Can irregularities in a bullet jacket harm a rifle barrel?


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FireInCairo
March 13, 2013, 08:37 PM
I bought some Russian steel cased ammo in a local transaction last week. I didn't inspect the rounds, as I assumed they were typical off the shelf stock. When I got them home, I opened up a package and noticed something odd.

They're .223 full metal jacket rounds. On almost half of the rounds there were inconsistencies and irregularities around the area where the bullet is placed in the casing.

So if you look at a bullet before it's put into a case, it has that little ribbed area that goes just inside the casing. Parts of the copper jacketing on some of the bullets flaked back and were sticking outside of the case inversely, while the rest of the jacketing was snug inside the case. The bullets are solidly in the case, but about a third to a half of all the rounds had these irregularities.

I took a small flathead screwdriver and went through the rounds an scraped off the little flakes of the jacketing off, and they came off easily enough. But, some of them still have the tiniest bits of jacketing still kinda wedged back out of the casing. Just the tiniest bit.

Could these rounds damage a M&P 15 sport's barrel bore? I suppose at the very least it may cause very poor marksmanship.

I haven't shot any of this stuff through the gun, and I haven't contacted the seller again. I didn't take pictures, either, sorry. I hope I described it well enough that perhaps someone has seen these kinds of irregularities and will know what I mean.

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NeuseRvrRat
March 13, 2013, 08:39 PM
probably not

post some pictures

SilentScream
March 13, 2013, 08:47 PM
The ribbed area you speak of sounds like you're describing the cannelure, as for the flecks of jacket material; other than some slight accuracy issues it won't damage your bore. Remember your barrel is hardened ordnance steel; the bullet jacket is soft copper.

303tom
March 13, 2013, 08:52 PM
No..............

NeuseRvrRat
March 13, 2013, 09:13 PM
Remember your barrel is hardened ordnance steel; the bullet jacket is soft copper.

Remember, a lot of Russian ammo has copper-washed steel jackets.

jerkface11
March 13, 2013, 09:18 PM
Remember, a lot of Russian ammo has copper-washed steel jackets.

Steel jackets that are far softer than the steel used for a barrel.

Steel Horse Rider
March 13, 2013, 09:26 PM
The reference of "copper washed steel jackets" I believe is to the casing, not the bullet.

briansmithwins
March 13, 2013, 09:31 PM
The reference of "copper washed steel jackets" I believe is to the casing, not the bullet.

Actually, probably not. There have been a lot of steel jacketed, gilding metal plated bullets produced. The cost savings per bullet isn't that much but when you're cranking out a billion rounds a year that $0.001 per piece savings adds up.

BSW

dfariswheel
March 13, 2013, 10:12 PM
Much if not most Russian ammo is made with a mild steel jacket with a thin copper plated finish to prevent rusting, and to help lubricate the round during the feed cycle.

If you file or even scrape the copper "jacket" you'll find it's a very thin plating of copper over steel.

"Copper washed steel jackets" very much does not refer to the cases, since most Russian cases are either coated with lacquer, or these days, a polymer coating.
In any case, no one refers to a case coating of any kind as a "jacket", steel or otherwise.

Trent
March 14, 2013, 10:13 AM
Do the bullets (projectiles) stick to a magnet?

If so it's probably a copper washed steel jacket, as mentioned above.

Shooting steel through steel can lead to some wear & tear if you don't have a chrome-lined barrel. Chrome lined bores are much harder and wear resistant than normal barrel steel.

desidog
March 14, 2013, 10:39 AM
The cost savings per bullet isn't that much but when you're cranking out a billion rounds a year that $0.001 per piece savings adds up.

...and even more in countries that don't have much in the way of copper resources.

jerkface11
March 14, 2013, 10:41 AM
Shooting steel through steel can lead to some wear & tear if you don't have a chrome-lined barrel. Chrome lined bores are much harder and wear resistant than normal barrel steel.

Is that why mosin nagants don't have chrome lined barrels?

taliv
March 14, 2013, 11:34 AM
Is that why mosin nagants don't have chrome lined barrels?

mosin nagants are bolt guns with small magazines and large bores. their max rate of fire would not be considered even a moderately harsh schedule. and the expectation of accuracy when they were made was similarly not particularly aggressive.

JustinJ
March 14, 2013, 04:51 PM
I don't recall where i saw it but a test was conducted of barrel life when copper washed steel bullets were used vs traditional copper jacketed lead bullets. With the latter the barrel lasted nearly twice as long.

