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clover

Barrel material - Chrome Moly or Stainless - preferences please

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Apologies if this has been done to death before - I've tried a forum seach but it's not turning much up.

As per my other recent thread I'm on the cusp of ordering a Tikka T3x Varmint in .223 and the last point of indecision is the barrel / action material.
 

Google's provided a fair bit of (sometimes conflicting) information, however the general information I'm getting is that:

Chrome Moly is cheaper (around £140 on this gun), harder, less dense (around 7600kg/m^3) and obviously requires a finish (bluing, phosphating etc) to prevent corrosion.

Stainless is more expensive, softer, more dense (around 8000kg/m^3 / 4% heavier) and is left self-coloured being less susceptible to corrosion.


I've read that Stainless is easier to machine to tighter tolerances / better finished since it's softer - meaning better-finished bores that break in faster, don't foul so quickly and are easier to clean. I'm not sure if this suggestion of stainless giving a better finish would apply in the case of the Tikka cold hammer forged barrels though, on account of the way they're made. I've also read that Stainless is more resistant to throat erosion (so might give better barrel life) but dissipates heat more slowly (presumably because of it's greater density) and is possibly more susceptible to general bore wear as it's softer. Finally I've also read that Stainless barrels tend to shoot well until a point where accuracy falls off very quickly, while the accuracy of Chrome Moly barrels tends to decline more steadily with use.

Unsurprisingly I prefer the price of the Chrome-Moly as well as the aesthetic of it's black finish, however I want to buy the option that offers the best in terms of accuracy, ease of cleaning / maintenance, reliability and longevity. The gun will probably only be used on the range and I'm OCD about my gear so the corrosion resistance argument isn't a deal-breaker, although obviously lower maintenance demands are nice.

As such I'd be very interested to hear what barrel material forum members are using, your reasons for doing so and your experiences with each.

Thanks! 

 

 

 

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42 minutes ago, Moorlander said:

What are you going to use it for ? estimated shots per year?

It'll be target shooting, so probably more rounds than were I hunting but it won't be seeing hundreds of rounds a month. To be honest I can't really put a number on it at the moment; suffice to say that longer barrel life will be welcomed regardless!

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19 minutes ago, Moorlander said:

Either way , I wouldnt let £140 be the only deciding factor.

Absolutely- totally happy to spend the extra as long as it's in return for tangible benefits other than simply corrosion resistance and aesthetics :)

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41 minutes ago, clover said:

Absolutely- totally happy to spend the extra as long as it's in return for tangible benefits other than simply corrosion resistance and aesthetics :)

That's mostly what it is

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Beggin' pardon oomans, but if a pawful of degrees in metallurgy and umpteen years in failure analysis count for owt, can we venture an opinion ? (It's worth exactly what you paid for it)

Go "stainless".

Ideally, a PH steel barrel. Lothar Walther make 'em, as do several other companies that really know what they are doing. Your standard barrel steels, chrome molybdenum et al, are good, very good in most cases and, when properly prepared by a decent smith, of the sort that frequent these fora,  they will do an excellent job.

However, if you pay a little more and go for a stainless barrel  you will get better performance if you need it.  Don't bother with a ferritic stainless steel, they are inferior to a decent chrome moly barrel. An austenitic stainless steel, say a 316, has a higher chromium content and is more resistant to high temperature erosion corrosion, quite useful when you are shoving a lump of metal followed by a supersonic gas down it. As you increase the alloy content, increasing the nickel and chromium content, that performance is enhanced. If you fire lots of rounds, hot loads, and in quick succession, you'll benefit. At the top end, go for a precipitation hardened stainless  (Lothar Walther uses Bohler PH17/4). 

Most wear and tear on barrels comes from the supersonic gases, at around 2000 degrees C, scouring away at the grain boundaries of the steel, progressively eating them away. Through a borescope you'll see a 'crazy paving' type pattern appearing around the throat as the first sign. Continued use allows the gases and subsequent combustion products to erode and corrode deeper and deeper 'lifting' scabs of metal out and accelerating the wear process. The high chrome and other alloy content improves resistance to this (but doesn't stop it entirely !). So, if you are  top end target shooter, using hot loads and firing strings of shots, a high end barrel makes sense. If you are a stalker, firing one or two shots a month, chrome moly steels are more than adequate. Neither is intrinsically more accurate than the other.

 

 

erosion corrosion.png

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4 hours ago, clover said:

Unsurprisingly I prefer the price of the Chrome-Moly as well as the aesthetic of it's black finish, however I want to buy the option that offers the best in terms of accuracy, ease of cleaning / maintenance, reliability and longevity. 

As such I'd be very interested to hear what barrel material forum members are using, your reasons for doing so and your experiences with each.

I commend you for the research before buying but I think you have over-thought this one a bit.

On a factory Tikka I would be amazed if anyone was able to split stainless from a chrome-moly on the criteria you suggest, I doubt even Tikka would. Buy the barrel you most like the look of, look after it and it will last you a long time. There are far greater issues of what you shoot, how you shoot and how you look after it that will affect barrel wear and accuracy than its material composition.

As for what forum members use?

The truth is they dont really have a choice, they take what the barrel makers use/rifle builders sell and worry about far more important things.  I would guess that less than 5% of all custom barrels will be chrome-moly, most are made from 416 stainless or a close derivative which happens to be ferritic so flies in the face of Meles Meles advice but dont worry, Im sure the barrel makers know what they are doing. :)

 

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One good tip if you choose a chrome moly barrel....is you MUST clean it after use.

I've lost count of the factory barrels I've replaced....not cause they were shot out....but rotted out.

Take a keeper [and they are the absolute worst, but no offence meant ]

Out for foxes all night in the foul weather. Gun gets chucked into the safe and off to bed.

