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Old January 22, 2019, 12:00 PM   #1
fisherman
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Why the fuss over all metal frames?

I read a lot of these posts and read posters talk a lot about it being critical for lifetime of use to have all metal frame semi-auto pistols. Some say must be stainless, not aluminum. Some say polymer is junk and steel or stainless is only life time gun to buy. I have never heard of any shooter wearing out a polymer framed gun. Does this actually happen? If so with what frequency? I wouldn't think that a person shooting 100 rounds a month could ever wear out a polymer framed gun. Your experiences please. I doubt the average cc owner shoots 100 rounds a month.
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Old January 22, 2019, 12:33 PM   #2
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Certain polymer framed pistols have proven quite capable with regard to high round count. But perhaps it's worth noting that some of the later poly frame pistols have incorporated more metal into their designs, like the S&W M&P and Ruger American.
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Old January 22, 2019, 12:36 PM   #3
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Walther is making hay off the steel framed version of their plastic pistol to serve high volume USPSA competitors.
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Old January 22, 2019, 12:50 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by fisherman View Post
I read a lot of these posts and read posters talk a lot about it being critical for lifetime of use to have all metal frame semi-auto pistols. Some say must be stainless, not aluminum. Some say polymer is junk and steel or stainless is only life time gun to buy. I have never heard of any shooter wearing out a polymer framed gun. Does this actually happen? If so with what frequency? I wouldn't think that a person shooting 100 rounds a month could ever wear out a polymer framed gun. Your experiences please. I doubt the average cc owner shoots 100 rounds a month.
While I agree, one problem is define "average" and especially define average in the context of this forum. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that for the active users on this forum the average may be well over that. But people that come here aren't necessarily indicative of the "average gun owner". I like to say that not all gun owners are shooters. There are plenty of gun owners that don't shoot much at all.

But to the crux of the issue, by the time you've shot out the frame of a polymer pistol you'll have easily eclipsed the cost of that frame many times over in ammo costs. Aluminum won't last longer than polymer, but won't rust like steel. Steel is more durable than aluminum, but not as immune to the elements as polymer might be. Generally the concern people express about polymer is the polymer breaking down from sun exposure etc, and general degradation over time. There are some pretty old Glocks out there still going strong. Now will they be around in 100 years? I don't know enough about material science to answer that personally. My guess is yes, there may be some caveats but there are caveats for steel or aluminum as well.

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Old January 22, 2019, 01:20 PM   #5
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I remember reading a few of those thread and it was mostly a few very vocal posters making those claims.

I own both metal and poly frames pistol and I am not worried in the least of about the reliability, durability, or longevity about any of them.
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Old January 22, 2019, 01:44 PM   #6
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All the talk about the polymer frame pistols is they won't last as long as a steel frame, but when you think about where technology will be in the future, you'll be able to 3D print your own replacement frame, thus you'll have a gun that lasts forever.

Steel frames are great for when you want to reduce recoil with the extra weight, helpful in competitions. They do last longer, look how many 100+ year old 1911's, 1903's, Mauser C96 pistols there are still out there.

Gun owners for some reason believe they have to spend their money on a gun that will last centuries so it can be handed down in the family so they'll have something of value that come the 22nd Century they might need if aliens invade and cause a zombie apocalypse that starts World War 4. The ancestor who inherits that metal frame gun will use it to save their life, whereas the one who gets the polymer frame pistol will find it broke into millions of pieces.
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Old January 22, 2019, 01:50 PM   #7
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It's all about perceptions. (Plus a certain amount of not know what one is talking about.) Cast parts for example. Engine blocks are cast and nobody complains. Some of 'em are cast Al too.
A frame, polymer or not, doesn't get subjected to anywhere near the stresses a slide does. So the whole "issue" is moot.
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Old January 22, 2019, 02:01 PM   #8
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On a par with caliber wars. As a Life member of SNM-Sons of Neanderthal man- I shoot only steel frames. A strictly personal preference.
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Old January 22, 2019, 02:05 PM   #9
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I think for many folks it comes down to metal(steel or alloy) being a known quantity in the long term. Take care of it X way and it will last indefinitely etc. for some this known indefinite lifespan plays into knowing if gun ban x happens arms will still last and if you could never buy another gun you KNOW your 686/1911/SIG/Beretta/CZ whatever will last given the correct care.

