The Battle of Barrels: Bull vs. Bushing for 1911 Handguns


When it comes to the world of 1911 handguns, enthusiasts know that the devil is in the details. One of the most crucial details, especially for those who are passionate about customizing their firearms, is the type of barrel they choose. In this blog post, we'll dive deep into the comparison between bull barrels and bushing barrels for 1911 handguns.

Understanding the Basics

To kick things off, let's get a clear understanding of what we're dealing with. Bull barrels and bushing barrels are two distinct designs, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. Bob Server from Fusion Firearms sheds light on this topic, and it's evident that there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Bull Barrels: Bigger is Better?

Bull barrels are aptly named for their larger diameter at the front end, making them visually distinguishable from their counterparts. They lack the traditional bushing found in bushing barrels, and instead, their diameter matches that of the slide, typically around 700 thousandths. This absence of a bushing is a defining characteristic of bull barrels.

Fit and Tolerance: The Key to Smooth Operation

Proper fit and tolerance are paramount when choosing between bull and bushing barrels. Why, you ask? Well, it all boils down to the dreaded "binding" issue. Binding occurs when the barrel doesn't move smoothly within the slide, leading to barrel flex and irregular lockup, ultimately affecting accuracy. To prevent this, you need to ensure that your chosen barrel and slide combination have the right amount of tolerance and adjustment.

The Choice of Champions: Bull Barrels in Competitive Shooting

If you're into competitive shooting, especially in disciplines like IPSC and speed shooting, bull barrels might be your weapon of choice. Their weight distribution towards the front of the gun can reduce recoil, aiding in faster follow-up shots. However, it's essential to note that you can't fine-tune the front end of a bull barrel as easily as you can with a bushing barrel.

Disassembly Dilemma: Bull Barrels vs. Bushing Barrels

Disassembling your 1911 handgun can be a breeze with a bushing barrel, especially in the field. However, when you opt for a bull barrel, you'll need a reverse plug recoil system, which can complicate field disassembly without special tools. This is something to consider if you're looking for ease of maintenance and quick breakdown in the field.

Short and Sweet: Bull Barrels for Shorter Handguns

Shorter length handguns, such as defenders and officers, can benefit from bull barrels. The extra weight at the front end helps balance the firearm and reduce felt recoil. It's a preference that depends on your application and what you envision for your 1911 project.

Customization and Beyond

When it comes to customization, both bull and bushing barrels offer various options. Threaded barrels, for instance, are available for both types, making them suitable for suppressor attachments or muzzle devices. Fluting, on the other hand, is typically done on bull barrels due to the extra material available at the front end. This adds both aesthetics and functionality to your firearm.

Compatibility Matters

For those of you with 1911s that have slides configured with a race inside cut for the barrel bushing, fear not! This configuration can accommodate both bull and bushing barrels. So, you don't have to overhaul your firearm entirely to switch between the two.

Historical Oddities

In some older models like the Colt officers and defenders, you may come across firearms with both bull barrels and bushings. This might seem like an unusual setup, but it does exist. Modern gun builders, however, tend to eliminate the bushing, favoring a more straightforward approach.

In conclusion, the choice between bull barrels and bushing barrels for your 1911 handgun is far from arbitrary. It depends on your intended use, your preferences, and your comfort level with maintenance. Both have their merits and drawbacks, and understanding these nuances can help you make an informed decision for your prized 1911 firearm.