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Steel guide rods, good or just a feel good.

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by stchman, Aug 26, 2014.

  1. stchman

    stchman Well-Known Member

    Hello all.

    I wanted to ask the forum members if replacing my plastic guide rod in my SR9 is a good thing or just a feel good thing?

    I would think that if a steel guide rod was SO much better, they would have put it in there to begin with.

    While a steel guide rod may look better, is it just cosmetic?

  2. Fishbed77

    Fishbed77 Well-Known Member

  3. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    As best I can tell, it's very important to some people but it's not a big deal to gun designers.

    The guide rod is not a highly stressed part. The dustcover and frame of most guns constrain the recoil spring so the guide rod seems to be of most use when field stripping and reassembling the gun.

    I've had guns of the same basic design with some using plastic guide rods and other using steel guide rods, and I could never tell much difference in function or performance. The guide rod material should NOT have any effect on accuracy, and probably won't have any effect on reliability or function. (I've seen Glocks function beautifuly with broken plastic guide rods...)

    With certain gun designs the guide rod never really contacts the frame, and with others, the base of the guide rod may rest or push against a point on the frame (some call it the "receiver stop"). In that second case, a hard steel gruide rod base rubbing against a slightly less hard alloy frame may lead to some wear. It's not something you hear much about or see often.

    In many cases, the guide rod could probably be made of bamboo and it'd still do the job.
  4. fletcher

    fletcher Well-Known Member

    I agree with the above. Unless there's a history of failure (e.g. bad design) for the polymer guide rod, I see no reason to replace it with a metal one.
  5. Storm

    Storm Well-Known Member

    Years ago I bought a used SigPro 2340. Almost immediately the guide rod broke. Since then if Steve Bedair makes a steel guide rod for a gun that I own it goes into it. Gotten to be habit. If I had not had that one broken guide rod I never would have considered it. Necessary? No, most likely not, but it makes me happy. That said, I don't sweat it if it isn't steel.
  6. tommy.duncan

    tommy.duncan Well-Known Member

    Another thing to remember is the money factor. Lets say Ruger makes 100,000 of the SR9 series pistol (just using round numbers). The polymer/plastic rod costs .10 to make and the metal one makes .50 to make. This becomes a financial decision due to profit margins.
    polymer rod -$10,000
    metal rod -$50,000
    I have replaced all mine with metal, but they function fine with the polymer.
  7. Bob M.

    Bob M. Well-Known Member

    Yep, the bean counters will always try to lower the costs of manufacturing. Nothing wrong with that as long as it works. I would just get 2 or 3 spare polymer rods to have on hand in case of breakage failure. :)
  8. jhb

    jhb Well-Known Member

    Years ago I seem to remember a real problem with swapping the plastic to a steel one in aluminum framed cz pistols. I can't remember what went wrong but it was either bulged frame areas from the steel or cracks. Either way all bad.

    I sure prefer steel but then again who am I to ignore the engineers who designed the pistol. Unless one is going to change the use of the pistol as it's designed I see no real reason to change it....so I dont. Too each their own though.
  9. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Use what the gun was designed to use.

    Heres why.


    While this Kel-Tec info does not apply to all designs.
    It might apply to yours.

    Do you want to be the Beta Tester to find out?

  10. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure that the bean counters have that much input in gun design and material choices. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the gun designers came up with the idea to use plastic guide rods himself (or herself), because it seemed just as good, was less trouble to make, and cost less -- designers DO worry about things like cost and production processes. And cutting a cost there may have given them some ability to improve something elsewhere without raising total costs.

    Way back when, somebody made that same sort of decision when they switched from wood grips to plastic, and I'm sure it offended a lot of gun owners.

