Polymers used in modern guns


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akadave
April 26, 2010, 08:31 PM
I have all manner of firearms in my "accumulation". Im not prejudiced towards one material or other, every firearm has its virtures.

What I am wondering is this: Passing on a cherished firearm from family member to family member has been a practice done for well over a century. That said, what will be the state of say a Glock, 70 years from now when a great great grandchild takes it out of the case and contemplates fireing it? Will the plastic be too brittle and render the pistol unsafe? I know that these polymers have the half life of Plutonium but that doesnt mean they will be structurally sound.

What are the som thoughts about this?

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highorder
April 26, 2010, 08:39 PM
It seems to me that plastics that avoid UV exposure and oxygen seem to last much longer.

Perhaps a Glock in it's tupperware might last indefinitely.

gofastman
April 26, 2010, 09:08 PM
^ yep, keep it away from ozone and UV and I dont see why it wouldnt last near forever

Marshall
April 26, 2010, 10:05 PM
We're only good until 2012 anyway. :p

RyanM
April 26, 2010, 11:11 PM
IIRC, the polymer used for Glocks contains carbon blacking or something, that gives it a pretty good amount of protection against UV.

Dnaltrop
April 27, 2010, 12:28 AM
Really, REALLY long term...

Museums across the country are struggling to preserve their collections of modern art made from plastics, and historical artifacts of the same Ilk.

The agents that bind the solid particles of the plastics, eventually sweat out, and leave the main structure to crumble.

http://www.getty.edu/conservation/science/plastics/


I would really love to know which, if any gun materials would fall under these categories, but it's probably better to enjoy your Plastic gun today, and buy your grandkids new plastic when you get the chance.

The Gun manufacturers won't mind one bit if you buy a few more.

Irate Iguana
April 27, 2010, 03:45 AM
Not all polymers are created equal. There is a huge difference between simple PVC and a chunk of PTFE. Get into co-polymers and you are looking at even more diversity. Without knowing the exact recipe used for the creation of the polymer guns it is going to be virtually impossible to say anything constructive about the structural integrity of a gun.

Ragnar Danneskjold
April 27, 2010, 04:57 AM
Iguana said it. Without knowing exactly how they are made, something that is probably kept secret, there is really no way of knowing.

That being said, I'll take the lighter weight of a polymer pistol on my hip every day now, over the distant fear it might become brittle after I'm dead.

easyg
April 27, 2010, 11:10 AM
I don't know the answer to the question posed.

But my mother still has toy Lego parts from my childhood that are nearly 40 years old.
And they look and function as if they were brand new.

And I have some pocket knives with plastic scales that are over 50 years old.
They also look brand new minus a small scratch or two.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about it much.
Besides, the grandkids would probably just pawn the guns anyway so they could afford the latest "I-Thing".

Manco
April 27, 2010, 03:33 PM
One hobby or field of interest that has to deal with this issue all the time is pen collecting, of which I have some knowledge. To give an example, some of the oldest surviving fountain pens are made of hard rubber, which definitely deteriorates over time, but even so there are rare examples that are in near-pristine condition while most others have become cracked or warped over the years. Celluloid became popular as structural material a bit later, and is likewise prone to aging and shrinkage as chemicals leached out and evaporated over time, although some such pens have survived more than eight decades with few signs of aging. There are also examples such as the Parker "51" Aerometric that appear to be virtually ageless. I have one that was given to me by my grandfather, and although it shows some wear from literally decades of use, the acrylic it is made of shows no sign of deterioration whatsoever, and its original vinyl ink sack is still functional as well. In fact, I keep it inked up and use it on occasion. Similar pens made later for cheaper have not fared so well--most were made of polystyrene and were prone to cracking after 20 or 30 years. It's not necessarily the chemicals used, either, but what chemicals were used together and the quality of the manufacturing process (annealing and other aspects--not all acrylics are equal, either).

So how long will the polymers used in guns last? Only time will tell, but my point is that few generalizations can be made, and that there may be some examples, both individual and of a whole class, that survive just as long as any gun made of metal.

MisterMike
April 27, 2010, 03:42 PM
My understanding is that the polymers used in handguns differ more than a wee bit from that used in $7.95 plastic lawn chairs. The chemical formulations and methods of manufacture are vastly different. In addition, modern materials testing can replicate decades of wear and environmental degradation in a very short span of time. My guess is that many of today's polymer weapons will be around a few hundred years from now (assuming the human race survives) and will still look virtually new.

RyanM
April 27, 2010, 05:05 PM
Hm, one way to tell just how much your Glock may be outgassing, see if it smells at all. Most plastics have a definite plasticy smell, due to the outgassing. Celluloid has a very distinct odor. I'm fairly sure that PVC pipes can't be legally used for hot water lines, because it leeches toxic chemicals at high-ish temperatures. But the Nylon 6 derivative that Glock uses is completely odorless.