Trent
March 14, 2013, 05:51 PM
Yeah, it's a fact that normal steel barrels wear more quickly when shooting steel projectiles.

Chrome has a very high rockwell hardness, and can stand up to it better. But it's certainly not immune.

The higher the rate of fire, the hotter the metal in the throat gets, the easier it is for the steel bullet to wear the lands down. So rate of fire plays in. Rapid fire 30 of them out of a semi-auto with a non-chrome lined barrel and I guarantee you're doing at least SOME damage to the throat. Throat erosion is what will kill the barrel's accuracy potential in the end.

I wouldn't be worried, whatsoever, if I was going to shoot a few dozen, or even a hundred or two, slow fire. A chrome lined barrel should be good for 10-20k, or more.

I would NOT shoot any - whatsoever - out of my match grade barrels, regardless of the rate of fire.

Ash
March 14, 2013, 06:41 PM
Muzzle wear kills worse than throat erosion.

Swampman
March 14, 2013, 07:11 PM
Whether the flecks of material are gilding metal or steel, I can't imagine that ironing them into your bore under 55,000 PSI at 3200 fps is going to do anything good for your barrel. Here's the question that I'd really like to have answered, assuming that some of the loose material IS ferrous, what the heck would you use to remove steel fouling from a steel bore? Table salt and water?

Here's a link to a torture test comparing the wear imparted by gilding metal vs copper washed steel jackets under HEAVY use.

http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/

briansmithwins
March 14, 2013, 07:16 PM
The hardchrome was almost certainly as protection from corrosive primer residue as well as increased resistance to wear from full auto fire.

Rifles shoot out their throats. The only way to stop that damage is not to shoot the rifle. OTOH, compared to the white hot plasma and erosive effects of burning powder, there isn't much the rifleman is going to do that would increase that wear rate.

BSW

FireInCairo
March 14, 2013, 07:56 PM
Whether the flecks of material are gilding metal or steel, I can't imagine that ironing them into your bore under 55,000 PSI at 3200 fps is going to do anything good for your barrel. Here's the question that I'd really like to have answered, assuming that some of the loose material IS ferrous, what the heck would you use to remove steel fouling from a steel bore? Table salt and water?

Here's a link to a torture test comparing the wear imparted by gilding metal vs copper washed steel jackets under HEAVY use.

http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/
Wow, that's an awesome study. I guess I will be abandoning my plans for pounding tons of cheap ammo through my rifle.

Trent
March 14, 2013, 08:24 PM
I totally want those guys' jobs.

Seriously. :)

Great link Swampman.

Swampman
March 14, 2013, 09:45 PM
Originally posted by FireInCairo, "Wow, that's an awesome study. I guess I will be abandoning my plans for pounding tons of cheap ammo through my rifle."

And just WHERE were you planning on finding these tons of cheap ammo in this day and age? :scrutiny:

Seriously, the only way to shoot well, is to shoot, a lot. A goodly portion of that can be accomplished with a good .22, but it's going to take shooting your AR to get really good at shooting your AR.

Face it, barrels are just as much an expendable item as springs or ammunition.
At current ammo prices you'd spend enough on ammo, even "cheap" Russian ammo, to buy at least five barrels before you wore the first one out.

This doesn't mean that I think anyone should deliberately abuse their weapon as was done in the test that I linked. If abuse of firearms was illegal, anyone that participated in that test would be convicted of first degree mechanical sadism.
Bear in mind that the whole point of the test was to abuse the weapons to the point of failure and (possibly) convince people to buy higher markup US made ammunition, they ARE an ammo retailer after all.

If "copper washed" steel or "bimetal" jackets were really as destructive to barrels as that test showed, I seriously doubt the US Army and Marine Corps, as well as the German Army, would use them in their 7.62x51 machine guns.

Trent
March 15, 2013, 08:21 AM
If "copper washed" steel or "bimetal" jackets were really as destructive to barrels as that test showed, I seriously doubt the US Army and Marine Corps, as well as the German Army, would use them in their 7.62x51 machine guns.

Back in the late 90's I bought a Federal Arms 91 rifle, it was a rebuild of a parts kit of a G3, back when barrels could still be obtained.

Problem is, the barrel they used was from the original kit, and completely shot out. It's probably the least-accurate rifle I've ever purchased.

I don't know how many thousands of rounds it had shot out of it, or what the ammo the Germans used before cutting it up to ship over here, but it was done for before it ever got put in a new receiver. Problem is, on a G3, replacing the barrel is no small task.

