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Squeaky

Which is better barrel steel?

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Hey Guys:

This is related to my prior post titled "Good rifle build?"

A barrel manufacturer I'm interested in offers barrels in Chrome-Moly or Stainless Steel. The S.S. barrels are offered in match grade quality. Benchrest shooters often get stainless steel barrels from this company. The tolerance difference between the two grades/types of barrels sounds like splitting hairs to me.

However, my concern is wear & tear.

So ... with regards to barrel wear, which lasts longer? Chrome-Moly or Stainless Steel? Frankly, I don't shoot often. So the lower price of a Chrome-Moly barrel appeals to me. However, I do want a barrel that'll last.

This will be for .30 caliber bullets and 1:10 twist. Probable muzzle velocities ranging from 2,600 - 2,700 f.p.s. for .308 Win. and .30-06 rifles.

BTW, I'm referring to Shilen barrels. I simply understand their website better than the sites of some other barrel makers. I'm interested in their #7 heavy varmint and #8 heavy bull barrels.

Thanks guys.

 

 

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I am no expert on accuracy or barrels, but my understanding is that SS barrels will generally yield better accuracy but the life of that accuracy is reduced compared to a CM barrel. I would want a hammer forged CMV barrel if I were looking for a really long barrel life. However, I am not sure how relevant it is when talking bolt guns. I have seen mention of very serious precision shooters replacing their SS barrels at 2k rounds. It takes the average guy a really long time to see 2k round count on a bolt gun. I suppose it depends on what you want and how often you will really shoot it.

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Agreed, The average shooter will likely never shoot a bolt gun to the point of erosion. I shoot quite a bit. I'd shoot a lot more if ammo was cheaper or if I was ambitious enough to reload more than I do. I think I've shot my 30/06 about 121 times, because I've counted empty boxes and killed an 8 point whitetail buck with it. I now have enough brass to clean and reload, but I still have a few boxes of factory ammo to shoot before I actually put the shoulder time in to work up a handload. 

 

Oh, the barrel is whatever came on it from the factory. That is the one thing I haven't worked on the gun, except for cleaning between every shot for the first 10 shots during break-in.

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I would expect the best barrel for accuracy would be a good CM nitrite treated one. Most likely the longest lasting due to hardness, and accurate due to the machine-ability. Stainless is not a real indicator of  the metallurgy of that barrel.

Adding chrome to steel makes it "stainless".  This can be rust proof, OR NOT.  It can be very hard, OR NOT.  It can be tough,OR NOT. I would refer to what those who use that particular stainless barrel say about how it works in the real world.

I would do the CM with nitrite myself, because I am cheap and not afraid to oil the shit out of it. If I were to use it for hunting in nasty weather I would pony up for stainless.

I would stay away from hard chromed barrels if building for accuracy, they are best at longevity. The chrome plating adds a few thousandths to the surface, that has to be calculated in machining the barrel, and does not coat with a completely uniform thickness, so it will never be as accurate as barrel that can be made to size.

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16 hours ago, evlblkwpnz said:

I am no expert on accuracy or barrels, but my understanding is that SS barrels will generally yield better accuracy but the life of that accuracy is reduced compared to a CM barrel. I would want a hammer forged CMV barrel if I were looking for a really long barrel life. However, I am not sure how relevant it is when talking bolt guns. I have seen mention of very serious precision shooters replacing their SS barrels at 2k rounds. It takes the average guy a really long time to see 2k round count on a bolt gun. I suppose it depends on what you want and how often you will really shoot it.

This is a bit dated.

SS barrels tended to be better accuracy- sorta. Basically, SS doesn't like forging, swaging, etc. because even the "non work hardening" versions are work hardening. It tends to be softer than other steels, but - exceptions.

Because of this, no one cold hammer forges, swages, or button rifles SS barrels. Cut rifling only from annealed blanks. This meant that SS barrels only got whatever stresses in them came from the tempering process. The metal is probably on the softer end of the steel spectrum, and may fail at lower temps. It will have a shorter life than tougher carbon steels. However, it isn't a spring that wants to flex as it heats up. This means that for low volume target shooting, you will tend to have less point of impact shift as the barrel heats. It also meant that all the really hard core match shooters wore out a barrel a year. SS was about reducing POI shift during rapid fire strings, not about more accurate from a cold bore, or on slow fire. any of the popular metals were capable of making equally good small groups, from bench style shooting.

If you are thinking from a 1980s / 1990s mindset, if you wanted serious accuracy to do high power match shooting or similar, you probably got something like a heavy profile white oak armament barrel. If it was super high velocity cartridge, about the time you really knew your gun, throat erosion was looming, and you had your next barrel on order. Maybe you had Cryogenic treated barrel, which was a sort of half measure way of stress relieving the steel after it was already made. This added a lot of cost, but would reduce POI shift.

