Bore Axis Heights and What They Mean

Bore Axis Heights

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images / CC BY

If you’re not familiar with what a bore axis height is, you’re not alone. To put it simply, if you shine a laser down the center of your barrel that line would be the bore axis. Alternatively, imagine if your firing pin stretched straight out of your barrel.

How high the bore axis is would be its height. But why does it matter? Is higher better than lower? Or vice versa?

Some people agonize over finding a certain height while others never even consider it when choosing a handgun. How they handle differ and what makes them different can be the reason why someone does or doesn’t prefer one or the other.

High Bore Axis

Hammer-fired handguns have a higher bore axis than their striker counterparts. The firing pin needs to be higher so the hammer can striker it. A lower bore axis would only be possible with a shorter hammer, which might not be able to create enough force to activate the primer.

An AK-47 or Tommy Gun where the stock slopes down bringing the barrel and sights up higher are examples for longer guns.

Low Bore Axis

As mentioned previously, striker-fired pistol are lower. The striker firing system essentially uses a spring to activate the firing pin and can sit lower without a hammer. Glocks have some of the lowest bore axis heights when it comes to pistols. An AR-15 or M16 has lower axis heights than the AK and similar rifles.

What It All Means

The most noticeable difference between the two will be how recoil is handled. A lower axis height will send most of the recoil straight back with less barrel lift or flip overall. This is the biggest culprit when someone doesn’t like the recoil of a Glock or similar pistol. The recoil of lower axis bores tends to be “snappier”.

Higher heights still technically send the recoil back as gases propel the bullet forward but it happens and feels a little differently.

Since the bore axis is slightly higher, the recoil forces attempt to pass back over the hand as opposed to through it. This causes a lot more vertical movement also known as muzzle flip.

Before you run off thinking that what you want is minimal muzzle flip, just hang on a second. Now, yes it is true the less your barrel moves the faster your follow up shot could be. Could being the operative word.

It’s takes practice to fire any gun quickly AND accurately. So the fact that there’s an opportunity to get back on target quicker doesn’t mean you’ll be able to take advantage of it.

At the end of the day your first shot is the most important. If you miss your first shot the chance of missing your following shots goes up significantly.

Is BORE AXIS a MYTH? Testing Bore axis vs. Ergonomics vs. Weight

You might be wondering why take bore axis height into consideration then?

Because the height of the bore axis can actually impact some pretty important aspects of being a proficient shooter. And a lot of those come down to preference! So what are these aspects that impact so heavily?

Comfort and confidence. Things not always considered. We’ll drool over technical specifications and features but at the end of the day if the gun is uncomfortable or you don’t feel confident using it, you probably won’t own it long.

Some prefer the snappier recoil over their barrel rocking back and forth. You get used to it and don’t even think about it unless you’re firing different firearms often.

The higher bore axis could easily be described as a smoother feeling recoil. I used to have the subcompact version of the HK P30. Even though the barrel was tiny, at just over 3 ¼ inches, recoil was a dream. I will say there was a noticeable difference in muzzle flip compared to my G26. The extra muzzle flip probably added time to my rapid fire but I didn’t lose any confidence. In my eyes, in a defensive situation either was a viable option I would trust my life on.

If you have issues with your joints or wrists that cause pain when shooting, this could help. A full-size size pistol with a higher bore axis might be more comfortable to shoot than any other handgun. Entirely metal frames, generally a feature exclusive to hammer fired pistols but not always, can also help absorb recoil.

Is One Better?

With how I’ve been talking about the higher bore axis you might think that’s the superior one in my opinion. Not entirely. The lower axis has its pros as well, some of which have already been mentioned.

The way recoil is handled is lower axis weapons is preferred by many. Manufacturers are also able to shorten the overall height of a weapon as well making something a little more compact.

Again it can all come down to personal preferences. The best part though is there is a wide array of options to try and see what works best for you.

Hammered fired HK’s, Sig’s and CZ’s are options with higher bores. Glocks are on the lower end of the spectrum. Coming in around the middle are models like the Sig P320. The info is usually readily available from either the maker or a third party.

Does Bore Axis Height Matter?

Final Thoughts

I believe the first thing to take into consideration when choosing a weapon should be its purpose.

And with varying bore axis heights in service by military and law enforcement around the world it should be obvious that both are suited for defensive purposes, and any other purpose for that matter.

As long as it’s reliable and comfortable, the rest is inconsequential. If you’ve only ever fired a specific brand/model, it might be worth trying out something different. If you’re looking at the bore axis height to determine how accurate a gun is or how it recoils, be careful. Everything ultimately comes down to the shooter’s proficiency. Some people can shoot a snub nose more accurately than others with a full-size pistol and laser. The difference between the two will be their level of experience every time.

  • Owner of, Boyd Smith is a major handgun enthusiast, and although he owns Glocks, he prefers the revolving wheel type. His go-to guns are a Smith & Wesson 642 Performance Center for carry and a Ruger GP100 in the nightstand biometric safe (he has kids). He loads both revolvers with old-school 148-grain Federal Gold Medal .38 wadcutters. It’s OK if you think he’s a wimp. Email him.

Share the Post and Images

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *