Short Action vs. Long Action: What Are the Main Differences?

Short Action vs. Long Action: What Are the Main Differences?

Do you know the main difference between short action vs. long action rifles?

Many gunners and shooters of various experience levels also face the same dilemma. Few of them need to know the difference. But if you want to build a rifle or order parts for your gun, it is essential to know how to tell the difference.

Today, we’ll break down the critical information that will allow you to understand the difference between these actions. So let’s read on to see more!

Short Action vs. Long Action: Key Differences

Main difference between short action and long action.
Main difference between short action and long action.

The short-action rifle utilizes a short receiver and shorter bolts.

It is lighter than the long action and can cycle faster. But the long-action rifle has more powder capacity.

The short action can make it more powerful given the use of a similar ammunition weight. Besides, the longer case of a long-action rifle enables the use of heavier ammunition.

Pros And Cons Of Short Action and Long Action

Short Action Rifle Long Action Rifle
  • More compact.
  • Lightweight.
  • Cycles faster.
  • Tactical and practical.
  • More accurate on a shorter length shooting because of the tight seal.
  • It can take bigger rounds.
  • Powerful.
  • Less Recoil.
  • More velocity because of high pressure.
  • More accurate at a longer range shooting.
  • More recoil.
  • Stiffer.
  • Not delivered in the semi-automatic rifle.
  • Heavier.

Short Action vs. Long Action: Head-To-Head Comparison

⚙️ Cartridge

The short action has a shorter cartridge
The short action has a shorter cartridge

The short action rifle has a short cartridge with a 2.3 to 2.8” cartridge length. Meanwhile, the long action rifle features a 2.8 to 3.4” length.

Moreover, compared to the long action cartridge, the short one is more accurate in the short-distance shooting because of the tighter seal.

The cartridge’s overall length will affect the bullet’s velocity as well as stopping power. That said, the long action cartridge allows a longer cartridge to make higher muzzle velocity given the same pressure and weight of bullets.

⚙️ Bolt Throw And Reload

There is a difference in the travel work between long and short action. Specifically, the short action has a shorter cycle or shorter bolt throw to work the action.

On the flip side, the long action features longer travel cycles. That way, it might require a more extended period to cycle the action.

Also, it might take a while to reload. But shooting situations can’t significantly affect missing one shot.

⚙️ Recoil

The fired bullet’s momentum is in a forward direction. Recoil occurs as the firearm must feature the same momentum’s magnitude in the opposite direction.

When you fire a gun, there’s a recoil or kick that you can feel. The shorter barrels mean more recoil.

It utilizes a shorter barrel and makes more recoil than longer barrels. Furthermore, weight also affects the recoil. For example, a lighter gun will produce more recoil.

⚙️ Length And Weight

The short-action rifle uses the short-action cartridge. In addition, it utilizes a shorter receiver and bolt length. So it is more compact and weighs lighter than the long-action one.

Short action rifles are approximately 4 ounces lighter than long action ones. The fact is that a few ounces will give a significant difference between the two rifle actions.

It could be a problem, especially in the target practice competition or hunting situation.

⚙️ Price

The long-action rifle is more expensive
The long-action rifle is more expensive

When talking about the price, the long-action rifle is more expensive.

Many years ago, medium and long action rifle prices like the magnum length action were far from the super-short ones. The reason is that the rifle cartridges built are longer and feature more volume.

⚙️ Ejection Port

The short-action rifle features shorter and smaller ejection ports. Also, it will eject the shorter casing when shooting. As the ejection port size is smaller, it only weighs 4 ounces, lighter than other action lengths.

The long-action rifle has lengthier and larger ejection ports. It also will eject significantly spent casing. With the ejection port size, it is heavier, contributing to the weapon’s overall weight.


⚙️ Accuracy

The short action is more accurate for a short distance due to its stiffness. There is increased accuracy because of less flex behind the bolt action.

But when talking about targeting shooting at longer distances, short and long action accuracy is incomparable.

As it features a standard length action, bullets can reach their velocity for a better stable position considering the wind drift.

Besides, the long-action caliber should produce more accurate firearms because of its longer sight and barrel.

Short Action vs. Long Action: Comparison Table

Short Action  Long Action
Cartridge 2.3 to 2.8 inches 2.8 to 3.4 inches
Accuracy More accurate for a short distance More accuracy
Recoil More recoil Less recoil
Price Less expensive More expensive

Which One Should You Choose?

The short-action with the standard cartridge is your best bet if you prefer a compact and lightweight rifle. Most hunters and shooters think mobility and the ounce counts are a big deal. Hence, utilizing this firearm will be great.

Due to the cartridge size, it can cycle more quickly and give a fast follow-through.

Also, the semi-automatic rifle is not delivered in the long-action cartridge. It makes no sense to get a long-action rifle if you prefer a tactical and practical gun.


What Is an Action?

An action of a rifle is a collective term for the rigger, firing pin, locking bolt, and other mechanical parts involved with cycling and firing one cartridge.

But it can also relate to the cartridge length, as that length will determine how long a rifle action has to be. An action of a shorter length cannot fit a longer cartridge inside.

Here are five broad kinds of cartridges with associated actions:

  • Super short cartridge: This type is a more modern cartridge and averages roughly 2.36 inches. Yet, it has more variability than others.
  • Really super short” cartridges: It is not very standardized, and you can find the cartridge with links of 1.68 inches or 1.723 inches.
  • Short cartridge: It is average at about 2.8 inches.
  • Standard cartridge: It is also called “long,” based on the classic 30.06 Springfield cartridge and has an average length of about 3.34 inches.
  • Magnum cartridge: It is powerful and features a considerable punch. It is standardized at approximately 3.6 inches.

Is the 6.5 Creedmoor a Long Action or a Short One?

The 6.5 Creedmoor is one example of short-action. The case head diameter is about 0.473 inches, belonging to the 0.30-06  short cartridge family.

Also, it features a 1.920″ case length and 30-degree shoulder. The cartridge length is about 2.825″, which falls to the standard short action.

The Bottom Line

You have reached the bottom of this article. Hopefully, it has given you valuable information about short-action vs. long-action rifles. If so, please share this article with other shooters.

Thank you for reading!

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