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Thread: Stainless vs. 4150 (Barrel)

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    Stainless vs. 4150 (Barrel)

    I know that on "precision" guns, some go to stainless barrels and target crowns, etc. How do these compare with a standard chrome lined 4150 barrel? How do they compare with a CHF barrel?

    (In terms of barrel life, accuracy, etc.) Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by m4brian View Post
    I know that on "precision" guns, some go to stainless barrels and target crowns, etc. How do these compare with a standard chrome lined 4150 barrel? How do they compare with a CHF barrel?

    (In terms of barrel life, accuracy, etc.) Thanks.
    First, realize that not all SS barrels are created equal. Second recognize that not all 4150 steel is the same AND that not all companies chrome their 4150 barrels the same way.

    So in order to give better answers, you will need to define the particulars better.


    C4

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    OK - looking for properties in general, so lets go with Palmetto State - they carry a middy with a SS barrel, and also carry a CHF barreled carbine (FN double thick chrome lined).

    Or, you could compare similar offerings in the BCM line.

    Oops - PSA also has a CHF SS - didn't see that till today.
    Last edited by m4brian; 09-08-11 at 17:23.

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    Stainless will have a shorter lifespan than a chrome lined 4150

    Stainless is usually used on precision rigs, but I have no experience with those, just an observation. But that should tell ya something.

    I think the general consensus is that stainless is more accurate but wears faster. (Assuming both are quality barrels)
    Last edited by saddlerocker; 09-08-11 at 18:32.

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    To further complicate things, unlined 4150 barrels can be more accurate than stainless, but have a much more limited corosion resistance.

    The rifling a barrel uses can effect its life; Lija will tell you 3 grove barrels can get longer life. Longer by how much and to what degree is a moot point. Single cut, broach, polygonal or a hybrid of, number of lands and grooves...etc.

    What barrel life means to a high power shooter and a tactical shooter aren't really the same.

    The profile of the barrel can effect things too.

    Define first what you want to be able to do with the rife and how much you have to spend.

    From a realistic standpoint, despite what people claim 55gr Brown Bear and surplus M855 shoots out of their DPMS, your typical high quality CL barrel is capable of 1.25-2.5 MOA given match ammo and a good shooter. Stainless, again match ammo and good shooter, typically .5-1.25 MOA.

    The penalty is weight and barrel life. Weight is a double edge sword, as heavier guns tend to have less felt recoil. Barrel life is subjective. At 600 yards, you'll will notice a degrading barrel much faster than at 100 yards.

    There are different stainless materials as well, 416, 416R, 410, LW50 etc. Everyone will tell you theirs is the best.
    Last edited by bp7178; 09-08-11 at 18:45.

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    A precision based rig should have the barrel changed out when accuracy drops below your acceptable level.



    As they compare to 4150 barrels they are generally more accurate because the chroming process is not as uniform as stainless barrels are made.


    However, depending on your needs and how you plan to shoot the gun you can get pretty accurate CHF barrels from either Noveske or Centurion. If that fills your needs then that would be the better choice for longevity.


    If you are more concerned with utmost accuracy but are willing to accept the shorter barrel life then stainless is what you want.


    Also consider that generally stainless barrels are going to be heavier than CL barrels.

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    Stainless steel barrels are not more accurate than carbon steel barrels.

    The throats of unlined carbon steel barrels wear a little bit with each shot and the groups gradually get larger until accuracy is unacceptable for the mission or the bullets start keyholing.

    Barrels made of stainless steel resist wear better than those made of carbon steel. Groups remain consistent throughout the life of the barrel. However, when the accuracy goes in a stainless steel barrel, it's sudden.

    The throat of the stainless steel barrel does not wear smoothly. Instead, little plates of material break away leaving a rough surface. Groups will quickly grow in size once this starts happening.

    Most competition shooters prefer the consistent accuracy of the stainless barrel over the gradual loss of accuracy of the carbon steel
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    Thanks gents - this is what I wanted to know, but the more the better.

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    In the AR platform barrels are a little bit different than other genres. Standard steel barrels in the AR are almost always CL which takes away their accuracy capability, and for precision use people use stainless barrels because they offer accuracy and corrosion resistance. You don't really see standard steel barrels on AR's because they learned in the 60's they have poor corrosion protection. They started chrome lining the barrels, and that offers acceptable accuracy for a general issue rifle as well as much better corrosion protection.


    Something like a bench rest rifle or hunting rifle doesn't have the same needs as an AR or other military type rifle where they are expected to survive in the field for long periods of time and keep functioning.


    So while what holds true for other types of rifles and shooting doesn't always hold practical in the AR world.

