Short Action vs Long Action – What You Need to Know

Short Action vs. Long Action
Alfred Mendoza

Are you planning to buy a new rifle but torn between short action vs long action? What are their differences aside from their lengths? Which gun is more beneficial? 

To understand both action rifles better, here are the clear differences between the two.

When it comes to rifles, the action has something to do with the firearm’s mechanism, firing pin, and the locking bolt that involves cycling and firing. The rifle action can be categorized as short action, magnum action, or long action. 

Short action rifles use shorter bolts and a short rifle’s receiver. With this, it can cycle faster and weigh less than a long action. However, long-action rifles are capable of more powder capacity with efficient powder burn.

It can make it more powerful given the use of similar bullet weight. In addition to this, the longer case of long-action rifles allows the use of heavier bullets.

Short Action vs. Long Action Rifles

Short Action Rifles



Long Action Rifles



Closer Look at the Differences


Length & Weight

Short action rifles use short action cartridges. In addition to this, it uses a shorter bolt and receiver length. With this, it weighs lighter and is more compact compared to the long-action rifle. 

Short action shaves about 4 ounces of weight difference compared to long action rifles. In a practical sense, the few ounces of weight give a practical difference between the two actions. It can be an issue, especially in hunting situations or target practice competitions.  

Also Read: Difference Between Full Auto Bolt Carrier & Semi-Auto


Short action rifles have short cartridges with 2.3 to 2.8 inches cartridge overall length. Long action rifles have 2.8 to 3.4 inches overall length. Furthermore, compared to long action cartridges, short action cartridges are more accurate in short distance shooting due to a tighter seal. 

Anyhow, the overall length of the cartridge affects the velocity and stopping power of the bullet. With this, long action cartridges allow the longer cartridges to produce higher muzzle velocity given the same weight and pressure of the bullet.


The recoil of a gun has something to do with the momentum conservation in Physics [1]. The momentum of a fired bullet is in a forward direction, and since the gun must have the same magnitude of momentum in the opposite direction, recoil happens. 

It is explained that when a gun is fired, there is a kick or recoil that the shooter can feel. The barrel measurement affects the recoil of a rifle. A shorter barrel means more recoil. 

Since it uses shorter barrels, it highly creates more recoil compared to longer barrels. Moreover, weight has a factor in the recoil. A lighter firearm produces more recoil.


For short distances, short action is accurate because of its stiffness. There is an increase in accuracy due to less flex behind the bolt action. However, when it comes to target shooting at long distances, the accuracy of long action vs. short is incomparable. 

Since it has a standard length action, it allows the bullet to reach its velocity for a more stable position considering the wind drift. In addition to this, due to its longer barrel and sight, a long-action caliber produces more accurate firearms.

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Bolt Throw & Reload

In short action vs. long action, the travel work has a difference. Short actions have shorter bolt throw or shorter cycle to work the action.

The span results in being able to reload faster compared to action length. 

On the other hand, long actions have longer travel cycles. With this, it may require a longer time to cycle the action.

It may also take time to reload; however, shooting situations cannot massively affect missing a shot.

Bolt Throw & Reload

Ejection Port

Short action rifles have smaller and shorter ejection ports. It also ejects shorter casings when firing. Since the size of the ejection ports is smaller, it only weighs four ounces lighter compared to other action lengths. 

Anyhow, long-action rifles have larger and longer ejection ports. It can eject largely spent casings. With the size of the ejection port, it weighs more mass that can contribute to the overall weight of the weapon. 


When it comes to the price, long actions are more expensive. Years ago, long and medium action prices like the magnum length actions were far from super-short action. It is because of the built of the rifle cartridges that are longer and with more volume. 

At the same time, with a simple barrel change, it can be upgraded into a longer one. Purchase extra magnum cartridges on a 6.5 Creedmoor stock to make it a 300 win mag.

Also Read: Is It Safe to Fly With a Rifle?


6.5 Creedmoor is an example of a short-action rifle. The case head diameter measures 0.473 inches, where it belongs to the 0.30-06 family of short cartridges. 

It also has a 30-degree shoulder with 1.920 inches case length. Overall, the cartridge length is 2.825 inches which fall to standard short action.

308 is a short-action rifle. It is a shorter action that is light and has a quicker cycle. It works well with semi-automatics. It is one popular caliber in the United States because of its decent range for long-distance shooting and hunting.

To tell if your rifle is long or short action, you can measure the stock screw holes at the bottom of the gun. The stock short action screw holes distance measures 6 ½ inches while long action measures 7 ⅜ inches.

Short Action or Long Action - Which is Better for You?

If you are looking for a lightweight and compact rifle, short action with standard cartridges may work best for you. Most hunters consider mobility a big deal, and the ounce counts, so using this gun would be of great help. 

Because of the size of the cartridge, it can cycle faster and can give a quick follow-through. In addition to this, semi-automatic rifles are not offered in long action cartridges. There’s no point in getting a long one if you want a practical and tactical gun.



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