Vonderek
April 27, 2010, 05:25 PM
I'm sure with the millions of Glocks out there some enterprising companies in the year 2080 will be more than happy to build replacement frames out of steel or whatever other material they will be using then for your grandkids to mount your slide assembly to should polymer degradation prove to be an issue then.

JTH
April 27, 2010, 05:54 PM
Will we still be here(man that is), also will the U.S. still be here in 2080 as we know it today?

The Lone Haranguer
April 27, 2010, 06:53 PM
If left out in the elements for many years, metal will corrode away, too.

KodiakBeer
April 27, 2010, 06:59 PM
Plastic isn't going to last through the generations. You can stick your Glock in a UV-proof glass case and hang it on the wall, but if your grand-kid shoots it 100 years from now, it's going to fall apart.

Plastic guns are purely functional and utilitarian items - that may even be part of the appeal for some people!

I have an 1896 Webley MKII revolver and I shoot it with my son. It'll be his some day and he'll shoot it with his kids. The same goes for a Remington UMC 1911, built in 1917 which is also a nice shooter.
My plastic P22? I'll be happy if it still shoots ten years from now.

wanderinwalker
April 27, 2010, 07:30 PM
I have an 1896 Webley MKII revolver and I shoot it with my son. It'll be his some day and he'll shoot it with his kids. The same goes for a Remington UMC 1911, built in 1917 which is also a nice shooter.
My plastic P22? I'll be happy if it still shoots ten years from now.

And with the overall construction of the P-22, I would be happy too if it lasted 10 years of regular use. :o

But realistically, there are plenty of 15-20 year old Glocks out there that are still good to use. Even my own personal G-17 is 8-9 years old and I fully expect it to be shooting for another 10+. And I can imagine the S&W M&Ps, Rugers and H&Ks are at least as chemically advanced.

Edited: Why don't we have these discussions about plastic stocked hunting and military rifles?

highorder
April 27, 2010, 07:44 PM
You can stick your Glock in a UV-proof glass case and hang it on the wall, but if your grand-kid shoots it 100 years from now, it's going to fall apart.

I'll take that bet. In 100 years, with proper storage, a Glock will look and shoot as new.

Rule3
April 27, 2010, 07:59 PM
If you scroll down to the bottom of this thread Post #14. I linked a PDF from Dupont. ( The software will not let me link it twice on the forum?) Dupont sent it to me as I was making my own formulation of synthetic gun scrubber, which I ended up with 75% Coleman Fluid and 25% 91% Isopropyl alcohol.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=504008

Anyway it is for Zytel which is derived from the original Nylon 66. It is what Kel Tecs and other guns are made of.

The PDF has more info probably than anyone wants other than Rocket Scientists and Organic Chemists.

Go to around page 80 and there is the chemical resistance and all kinds of stress tests, reaction to heat cold etc.

The stuff is amazing and probably will hold up longer than any metals. It will be here long after we are all gone.

Manco
April 27, 2010, 07:59 PM
My understanding is that the polymers used in handguns differ more than a wee bit from that used in $7.95 plastic lawn chairs. The chemical formulations and methods of manufacture are vastly different. In addition, modern materials testing can replicate decades of wear and environmental degradation in a very short span of time. My guess is that many of today's polymer weapons will be around a few hundred years from now (assuming the human race survives) and will still look virtually new.

Well, strength and longevity (in terms of decades or even centuries) don't always go hand-in-hand, and even cost isn't always a factor. Speaking of plastic lawn chairs, I've had some practically crumble after a year, and others I bought for cheap 20 years ago that are still flexible and strong to this day. In fact, I'm sitting on one right now in my home office as I'm typing this (seriously). I'm no featherweight at ~220 lbs and the goofy way I sit or move or whatever tends to mangle typical office chairs within a couple of years, but not this humble lawn chair I bought for like $5 in the late 1980s--it has lasted more than a decade in its adapted role thus far and shows no sign of giving out yet.

That said, the plastics (or polymers if you prefer) used in pistols that I've seen all appear to be pretty stable, not giving off odors and things like that. Some of them appear to be composites of plastic and glass, while others seem to use one type of polymer as a matrix and another type with long chains as reinforcement, all mixed together for ease of manufacture (also allows you to melt and re-form them). While accelerated aging can't tell us everything that real aging will do, I would guess that most polymer-frame guns will last a very long time (in usable form).

easyg
April 27, 2010, 08:27 PM
.....but if your grand-kid shoots it 100 years from now, it's going to fall apart.
I think you're wrong.