Polymer is stil sort of an unknown and we know for a fact it is always degrading and does so quicker in heat or UV etc. so even with good care eventually it may get too brittle to be useful.

Now we have had polymer in mainstream firearm applications for 60 years or so with AR15 handguards/stocks and 40 years or so with handgun frames and given the correct care they seem to be going strong. So for all intents and purposes either should easily last a lifetime of use with proper care and either will fall apart without proper care.

The point is gun folks tend to be traditionalists and tend to want their gear to last generations for many reasons from family heirlooms to knowing an arm will be available in the future if they are no longer easily accessible.

Polymer frames definitely are more durable in the short run as far as putting LOTs of rounds through them.

Also keep in mind that not everybody who shoots or owns firearms sees them as weapons or tools or martial items in any way. Many folks appreciate them as “kinetic or engineering works of art” if you will and let’s face it the NICEST piece of pragmatic polymer doesn’t hold a candle to even a nicely made Bulgarian Makarov as far as “kinetic art” goes.
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Old January 22, 2019, 02:09 PM   #10
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My G23 was made in Jan 1995, don’t see any decay yet and at my age I’m betting the gun will out last me.


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Old January 22, 2019, 02:13 PM   #11
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As a Life member of SNM-Sons of Neanderthal man- I shoot only steel frames. A strictly personal preference.
I myself am a traditionalist as well. I limit myself only to the ones with triggers.
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Old January 22, 2019, 02:16 PM   #12
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One thing I think a lot of people over look is what type of steel is used for the internals and other parts.

I lent my buddies my HK USP when they went on a week long canoe trip in the Everglades. It has the HE finish on the slide and a polymer frame. They didn't apply the HE finish to the sites and I ended up with some rust on the sights.

Kahr uses "Black Diamond" finish on its stainless steel slide and a polymer frame. I sweat all over mine during Hurricane Irma and the internals started rusting to the point the trigger was sticking. I know I am supposed to clean and take care of my guns, but it was a hot and messy down here for a bit.

I carry my Glock 43 the same way I carry my Kahr and have not had a problem. I carried a 26 for a long time before that and also had no issues at all. It is hot and humid down here in South Florida, but the Glock has weathered it without a hiccup.
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Old January 22, 2019, 02:19 PM   #13
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I read a lot of these posts and read posters talk a lot about it being critical for lifetime of use to have all metal frame semi-auto pistols. Some say must be stainless, not aluminum. Some say polymer is junk and steel or stainless is only life time gun to buy.
A lot of folks here have a very poor understanding of materials, chemistry, and engineering.

They equate all polymers with plastic grocery bags or inexpensive toys, when in fact many formulations have properties that may be far in excess of what is needed for a very simple machine like a firearm.

When people speak ignorantly about the longevity of polymers, consider the following:

*There are bakelite (an early form of synthetic polymer) products well over 100 years old now that are still in good functioning condition.

*Acrylic and polycarbonate aircraft windows have lasted well over 70 years, and many are subjected to temperatures and pressure changes far in excess to those affecting most polymer firearms components.

*Expose a polymer component and a steel component to prolonged moisture and tell me which has better longetivity. Even one of cheapest polymers (HDPE - used in milk jugs) will last thousands of years buried. No steel firearms will last that long in such conditions.

Quote:
Polymer is stil sort of an unknown and we know for a fact it is always degrading and does so quicker in heat or UV etc. so even with good care eventually it may get too brittle to be useful.
Except this isn't true.

Various modern polymers have been around for well over 100 years. You are also grouping all polymers together, when in fact, the chemistry and formulations may be very different indeed, with some that are extremely resistant to UV degradation, and some that have better tolerance to heat than some alloys of steel or aluminum. And there is almost no argument that most modern polymers resist degradation due to oxidation from moisture better than steel or aluminum.


