always use a properly fitting bore guide. Many barrels have been prematurely worn out from improper cleaning techniques.