Long Barrel Pistol vs. Short | The Important Differences


There have been many debates about whether short or long barrel pistols are better for accuracy and all-around use. So, let’s break it down and see which one may be best for you. 

Long barrel pistols provide a longer sight radius than short barrel pistols, which can affect accuracy. Long barrels also weigh more, so there’s less recoil when firing, improving accuracy. With less movement and kickback when firing, a long barrel pistol is generally easier to fire consecutively. 

However, the size of the short barrel pistol will make it easier to handle and conceal than a long barrel. Additionally, a short barrel pistol is going to be easier to draw and manage, so there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Let’s break down this comparison even further. 

Long vs Short Barrel Pistols: Pros 

Long Barrel PistolsShort Barrel Pistols
Longer sight radiusEasier to conceal
Less recoilHigher draw speed
Stable shotsLightweight
Increased velocityEasier to handle

Long vs Short Barrel Pistols: Cons 

Long Barrel PistolsShort Barrel Pistols
Harder to manageLess velocity
Difficult to concealShort sight radius
Slower to drawLess accurate
HeavierHarder to fire repeatedly

What Are the Benefits of a Longer Barrel?

Longer barrels have many benefits that pertain to better accuracy and increased velocity. The longer sight radius gives you more space to properly line up your shot. A longer barrel will also increase the bullet’s velocity because it has more time to propel the bullet before it’s released. 

While there are benefits to both long and short-barrel pistols, long barrel pistols stand far ahead in accuracy. Let’s compare sight radius to show the difference. 

Shooting a four-inch (10-cm) barrel pistol and a six-inch (15-cm) pistol barrel is going to yield different results. The four-inch (10-cm) barrel gives you four inches (10 cm) of space to line up your shot to try to be as accurate as possible. A six-inch (15-cm) barrel is going to give you another two inches (5 cm) to look down the barrel and aim more accurately. 

That extra two inches (5 cm) may not sound like a lot, but when accuracy counts, it can make a big difference. This is what sets long barrel pistols apart from a short one.

Additional Considerations:

  • Weight- A longer barrel adds weight to the pistol. This can make a big difference with accuracy because there’s going to be less recoil. 
  • Recoil- Recoil on a gun can make a huge difference in accuracy, and the lighter the gun, the greater the chance of recoil affecting your shots. But recoil isn’t the only thing affected by the weight of the gun. 
  • Stability- When firing multiple shots, a heavier gun is going to provide a more stable shot. Because there’s less kickback on heavier guns, you will not need to work as hard to realign your shot when firing. A heavier gun means a better chance at being able to fire repeatedly without needing to take a lot of time to aim again. 
  • Velocity- To put it simply, the longer the barrel, the more time a gun has to cook the bullet, making it move faster coming out of the barrel. 

Longer barrels give the propellant more time to burn, which means the bullet goes further. For every inch (2.54 cm) of barrel given up on a gun, you can expect a difference of about 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.6 meters) per second. So, barrel length makes a big difference in how far your bullet will travel. 

What Are the Benefits of a Short Barrel Rifle? 

Short barrel rifles tend to be more accurate and easier to handle and aim. They have less muzzle whip, which allows the shot to be more accurate. Short barrel rifles are easier to manage and will get caught up less when traversing through the woods. 

Unlike short barrel pistols, short barrel rifles tend to be more accurate. Short barrel rifles have less muzzle whip due to less harmonics. Shorter barrels are also stiffer and release the bullet faster, which can help with accuracy. 

Harmonics are vibrations caused by firing a rifle. They happen with every barrel length but are more prevalent with longer barrels. So, a short barrel rifle will be more accurate because there will be less length of the barrel to cause those vibrations.

Harmonics are also tied to barrel stiffness. Generally, the thicker the barrel, the more accurate the shot because it will be stiffer and less flexible. However, a rifle with the same thickness is going to be more flexible the longer the barrel. And flexibility leads to less accuracy. 

Is a Longer Barrel Pistol More Accurate?

Longer barrel pistols are more accurate because they are heavier. So, you can expect less recoil and more accuracy. The longer sight radius will also give a long barrel pistol the edge over shorter barrel pistols regarding accuracy. 

Weight plays a big part in the accuracy of a pistol because it prevents a lot of recoils when the gun is fired. So, a long barrel pistol will be more accurate because the weight prevents recoil and allows you to have more control during a shot. 

As discussed above, the longer barrel will allow you to have a longer sight radius which helps accuracy as well. 

When it comes to long barrel pistols, they provide a lot more accuracy than short barrel pistols. So, if you are looking for the most accurate pistol, consider a long barrel.

Does Handgun Barrel Length Affect Accuracy?

Handgun barrel length affects accuracy in the same way it does for a pistol. Longer barrels will provide more accuracy due to weight and sight radius. This is something to consider with any handgun. 

These rules apply to revolvers and pistols alike. Handguns are dependent on weight to help with accuracy because kickback is an issue for small guns. No matter how well-trained you are in shooting a firearm, you will have to accommodate for the recoil that happens with lightweight guns. 

This doesn’t mean short barrel handguns aren’t going to be accurate at all, but rather it will take more work from the person firing a handgun to be accurate. Heavier guns will take less effort to control the kickback because the gun’s weight will work in your favor. 

What Is the Best Barrel Length for Accuracy?

Two Desert Eagles With Different Barrel Lengths

In general, longer handgun barrels are more accurate. However, the best barrel length for accuracy with larger guns like rifles and shotguns will be shorter. Short barrels allow the bullet to release faster, giving you more accuracy. For smaller guns, the weight of the gun makes a big difference when it comes to accuracy.

However, this is the “generic” answer, as the best barrel length depends on the gun itself. There are many different factors to consider for each type of gun. For example, longer barrel handguns will allow better accuracy because the longer sight radius allows the shooter to get a better idea of where the bullet will go. 

But the sight radius doesn’t make a big difference with larger guns because you will have plenty of room whether the barrel is long or short. Basically, this concept is only relevant for handguns because they are smaller. 

Handguns rely on longer barrels for accuracy with sight radius and weight. Any weight added to a handgun will help keep it more stable and prevent kickback when shooting. 

This does not apply to rifles and shotguns since they already have plenty of weight to them. Kickback is still relevant in these guns, but not in the same way. 

Recoil for rifles and shotguns is instead caused by vibrations when firing the gun as the bullet travels through the long barrel. So, the longer the barrel on a shotgun or a rifle, the more likely you are to experience vibrations that can affect your accuracy. This can be overcome just like the kickback on smaller barrel handguns. 

Final Shot

When it comes to pistols, long barrels will help you be more accurate when shooting, give you a longer sight radius, and increase the velocity of the shot. Short barrel pistols will allow for easier handling and concealment. In the end, it depends on what matters most to you.

I hope this article has helped explain a very complicated topic. Thanks for reading!

For more, don’t miss What Is the Best Barrel Length for Accuracy? | Optimal Guide.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

Related Articles