Polymer vs steel


July 6, 2003, 02:05 AM
For those people who use polymer vs. steel frames. What is your experience/opinion concerning durability of the polymer framed guns. Do they hold up as well as steel...are they more prone to problems???


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Tom B
July 6, 2003, 03:35 AM
Well for all the documented endurance testing of handguns that I have found poly wins. I am sure the 1911 crowd will come back with some sort of explanation for this as they can be sore losers! :neener:

Marko Kloos
July 6, 2003, 06:49 AM
Now, now...let's keep the "loser" talk low. The man asked a rational question; let's not start another "My choice is better than yours" flame fest.

On the subject: polymer frames have different properties than steel frames, some of which are more desirable for a carry gun. Steel frames have other advantages, though. It all depends on what you are looking for in a gun. "Better" is a tricky term: better for what?

In general, polymer frames are much lighter, totally resistant to corrosion, and cheaper to manufacture than steel frames. Polymer frames also have a recoil-mitigating function in some guns, since the poly frames flex under recoil and absorb some of the recoil energy. Polymer is also unaffected by temperature transitions and is generally more pleasant to carry next to your skin in extreme high or low temperatures.

Steel frames have more tensile strength, can be refinished and modified easier than polymer frames, and are generally more adaptable to a user's hands since most steel-framed guns offer replaceable grip panels. Steel guns usually weigh more than polymer pistols, which can be an asset if you want to keep the recoil low. Lastly, steel frames have proven their durability for hundreds of years now, while polymer is a newcomer and has yet to prove its long-term durability. The oldest polymer frames on the market are the first-generation Glocks imported in the mid-1980s. so there are some polymer guns out there that have seen almost twenty years of use, but they are no beauty queens at that age and usually have had more than one factory rebuild.

Steel and polymer both have their place in handgun design, because they offer different properties. Neither is "better" than the other any more than a graphite golf club is "better" than a steel one. Each comes with advantages and trade-offs, since "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch".

rick newland
July 6, 2003, 03:21 PM
Plastic might win in the short term shoot it alot durability contest. In the long run steel will win. I have a first generation Glock 17 I bought in 87, it has been worn and shot quite a bit. The frame is worn and needs to be replaced. On my 1976 Colt 1911 which has been worn and shot about the same only thing I have to do is have reblued every few years. Buy a Glock and a Colt and spend lot's of time presenting from the holster and you will get an idea why steel is better for the long haul.

July 6, 2003, 03:40 PM
lendringser makes good points, well said.

July 6, 2003, 03:47 PM
I really like quality poly frames. They seem to be very durable. I would rank them at least equal to steel. Now, that said, I still like steel frames as well. But I have confidence in polymer ;)

Nero Steptoe
July 6, 2003, 04:27 PM
Glocks weren't the first pistols with polymer frames; otherwise, lots of great information.

Old Pa
July 6, 2003, 04:45 PM
I finally jumped into poly with a Kahr PM9; what a great place to start! Before that, it took me a while to get into forged aluminum alloy, but my Kimber CDPs and Z99s are running strong.

Marko Kloos
July 6, 2003, 05:19 PM
Glocks weren't the first pistols with polymer frames; otherwise, lots of great information.

You're right...the first polymer-framed pistol was the H&K VP70Z, although the H&K P9S had a polymer trigger guard. I was referring to the first polymer guns available commercially in any significant numbers in this country, and that would have to be the Glocks. :)

July 6, 2003, 05:20 PM
"Boy, dontcha know? All these here polymer frames are gonna be adapted for the cockroach claw one day. 'Dey'z institutionalized.

Navy joe
July 6, 2003, 09:34 PM
Hmm, I dunno. I have an extremely reliable 1911 with a steel frame and an extremely reliable G17 genII with a plastic* frame. Both have had the snot shot out of them with the edge going to the 1911 I figger. I'd like to believe the drastic plastic will hold up just fine, but I don't know yet. Why not you say? Well, the 1911 was churned out in 1945 and is still stomping on, so check with me in about 2050 and see if I still have a really ugly G17. It is too soon to know, right now I got no beef with plastic.

*Polymer is hereby designated to be any plastic end item retailing for more than 10 USD. -Gaston

July 7, 2003, 12:57 AM
From observations with my own polymer pistols & steel framed ones, I find that like steel frames, polymers tend to have their "wear" points, no surprise. For a carry piece, I like the polymer frames. For bullseye work, I favor the steel.

July 7, 2003, 08:47 AM
Just pick up a Ruger P 95. Now,Thats a darn good poly frame handgun.

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