gun barrels: stainless vs blued

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Gear' started by lreed, Oct 21, 2016.

  1. lreed


    Dec 7, 2001
    I kept getting mixed inputs on gun steel. Some says stainless barrels are actually tougher, some says the blued barrels provide better precision and longevity.
  2. Grease


    May 10, 2012
    I know basically nothing about gun barrels. That said, I'm guessing its the same as with knives; personal preference. Bluing is just a special form of corrosion that helps prevent rust. It can be worn off over time. Stainless steel is corrosion resistant all the way through. I highly doubt either one has anything to do with the precision of a gun. That depends on the build quality and how it's maintained.

    Just like with knives, buy a brand you trust and a material that you personally enjoy.
  3. Sharp Guy

    Sharp Guy Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 6, 2016

    What is Better, Stainless or Chrome-Moly Steel?
    Over 90% of high-grade match barrels are made from Stainless Steel. Stainless is easier to machine because it is slightly softer. It is also easier to apply a fine, hand-lapped finish to a stainless bore. That said, chrome-moly barrels can be just as accurate, when made correctly, and there is evidence a chrome-moly barrel will hold its accuracy longer than a stainless barrel.

    Personally, if I was building a match rifle I'd use a SS blank. If I was building an accurate field rifle I'd likely go with a match grade Chrome-moly barrel but I might still opt for SS depending on application.
  4. UffDa

    UffDa Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 11, 1999
    There are a lot of variables. What kind of stainless? What kind of carbon steel? I know of an AR15 that has 30,000 rounds through it's chrome lined carbon steel barrel and still has combat accuracy. I don't know if a stainless barrel would hold up that well, but how many people shoot 30,000 rounds?

    You know what they say about opinions and many, if not most of these opinions are derived on the other words, BS.

    Many of the top benchrest barrels are stainless. Benchrest shooters shoot more in a year than the average person would shoot in 20 lifetimes.

    At one time, Les Baer only used Kart carbon steel barrels even in his stainless 1911s. I don't know if he still does. So, you pays your money and takes your chances.
  5. fast14riot


    Oct 27, 2010
    It all depends on what your environment is like and what you're willing to put up with for maintenance.

    If in a humid, coastal, rainy area, stainless is far easier to maintain the bore. Carbon barrels (4340 CroMo) should have a wet patch ran through after cleaning and left wet, run a dry patch through before shooting. Many people don't and claim it's fine, but when talking match grade, many top shooters clean between every string of fire. Usually between 5 and 20 rounds.

    My match rifles all wear stainless tubes, simply because I hate cleaning rifles. I do because it's necessary, but only do it about every 75 rounds. I won't give my cleaning routine because that's like asking which way is best to build a hamburger, everyone thinks theirs is the best.

    To find out which ones are considered the best, look into top level matches for the discipline that matches your intended use (and gun) closest, ask who's barrels everyone uses. Top makers are usually Kreiger, Bartlein, Hart, Hawk Hill, Broughton, Brux, and a few others. Most all of those are single point cut rifled barrel blanks, nearly all stainless. Next step would be drop in and consumer grade button rifled, Criterion, Wilson, Green Mountain, FN, and some more, these are usually stainless but more offerings in CroMo. Then there are contract barrels which are similar to OEM and sold under various smaller company names, almost always CroMo.

    I'm a competitive rifle shooter and if you have any questions on specific brands or smiths, I'm sure I've either heard of them or dealt with them.

    If buying a factory rifle, I say it a wash, get what you like, they are nearly all the same.

  6. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    Chrome-Moly is 4140. There was a free machining grade 41R40 though I don't know if it's still being made .Iknow they made them because i held them in my hand !
    The common stainless barrel is made of the free machining grade [416 R of Crucible's ] of 410. R meaning resulfurized in both cases [higher sulfur]
    Yes the barrels have lots of variables during the making of the gun.
  7. bdmicarta


    Feb 16, 2012
    I've seen a variety of brands used in NRA Highpower competition, but I read plenty that says that the cheap barrels such as Wilson can have very good accuracy. Bit I also read that a cut rifled Krieger may last twice as long in competition as a button rifled Wilson. So the way a barrel is manufactured is probably more important to its life than its material. The usual wear on a barrel is due to gas erosion in the throat and for that reason I thought stainless steel would last a little longer.
  8. fast14riot


    Oct 27, 2010
    I have a Wilson service rifle barrel, they don't last only half as long as cut rifled barrels, maybe a little less, but not half as much. Cut rifled barrels also cost more, so cost per accurate round fired is pretty equal. 3k accurate rounds from a Wilson is generally accepted as accurate.

    Yeah, I was going on memory for steel type, 4150 is common looks like, not the 4340 I typed.

    Throat erosion happens, but is also accelerated by rapid fire too.
  9. leghog


    Aug 10, 2013
    Blued steel and hard wood for me.

    For my one custom rifle, I used a custom Krieger barrel.

  10. fast14riot


    Oct 27, 2010
    Nice looking old Steyr!

  11. Velitrius

    Velitrius Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    I've got both, and like both just fine.

    That said, if I could go back in time and buy my rifles over, I'd opt for the stainless models in those that were offered.

    Nothing like stainless up here in the rainy, moist, soggy PNW.
  12. Daverageguy


    Nov 19, 2004
    Not to hijack Colt's Royal Blue on pythons was amazing.
  13. Converge


    Oct 4, 2014
    I'm not big on SS for firearms unless it's a nice wheel gun. However for a boat gun or something where humidity and weather is a concern that a stainless mossberg 500 or mini 14 would be cool. I've never had any issues with rust on any of my firearms though here in PA. I always wipe down my guns with a lightly oiled gun rag though and usually wipe them down every few weeks.
  14. gomipile


    Apr 17, 2010
    Nitride coated stainless steel is one of the best combinations for barrels these days. The nitride coating in the bore increases longevity by a lot, and doesn't reduce accuracy much or at all if it's properly applied.

    The terminology I see most often is QPQ or nitride QPQ, for quench-polish-quench.
  15. usn45


    Feb 29, 2016
    Just like knife steel, depends what you want to use it for.

    If you're looking for sheer durability or precision work: Cold hammer forged barrels, like the ones in an M240, are typically best for durability. Stainless will yield higher accuracy (pending user capability).
  16. BladeScout

    BladeScout Basic Member Basic Member

    May 16, 2010
    Mannlicher-Schönauer to be exact.

  17. BladeScout

    BladeScout Basic Member Basic Member

    May 16, 2010
    First of all, what is your intended use and in what climate?

    SS certainly have its uses both for competition and most certainly also for hunting in some hot and\or humid, damp conditions.

    Personally I prefer my Austrian cold-hammer forged blued rifle barrel, as I never was keen on SS.

    Besides, though I often hunt in the rain or at least damp conditions, Im seldom in need of SS. A blue quality rifle barrel have no problem with being used for days/weeks on end in wet/damp conditions with the proper maintenance during standard hunting conditions.

    Again, depends on your intended use - tell us more?
  18. leghog


    Aug 10, 2013
    Steyr Mannlicher-Schönauer M1903 action from 1909. Bought the action only in Hawaii in the late '90s for 80 bucks from an idiot who was contemplating attempting to modify it for the 7.62X39 cartridge.

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