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What is a “Match Grade” Pistol Barrel?

jarvis72
By Andrew Jarvis, Jarvis, Inc.

A common question that we hear from customers is “are these match grade barrels?” If you surf the web for barrels, you are sure to come across a multitude of websites and companies offering the coveted “Match Grade Barrel”. It seems necessary to clarify what a “match grade” barrel truly is (or was) after the meaning has been lost in a sea of misinformation on gun forums and articles across the web.targetbull72

The term “match grade” was developed decades ago and, before it lost its meaning, referred to a barrel that had oversized locking surfaces and was short-chambered. What we mean by “locking surfaces” is any surface or shoulder of the barrel that essentially “locks” in place in the slide/frame. Match grade barrels of old would be dimensionally oversized in these areas which would not allow the barrel to fit into the corresponding pistol. A gunsmith would then carefully remove material until the barrel would fit tightly into the pistol. The goal and purpose of this was quite simple:  Make the barrel fit tightly in the gun so it will cam up into the same position in battery after each shot.

comp gun72As mentioned previously, a match grade barrel is also short-chambered. After the fitting was performed by a gunsmith, the chamber of the barrel would be cut with a chambering reamer. This would often be done with a SAAMI spec chambering reamer or a reamer that was created for a specific round that the shooter preferred. With the questionable quality of a lot of the ammunition on the market and the increase in shooters making out of tolerance reloads, chamber dimensions have been getting bigger and looser than ever before.
After years of companies, writers, and bloggers distorting the meaning, it seems that just about every barrel on the market is now “match grade”.inair72