I have a Remington Nylon 66 rifle, bought some time in the 1960's, and it works just fine.
It's already over 40 years old and it shows no brittleness or softness or any other signs of failing.

aka108
April 28, 2010, 08:30 AM
I like steel. Period.

gofastman
April 28, 2010, 11:16 AM
^ Ill take plastics/ composites anyday

nyrifleman
April 28, 2010, 04:00 PM
I'm sure with the millions of Glocks out there some enterprising companies in the year 2080 will be more than happy to build replacement frames out of steel or whatever other material they will be using then for your grandkids to mount your slide assembly to should polymer degradation prove to be an issue then.

You mean enterprising companies like
http://www.robarguns.com/axframes.html
and
http://www.ccfraceframes.com/home.php
? :D:neener:

CWL
April 28, 2010, 05:34 PM
But realistically, there are plenty of 15-20 year old Glocks out there that are still good to use.

Mine resembles that remark!

What about the plastic furniture on Vietnam aged M16s still in service?

Realistically, why sweat this? You'll be long-gone and Glocks are manufactured in such quantities that it'll never be a collectible like original Colt SAAs or a Bren-Ten. If it remains, it'll just be a curio from a byegone age with no great value.

If you want value over the long run, you should invest in rare postage stamps.

nonseven
April 28, 2010, 09:03 PM
Heck, you've got bits of the dead sea scrolls surviving 1800 years. That's parchment. The Nylon 6 of your Glock, protected from temperature extremes, water, and UV, will be fine to take to the range in the next millennium.

Gunz
April 28, 2010, 10:24 PM
Firearm polymer usually incorporates some kind of fillers like reinforced fiberglass for the composite matrix to make them stronger. I am certain all the big name brands have their formulations.

I think natural decomposition of plastics (petroleum-based polymers commonly) is something that is very slow. UV and other spectrum of natural radiation will need to be exposed to that polymer frame for a looooonng time to see breakdown.

The lowly polypropylene soda caps, the polyethylene terepthalate soda/water bottles, are on the environmentalist hate-list for not being bio-degradable, and will last in landfills for hundreds of years to come. Those low-end polymers are not as advanced as the composite polymers in handguns.

Chemical attacks from harsh acids or alkalines are more of a concern than UV breakdown.

Polymer guns are really not on the history-plan for being family heirlooms, I guess. About 100 years into the future, we may have laser guns. :D

ForumSurfer
April 29, 2010, 04:30 PM
I'll take that bet. In 100 years, with proper storage, a Glock will look and shoot as new.

I've seen pre war 1911's that shot as new after decades of use and abuse. I don't want to hand down a safe queen to my kids. All of the nicer polymer guns are great, but I don't see any of them as being capable of eliciting an emotional response and being worthy to pass on. The exception would be the few commemorative Glocks.

I hope my Glock shoots as new (with a few key parts replaced) 50+ years from now. I don't think it will. There's so much flex built into the chassis, it just seems to me it won't last forever. But I'm no polymer engineer, so I readily admit I could be wrong. There's enough flex built into my brand new g17 that when I slam an empty mag home very hard with the slide locked, it closes automatically. A good friend in law enforcement showed me that. It's kinda handy when reloading. It only works with a round in the mag, naturally. You can also do it with no mag inserted, but be prepared for the slight pain from banging those sharp magwell corners hard enough to cause the slide to slam home.

That being said, I have bought two 1911's for the sole purpose of handing them down. I'll hand down the Glock one day if it still works and I haven't shot the wheels off of it!

On another note...I guess the same accusations could be made about MIM parts found on most steel/alloy guns these days, like my Kimber. It shoots just as well as non MIM and goes bang every time, but will it in 75 years? Or will it break all those MIM parts on the first hot hand load ran through it?

WarMachine
April 29, 2010, 08:18 PM
Plastic isn't going to last through the generations. You can stick your Glock in a UV-proof glass case and hang it on the wall, but if your grand-kid shoots it 100 years from now, it's going to fall apart.

Plastic guns are purely functional and utilitarian items - that may even be part of the appeal for some people!

Do you have anything even approaching a factual basis for such a claim? Anything at all?

LoneCoon
April 29, 2010, 08:50 PM
Firearm polymer usually incorporates some kind of fillers like reinforced fiberglass for the composite matrix to make them stronger. I am certain all the big name brands have their formulations.

I think natural decomposition of plastics (petroleum-based polymers commonly) is something that is very slow. UV and other spectrum of natural radiation will need to be exposed to that polymer frame for a looooonng time to see breakdown.

The lowly polypropylene soda caps, the polyethylene terepthalate soda/water bottles, are on the environmentalist hate-list for not being bio-degradable, and will last in landfills for hundreds of years to come. Those low-end polymers are not as advanced as the composite polymers in handguns.

Chemical attacks from harsh acids or alkalines are more of a concern than UV breakdown.

