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Old March 3, 2008, 08:28 PM   #1
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Stainless steel vs. Carbon steel

Do stainless steel barrels foul more than carbon steel? I am debating myself on which barrel to get.

Thanks for your replies.
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Old March 3, 2008, 09:01 PM   #2
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No Expert but this is my experience! S.S. is better under weather threat! Will not corrode. Is softer and will not last as long under constant firing! Better under normal bad conditions, better under bad ammo! But a carbon barrel or rifle is better in the long run if you can keep it from rust, With good care and TLC it will last longer!

They both have there place. I have both. I put the S.S. away to bed with out cleaning more then I would the Carbon.
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Old March 3, 2008, 09:59 PM   #3
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I disagree. From what I have read and people I have talked to, it seems that the two (given equal manufacturing quality) are very nearly equal. The Stainless may be better as far as barrel life, but that is not definate. Hardness or softness should not matter much (at least as far as barrel steels differ in hardness) as far as longevity is concerned. What does matter is heat and corrosion resistance. This is what kills a barrel, the heat and corrosion of the firing eroding the rifling in the throat of a barrel. The rifling in the bore does not erode noticably, as many people think, it is the throat that is the key. And even then, it is only a noticable reduction in accuracy, it doesn't mean all the rifling will fail and your shots will start keyholing. Again, this is not from personal experience, but from much reading and researching. Correct me if I'm wrong.
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Old March 4, 2008, 12:56 AM   #4
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From my experience, stainless does seem to foul less than a chrome-moly steel barrel, but not to a degree that you would use it as a tool for selection. On the other hand, stainless does not transfer heat as well as a chrome-moly barrel, and will take longer to cool after being heated, in my experience. Look at what match shooters shoot: it's about a 50/50 mix on the firing line.
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Old March 4, 2008, 10:36 AM   #5
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Look at what match shooters shoot: it's about a 50/50 mix on the firing line

That's about right. The actual steel lot has more to do with barrel life than chrome moly versus stainless. That is given the same cartridge.

Regardless of material, barrel life with 243's, 6mm, 6.5 mm's is around 2000 rounds. A 308 barrel will be around 5000 rounds.

Barrels are very soft anyway, gun drilling and rifling would be just about impossible on hard steel.

Some folks like blued barrels and some like shiney barrels. The choices are mostly based on preferences and prices.

For some reason stainless barrels seem to clean up quicker than chrome moly, but that is based on patch appearance. Patch appearance does not mean that the throat or the lands actually clean up sooner. I still JB bore paste every 300 rounds or so, chrome moly or stainless.
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Old March 4, 2008, 11:51 AM   #6
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It's my understanding, that fouling, is not actually based on barrel material ( I suppose if it were teflon maybe ), my understanding is it's more dependant on the rifling twist rate, & both the powder & quantity of powder burned in the cartridge, & the bullets materials, velocity out of the barrel, & barrel tempurature...

obviously the "look' of a bore, between carbon steel, stainless steel, & a chrome lined bore, will look differently, but all materials should be sufficiently harder than the bullets materials, & in general, hard enough to not cause any more scrubbing of bullet material from one barrel material to an other, with all other things being equal...
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Old March 4, 2008, 02:58 PM   #7
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"Stainless Steel" is actually a chrome alloy with a lot of nickel and other metals. It can be softer than a carbon steel, but "carbon steel" can mean anywhere from 2% carbon to 8% carbon. The addition of chromium, vanadium, sulpher and other metals will drastically change the hardness, ductility, and strength of steel.

Common "stainless steel" is in the 300 series, ie. 304, 304L(leaded),347 etc. It is a fairly soft metal by rockwell standards. About 30-40 on the C scale. 4130 steel is about 40, but can be hardened to 50-55. 1018 steel is softer and cannot be hardened very well. But it is stronger than 300 series stainless. High speed steel has a lot of carbon and can be hardened to almost diamond hardness. But it can be brittle. It also has the highest strength factor of any metal.

Stainless is corrosion resistant and doesn't rust much. It also transfers heat slower and retains its strength at higher temperatures. 400 series stainless has iron in it and can rust, but it can also be hardened by a precipitation process.

Stainless has only one advantage over carbon steel in guns. It doesn't rust.

Titanium is strong and light, but it is highly susceptible to reaction to other metals. You cut titanium with high speed steel. It will react to silver and cadmium and lose its strength just being in contact with either of these metals. All in all, the best metal for high pressure applications is carbon steel.
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Old March 4, 2008, 08:36 PM   #8
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Thanks to all for the replies and helpful info. All of you gentlemen are scholars.
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Old March 5, 2008, 01:06 PM   #9
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"Match shooters" can sometimes afford to, and do, replace their barrels often.

Carbon steel is generally harder than stainless and a carbon steel barrel will retain accuracy longer, especially in larger calibers. You probably won't live long enough to notice unless you shoot an awful lot.

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Old June 12, 2010, 03:23 PM   #10
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This is for the Kimber basher,I have five Kimbers and another on order,and have had zero problems with all of them.I believe you can get a lemon in anything,but it would be rare to get two in a row. Perhaps it was not the Kimbers that was the problem.
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Old June 12, 2010, 05:26 PM   #11
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Early stainless guns, especially revolvers, had soft SS and tended to wear and gall on moving pressure points. A bad reputation for SS was born. Manufacturers, especially Ruger, quickly caught on to the problem and began using harder/better SS metals. IMHO a quality SS revolver, or any gun, will outlast carbon steel. But since most guns can last centuries with minimal care, all we can do is argue about it.
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