You always hear quite a bit about how rifles with mid-length gas systems shoot “softer” than the carbine length brethren. I bought one of my favorite rifles more because of the basic layout, and I like the dude that came up with the concept of the rifle, Kyle Lamb. It is a 16 inch Smith and Wesson VTAC 2. It came factory with a mid-length gas tube. I changed out the brake for a Surefire brake, and then I just added ammo. The rifle has always shot like a dream. Dot travel is minimal. I can hammer quick splits into discreet targets at will.
I got a rare opportunity for a fun test. A good friend of mine had a similar Smith and Wesson rifle. But, for intents and purposes, the only difference between the rifle was the trigger was a SSA-E instead of a Super V, the optic, the barrel was cut to 14.5 inches, and the gas system was carbine length.
I started out with the dot travel test. On a 3×5 card, I fired a 10 shot string at a pace of about one shot ever second. During this phase, I watched the dot on the optic. My rifle has the appearance of very little travel. The dot travels upward toward two o’clock with very little movement. The carbine length gun did about the same on the test. It was a draw on performance.
Next, I moved on to Bill Drills at seven yards. In looking at the times, the mid length gun was a little faster shot to shot. The average times with the mid length hovered around a .16 split, and a .18 for the carbine length. Enough to make a practical difference? I’d say that is too close to call.
I realize the sample size was small. Perhaps there are larger differences between the set up of the gas systems. Another benefit is that there is less wear and tear on the mid-length, and that the mid-length is more reliable. Across a few hundred rounds shooting some standardized drills, I didn’t see a bit of that.
I am a growing believer that the trained can milk performance out of whatever they choose to shoot. It is possible that all the choices we have in gas system lengths, piston versus DI, etc are nothing more than choices.