Polymer guns are really not on the history-plan for being family heirlooms, I guess. About 100 years into the future, we may have laser guns. :D
I can see the posts now.

"What wattage for deer?"

"Psh, those plastic Sig-Glock lasers aren't worth anything! Gimme an old fashion steel framed Smith and Colt any day over that Tupperware!"

"Where can I get high cap clips for my Jen-Point 40watt??"

Manco
April 29, 2010, 10:07 PM
All of the nicer polymer guns are great, but I don't see any of them as being capable of eliciting an emotional response and being worthy to pass on.

Oddly enough, none of the all-metal guns I've shot elicited an emotional response sufficient to make me choose them over a polymer gun. I can't imagine why they would, either, as metal is just a material like plastic, and I think that plastic works very well for frames.

Back to longevity, don't many old metal-framed guns use some kind of resin or hard rubber in their grips? Obviously the material can be replaced when necessary or desired, but are there any original examples that have survived in good shape? It seems that a plurality of antique SAAs had hard rubber grips, for example, some of which appear to be original or at least very old, but are still usable. The modern engineering plastics used in polymer frames today are a lot tougher and should last at least as long, I would think. Wimpy plastics often give out within two or three decades, but many Glocks that old are still going strong, and the "Zytel" used in many other pistols, such as the M&P, is very similar (DuPont knows a thing or two about nylon by now).

delta53
April 30, 2010, 11:44 AM
Plastic for me, The last few I bought were plastic and I can't warm up to them next ones will be steel.

Omaha-BeenGlockin
April 30, 2010, 12:02 PM
Even a Twinkie will last 100 years--right?? lol

akadave
May 3, 2010, 12:41 PM
Of course we are talking about primarily utilitarian items. You are not likely to see a Glock or other polymer based pistol undergo engraving or anything decorative. Some firearms lend themselves to being heirlooms. I dont think that todays "purely business" firearms fit this category. It seems a trend that more and more manufacturers are turning to polymers in their guns. Soon, all metal guns will be a thing of the past. So that 1906 MDL 1894 rifle that I regularly shoot might be more of a rarity in the not so distant future.

easyg
May 3, 2010, 02:06 PM
Of course we are talking about primarily utilitarian items. You are not likely to see a Glock or other polymer based pistol undergo engraving or anything decorative. Some firearms lend themselves to being heirlooms. I dont think that todays "purely business" firearms fit this category.
When it comes to heirlooms, I think the history behind the object really determines if it deserves heirloom status.

There's more to it than just being pretty or just being durable.
There has to be a story behind it.

For example....

An elderly mother: "Here, you father wanted you to have this, and now that you're twenty-one, it's yours."

Her son: "What is it?"

Mother: "Well open it and see."

Son: "It's a gun. Dad's old Glock." a bit deflated.

Mother: "Yep. That's the pistol that saved your father's life one night. Sit down and I'll tell you all about it....."




Not this...

An elderly mother: "Here, your father wanted you to have this, and now that you're twenty-one, it's yours."

Her son: "What is it?"

Mother: "Well open it and see."

Son: "Oh, it's that pretty Colt 1911 that Dad bought at that gun show in Nashville.
You know, he never let anyone shoot it and he kept it locked up in the display case. Heck, I don't think he ever even fired the thing....
He said it was a collector's item and that firing it would bring down its value.
But it sure is pretty....look it has engraving on it...."

Ragnar Danneskjold
May 3, 2010, 03:50 PM
I'd say easyg makes a great point. I'd much rather have a Glock that has some legitimate history behind it than some "pretty" engraved pistol that is just there to look nice. Not to mention I haven't seen an engraved gun yet that I actually thought looked nice.

JohnBT
May 3, 2010, 04:29 PM
Eye of the beholder, etc.

ilikepancakes
May 3, 2010, 06:31 PM
Polymer guns can be engraved if you want, it just isn't done as often. Engraving has nothing to do with heirloomability. Story doesn't as much either. Just has to remind you of who gave it to you when you hold it.

Manco
May 3, 2010, 11:48 PM
While I have a collector's mentality regarding certain things and like to preserve pristine examples of them, I have to admit that to the extent that I can form attachments to inanimate objects, ultimately I treasure items that are well-used, whether by myself or others, the most. In the latter case, an item may be special because it belonged to somebody I care for, or because it has an interesting provenance or story. And in all cases, particularly the former since I have a choice, I prefer the most archetypal, common version rather than special commemorative editions, for example, or items that are otherwise customized or unusual; for some reason this makes items feel more "genuine" to me. Whether an item is made of metal or plastic is not relevant to me as long as it serves its purpose well, and I don't care for fancy embellishments such as engraving, as beautiful as it can be, or expensive finishes (unless they are standard and common for the type of item). My preferences aside, in my view an heirloom is what something is, where it was, and what it did, not what it's made of.

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