Same story with a Yugo SKS I bought. BEAUTIFUL rifle. But the bore was done for before it ever hit our shores. Not pitted, not corroded.. just.. shot out. Those aren't exactly easy to swap out, either.

Both rifles hold minute-of-barn-door accuracy.

Before blasting away with cheap bimetal ammo.. it's worthwhile to consider how difficult it is to swap out a barrel. The barrels in that test shooting bimetal were (according to the testers) "completely shot out by 6,000 rounds." Granted, that was one mag dump after another, but that's also a heck of a lot lower life-span.

Considering that once the barrel is done-for on a great many rifles, the rifle itself is pretty much done for, that's a pretty serious concern. Sure, swapping out a barrel on an AR-15 is quick and easy. But not all rifles are AR-15's. :)

JohnBT
March 15, 2013, 09:07 AM
I've been shooting Swiss-made Geco bi-metal 9mm through my P-210. After buying the gun I bought a mag on line and the seller recommended it. He turned out to be an experienced P-210 shooter both stateside and in Switzerland.

Fwiw, someone actually posted a lab analysis of the RUAG Geco 124gr. FMJ:


_____________________
Results

Jacket wt.-18.32grains
Core wt.-105.422grains

Jacket
4.83% Cu (plating)
94.6% Fe
.63% traces of Zn, Pb, Bi, Ni, Cr, Al

Core
98.65% Pb
1.3% Cu
<.05% Al, Fe, Bi, Zn

Samples run on ICP-OES in aqueous acid solution (digestion), 10% Aqua Regia by volume.

Yes, 95% Iron jacket (not steel) with a 5% copper plating. Core is lead.
__________________

briansmithwins
March 15, 2013, 12:58 PM
Rifles wear out fastest that have small bores and high velocities. That's why 5.56 NATO is so rough on barrels and why they have such a short life. AK barrels (larger bore and lower velocities) last much longer.

I don't expect to ever shoot out my semi-auto Uzi barrel. The huge bore (compared to .223) and low velocities should make for a barrel that'll last my lifetime. Barring squibs or a overcharged ammo explosion.

BSW

Trent
March 15, 2013, 02:15 PM
BSW - yeah, that makes a good deal of sense. Velocity plays in to it for sure. My last 300 Win Mag barrel lasted about 1700 shots before it started going south. Throat was gone, gone, gone.. still accurate as all heck but it got to a point where I just couldn't load bullets long enough to keep up with it. And if I didn't load them long, I had horrible velocity consistency and exceptionally bad fouling. (I think gas was getting AROUND the bullet as it started moving, if I didn't seat it out to the lands).

Eventually I reached the end of the bearing surface on the bullets, couldn't seat them longer, and the fouling got to the point I was having to clean the rifle every shot or two. I was SO reluctant to rebarrel it, as it was still shooting sub .5MOA groups. :(

But all good things must come to an end.

briansmithwins
March 15, 2013, 05:48 PM
Surprised you didn't move the barrel back and rechamber.

Not that gas operated barrels can be rescued that way.

BSW

Trent
March 15, 2013, 07:19 PM
I always wanted a Krieger, this was as good excuse as any. :)

Swampman
March 17, 2013, 02:12 AM
Originally posted by Trent
"Back in the late 90's I bought a Federal Arms 91 rifle, it was a rebuild of a parts kit of a G3, back when barrels could still be obtained.

Problem is, the barrel they used was from the original kit, and completely shot out. It's probably the least-accurate rifle I've ever purchased.

I don't know how many thousands of rounds it had shot out of it, or what the ammo the Germans used before cutting it up to ship over here, but it was done for before it ever got put in a new receiver. Problem is, on a G3, replacing the barrel is no small task.

Same story with a Yugo SKS I bought. BEAUTIFUL rifle. But the bore was done for before it ever hit our shores. Not pitted, not corroded.. just.. shot out. Those aren't exactly easy to swap out, either.

Both rifles hold minute-of-barn-door accuracy.

Before blasting away with cheap bimetal ammo.. it's worthwhile to consider how difficult it is to swap out a barrel. The barrels in that test shooting bimetal were (according to the testers) "completely shot out by 6,000 rounds." Granted, that was one mag dump after another, but that's also a heck of a lot lower life-span.

Considering that once the barrel is done-for on a great many rifles, the rifle itself is pretty much done for, that's a pretty serious concern. Sure, swapping out a barrel on an AR-15 is quick and easy. But not all rifles are AR-15's."