Now for why the info is dated. Heat treating has improved a lot since then. So stuff made to 1950s or 1960s military standards are chrome lined and primarily optimized to not fail at extreme high temps as soon. - really extreme use, at the expense of every thing else. Including at the expense of barrel life when shooting short of the red hot state. Chrome lined CHF still has a slight edge on machine guns running glowing barrels for longer. Let even slight cooling happen i.e. 20 second pauses in fire, and CHF doesn't outlast modern button rifled nitrided barrels. I read a few studies that private companies and the military had commissioned. The data showed that even heating up ARs to the point where the hand guard was smoking and too hot to hold, but with basically pauses that equate to the amount of time for a general mag change the nitrided barrels with modern steel outlasted the CHF barrels. Outlasted meaning: more rounds until accuracy degrades, more rounds until the gas port enlarged, more rounds until crown erosion, and more rounds until throat erosion. 

 Since the mid century cold war generation, better steels have been developed, and more consistent ways of heat treating. And the kicker is stress relieving the barrels in the process of the heat treating. Now you can have a harder steel that resists wear more than the old tech military barrels. It can have nearly the same extreme heat failure behavior, but perform a lot better earlier. I have never heard of stress relieving being offered to CHF barrels. I don't know the exact reason, but I suspect it's that the heat and cool process might adversely affect chrome adhesion. I don't see why they couldn't stress relieve before chroming, but I am not aware of anyone offering barrels made that way either civilian or military.

Moreover, companies like glock, faxon, ballistic advantage, etc. use a nitride process that has the stress relieving built into the heat treating and finishing process. And nitrided barrels can be more resistant to corrosion than some flavors of SS too.

The guy from Faxon has published a lot of the data on the behavior of various steels on ARf, and with inrange.  I've seen/ listened to enough industry guys, even those who sell cut rifle barrels in SS confirm his claims to say that the gist of what I put above is undisputed.

Whatever advantages SS used to have over black barrels is now moot. The durability of CHF vs high quality nitrided is moot. Chrome chambers are proably less prone to sticking with powder fouling, dirt and heat cycles, but not by a lot.

Simply put, a lot of the off the run of the mill barrels right now, are more consistent than super special custom match barrels from the 1980s, and the difference in quality from a standard barrel from a good brand and their super match special sauce is a lot smaller than it used to be. I'm not saying a no-name nitride barrel of of davidson defense or ebay is superior to an SS match barrel, but from a reputable brand listing one of the known good steels, there are almost no downsides to the current gen nitrided barrels vs other options.

So as a life time, indoctrinated from childhood fan of SS, and derider of black guns as delicate rust prone toys, it mean something when I would say that SS isn't really the best choice anymore. I got my dad a nitrided gun for his boat gun this year. It probably spent the summer coated in salt water and acidic fish blood. I have a heavy SS fluted barrel on my AR, but if I were picking one out, it would be lighter and it would be a stress relieved nitrided. SS fluted is still the best looking, but the next firearm part I am likely to buy is a faxon light profile 16" 300 bo barrel.

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Lots of good info there.

 

I have a Faxon 20" SOCOM profile 5.56 barrel on my AR15. High quality, reasonably priced and made in my state.

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However rare, I have seen hammer forged SS barrels. I can't speak for whether or not it might be more accurate or last longer than a button rifles SS barrel.

I am not sure of there is much out there for bolt guns in nitride. They are generally not easy to machine once they have been treated.

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If the SS was button rifled or CHF, it would have the same internal stress issues that other barrel steels have. Thus it would not have any accuracy advantage as the barrel heats up.

Savage SS barrels are button rifled. I forgot about that when I was writing the above. That pretty much means that they have a comparatively soft version of SS that is considered non-work hardening. If they anneal and temper, the barrel after doing the button rifling, which seems likely, then there is a good chance that they also put some work into stress relieving it in the same process though. Food for thought.

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Bullet weight , jacket, seating and how hot and type of powder used also will make a difference in how a barrel will last.

I have heat treated all my new guns before break in with Frog Lube and it has helped with accuracy and wear to a point .

I have no stainless barrels for a reason . I am playing with 5R rifling right now which may help a barrel go farther but time will tell.

I also keep track of barrel temp as some guns shoot better cold than warm I used to think that hammer forging may be part of this problem  but I am not so sure now as it happens on non  hammer forged  barrels also. 

When it comes down to it barrels are like twins. They may look alike but they are individuals. You can spend a ton of money on a barrel and still get one that does not last or perform but that is getting less as the industry improves.

Good fourm

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