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Some shooters usually let their gun barrels cool down after each shooting session − others just keep firing until the barrel turns white hot. Whose gun will enjoy a longer service life?
No need to ask: of course that's the first one. Avoiding barrel overheating is a common-sense precaution, as even the strongest carbon steel becomes more prone to erosion when its temperature is too high, and the least one can expect from shooting a gun with an overheated barrel is that the rifling will wear away pretty quickly.
And what do we mean by "overheating"? Not much, actually. Even 80 to 90 °C (around 176 to 195 °F) are well enough to make bad things happen to good barrels. What does this translates into, in real life? Well, touching a barrel is already well difficult when it reaches the 50°C/120°C approx. threshold, and more generally speaking the touch of a hand isn't a great parameter to judge from − nor is it a good idea to begin with. Luckily enough, modern scientific technology can help.
Should you not have an infrared-sensor digital thermometer handy, there's now a much more simple, economic and practical solution: the BAR-L Temperature Strips, offered by NECO - Nostalgia Enterprise, a small company headquartered in the town of Benicia (California, USA) and offering quality products for precision shooters and outdoorsmen.
These are small adhesive strips (45x13mm long, approximately 1.7x0.5 inches), featuring a scale with seven black-colored sectors, manufactured in a temperature-sensitive material that will accurately provide you with a visual warning of your barrel heat as long as it is in the +30°C/+90°C (32°F and up to 190°F) range. The strips change color as the temperature changes; when sectors become green, the barrel temperature reached the maximum threshold.
We have been using them for years; they posed us no particular issue whatsoever, except that, if the gun has been cleaned with solvents and oiled up recently, the edges may tend to detach as the gun gets hotter; the problem can be solved by slightly trimming the edges of each tag with a pair of small scissors before applying it to the barrel.
They are also very cheap, ranging from US$9.00 each to US$25.00 for a pack of three, and come in three different variants: the Moderate Zero strips work on a 32°F to 86°F (0°C to 30°C) range, while the Benchrest strips work on a 86°F to 140°F (30°C to 60°C) range and the General Purpose strips are perfect to work on a range that goes from 86°F (30°C) to 194°F (90°C).
The manufacturing company offers a direct purchase service on its website, complete with worldwide shipping; this means that perspective buyers from mostly anywhere in the world can purchase the BAR-L strips and have them shipped at home. By choosing standard Mail Service as the shipment option, costs will remain acceptably low.