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    If someone wants the highest level of accuracy, a stainless barrel from Douglas or Krieger may be the best choice along with hand fitting by a competent gunsmith. The latter is probably just as important as the former. I would say that in general terms SS barrels are capable of a higher level of inherent accuracy than CL, but this is not always the case.

    A high level of accuracy can be achieved by chrome lined barrels as well. Last weekend I shot a BCM upper with a 14.5" BFH middy using a Leupold scope in a Larue mount. The lower had an M4 stock with an ARGold trigger. Off sand bags using 77 grain moly Black Hills ammunition, I put 4 shots into a group of 2.75" at 300 yards. Most would say that a chrome lined barrel is not capable of that level of accuracy, but that is not correct.

    Some chrome lined barrels (BFH) are capable of a very high level of accuracy while including the enhanced longevity of the chrome lining.

    I would note that some time back I had a BM Predator with a 1x8" twist cut rifled non-chrome lined barrel. It was purported to be a sub-minute barrel. With extremely high level scopes, mounts, triggers, and ammunition, in near perfect shooting conditions, I was never able to get better than 2.5" at 200 yards. Something was wrong with the gun or the barrel and instead of wasting even more time with it, I sold it.

    While being probably the most important part of the accuracy of a firearm, there are other factors to consider, but that is outside the scope of the OP.

    Ultimately, a high quality chrome lined barrel can give the accuracy (or nearly so) of the SS barrel with the added life expectency.

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    Off sand bags using 77 grain moly Black Hills ammunition, I put 4 shots into a group of 2.75" at 300 yards. Most would say that a chrome lined barrel is not capable of that level of accuracy, but that is not correct.
    Will I be the first to note "4-shot group" and "sample of one"?

    It's worth noting that provided you are using a barrel from a known high quality maker, ammo plays a HUGE part in group size and accuracy. Black Hills has a very strong reputation. You get what you pay for.

    This isn't the first i've read of 77gr SMKs doing better past 200 yards than they do at 100 yards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by m4brian View Post
    OK - looking for properties in general, so lets go with Palmetto State - they carry a middy with a SS barrel, and also carry a CHF barreled carbine (FN double thick chrome lined).

    Or, you could compare similar offerings in the BCM line.

    Oops - PSA also has a CHF SS - didn't see that till today.
    That SS barrel is much cheaper and lower quality than the CHF barrel. If you wanted to compare apples to apples (to a certain degree), you would compare the Noveske SS or BCM SS barrels to the CHF.

    So in this comparison, the chrome lined barrels are going to give you much longer life. The SS barrels will also be heavier. Typically, the SS barrel is going to give you between .5-.75 groups with the CHF barrel will shoot between .85-.1.25.

    So you have to figure out if that little extra bit of accuracy is worth the shorter barrel life.


    C4

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    wow! good info here. I'll be copying/saving for later.

    Would barrel life be longer, shorter, or not really affected if one were shooting .223 vs. 5.56 ? I would tend to think slightly longer as .223 is slightly less pressure, but perhaps it;s not enough of a differance to worry about?

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    Quote Originally Posted by steelonsteel View Post
    wow! good info here. I'll be copying/saving for later.

    Would barrel life be longer, shorter, or not really affected if one were shooting .223 vs. 5.56 ? I would tend to think slightly longer as .223 is slightly less pressure, but perhaps it;s not enough of a differance to worry about?



    The first thing that goes in a barrel is the throat. The hotter the loads the faster the throat will erode.


    But I think of barrels as consumable items to shooting. If barrel longevity is your goal then I would start would with a barrel that is more geared towards that than picking what loads to use. Basically it would be at the bottom of the list. The barrel and shooting habits would have far more to do with barrel life than 223 vs. 556.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steelonsteel View Post
    wow! good info here. I'll be copying/saving for later.

    Would barrel life be longer, shorter, or not really affected if one were shooting .223 vs. 5.56 ? I would tend to think slightly longer as .223 is slightly less pressure, but perhaps it;s not enough of a differance to worry about?
    Where is the data showing the 223 is loaded to lower pressures? When a 223 is fired from a 223 chamber, it delivers similar velocities to a 5.56 fired from a 5.56 chamber. To do so, the 223 must generate similar chamber pressure.

    The difference between the two is the longer leade of the 5.56. This means the bullet of the 223 has a longer distance to travel in the 5.56 chamber than it does in the 223 chamber which lowers chamber pressures. The 223 gives less velocities in a 5.56 chamber not because the 223 is loaded to lower pressures, but because the 5.56 chamber is configured wrong to give best performance with 223 loads.