Quote:
Also keep in mind that not everybody who shoots or owns firearms sees them as weapons or tools or martial items in any way. Many folks appreciate them as “kinetic or engineering works of art” if you will and let’s face it the NICEST piece of pragmatic polymer doesn’t hold a candle to even a nicely made Bulgarian Makarov as far as “kinetic art” goes.
Agreed that many folks (myself included) appreciate fine machining in older steel firearms (though a Bulgarian Mak wouldn't necessarily be the first example I'd think of). However, that Bulgarian Makarov has notable polymer parts in its construction as well, in the form of its AG-S4 (similar to bakelite) grips.


Quote:
Walther is making hay off the steel framed version of their plastic pistol to serve high volume USPSA competitors.
That is true, but is also ignoring that fact that the extra weight of the steel frame (and its ability to mitigate felt recoil better than the lighter polymer frame) is likely far more of a selling point for this firearm than the perceived longetivity of the frame.



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Last edited by Fishbed77; January 22, 2019 at 02:52 PM.
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Old January 22, 2019, 03:25 PM   #14
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Something all of you seem to be missing-
TMK- there is no handgun with an all-plastic frame. They all use inserts for the rails and trigger group. These inserts are either steel or aluminum.
By law- all handgun frames must have a metal insert containing the serial number, BTW.
Therefore the grip frames are plastic. The actual frames are metal.
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Old January 22, 2019, 03:52 PM   #15
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Ruger P series used all polymer rails. GIGANTIC polymer rails but plastic non the less.
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Old January 22, 2019, 04:06 PM   #16
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Therefore the grip frames are plastic. The actual frames are metal.
There seems to be confusion regarding the roles of the terms "frame" and "slide rail".

The slide rail inserts of a Glock pistol are steel, but there is no doubt that the structural lower frame of the pistol is polymer. The steel inserts exist for their better wear resistance to the pistol slide versus the polymer frame chemistry Glock uses (likewise the steel locking block insert and its wear resistance against the barrel cam), but the structural frame that holds these steel components is polymer, and it too resists numerous forces. The forces acting on these steel rails are relatively small, but are largely transferred straight into the polymer frame.

And, as cslinger mentioned, there are polymer-framed pistols that do not have such steel rail inserts. Likewise, there are also subguns/pistols/carbines like the CZ Skorpion EVO3 that have almost entirely structural polymer receivers where the steel bolt rides directly on a polymer receiver, and little to no wear has been observed on these receivers after many thousands of rounds (reference RobSki's videoed tests).

The metal insert for the serial number on polymer frames serves no structural purpose. It exists based on the flawed understanding of largely ignorant lawmakers that a serial number engraved or stamped in metal is somehow less difficult to obliterate or alter than one in polymer. However we all know metal markings could easily be removed or altered with simple tools like a file, punch, or press, and that accurately engraving or stamping markings in polymer can be quite difficult without the proper tools.

To clarify, I have no dog in this fight. I own pistols with steel alloy, aluminum alloy, and polymer frames, and most of my favorite pistols are those with steel alloy and aluminum alloy frames.

But the bottom line is that each frame material has advantages and disadvantages versus the others, and there is no one "best" material for all applications.


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Old January 22, 2019, 06:15 PM   #17
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Steel frames are great for when you want to reduce recoil with the extra weight, helpful in competitions. They do last longer, look how many 100+ year old 1911's, 1903's, Mauser C96 pistols there are still out there.
While it's true that steel used in firearms can last a long time, there's no way at this point in time to know that it lasts longer than the other materials being discussed. When plastic/polymer/etc. materials used to make firearms have been around for 100+ years, we'll have a better understanding as to how durable and long-lived they are.
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Old January 22, 2019, 07:18 PM   #18
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Well, all metal(steel) certainly are heavier. I shoot about 600-900 rounds thru my ‘plastic’ guns and have for about 2 years...I suspect my widow will be giving them to my kids in 15-20 years and they will probably be just fine..maybe dirty as I don’t obsess about cleaning them... no failures...........ever.
Glock 42(2), Glock 19 gen 4, Glock 17 gen 4...

