Proof Research Factory Tour

Go behind the scenes at Proof Research to see their barrel making operation. Follow a barrel blank from start to finish.

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Carbon Fiber wrapped barrels are not exactly new, however there have been a lot of changes to the technology and leading that charge is Proof Research.

Located in Columbia Falls Montana, they have a state of the art barrel making facility which is dedicated to the delivery of both carbon fiber wrapped barrels and full steel barrels. All work is done completely in house and one of their stated goals, aside from producing world class barrels regardless of the type, is to change the perception of what a carbon fiber wrapped barrel is all about. 

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My recent trip to their shop was not just about shooting their barrels, but about education. Proof Research opened the doors to Sniper’s Hide allowing me to video behind the scenes. This is great, but they also pulled back the curtain on the technology that goes into their Carbon Fiber Wrapped barrels . Sure there is a fair amount of proprietary information which cannot be disclosed, but explaining the “why” helps me better understand the entire process. It’s a confidence builder for sure, to me it demonstrates a long term commitment.

Like some others, their carbon fiber technology was born out of the aerospace industry, with one small change. A lot of that aerospace tech revolves around heat bearing surfaces. This directly translate to a rifle barrel because, as we all know, the more we shoot, the hotter the barrel gets. Being able to manage the heat and to minimize it’s effects will give us more consistency, a problem that plagued many of the early carbon fiber barrels. The first thing people ask me is whether they walk when they get hot. That was put to the test on their private rifle range.

We took out several of their rifles, from lightweight hunters to full Tactical / PRS Competition style rifles and I was given unlimited ammo to shoot them any way I desired. They put no restrictions on how many rounds, how fast, or at what distance I could check consistency. It was important to them that I shoot the tech and not just listen to what they had to say. This allowed me to draw my own conclusions.

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Each rifle was shot from 100 to 500 yards, back and forth so I could measure any shift (if there was any) and so I see how they grouped both on paper and on steel at distance. This was eye opening for me, as each Generation rifle performed better than the next. Because of the changes to their tech, they wanted me to see the difference better first gen Proof Research barrels and the latest versions. What I was handed was nothing short of impressive.

The Science

Proof Research focuses on the science with several labs ringing the machine shop. This includes live fire testing rooms to measure heat build up and dispersion. The how and why of the shot matters here. So seeing the active labs putting barrels through their paces throughly impressed me. We shot full auto M4s with thermal cameras and computers plugged in to measure and analyze the entire process. From cold, to hot, back to cold. I was shown front and center the capabilities of the barrels under some pretty hard shooting.

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Proof Research also gave me a one on one presentation with their Ph.D. An in-depth, thorough presentation on the origins of their tech, the why, and the where they were going. I would I could post the slides, but again, some of it was just for my personal education. Still, what I can show you, has a bearing that the end user can understand.

It’s a growing field and the applications are just beginning.

Manufacturing

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One thing you can see in the video is the layout of the shop. It’s designed to be as efficient as possible with no wasted movement in the barrels travel. Taking it from a solid blank to a finished product.

Many people don’t realize that Proof Research also manufacturers full steel barrels. Not just carbon fiber wrapped barrels. They have the ability do create both Button and Rifle Cut Barrels with a variety of twists, calibers and profiles. It’s a full service barrel making facility. 

An added note, they also do two hand lapping passes on the barrels, which in my opinion is important. There is a rough lap, and then a final finishing lap. I have seen this before from others, seeing it done here shows they understand the benefit.

Setting the record straight

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Reading the boards, you hear about some CS horror stories. Guys who ordered barrels and fell through the cracks, or the limited amount of information coming out of Proof. I asked them about these issues, and they did not hesitate to admit to any of it.

They acknowledged to me that there have been some customer service growing pains. That in many cases the direct sales to the individual had taken a back seat to larger commercial or government projects. So they are addressing it. There is a dealer / distributor network, but because this is new technology to many, not to mention it’s pretty expensive, guys what to talk to them directly. They were not necessarily set up to field multiple calls from a single buyer looking to kick the tire before purchasing. I get that, but it’s being addressed in several ways including, one very important way. Stocking the shelves with the most popular barrels out there.

Going back to price, yes, admittedly, it’s not for everyone. It’s up to the individual shooter to decide if the Proof Research Carbon Fiber wrapped barrel is for you ? I cannot say, yes you have to have one. That is not for me to decide. Only the end user can. However I can tell you, they work and work as advertised which is all anyone can ask. There is a pro and con to anything, “Should I get an AX or AT, I hear that a lot. It’s a $3k difference so which is best ? I have no answer for you, but I will say, they work as advertised, which feature is more important to you will help you decide.

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The Proof Research barrels were shot, they grouped even hot, and they did not wander. Cold Bore, Second Shot Follow Up, all were within my accuracy potential, which is to say I put 2 rounds from a light weight hunter within 1.5” of each other at 500 yards. In my opinion, that is a feature, you have a light weight hunting rifle that is capable of sub MOA accuracy out to distance. The Tactical Rifles were just hammers round after round. I probably shot $300 worth of 6mm Creedmoor out of one rifle alone, and it was identical from round 1 to round 100.

It’s part of the decision making process, when you research the Pros and Cons of something, the more information the better your decision will be.

My visit to the Proof Research was more than I would have expected. Prior to the trip I had been using a Proof Barrel, I knew about the success I had with mine, as well as the success of others. Heck in 2013 I was beat by Caylen Wojcik from Magpul at the Oregon Sniper Challenge, who was using a Proof barrel, that has to say something. Would I personally run one, yes, do I personally run one, yes I do. 

Sniper’s Hide will have more videos from our Proof Research visit, so be on the look out. If there is something specific you want me to demonstrate, just ask, I will run out and make it happen.

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