OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

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OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Morne » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:30 pm

The next topic prompt from Mr. Glock:

3. Coatings: Inside the Barrel (chrome, coatings)


What is so surprising about the coatings used on the interior of barrels is that essentially there is only one - CHROME. Everything else I know of is left as bare steel (be it low-alloy or stainless). Given the incredible variety of external coatings you would think at least a handful could/would be used internally, but alas not. Why? Let's dig into that:

A - Line-of-sight
Many coatings rely, at least partially, on a line-of-sight to the substrate to be coated. Applying a uniform coating thickness inside of a 0.300" inner diameter (ID) that is 16"+ in length is DARN HARD TO DO. Heck, chrome plating existed long before someone figured out how to do it inside of a gun barrel. For any coating that would add to the dimensions of the steel you just can't have inconsistency like that inside of the barrel. This shoots down the Ionbond style coatings since you have to sputter deposit them - any hole with a depth greater than one diameter is just not gonna work. Ditto the thermal sprayed tungsten-carbides so common as chrome replacements in other industries - the physics of the spray gun says you can't do a 16" long 30-caliber hole. Chrome only works because they thread a buffered anode the length of the barrel thus ensuring constant anode-to-cathode gap (and thus uniform coating) all the way.

B - High temperature wear
The wear most commonly experienced on the exterior of a gun is holster wear (especially on the front end of the slide). Holster wear is low-temp, low-strain rate and low energy abrasion with some environmental (think humidity and/or sweat) assistance. Conversely, interior barrel wear is high-temp, high-strain rate and high-energy. The difference is between pulling up the bedspread versus having it blasted at you (burning) from a cannon. Thus, many coatings that are pefectly adequate for the exterior (phosphating, bluing, anodizing, paint, electroless nickel) would get obliterated rapidly on the inside of a barrel. While electroless nickel would seem like it satisfies "A" above remember that it gets harder with increased temperature (precipitating those nickel phosphides) so every shot fired would make it harder and more brittle until it cracked/flaked off. Chrome handles it with great aplomb since it doesn't oxidize further (that whole chromium oxide film barrier thingy) and being micro-cracked already gives it places to "flex" kind of like the cuts in a sidewalk.

C - Stuff nobody has thought of ('til now)
Case-hardening has a real place in interior barrel coatings but nobody has done anything with them (at least to my knowledge). Important note - case hardening does NOT increase the base-steel dimensions. The reason why no one has used them is simple - ask a Metallurgist if these processes (carburizing, nitriding, nitro-carburizing and carbo-nitriding) can coat a .300" hole that is 16"+ in length and he'll say, "No way, Jose." Just as in "A" above the coating will not be uniform but rather will be thickest at the end of the holes and virtually non-existent in the middle of the barrel. Ah, but HERE is where you need a Metallurgist who is also a gun nut. I ask you - where is the barrel damage from shooting most pronounced? Is it not the throat and the muzzle? Are these not the two extrema of the barrel ID? Thus, if we could protect JUST THESE AREAS and not necessarily the portion between without affecting ANY dimensions at all, wouldn't we dramatically improve barrel life? Sure would. Or, if we REALLY wanted a uniform coating we could just fill the barrel with powdered charcoal and do an old-fashioned pack carburize - not very high tech sexy but it sure does work. Yeah - I'm gonna have to patent this... :idea:

In summary - the interior of a barrel sees shock, high speed wear and rapid temperature spikes that would destroy most coatings that could be applied in such a small space. Rather than engineer a coating around it most gun makers simply figure that a barrel is expendable after a few thousand rounds. Chrome can double the life of a barrel but that's about it. Nothing is forever, ya know.
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Strider » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:53 pm

Can modern gun cleaning solutions (Hoppes, CLP, Bore Scrubber et. al.) damage the bore lining if left in too long?? Can you scrub the bore too much or too hard and damage the chrome as one might damage a porcelin tub?

It would stand to reason that if chrome lining in the bore is applied to last 100's of 1000's of rounds of tremendous heat and pressure, then nothing we do should harm it.
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Mr. Glock » Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:18 pm

I was just thinking today that I hadn't seen the next chapter yet....

1. Word is that stainless steel barrels are more accurate over their lifetime (in a rifle) vs. regular steel gun barrels (non-chromed)...comment?