    With regard to potential damages:

    rcmodel's response (illustrated with frightening photos) also addresses my earlier concern about using steel in SOME guns. (Although I had NOT thought about their effect on certain hybrid frames.) The Kel-Tec P40, the gun shown in the last photo, like the P11, has an aluminum frame with a polymer cover, so it's really more substantial than it looks... but the metal guide rod obviously induced a type of stress that the designers had not anticipated.)
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
  11. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    I don't think it was bulged frames or cracks. (The bulged frames problem occurred with some polymer-framed RAMIs and the earliest P-07s. The P-07 was slightly redesigned, and they discontinued the polymer RAMI. I don't think either of those problem caused functional issues, but just didn't look right. I've only heard of ONE cracked frame with a CZ, and that was years ago, in an 85 Combat with a steel frame.)

    Years back, when I was one of the moderators on the original CZ Forum, I was told by one of the senior gunsmiths at CZ-USA that using the steel guide rod with alloy-framed guns could cause "receiver stop" wear, and such wear was not covered under warranty. (They had begun to see that wear on guns sent in for warranty work, and it was a problem.) CZ-USA had always refused to sell steel guide rods to folks when they were told they were to be used in an alloy-framed gun.

    The receiver stop is where the base of the guide rod rests when the slide is on the frame and the slide stop is installed.

    When the slide starts to move back, the bottom of the base of the guide rod engages the frame and stays put as the barrel continues to move back and disconnects from the guide rod. (The guide rod base is positioned against the base of the barrel underlug when it is first installed in the gun.) Because the compact guns are shorter, and because their guide rods are full-length and the slides move just about as far, their guide rods tend to tilt MORE than the shorter (or full-length) guide rods in some of the fullsize and SA models. (The guide rod tilts more in a compact CZ than in a full-size CZ with a full-length guide rod.)

    I no longer participate on the CZ Forum and I'm sure they'll have better info, but I've heard other responses more recently, supposedly from "official sources," that a steel guide rod in an alloy-framed gun is not a concern. If you have an alloy CZ compact, It might be good to check with CZ-USA to see if it IS or IS NOT something to be worried about. It was never a problem with the steel-framed guns.

    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
  12. Hamfisted

    Hamfisted Well-Known Member

    I prefer steel guide rods just to put some weight up front, and their durability.

  13. RainDodger

    RainDodger Well-Known Member

    Rc's link is interesting. I replaced the polymer rod with a nicely made steel rod in a little Ruger SR22. Although I rarely shoot it, I will now inspect the way the rod acts when the slide moves to the rear. I shoot it so rarely that I doubt I'd have any problem, but why tempt fate if there's a possibility of any down-side with a steel rod? I'll leave it in only if I see no chance for weird wear or the rod banging on the underside of the barrel, etc.

    That being said, I do (and always have) used one-piece rods in all my 1911s. I just like 'em and that's that. No discussion necessary, as it's a personal thing. :)
  14. jhb

    jhb Well-Known Member

    Thanks Walt. Good clarification on that side topic. Appreciated.
  15. jcwit

    jcwit Well-Known Member

    So how about a company that switches from a plastic guide rod to a steel guide rod on the same model???????????????
  16. NGIB

    NGIB Well-Known Member

    My SR9c has probably 5000 trouble free rounds through it and it still has the factory guide rod...
  17. sigarms228

    sigarms228 Well-Known Member

    I stick with what the manufacturer puts in my pistols. Poly is very durable and also can flex more than metal which may make a difference depending on the design.

    The poly guide rod on my SP2022, which I bought brand new, is a little bit scraped up but no issues with functionality with over 3000 rounds now.

    No worry about voiding warranty either with aftermarket part.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
  18. 5-SHOTS

    5-SHOTS Well-Known Member

    I prefere steel guide rods but I can live with plastic. Some guns born with plastic rods have been reported to become unreliable with steel rods, so think about it.
  19. fletcher

    fletcher Well-Known Member

    Bean counters will not make those decisions, but they will set cost targets that force engineering to get creative and/or make compromises. Pretty standard occurrence from my experience. Something like that could have prompted a design review, and determined that polymer was OK for a guide rod.
  20. ku4hx

    ku4hx Well-Known Member

    This. I'd rather have the gun wear the rod than the rod wear the gun. OEM RSA's are generally dirt cheap and a few spares are not going to break the bank.

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