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  #1  
Old 12-29-2006, 05:52 PM
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Carbon Steel verses Stainless Steel


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I don't think I've ever seen the pros and cons of these two types of barrels. Is one more accurate than the other? Does one last longer the the other? What does the benchrest guys use? Which one gives more for the dollar spent?

Panhandlepr
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  #2  
Old 12-29-2006, 06:58 PM
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Benchrest boys use stainless. General opinion is, stainless is tougher and they get a little better barrel life. I've also heard that throat erosion is a little slower on stainless. The only negative on stainless, some barrel makers warn against using stainless barrels in temperatures below zero, there is a risk of fracture or splitting. I've had very good accuracy out of stainless barrels and I like the look. I have no idea if the improved wear characteristics of stainless offset the extra cost over chrome moly.
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Old 12-29-2006, 07:04 PM
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My notion it's all in how you treat them as far as longevity goes. There was some talk about a stainless barrel being less accurate until they were "broke in" but I don't know how much credibility there is to that notion anymore. I only have one rifle that has a stainless barrel and I did the shoot-n- clean method breaking it in just like a carbon or chromoly steel barrel. The stainless barrel is more resistant to the elements but even they can become pitted if not taken care of.

I'll bet some of the old-timers will have some more and better reasons for one or the other.

RJ
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  #4  
Old 12-30-2006, 06:36 AM
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There is only one stainless barreled rifle in my house and it is a .22 L.R. I can report that it shoots well and cleans easy.

I have a stainless revolver that I have carried for several years close to my skin. Iowa summers get pretty humid. I have been very impressed with how well this gun stands up to this treatment.

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  #5  
Old 12-30-2006, 08:09 AM
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Stainless Steel has several advantages worth noting. It is corrosion resistant (it will rust if you let it), it is tougher (doubly so for Rugers variety), and it tends to wear better.

It also has a few disadvantages worth noting. It does not conduct heat as well as "regular" steel, it stresses differently, and it is harder to machine (thus the better wear...) making it more expensive to manufacture.

The reports of inaccuracy until broken in are likely due to inadaquate tooling and lack of knowledge (due to inexperience, not ineptitude) in machining the material up until 9 or 10 years ago. These problems no longer exist for the most part, and will only show up as infrequent mistakes from the major manufacturers.

The heat conductivity is the only real disadvantage for the shooter today, and that will only show up with either really light barrels (I own an example of this...) or with extended range sessions on warm days (I have also experienced this).

I have several of each type. Some shoot well, some don't. For the most part, the newer guns shoot better than the older ones. The notable exceptions are an old Stevens 66 (blue) of indeterminate vintage that out shoots everything else I own out to 75yds and a Carbon 15 (stainless) that couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if fired inside it!

I like stainless for the corrosion resistance. Not because I don't want to clean my guns (I keep them all very clean), but just in case I get in to a severe situation.
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Old 01-01-2007, 12:44 PM
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These guys are giving you the straight dope when it comes to temperature. Stainless steel shouldn't be used for any firearm going into a sub-zero environment, as it does embrittle at temperatures below 0 f. (read the note at the bottom of the Krieger Barrels price list at: www.kriegerbarrels.com ).

As to which is better stainless or chrome moly, here is a quote from the Krieger Barrels' website FAQ:

"Q: Which is better Chrome Moly or Stainless Steel?

A: For the most part neither one is better than the other. The only difference we find is that sometimes the chrome moly might take a little longer to break-in and might have a little more affinity for copper or seems to show it easier. In terms of barrel life and accuracy, we can find no difference."

So there you have it. Actually, the chrome moly stuff tends to be harder, but the chrome, nickel content in the stainless, which makes it a refractory metal, also resists copper fouling slightly better. The physical and chemical properties of stainless make it less attractive to copper and lead. However, it will still erode at the the temperature and pressure produced, especially in the throat area.

A well made stainless steel barrel, such as a Krieger, with cut rifling that has been lapped before and after rifling, or any of the high-end button rifled hand lapped barrels, will exceed the accuracy needs of most mortal men. You can also look at the BlackStar Barrel which uses a tough stainless steel that has been electro polished after rifling, for good results.

Stainless steel avoids the external finishing problems of chrome moly and is the primary reason I use it, because touchup can be done with an abrasive pad or bead blaster.

Last edited by axlenut; 01-01-2007 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 01-01-2007, 02:09 PM
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[QUOTE=axlenut]

As to which is better stainless or chrome moly, here is a quote from the Krieger Barrels' website FAQ:

"Q: Which is better Chrome Moly or Stainless Steel?