Lots of personal opinions and ‘in my day’ stuff with regards to not only ‘gotta be metal’ crowd but also, ‘gotta be a 1911’, along with ‘gotta be a .45’ crowd...nostalgia is a powerful thing. ‘Good old days’....type stuff.
Imho of course.
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Old January 22, 2019, 09:36 PM   #19
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Which would you rather be pistol whipped by: An empty Glock 17 or a S&W Model 29?
Maybe that provides an answer to the steel vs plastic for some.
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Old January 22, 2019, 10:03 PM   #20
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I have more plastic hand guns then steel. I have been wanting steel instead of plastic. Finding steel pistols does not seem to be that easy anymore. I do have a Glock that I bought in the 90's that is in great shape. I know plastic will out last me and my kids but I do miss steel.
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Old January 22, 2019, 10:45 PM   #21
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Why the fuss over all metal frames?
Because some people refuse to accept change to modern technology.
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Old January 22, 2019, 11:53 PM   #22
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There are Glocks out there with in excess of 300,000+ documented rounds through them. Most any of them could probably do the same, but I'm not aware of anyone doing it and documenting it with other plastic framed pistols.

I'm aware of some steel framed pistols with 100,000+ rounds. There may be some with more rounds through them,but if anyone has done it and reported so I've not seen it. The expected life span of aluminum alloy framed pistol is in the 35,000 round range.

I've not seen a cracked plastic or steel frame from use. Some from over charges, or abuse, but not use. I've seen some aluminum alloy frames crack from normal use.

Plastic isn't replacing any of the classic pistol designs made from steel. But is a much better option than the lighter weight aluminum alloy guns. Those are the designs fading away. Plastic is not only cheaper and lighter than aluminum, but is proving to be far more durable.
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Old January 23, 2019, 12:04 AM   #23
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Some of us prefer the feel of a steel pistol, or an all-metal design. There are numerous pistols of that make that are considered "classics", and the casual (or serious) collector can enjoy the gun as a piece of craft, as well as a functional tool.

Regarding long-term durability, we just don't know when it comes to polymers yet. There are centuries of learning that aide in maintaining steel, and it seems like a fair bit can transfer over to aluminum... and doesn't for polymers.
Someone mentioned bakelite- that stuff is getting VERY brittle now. That's not a huge endorsement.

Sometimes we acquire things to keep, enjoy, and pass down. I'm sure a lot of us have Dad's (or uncle Joe's, Grandpa's etc) firearm, and something like that is more than just "a shooter".

Kinda irritating that firearm owners bicker and taunt each other over things like this, when there are plenty of folks around who want to take them away from all of us.
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Old January 23, 2019, 03:09 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by dgludwig View Post
While it's true that steel used in firearms can last a long time, there's no way at this point in time to know that it lasts longer than the other materials being discussed. When plastic/polymer/etc. materials used to make firearms have been around for 100+ years, we'll have a better understanding as to how durable and long-lived they are.
True, so my edit will be lasts longer under heavy use than polymer and Glocks have been seen to go hundreds of thousands of rounds. So, enough to be worth the added weight and price?

As one P. Harrell on youtube would say, "You be the judge."
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Old January 23, 2019, 06:24 AM   #25
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In my heart-of-hearts, I'm a wood and steel kind of guy. Give me a parkerized 1911 to shoot and I'm about as happy as I can be. With that said, I got my first polymer pistol ~5.5 years ago, and I'm not seeing much of a downside. My G19 was my EDC for most of that time, and she's got about 2K rounds through her. I haven't detected any wear on the polymer parts yet, and the only wear I've found on the metal ones are cosmetic . . . . finish rubbing off in my holster. At my age and budget, I'm never going to put 300k through her. Or through my 1911. Barring some catastrophe, both will outlive me.
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