2. Chroming a rifle barrel decrease accuracy...due to unevenness of the chrome?

3. Copper solvents (ie copper cleaning solutions) say to not let them sit in the bore of rifle for more than 20 minutes (Sweets 7.62 etc)..why?

4. Consider the standard rifle bore...perhaps having 500 rounds through it. Some people clean to the original metal and some people leave a small layer of copper with the idea that it is helpful to smooth out the barrel..comment?
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby willbird » Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:27 pm

Some BR shooters were experimenting with some barrels that had the bores ion nitrided, this is a form of case hardening, they were getting BR accuracy, but the last time I checked they had not fired enough rounds to see if it extended gilt edge accurate life.

There is more than one type of rifle barrel wear, there is erosion from hot powder gas, then there is actual wear from the projectiles. Stainless resists erosion better than chrome moly, but chrome moly better resists actual friction wear from the projectiles...this is an issue with say lathe turned brass bullets used for long range, and it very well might prove to be an issue with steel jacketed bullets. Pure basic accuracy should be equal between stainless and chrome moly barrels of equal quality, in calibers like 222, 223, 22-250, 308, and 30-06(and other bigger stuff) the accurate lifespan of a stainless barrel will be longer. In a 32/20, 44 magnum, or 45 colt rifle or other slammer powder capacity calibers the stainless probably would not add any lifespan that we would ever see in our lifetimes :-).

The primary way to use up a rifle barrel is erosion in the throat area, the metal after all that heat from burning powder takes on a finish like alligator skin....you need to seat your bullets further and further out of the case to touch the rifling, and eventually accuracy falls away. Making the metal HARDER will not help it resist erosion, in fact adding carbon with a case hardening might make erosion WORSE :-).

Sweets 7.62 is a very aggressive cleaner, and if left in too long it will aggressively attack the rifle barrel, most folks if they use it all (I do not) only use it on stainless barrels, and they do not leave it in long at all. It also eats your nice bronze core bronze brushes too if you do not wash it off right after using them.

Many people feel that a barrel can corrode under a layer of jacket fouling, so for extended storage it is best to remove all the jacket fouling before applying a light coat of protective oil. Some folks like to just rub the jacket fouling down flat with an abrasive cleaner like remclean or JB bore paste, others prefer to chemically remove all the visible metal fouling.

ON the basics of rifle barrel care, you should use only bronze core bronze brushes (NEVER use stainless steel brushes), only use 1 piece cleaning rods, always clean from the breech wherever possible, always use a cleaning rod guide if possible, and also clean the cleaning rod itself when you go to a new patch, I use the back side of the used patches, you can wipe an amazing amount of grit off the cleaning rod. Cleaning solutions run from the normal hoppes #9, to Shooters choice (or 50/50 SC and Kano Kroil, my favorite)...some use GM top engine cleaner mixed with kano kroil....I prefer hoppes BR #9 to remove jacket fouling.


The typical rifle owner only fires at most a few hundred rounds in his life, so modern rifle barrels are an excellent value just as they are for most people, real sicko's like me love to burn up those crappy factory tubes and then put on a nice Shilen, Hart, Douglas, Krieger, or Lilja barrel.

Bill
Last edited by willbird on Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Mr. Glock » Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:44 pm

So, since so many BR rounds feature the short/fat case, erosion is the real issue in BR (see: WSSM rounds)?

In, say an M1 Garand, it's still the throat you are most concerned with (from firing , the muzzle wear is from cleaning)...so, can we assume that pretty much all rifle barrels wear in the throat first (using non-corrosive ammo..unlike Mosin-Nagant that wear all thorugh the throat and bore due to corrosive ammo)?

Funny, I heard that JB Bore cleaner can be overused with detrimental results (looks an awful lot like valve grinding paste)...comment?

I tried Hoppes Elite Copper Eliminator the other day...it is not ammonia-based, although has a 10 minute time limit...seemed to work very well on removing copper from a used rifle I purchased...know anything about that formula?

PS: A little Brake Clean sprayed on the brush stops the Sweets (or anything else) from killing your brush.
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Morne » Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:28 am

Strider wrote:It would stand to reason that if chrome lining in the bore is applied to last 100's of 1000's of rounds of tremendous heat and pressure, then nothing we do should harm it.

Chrome is tough stuff, that's for sure. Still, I wouldn't abuse it.

Mr. Glock wrote:1. Word is that stainless steel barrels are more accurate over their lifetime (in a rifle) vs. regular steel gun barrels (non-chromed)...comment?