I'm not sure what you expect the condition of the bores on a couple of surplus rifles to prove other than the obvious fact that shooting a rifle tends to wear out its barrel.

While an ex G3 barrel may well have fired a good bit of copper washed steel jacketed ammo (along with cupronickel jacketed), a Yugoslavian SKS is unlikely to have fired much of anything but M-67 ball. If you're unfamiliar with this ammunition, it's just about the only affordable 7.62x39 that'll pass the "magnet test" because there's not a bit of steel or nickel anywhere in it.
A worn out bore on a Yugo SKS seems like just about the worst possible example of why not to shoot steel jacketed ammunition.

I'll say it again, if coated steel jackets in and of themselves were that damaging, the US military would specify gilding metal jackets for M-80 ball. They don't. The only way to tell what kind of jackets a particular box or belt of M-80 ball has is to use a magnet.

The only way that I could really be convinced that the jackets are what's causing the problem is if the bullets were loaded in identical cases, with identical powder and primers. When you contract with Russian or Ukrainian factories and have them competing with one another to make the lowest cost ammunition, it's conceivable that a lot of corners might be cut. More erosive primers, hotter burning powders, even little things like LOOSE SCRAPED OFF PIECES OF BULLET JACKET around the bullet/case juncture (I think I read about that somewhere...) could have a detrimental effect on barrel life completely aside from bullet jacket material.

I've dug many steel jacketed M-80 ball slugs out of various berms and even after penetrating a foot or more into the ground the jackets still look pretty much like gilding metal jackets. If the plating is what's actually contacting the bore and the steel beneath it has been annealed to an appropriate level of hardness, why would copper washed jackets wear out the bore any faster than gilding metal?

Whether its a .22 Short or a .177x.50 BMG Ultraeargeshsplitzenloudenboomer, every time you shoot a firearm you are causing wear and reducing the lifespan of the weapon, it's just a question of how much. Your guns will last much longer if you dip them in hot cosmoline, wrap 'em in grease paper and then store them in a temperature and humidity controlled warehouse.
Unfortunately, it won't do squat for your marksmanship.

Originally posted by Trent
Considering that once the barrel is done-for on a great many rifles, the rifle itself is pretty much done for, that's a pretty serious concern. Sure, swapping out a barrel on an AR-15 is quick and easy. But not all rifles are AR-15's."

My apologies, I am, in fact, aware that that not all rifles are AR-15's, but it is my understanding that the S&W, M&P (the weapon that the OP owns and expressed concern about in the first post of this thread) IS such a weapon.

H&K 91's and SKS's (at least those with threaded barrels like your Yugo) are not that difficult to rebarrel, a good Gunsmith can do the job quite easily. In fact AIM Surplus has new, in the white 59/66 barrels for only $55.

I have an old 1962 Winchester Model 100 in .308 that according to Winchester, is impossible to rebarrel. While I don't shoot it a lot, I do keep it sighted in (sometimes with steel jacket M-80) and hunt with it occasionally, even though I know that doing so will undoubtedly shorten its useful life.

To me it's a tool, not a museum piece.

stubbicatt
March 17, 2013, 09:43 AM
Based on the foregoing, I have concluded:
1. Barrels are wear items which will need replacement.
2. The factors that contribute to barrel wear are:
a. Jacket material
b. Nature of the priming compound, whether glass or other aluminum powder is included.
c. Nature of the powder, whether corrosive or not, whether stick powder or ball powder, temperature of powder burn.
d. Quantity of powder burned, i.e. after 8 pounds of powder have gone down the bore, it is worn out.
e. Nature of cleaning regimen, i.e., do you use a good coated cleaning rod and clean from the breach?
f. Presence of rusting, i.e. was the bore cleaned and properly preserved after cleaning.

g. Overbore ratio, and angle of case shoulder? --I have read that seriously overbore cartridges will erode the throat more quickly as will those whose shoulder angles converge on the case mouth, thus funneling and directing the hot powder gasses to that spot on the throat of the rifle chamber....

Of all of these, the only one you cannot control (other than to not shoot the rifle) is the amount of powder thru the barrel, am I right?

Trent
March 17, 2013, 01:12 PM
I'm not sure what you expect the condition of the bores on a couple of surplus rifles to prove other than the obvious fact that shooting a rifle tends to wear out its barrel.


