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.
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.
Originally Posted by m4brian
So in order to give better answers, you will need to define the particulars better.
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 18:23.
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 19:32.
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 19:45.
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.
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
I am American
Originally Posted by Surf
Thanks gents - this is what I wanted to know, but the more the better.
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.
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.