Of course, it depends on the stainless. The great thing about some stainless, like 17-4 PH, is that you can "harden" it after cutting the rifling without getting a lot of distortion. That's not possible with the quench-and-temper low-alloy steels. As a result, low-alloy steels need to be heat treated to a moderate hardness so that the broaching tool doesn't wear out too quickly.

Also, stainless resists a certain kind of degradation known as inter-granular attack (IGA) better than low-alloy steels. Some stainless steels are also immune to decarburizing (though not all - some of the 400-series need carbon to keep their hardness). Both of these occur at the temperatures seen in the chamber/throat during firing. Thus, good stainless steel can resist these things longer than low-alloy steels and thus leave a tighter chamber/throat for longer.

2. Chroming a rifle barrel decrease accuracy...due to unevenness of the chrome?

I'm still not sure I believe this occurs. It is certainly "internet truth" that it happens but in the absence of statistically significant data I remain skeptical. IF it does happen I'll take a shot at guessing why - the lightning rod effect. See, when you cut the rifling (whether by button or broach) you cut it so that in cross-section it is almost vertically walled, but with a slight taper opening up towards the barrel ID. Chrome, on the other hand, LOVES corners - just like the tip of a lightning rod. Thus, chrome deposits more heavily on corners and less heavily on recessed areas like the groove diameter. As a result, a chromed bore has rifling with a cross-section that has a REVERSE taper closing up towards the ID. This COULD play with bullet engagement and POSSIBLY negatively impact accuracy TO A VERY SMALL DEGREE. Frankly, some barrel-maker could just change their broaching tool to account for this beforehand and then it wouldn't matter.

3. Copper solvents (ie copper cleaning solutions) say to not let them sit in the bore of rifle for more than 20 minutes (Sweets 7.62 etc)..why?

In a bare steel barrel this is necessary to prevent corrosion. Mind you, these are still water based cleaners. Water with stuff dissolved in it (ammonia in this case) catalyzes corrosion from atmospheric Oxygen.

4. Consider the standard rifle bore...perhaps having 500 rounds through it. Some people clean to the original metal and some people leave a small layer of copper with the idea that it is helpful to smooth out the barrel..comment?

Clean all the way. Copper is more noble than steel and as such leaving it in contact with bare steel will help to corrode the steel just like in a battery cell.

willbird wrote:Some BR shooters were experimenting with some barrels that had the bores ion nitrided, this is a form of case hardening, they were getting BR accuracy, but the last time I checked they had not fired enough rounds to see if it extended gilt edge accurate life.

<snip>

The primary way to use up a rifle barrel is erosion in the throat area, the metal after all that heat from burning powder takes on a finish like alligator skin....you need to seat your bullets further and further out of the case to touch the rifling, and eventually accuracy falls away. Making the metal HARDER will not help it resist erosion, in fact adding carbon with a case hardening might make erosion WORSE :-).

Bill, as always you contribute mightily to these threads. :D

Ion nitriding is, indeed, a form of case-hardening. Frankly, I would think that good old-fashioned gas nitriding would be better in a barrel but who am I to argue?

The "alligator skin" effect you see is (probably) a very gross form of IGA. This is where the crystalline boundaries of the steel are preferentially corroded at high temps leaving a "scaly" pattern on the surface. The easiest way to fix this is to use a stainless in lieu of low-alloy steel. Obviously, putting a barrier in place like chrome helps, too.

As to adding carbon - more to lose in the first place means more left after the same amount of firing. The "decarburizing" phenomenon doesn't cause the "alligator skin" - that's IGA. However, decarburizing does soften the steel at the beginning of the rifling and thus allow it to wear faster from the engagement/sliding of the projectile. If you harden this with something like "Tennifer" which imparts both Carbon and nitrogen then I really think it'll help. Only one way to be sure - guess I'll have to make some barrels and go shoot the urine out of them. :mrgreen:
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Morne » Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:32 am

Here's a quick brainteaser for everyone - why don't you see any chrome-plated stainless barrels? After all, many stainless grades could certainly benefit from having the extra hardness of chrome on top.

Discuss. :twisted:
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby willbird » Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:43 am

Morne wrote:Here's a quick brainteaser for everyone - why don't you see any chrome-plated stainless barrels? After all, many stainless grades could certainly benefit from having the extra hardness of chrome on top.