Anecdotal evidence is just that; I'm giving my personal experiences, nothing more. :)


I'll say it again, if coated steel jackets in and of themselves were that damaging, the US military would specify gilding metal jackets for M-80 ball. They don't. The only way to tell what kind of jackets a particular box or belt of M-80 ball has is to use a magnet.


The US military is a horrible example to provide for whether or not to shoot M80 ball. They really, really don't care about what projectiles they send down the bore (whether it be depleted uranium or lead ball) as long as the munitions meet military specifications. Why? Because they monitor the serviceability of barrels and toss them out like so much scrap metal when they are used up. They happen to have an enormous budget for defense (last I checked, they were spending a great deal of my tax money...)


The only way that I could really be convinced that the jackets are what's causing the problem is if the bullets were loaded in identical cases, with identical powder and primers. When you contract with Russian or Ukrainian factories and have them competing with one another to make the lowest cost ammunition, it's conceivable that a lot of corners might be cut. More erosive primers, hotter burning powders, even little things like LOOSE SCRAPED OFF PIECES OF BULLET JACKET around the bullet/case juncture (I think I read about that somewhere...) could have a detrimental effect on barrel life completely aside from bullet jacket material.


Heck, if you want to go down the road of detrimental effects of barrel life, let's throw improper cleaning in to the mix. When I had my gun shop I saw FAR more barrels with crowns damaged due to Bubba's improper bore cleaning, or dark bore mil-surp pieces, than I ever saw of shot-out specimens.

Will loose, scraped off pieces of bullet jacket affect barrel life? Not very damn likely. Will they contribute to excessive fouling? Most certainly! If the person doesn't know how to properly clean the rifle, they might assume the bore has been damaged after this affects accuracy... or (more likely) might even damage a perfectly good bore themselves, while giving it a Bubba Scrub.


I've dug many steel jacketed M-80 ball slugs out of various berms and even after penetrating a foot or more into the ground the jackets still look pretty much like gilding metal jackets. If the plating is what's actually contacting the bore and the steel beneath it has been annealed to an appropriate level of hardness, why would copper washed jackets wear out the bore any faster than gilding metal?


How thick is the groove-to-bore relationship, compared to the thickness of the copper wash? I would bet that in MOST instances the rifling is etching the bullets WELL past the softer metal and in to the steel jacket. (Even after the rifling starts to wear, the bullet will begin "tilting" slightly as it goes down the barrel, continuing to etch as deep as it can, wearing the barrel further.)

In the study posted earlier we saw that in as few as 5,000 shots, bimetal ammo completely wore out the rifling of the chrome-molybdnum-vanadium bushmaster barrels. A normal (non-chrome) steel barrel will go even faster than that.


H&K 91's and SKS's (at least those with threaded barrels like your Yugo) are not that difficult to rebarrel, a good Gunsmith can do the job quite easily. In fact AIM Surplus has new, in the white 59/66 barrels for only $55.


An AR involves hand tools, and really, no special skills.

Other guns require finding someone capable (not always easy to do), shipping it off, and spending as much or more on labor as you spend on the barrel.

Swapping an H&K 91 or G3 barrel is no small task. Requires custom hydraulic jigs to get the barrel pressed out. (Not to mention precise alignment on the re-fit, drilling in to the barrel to time the cross pin, etc.)

An SKS is quite a lot easier, but usually requires receiver modifications (facing the front of the receiver) to get the barrel ejector port relief cut timed properly to the receiver.


To me it's a tool, not a museum piece.

Some of us own pieces that would be at home in a museum, and actually DO shoot them sometimes. I own several firearms which are rare, to the point the National Firearms Museum doesn't have a specimen. :D

While I agree with you that - yes - barrels are wear items, the degree of difficulty in replacing some vs. others varies widely, as does availability of replacement parts. Some of my guns were designed to quickly replace the barrel (most of my belt guns were designed for it; but FINDING barrels for some of them is about impossible - try finding a DShK barrel.). Others? It's a stone cold pain in the butt. (RPD comes to mind).

In an AR-15 it's not a big deal, 15 minutes, a punch for the gas tube roll pin, and a barrel wrench is about all you need.

But ... not all rifles are AR-15's... and what you feed through them DOES matter on barrel life. I wouldn't shoot very much bimetal through my SCAR. Sure, it's damn easy to swap the barrel. But not cheap; costs $1200+ for a new assembly.

One other thing to consider... Eventually, as ammo prices come back down, people who sold all of the bimetal stuff at 2x+ the normal going price, can buy an equal amount of good ammo. :)

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