Howdy axlenut, I've read what Krieger says but I've also read several other opinions on the subject of barrel steel. There are enough "experts" on the subject that we are left with a choice of picking which one we agree with. If you ever machine any stainless, it's easy to see where the toughness claims come from, especially high nickel alloys, it plays the dickens on tooling. Maybe we can flip a coin.

Here's a piece of an old article from Precision Shooting:

In target shooting stainless barrels have for the most part supplanted the use of Chrome Moly barrels. The steel is not a true, fully austenitic stainless such as is found in cutlery. The 416 type stainless steel used in barrels is one of a group of martensitic steels which can be hardened by heat treating like regular Carbon steels. 416 stainless is more accurately described as a "free machining, rust resistant" steel having a high Chrome content, around 10%, but with sulphur added to give it good machining qualities. It is widely considered that stainless barrels will have a longer life and are more accurate than Chrome Moly barrels. If stainless barrels are "shot in" using the prescribed procedure, the barrel aquires a burnishing which almost eliminates fouling, so making stainless barrels very easy to clean.

Because stainless steel is more expensive than Chrome Moly steel and it is more difficult to blue due to the Chrome content, high production makers of hunting and military rifles prefer to use Chrome Moly steels. But target shooters who want the best possible accuracy from their barrels are almost without exception choosing "stainless" barrels these days.
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Old 01-01-2007, 02:31 PM
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One thing to keep in mind is that there are a bunch of different alloys of both stainless and non-stainless steels. A lot of the characteristics of each are predictable, but not all.

If the bench rest boys think one thing or another is better, I'd go with their recommendations, at least for barrel life and accuracy.
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Old 01-03-2007, 12:35 PM
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[QUOTE=lumberjak]
Quote:
Originally Posted by axlenut

As to which is better stainless or chrome moly, here is a quote from the Krieger Barrels' website FAQ:

"Q: Which is better Chrome Moly or Stainless Steel?

Howdy axlenut, I've read what Krieger says but I've also read several other opinions on the subject of barrel steel. There are enough "experts" on the subject that we are left with a choice of picking which one we agree with. If you ever machine any stainless, it's easy to see where the toughness claims come from, especially high nickel alloys, it plays the dickens on tooling. Maybe we can flip a coin.

Here's a piece of an old article from Precision Shooting:

In target shooting stainless barrels have for the most part supplanted the use of Chrome Moly barrels. The steel is not a true, fully austenitic stainless such as is found in cutlery. The 416 type stainless steel used in barrels is one of a group of martensitic steels which can be hardened by heat treating like regular Carbon steels. 416 stainless is more accurately described as a "free machining, rust resistant" steel having a high Chrome content, around 10%, but with sulphur added to give it good machining qualities. It is widely considered that stainless barrels will have a longer life and are more accurate than Chrome Moly barrels. If stainless barrels are "shot in" using the prescribed procedure, the barrel aquires a burnishing which almost eliminates fouling, so making stainless barrels very easy to clean.

Because stainless steel is more expensive than Chrome Moly steel and it is more difficult to blue due to the Chrome content, high production makers of hunting and military rifles prefer to use Chrome Moly steels. But target shooters who want the best possible accuracy from their barrels are almost without exception choosing "stainless" barrels these days.
Yes indeed stainless is tougher to machine, I do know that from experience, and it's a pain to weld by comparison, although my welding experience is with 304 Austenitic SS, but here we were discussing practical differences between the two for shooting. Limiting factor seems to be the throat, where both alloys quickly breakdown from heat, pressure and abrasion. Even the finest stainless steel barrel will loose it's accuracy edge within a given number of rounds precisely because the alloying agents that make it free machining also make it more prone to erosion. 416 Stainless has both phosphorous and sulfur added for machinability, and is used typically for screw machine parts. Whether or not there is a significant practical difference between the two is doubtful. Once the throat wears, the barrel has to be set back and rechambered or replaced in order to restore accuracy.

Please note in the quote above it states that stainless is "considered" to give barrel life. Consideration is not a provable objective measurement - but it doesn't have to be in this case, because when it comes to hobby stuff, everything is subjective!

The temperature, pressure, velocity and friction of high-intensity cartridges within the throat exceed that of most abrasive cutting saws, something no steel can resist without damage at every shot. Stainless steel has one negative property in that it doesn't conduct heat as well as chrome moly, so has the greater potential to overheat if fired too rapidly. This effect can be countered by larger cross sections and fluting.

All that being known, the stainless steel barrel offers an easier cleaning bore, which makes it easier to keep shooting accurately. Which is better? Well, all my custom rifles are stainless steel, I just don't have any illusions about how long the barrel will last. And oh boy, when it's shot out, I get to rebarrel it and try something new and even more weird!

Last edited by axlenut; 01-03-2007 at 12:38 PM.
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