Discuss. :twisted:


MY guess is that the hard chrome's primary benefit is once again to resist EROSION, and it is really no better at than than the stainless steel. For firearms not properly cared for their are some other benefits to hard chrome such as resistance to CORROSION, but 416 stainless already provides some of those benefits as well.

High quality top end rifle barrels are hand lapped so that they are the same exact size from one end to another, there is no such thing as EXACT, but they are very close, so close that you can push a pure lead slug through one with a rod and not feel even the tiniest difference in drag, Veral Smith of LBT insists that with a properly upset pure lead slug pushed through a rifle or pistol you can distinctly feel a distortion from the roll marking many mfg. use on the barrel. The hard chrome process can in no way be as consistent as a hand lapped bore. The proof of this could be as simple as having a bore air gauged before and after hard chrome was applied. Deep in the mil spec requirements if you could find them is a tolerance for allowed thickness variation of the hard chrome inside a military rifle barrel....and I will bet that is is an exponentially larger amount of variation than what you can measure in a hand lapped premium barrel.

Button lapped barrels also have variations in twist rate due to the process, there are people who "scan" a barrel for you, many top notch BR shooters do this, and claim that a barrel that shows a gain in twist will shoot fine, but that one showing a loss in twist will not, they also use these barrel scans to decide where to cut a barrel when fitting and chambering it, there is some leeway inside a 27" blank to find a 20-22 inch BR barrel, so knowing where the best 22" lie help you decide how much to cut off each end. The button rifling process also requires a barrel that is the same outer dia end to end, it cannot be used on a barrel that is already contoured, Anschutz DOES use it on a barrel with a slightly larger muzzle section on rimfire barrels to provide a slight "choke bore" at the muzzle.

Off the top of my head I'm thinking the rifling pattern does not have 90 degree sides to the grooves, Shilen has one they call a "ratchet" and it has a ratchet shaped profile...the steep angle is on the "drive" side...the theory was that it would distort the bullets less when they are engraved, in real life the throats erode faster with that rifling pattern.

Harry Popes rifling was composed of radii, no sharp corners at all, it was intended to be used with lead/tin alloy bullets, the metford is another rifling form composed of radii.

I have a Blackstar stainless rifle barrel, those were electropolished after button rifling, they start with a Lothar Walther blank made from a tougher stainless than 416, then Blackstar electropolished the bore, results were mixed, some users reported more metal fouling and insisted it was due to the boor being "too smooth"...other insisted this is horse puckey and there is no such thing as a bore that is too smooth.IF the users got satisfactory accuracy to start however barrel life is said to be 1.5x to 2x that of a 416 stainless barrel. I have not shot it more than 2-3 test rounds yet, it is a 1/14 twist 6-284 barrel, I can say for certain that the stainless used is a lot tougher to ream than 416. The Blackstar company was bought by another guy (I think it was Borden Rifles) and it seems to be pretty much out of business now.

Bill
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Mr. Glock » Wed Jan 07, 2009 11:23 am

Morne wrote:Here's a quick brainteaser for everyone - why don't you see any chrome-plated stainless barrels? After all, many stainless grades could certainly benefit from having the extra hardness of chrome on top.

Discuss. :twisted:


Because you can't chrome stainless steel?
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Morne » Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:13 pm

willbird wrote:I have a Blackstar stainless rifle barrel, those were electropolished after button rifling, they start with a Lothar Walther blank made from a tougher stainless than 416, then Blackstar electropolished the bore, results were mixed, some users reported more metal fouling and insisted it was due to the boor being "too smooth"...other insisted this is horse puckey and there is no such thing as a bore that is too smooth.IF the users got satisfactory accuracy to start however barrel life is said to be 1.5x to 2x that of a 416 stainless barrel. I have not shot it more than 2-3 test rounds yet, it is a 1/14 twist 6-284 barrel, I can say for certain that the stainless used is a lot tougher to ream than 416. The Blackstar company was bought by another guy (I think it was Borden Rifles) and it seems to be pretty much out of business now.

Electropolishing is good stuff. It smooths out the "peaks" in a metal's surface finish first and thus rapidly improves it. IMHO there is no such thing as "too smooth" unless you are relying on entrapped oils for lubrication of a dynamic surface (chrome can do this even when VERY smooth thanks to the microcracks). Still, odds are that the purported barrel life improvement has more to do with the "tougher" grade of stainless than the electropolishing.