    The pressure data for SAAMI and NATO do not directly compare. Pressure readings are take from different locations with different piezoelectric transducers
    Last edited by MistWolf; 09-10-11 at 12:10.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteyrAUG View Post
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    Grant: Thanks for the apples to apples...

    But on the PSA, would a CHF SS barrel give closer to the best of both worlds having the hardness of CHF?

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    To be perfectly honest, that is the first hammer forged SS barrel I've ever seen.

    It's an intresting concept though...I'd be courious as to what kind of life one could expect.

    It's worth noting that you don't see hammer forged barrel in the benchrest community. There cut rifled barrels seem to dominate. But obviously, accuracy by far is the concern there. Hammer forge machines are extraordinarily expensive. Therefore I suspect PSA isn't turning them out, but are sourcing them. I just wonder from where.

    Where is the data showing the 223 is loaded to lower pressures? When a 223 is fired from a 223 chamber, it delivers similar velocities to a 5.56 fired from a 5.56 chamber. To do so, the 223 must generate similar chamber pressure.
    Same overall cartridge length, more powder. My understanding is the longer throat of the 5.56mm chamber relieves the extra pressure of ammunition loaded to 5.56mm velocities. The chamber doesn't determine the velocity as much as the makeup of the cartridge. Any reloading manual will list more powder for 5.56mm rounds as opposed to .223.

    When a 223 is fired from a 223 chamber, it delivers similar velocities to a 5.56 fired from a 5.56 chamber.

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    A longer leade effectively increases case volume which leads to a reduction of pressure. What that means is the 223/5.56 will need more powder to achieve the same pressure in a 5.56 chamber that it will have in a 223 chamber. The lower pressure will reduce velocity.

    Even with the increased leade, the effective case capacity difference between the 223 and 5.56 is small and very little, if any, velocity difference will be seen between the two when used in their respective chambers.

    The 5.56 is designed with reliable function in mind and the 223 for better shot to shot consistency. Most, if not all military chambers have a looser fit, as their civilian counterparts are often tightened up in pursuit of improved accuracy, and to allow more of a safety margin for varying pressures from lot to lot of ammunition
    Last edited by MistWolf; 09-10-11 at 22:16.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteyrAUG View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by bp7178 View Post
    To be perfectly honest, that is the first hammer forged SS barrel I've ever seen.

    It's an intresting concept though...I'd be courious as to what kind of life one could expect.

    It's worth noting that you don't see hammer forged barrel in the benchrest community. There cut rifled barrels seem to dominate. But obviously, accuracy by far is the concern there. Hammer forge machines are extraordinarily expensive. Therefore I suspect PSA isn't turning them out, but are sourcing them. I just wonder from where.
    Can you link to this? I can't find any uppers on PSA's website that have a CHF SS barrel. I see CHF uppers, and I see SS uppers, but nothing with a mixture of the two.

    As for the CHF, PSA says right on their page that they're sourced from FN. No mystery there...

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    http://palmettostatearmory.com/2421.php

    This is a limited edition 5.56 NATO upper with a free-floated 20" FN Hammer Forged Stainless Steel barrel. Quantities are limited, so order now before they are gone!

    Barrel: FN marked, 20" Hammer Forged Matte finish chrome-lined stainless steel with an A2-style profile, individually high pressure tested and magnetic particle inspected. Chambered in 5.56 NATO with a 1:7 twist , Rifle-length gas system, and M4 feedramps. Barrels are finished off with a low profile gas block, Midwest Industries T-15 Quad rail, and an A2 flash hider.

    Upper: Forged 7075-T6 A3 AR upper is made to MIL-SPECS and hard coat anodized black for durability. Featuring machined T marks, and a mil-spec finish. These uppers are made for us right here in the USA by a mil-spec manufacturer, and are marked with the Palmetto State Armory logo on the left side, up front, just below the rail.

    Bolt: Bolt is made of Mil-spec Carpenter 158 steel, Shot peened, MPI and HPT. Gas key is secured with grade 8 fasteners and staked per mil-spec. Bolt carrier is parkerized outside, chrome lined inside, and laser engraved with the Palmetto State Armory logo
    So its a FN barrel, but I didn't know you could chrome SS. I wonder if they cut and pasted the description from something else. I'm not seeing the benefit of a chrome lined stainless barrel...if you are selecting a stainless barrel...then to chrome it...hmmm.

    I've heard of salt bath nitride on stainless barrels, and IIRC, they do this to .338 Lapua barrels. I think Noveske even holds a patent on some type of manufacturing process involving salt bath.

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