A few years ago, If you had told me that people would be using carbon fiber barrels in their AR-15’s, I would have told you that you were crazy. Oddly enough, here I am in 2015 shooting a carbon fiber barrel in my competition AR.
In 2014 I was competing at the 3Gun Nation Pro Championship, when I happened to meet Derek McDonald, of Proof Research. Long story short, I ended up being lucky enough to be included on the Proof Research Team for 2015. At the time, I didn’t have any experience shooting carbon fiber barrels. I was familiar with Proof, and knew they made high quality products. During the time between talking to Mr. McDonald and nailing down a sponsorship, I did quite a bit of research of my own. I learned that there seemed to be a great deal of “push back” from some folks in the shooting community, regarding carbon fiber barrels. After receiving a barrel from Proof, I found all of the neigh sayers to be wrong…..very wrong.
The process to get my barrel was just like the barrel itself; awesome. I talked with the guys from Proof several times on the phone, discussing barrel length, twist rate and so on. After deciding on an 18″ barrel, rifle length gas system, 1:8 twist, I sent them a complete upper (minus a barrel). They head spaced the barrel to my bolt and cut the threads on the muzzle to match my comp, so there were no spacers or crush washers needed. I was even able to talk Greg (quite possibly the coolest Proof employee) into breaking the barrel in for me and shooting a test group before he sent it back.
When I got my upper back, I mounted it up on my lower and headed to the range. The first thing I did was shoot a 5 shot group at 100 yards. As expected, the group was a half minute or less. Next, I shot out to known distance targets from 200-600 yards. Again, as I expected, the barrel performed flawlessly. One of the things I read about, that people claimed was an issue with carbon fiber barrels, was that they had accuracy issues when they got hot. In 3gun, our stuff gets really hot, really fast. So, I came up with a test to see what would happen. I shot a full mag in about 20 seconds, reloaded and shot another 5 shot group at 100 yards. The results: The same little half minute group as before. I then shot all the long range targets again, with no issue.
Along with the exceptional performance, Proof carbon fiber barrels offer other benefits as well. The 18″ mid profile barrel I have is about half a pound lighter than the steel mid profile barrel I was running of the same length. This means faster transitions and less fatigue. The barrel also just looks awesome. You have to admit, there are plenty of people out there in the shooting world that buy stuff because it looks cool; This is a cool looking barrel. The carbon is woven at 45 degree angles down the barrel and gives it a blotchy, but uniform look…I am a fan. The barrels are actually very skinny steel barrels, which are reinforced by the carbon fiber.
At $940 retail, as of the date of this article, Proof Research is certainly on the high end of barrel pricing. However, in a situation where every ounce matters, but you still need high performance and accuracy, the cost is well worth the rewards. It will take time, but in the future, I could see most in the competition world running carbon fiber barrels. As society fears change, shooters seem to fear new equipment. They say that, “the proof is in the pudding.” Well, in this case, the Proof is on the paper. Sometimes… change is good.