BTW, electropolishing also leaves a stainless steel passivated.
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby willbird » Wed Jan 07, 2009 1:25 pm

Morne wrote:
willbird wrote:I have a Blackstar stainless rifle barrel, those were electropolished after button rifling, they start with a Lothar Walther blank made from a tougher stainless than 416, then Blackstar electropolished the bore, results were mixed, some users reported more metal fouling and insisted it was due to the boor being "too smooth"...other insisted this is horse puckey and there is no such thing as a bore that is too smooth.IF the users got satisfactory accuracy to start however barrel life is said to be 1.5x to 2x that of a 416 stainless barrel. I have not shot it more than 2-3 test rounds yet, it is a 1/14 twist 6-284 barrel, I can say for certain that the stainless used is a lot tougher to ream than 416. The Blackstar company was bought by another guy (I think it was Borden Rifles) and it seems to be pretty much out of business now.

Electropolishing is good stuff. It smooths out the "peaks" in a metal's surface finish first and thus rapidly improves it. IMHO there is no such thing as "too smooth" unless you are relying on entrapped oils for lubrication of a dynamic surface (chrome can do this even when VERY smooth thanks to the microcracks). Still, odds are that the purported barrel life improvement has more to do with the "tougher" grade of stainless than the electropolishing.

BTW, electropolishing also leaves a stainless steel passivated.

I agree the longer life was a by product of a better stainless, but in a way it is related to electropolishing because of it being a tougher grade it is more difficult to get a smooth finish during manufacture. Electropolishing brought the surface finish quality with the tougher steel up to precision rifle standards.

The founder of Blackstar had done electropolishing for medical implants and other things and also had a side interest in firearms.

http://blackstar-barrels.com/

I had heard some talk on the net about the business deal on the sale going south, so maybe the original owner is back in possession now.

Bill
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Morne » Thu Jan 08, 2009 10:59 am

Mr. Glock wrote:
Morne wrote:Here's a quick brainteaser for everyone - why don't you see any chrome-plated stainless barrels? After all, many stainless grades could certainly benefit from having the extra hardness of chrome on top.

Discuss. :twisted:


Because you can't chrome stainless steel?

Yup.

In order to chrome plate on stainless you need to first apply a layer of nickel plating and then chrome plate over the nickel. Adding that kind of thickness, and a soft under-plate, just doesn't work inside of a barrel.
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby jgatsios » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:00 am

Thanks, Morne. That's great stuff.

My only question is whether those expensive, after-market barrels are worth the money? If you have an MOA-performer, or one close to it, why trade up? Bill, what's your affinity for expensive barrels all about? What about the after-market pistol barrels, too? Are they really worth the money?
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby Morne » Sat Jan 10, 2009 8:07 am

jgatsios wrote:Thanks, Morne. That's great stuff.

My only question is whether those expensive, after-market barrels are worth the money? If you have an MOA-performer, or one close to it, why trade up? Bill, what's your affinity for expensive barrels all about? What about the after-market pistol barrels, too? Are they really worth the money?


I realize the question was directed more at Bill than me, but I'll butt in anyway.

Most barrels grossly outperform the skills of the average shooter. On the off-chance that you are a true-blue deadeye shooter or other kind of high-end competitor (benchrest/varmint comes to mind) then the barrel's influence might well be noticable. In that case it behooves you to spend the dollar for a good barrel.

After-market barrels can be worth the money. Just like any manufacturing process there are certain levels of QC and attention to detail that if you want them you gotta PAY for them. Polished lands, slightly increasing twist rate (some folks believe that if the twist rate decreases down the barrel you lose accuracy) and use of re-melted steels can be had for the right dollars.

Pistol barrels? I wouldn't bother on a carry piece. Now if I were an Olympic shooter...
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Re: OFCC University 103 (Internal Coatings)

Postby jgatsios » Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:40 am

My question was posed to both of you---and anyone else with knowledge and experience. Thanks for "butting in." You can but in anytime, as far as I'm concerned.

I have a David Bowie customized Glock 17 that shoots very well. A friend said that the first thing he does is replace his barrel. I think my Glock shoots pretty darn well for a pistol, so I don't see the value in spending $100 on another barrel. That money would be better invested in ammo, which seems to double in price every year or so lately.... :D
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