Said barrel starts rotting.

Under the borescope, you come across large areas of deep pitting, caused by moisture getting under the carbon and copper. leave it there, and it eats the chrome moly in rapid fashion.

If you really want to rot one quick, use moly bullets and treat the gun as above.

Chrome moly barrels usually shoot just as well as stainless, but do require a lot more care when used.

A chap came in the other day with an absolutely beautiful rifle

A Mauser built by Trevor Proctor, with a stock to die for. It was a 7x57 and he had paid a lot of money for it at auction.

He wanted me to borescope it, because he couldn't sleep at night worrying.

He was a very lucky man, someone had obviously looked after the gun as the bore was spotless.

A very rare thing.

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Beggin' pardon, Big Al, but are you sure you didn't mean 'martensitic' stainless? Gun grade 400 series steels are martensitic, not ferritic, and would be pretty good barrel steels. Preferable to most 300 series austenitics in fact...

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3 hours ago, meles meles said:

...

 

At the top end, go for a precipitation hardened stainless  (Lothar Walther uses Bohler PH17/4). 

 

I that what they call their "LW50" stainless steels?

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Indeed so. 

 

For most people a chrome moly barrel is quite good enough, and stainless barrels, irrespective of which particular flavour, aren't inherently more accurate. They are just a little more forgiving of poor care, hot loads and high rates of fire. In ascending order, we'd recommend:

  • Chrome Moly
  • Austenitic stainless steel (316L or even 317)
  • Martensitic stainless steel (416)
  • 600 series precipitation hardened (630, PH17-4, LW50)

Harken to what Baldie says though: how you use and care for it will have a greater effect on barrel life for most shooters.

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50 minutes ago, VarmLR said:

I that what they call their "LW50" stainless steels?

Yes, Walthers stainless is LW50, their SRS (special rifle steel) is LW19. Hard as nails and both shoot extremely well

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Yes, the LW steels are reportedly very hard (don't they require specially hard reamers etc to chamber them?)  I have one of their LW50 barrels in .223 but don't regard it any better shooting than any of my T3 stainless barrels.

I thought that companies such as SAKO (Tikka) who hammer forge their stainless barrels (all their barrels come to that) used 410 grade steel as it wasn't possible to hammer forge higher Chromium content Martenistic steel's such as 416 because they won't stay malleable enough during the cold forging process?  I think that LW button rifle theirs.

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LW do button theirs. I use Walther and have no problems with my reamers.

I have no idea about the hammer forging properties of SS

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2 hours ago, meles meles said:

Beggin' pardon, Big Al, but are you sure you didn't mean 'martensitic' stainless? Gun grade 400 series steels are martensitic, not ferritic, and would be pretty good barrel steels. Preferable to most 300 series austenitics in fact...

Isn't that what I told you in my PM? The 400 grades of stainless are either ferritic or martensitic but never austenitic as you suggested would be best.

The point I was making is that austenitic stainless is completely the wrong material for a rifle barrel and can be easily identified with a magnet.

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 19.01.36.png

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4 hours ago, Big Al said:

I commend you for the research before buying but I think you have over-thought this one a bit.

On a factory Tikka I would be amazed if anyone was able to split stainless from a chrome-moly on the criteria you suggest, I doubt even Tikka would. Buy the barrel you most like the look of, look after it and it will last you a long time. There are far greater issues of what you shoot, how you shoot and how you look after it that will affect barrel wear and accuracy than its material composition.

As for what forum members use?

The truth is they dont really have a choice, they take what the barrel makers use/rifle builders sell and worry about far more important things.  I would guess that less than 5% of all custom barrels will be chrome-moly, most are made from 416 stainless or a close derivative which happens to be ferritic so flies in the face of Meles Meles advice but dont worry, Im sure the barrel makers know what they are doing. :)

 

Probably best to stick to what you've posted on the forum rather than pm sniping Al.

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was the experts advice given any use to you?.i use stainless tikka rifles now as i have blued barreled rifles which have badly pitted barrels as they are all used in  wet/dry/hot/cold weather at all hours day or night. the stainless seem to clean easier and an oiled patch  through when i get in keeps the bore rust free

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6 minutes ago, MJR said:

Probably best to stick to what you've posted on the forum rather than pm sniping Al.

No sniping on my part, I just prefer to be quoted in the correct context.

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Can anyone see the irony of worrying about a barrel rusting on a forum that's obsessed with cleaning? 

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Al, the only one quoting your posts is myself which I quoted in full to retain its context. As I see it badger man was correcting an error for the benefit of other forum users.

No biggie, just live with it.

 

 

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1 hour ago, MJR said:

Al, the only one quoting your posts is myself which I quoted in full to retain its context. As I see it badger man was correcting an error for the benefit of other forum users.

No biggie, just live with it.

Go and snipe somewhere else MJR, its taken you a while to think you found something but sadly your mistaken again. Your not privy to our personal conversations and again this one is way above your head.

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AL, that's my point. The forum is for public posts and to help inform others. If you wish to pm other forum members that's great, it's why the pm facility exists but don't try to intermingle the two to suit your own ends - it doesn't work.

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PMs are private correspondence, airing their contents publicly is not the done thing, but dragging it up publicly is just as wrong ....but this is the season of good will to all men etc, so how about you two chill out and have a few mince pies and a small Sherry or two?

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11 hours ago, bradders said:

Can anyone see the irony of worrying about a barrel rusting on a forum that's obsessed with cleaning? 

Or not actually doing much shooting :lol: (guilty as accused) 

I go with the barrel my Smith (whoever that might be at the time) recommends, which has been 'corrosion resistant' for as long as I can remember

T

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