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Thread: Riffle barrel busting

  1. #1

    Default Riffle barrel busting

    Has anyone heard this before? Refernce Stainless barrels busting due to cold weather. I copied and pasted the conversation I found on the web while researching customs stainless barrels. If you will the thing the caught my eye most was the comment places by Bobbit. I highlighted his post name in red.

    From: (Ed Harris)Newsgroups: rec.gunsSubject: Re: Stainless steel barrels

    I've seen rifle>advertisements which suggest up to double the life of a standard steel barrel>(can't quote which one, unfortunately). Stainless has a high chromium content,The bore life of stainless barrels depends alot on the particularalloy and the hardness, the method by which the barrel is made, and thepresence of machining additives. In general the use of selium orsulphur would weigh against use of stainless in high stressedenvironments due to poor notching characteristics. as typical alloyslike 416R while offering mirror finish machining, have failed when usedin M14 rifle barrels and other applications where exterior machining orwelding (as for the operating rod guide on an M14) was done. Thiswould also suggest against use of stainless in hot belted magnums suchas the .300 Win. or 7 mm Mag. in light sporter barrels because thepresence of sulphide stringers, which could act as stress risers, couldaffect ultimate strength. Most button rifled stainless barrel are onlyabout 20-24 Rockwell C, whereas the lower sulphur grades which arehammer forged are usually about .006 max. sulphur - nuclear gradematerial, and are much stronger. When I was at Ruger we used a type415 stainless for .44 Mag. Redhawk barrels and cylinders, of Rc 35Min., and this was incredibly strong stuff. I don't know anybody elseexcept Steyr and HK who make barrels out of steel of this cleanliness.--

    Ed Harris, via The Black Cat's Shack's FidoNet<->Usenet Gateway and Fidonet 1:109/401From: Rock McMillan <>Newsgroups: rec.gunsSubject: Re: Gun barrel metal?Date: 21 Aug 1996 16:21:31 -0400# #Most non-stainless steel barrels are made of AIME 4140 chrome-moly alloy# #steel. It's tougher than a $2.00 steak, and moderately difficult to# #machine. I don't know what alloy is used for stainless steel barrels,# #but suspect that it's a 300-series (in the US, these are know as 18-8's,# #reflecting the percentages of chromium and nickel).# Not likely 300 series. These are generally too soft. Need hardness for all# that wear on the grooves. Most references to SS firearms barrels that I# have seen are 400 series. These can be machined in the annealed condition# and heat treated to very high hardness.Stainless steel was originally developed around the turn of the century and its first application was in rifle barrels, the alloy is 410. This is a heat-treatable martinsitic grade of stainless that is still used today in many applications. Later a more machinable alloy was developed by adding free machining additives to 410, this new alloy is 416. A slightly more refined version of 416 is now used by most of the custom barrel makers in this country, 416R. I have no idea what stainless alloy is used for pistol barrels.

    From: Bart Bobbitt <>Subject: Stainless Barrels vs. Cold WeatherSeveral arms companies have recently offered hunting rifles with astainless steel barrel. Here's some cautionary information aboutstainless steel barrels.When the temperature goes down, stainless steel has less fatigueresistance. Its physical properties drop off with temperature.There have been instances of stainless barrels in hunting riflesbursting when the ambient temperature is around zero degrees, orless.Some custom barrel makers specifically caution against using theirstainless barrels in hunting rifles. One (Krieger) doesn't evenmake sporting/hunting barrels in stainless steel. In a conversationwith B.J. Obermeyer some years ago, he told me that some of hisstainless barrels were installed in hunting rifles and used inAlaska winter-time hunts. Some of these barrels burst when fired.Chrome-moly (i.e., type 4140 or 4150) barrels maintain their fatigueresistance very well in really cold temperatures. Stainless steel(i.e, type 416R), typically used for rifle barrels, is the reallycold-weather culprit.I'm wondering if anyone who has bought a new rifle with a stainlesssteel barrel has noticed any cautions in printed material suppliedwith the rifle. Even more so, I'm wondering if rifle makers evenconcern themselves with this issue.BB

  2. #2


    That was so interesting and WOW!!! I hope someone on this thread knows something about this. This is the most interesting post in a long time. I can't wait to see if this goes anywhere and where it goes.

  3. #3

    Default More info

    Since posting that article it got me wondering a little more so I did a search on cold weather stainless rifle barrels and the first page I opened from a company making stainless barrels had the following warning on there page.:
    Caution: 416 series stainless steels may experience embrittlement at low temperatures ( i.e. 0 degrees C and lower) which could lead to barrel rupture, particularly in lighter contoured barrels. Although a True-Flite barrel has never failed, we recommend the use of "chrome-moly" steels for extreme cold-weather barrels ( and actions too! ).

    Click here: True-Flite Rifle Barrels and Shooting Accessories

    I am sure if I looked around at other rifle barrels I could find the same warning on some of them. I just thought it was pretty interesting. There must be something to it or they would not be warning about it and maybe scaring away possible customers. Either way just thought I would pass it on to everyone.

  4. #4
    Member MARV1's Avatar
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    Jul 2006


    If that is the case then why hasn't my Ruger SS Mini-14 come apart even down in temps to -35*F while out hunting in the winter?
    The emphasis is on accuracy, not power!

  5. #5
    Member 8x57 Mauser's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Southeast Alaska


    Quote Originally Posted by MARV1 View Post
    If that is the case then why hasn't my Ruger SS Mini-14 come apart even down in temps to -35*F while out hunting in the winter?
    With the caveat that this conversation is WAY above my pay grade:

    Marv1, what's the operating pressure of a Mini-14? If it's in the 46-50,000 range, while barrel makers worry about chamberings in the 60-64,000 range, that might explain the difference.

    Or am I barking up the wrong tree here?

  6. #6


    Can you say "Urban Legend"?

  7. #7
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    The term "stainless" refers to a huge number of alloys that have vastly different physical properties. There is no one single alloy that is used for making rifle barrels. There are a variety of steel alloys, stainless and not that do become brittle at low temperatures. On the slope they use special low temp grades of steel for structural members, and do not allow lifting opperations at low temps, having a crane's cable or boom snap would be a bad thing.

    I have not heard of any cases of stainless rifle barrels failing at low temperatures, not that it can't happen. I do know one rifle manufacturer did have a recall due to some stainless barrels that were fluted too deeply and there were a few barrel failures.

    To an extent I'd think it is a problem that takes care of itself in that most folks don't do much shooting below -30, and powders don't burn as energetically and hence internal pressures are slightly reduced.

  8. #8
    New member
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    Oct 2007
    Central California


    The stainless steel of the machines that I represent professionally is rated to -40 degrees F. Below this the steel becomes too brittle and can fail. I would think that barrel steel is even more sensitive due to the relatively thinness, (when compared to machined mechanical parts), and considering pressure and vibration. Then again, I dopn't think I will be outdoors hunting and fishing at this extream temperature......


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