• Criterion Barrel Review in 6mm BR Norma

    A new shooting season has come and my old Shilen Ratchet rifled barrel was at 1000 rounds fired, but it was still shooting well. Even so I thought maybe it was time to re-chamber it or try a new barrel, but anything that would follow it would really have to be super impressive. I noticed this year that Northland Shooters Supply was offering a new line of barrels. At first I sarcastically thought “Wow, another new barrel maker!” but I then noticed that the barrel was from the makers of Krieger and this sparked my interest. I have owned several Krieger barrels in the past and they have always proven to be a top notch barrel.

    At first I thought about what caliber I wanted, and fortunately Criterion has several calibers and twist rates to choose from. I love the 6x47 Lapua and I think it is one of the best cartridges around, but with the high cost of brass I decided to go with something different. I thought about a 6mm Dasher as it seems all the top 600 yard shooters are all picking this caliber, but at the time my die maker did not offer dies. Then I started thinking about the 6mm BR. I already have the dies and the caliber has proven to be a great contender, so I placed an order with Jim Briggs at Northland Shooters Supply for the new pre-chambered Criterion barrel. This was going to be an adventure for me as this was the first barrel I have ever purchased that was chambered by a barrel maker and not my preferred gunsmith. Jim stated that Criterion was serious with this venture and these barrels are hand-lapped and Criterion had bought all new reamers and tooling just to make these match grade Savage pre-fit barrels. The first barrels were made with a 410 stainless steel, but they have since switched over to the more popular 416 stainless steel which has become the industry standard.

    The barrel I had ordered was a stainless match, bull barrel contour, 1 in 8 twist barrel finished at 25 inches long and chambered in 6MM BR Norma. I know a lot of people get set on long barrels, but I am not one of them. I wanted a short barrel because it would be easier to tune, and in my opinion, the 6MM BR doesn’t need the additional length. I would say the perfect length of a 6MM BR was somewhere between 24 and 26 inches long, so I split the difference and went with 25.

    At exactly 8 weeks from when I placed the order I received my new barrel. The barrel was packed in bomb proof packaging and took me a few minutes just to get it unpacked. The barrel was in a cardboard tube, heavily packed with bubble wrap. The barrel had two rubber caps, one on each end and was coated in protective oil. I noticed that they marked the barrel “CBI 1 in 8 twist 6MM BR Norma” three times in a ring around the barrel about 6 inches from the chamber. I thought this was a nice touch, and it would never have the problem of lining up on an action like traditional roll marks. A call to CBI revealed that the barrel has a .237 bore and six-groove rifling. This is a first for me as all my barrels in the past have been four-groove. The chamber was well finished and smooth. The barrel measures 1.010 at the muzzle, the thread length is 1.559 and the barrel weighed in a 5.50 LBS. The barrel was inspected with a Hawkeye bore scope, with no noted problems, and it has a very nice polish finish and looks to be a top notch barrel.

    I found that this barrel is almost the same dimensions as a Shilen #7 contour. I mounted the barrel on my gun and again found that it was very close in dimensions to the Shilen barrel it was replacing. The gun weighted in at 16.89 lbs. with the 28 inch long Shilen barrel, and now the gun with the 25 inch long Criterion barrel weighed in at 16.33 lbs. With a 3 inch length difference and only a weight difference of .56 of a pound it shows how close these two barrels are. I am happy because my gun will still weigh in and be legal for IBS 600 and 1000 yard light gun competition.

    With the barrel mounted I went to work breaking the barrel in the same way I did my Shilen, which proved to be a good method. To my surprise, the first load I tried (29 grains of H4895 and a Lapua 105 Scenar.) started out looking like a winner placing three 5 shot 100 yard groups on paper with them averaging a .504 measurement. One group measured at .372, but I blame this group on shooter’s error, either I missed the wind pick up, or being that I am not used to shooting a solid dot target, I think I changed my point of aim. The next load looked even better (30gr of Varget with a 107 Sierra match king.) shooting three 5 shot groups with an average of .413. You could tell this barrel was starting to break in with the second group at .273, and the third group at .217. No, these groups will not set the world on fire but this is impressive shooting a VLD style bullet this well at short ranges.

    I then shot some groups out at 200 yards, again the more the barrel was fired the better the groups got. I shot three 5 shot groups with the average at just under 1 inch (.997) with the best group measuring .508. So far I am really impressed with the barrel. It’s showing some real potential and is proving to be easy to tune at short ranges, but the gun is built for 600 and 1000 yard matches. The true test will be to see how it performs at longer ranges, and from what I am seeing so far it should do very well.

    Now it is finally time to see what this barrel will do at 600 yards, by entering in a few 1 target matches. I had great conditions to see what this barrel would do. With an overcast sky, 90 degree weather, and a perfectly calm day I shot three targets that was 5 shot groups. They measured 3.048, score of 46, 3.070 score of 40, and 4.891 score of 46, 1X. The gun shot target aggregate of 3.669, which is still around a ½ MOA. The gun was very competitive yielding similar size groups and scores being shot by the majority of the other competitors.

    Feeling very confident in the way this barrel has performed up to this point, so much that I entered into a winner takes all, one target, 400 yard match. Even though I did not win this match, I did fire a nice 5 shot group that measured 2.159 inches. The gun still proved to be competitive, and I would not be afraid to shoot another similar style match with it. After tweaking the ammo, I shot the gun at another 600 yard match and had a few groups that measured around 3 inches with the best measuring at 2.773. Looking through my records, I found that the Criterion barrel matches the average group size of the barrel it replaced.

    The only negative thing I can find to say about this barrel is that for some reason it is harder to push a patch or brush down the bore - more so that than most the barrels I have owned. I have a theory why this is, and believe the barrel has a bit smaller bore diameter. Most 6MM barrels measure at .236 - .237, I think that this barrel would be on the tighter side of things. It could also be that I am accustomed to 4 grove barrels, and this could just be a difference between the number of grooves. Considering how this barrel shoots though, I think I can live with it.

    The only other concern was, unfortunately when I ordered my barrels I did not know that CBI would thread the muzzle as an option. If I had known this I would have had this done to allow use of a muzzle brake. This is no fault of the barrel maker or the dealer as I should have asked when ordering. It actually escaped my mind until I saw it mentioned on the forum.

    In conclusion, I would say this barrel is a great value. This barrel shoots every bit as good as other great barrels I have had in the past, including the Shilen it replaced. The barrel is very accurate right out of the box. I found that the chamber is square, and brass stayed in concentricity after being shot. All in all, I would say that anyone would be tickled to death to get a barrel that shoots this good at the price that it is offered. It has lived up to my expectations, in what a good barrel should be.

    Additional Photos:

    By: 82boy

    Criterion Barrels Inc.
    2024 Mayfield Rd.
    Richfield, WI 53076
    Phone - (262) 628-8749

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