Headspace: Why It’s Important & How to Check It

It was the humble and rather simple muzzle load rifle that was the starting point for the evolution of modern rifle types we’re familiar with today. Though many enthusiasts, hobbyists and sports shooters still use muzzle load or black powder rifles recreationally, modern rifle action options include break, bolt and lever actions rifles.

There are a number of things one needs to be clear on when it comes to rifle operation, maintenance and calibration in order to extract the most out of the firearm in question. Headspace is something that more seasoned rifle owners suggest people take into account.

Headspace: What, Why and How?

When we started on this article, we needed to learn more about headspace ourselves. In order to do so, we connected with the owners of an extremely popular online sports, ammunition & accessories store; Gold Mountain Arms LLC.

According to one of the owners, “Headspace is simply how far the bolt face is from the section of the barrel that prevents the cartridge from sliding forward”. He continued, “In most cases, headspace is already checked and calibrated by the rifle manufacturer, however, there are instances where the same may be off. This is usually something you look at if you buy an old or secondhand rifle”.

Problems Associated with Incorrect Headspace

If your rifle’s headspace is off the mark, you will have problems. Inadequate headspace prevents the bolt from closing or locking down on a round in the barrel. An excess of headspace may result in the rupturing of your rifle case as well as a reduction in overall case life. The same may also result in gas escapes that can be a safety risk.

How to Check Headspace?

gun rifle

The precise way to check headspace may vary depending on the rifle you’re checking. A bolt action rifle, for instance, might require slightly different checking technique than say a semi-automatic. That said, there are different gauges and gauge sets that can be used to do the job accurately.

Checking for adequate headspace involves insertion and rotation of the gauge instrument to check for minimum, nominal and maximum depth. The ability to rotate or lack of may indicate that the headspace of your rifle needs to be corrected.

Should I Get to this Myself?

As we said, if you purchase a rifle from a reliable vendor or manufacturer, you won’t need to worry about headspace calibration. Of course if you inherit an old family rifle or purchase one from a less reliable source, it may help to make sure your rifle’s headspace is as it should be. You may also need to check headspace following any DIY rifle modification you perform.

Remember, if you’re new to firearms, you can always get both headspace calibration and checking done by a professional, which in some instances may be the better option. Safe shooting folks!

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