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Forged???

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by TimH, Apr 30, 2003.

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  1. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

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    There's a lot of apples & oranges on this thread...

    Here are some generalities for when comparing similar quality cast and forged parts. That includes similar alloys and proper heat treatment.

    Forged parts are going to be springier (more resilient) than cast parts. Therefore, things like hammers and firing pins that take a lot of impact type wear are NOT good parts to make from castings. Neither are things that are expected to flex during normal operation.

    Cast parts CAN be harder depending on the heat treat and alloy. So, it's possible to have a "stronger" (harder) cast receiver than a comparably sized forged receiver.

    But...

    Cast parts tend to fail spectacularly when they break. That's because they don't have a lot of grain and when they break, they tend to go into lots of pieces.

    Forged parts stretch and split when they fail, but their grain structure tends to keep them from shattering.
     
  2. Handy

    Handy Guest

    Regardless of what a bolt receiver "should" be made of, some applications just don't matter.

    If I was picking an AR receiver, I would go with cast, because it's cheaper than forged, and stronger than plastic. (Hint, if you can make an identical part of plastic, basic cast aluminum is going to be fine.)
     
  3. harrydog

    harrydog Member

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    From everything I've read, (and I've done quite a bit of research on this subject because it interests me) cast steel alloys never have the ultimate tensile strength or yield strength of a quality forged or barstock equivalent. Forgings and even barstock (since it is hot or cold rolled) will have a more dense grain structure than a cast piece.
    But that doesn't mean a good cast part can't be made strong enough for certain applications. If the design is correct for the application, there will be no problems. The real advantage is that a cast part is cheaper to manufacture. The casting is much closer to the final shape than a forging or obviously a piece of barstock, so only minimal machining is required.
    A pistol frame, for example, is not really a highly stressed part, and therefore castings will work well in that application, if they're made properly.
    Probably the most highly stressed part in an engine is the crankshaft. Many cranks are made from nodular cast iron and are strong enough for the application. But in a high performance, high rpm racing engine, you'll never see a cast crank. It just wouldn't take the stress. Same thing applies to pistons and connecting rods. The engine block is not a highly stressed part and therefore an iron or aluminum casting makes perfect sense.
    Cast parts can be made to be plenty strong enough for certain applications but there are some applications where a cast part, regardless of how good it is, just isn't up to the task.
     
  4. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    harrydog, you're absolutely correct. My own point remains that grandiose, all-inclusive generalities aren't helpful in a discussion such as this.

    Art
     
  5. mohican

    mohican Member

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    When BHP9 compares a cast bell housing to a forged connecting rod or crank, its an apples to oranges comparisons. The Connecting rods and cranks are much thicker material, made of high grade materials such as 5140. The bell housing might be cast iron, but it is more likely an aluminum alloy.

    With todays casting technology, including pressure and vacuum casting techniques, porosity can be eliminated. Corrosion is due to the alloy used as much as the manufacturing method. Corrosion has not been an issue with my blued ruger SBH.

    You don't think that casting leads to more competative prices?

    how about a comparison between Super Redhawk and Smith 629 prices. Or a comparison between GP100 and Smith 686 prices.

    There are places where forged is better than cast, but few examples are true in the civilian gun market.
     
  6. Boston T. Party

    Boston T. Party Member

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    some comments from a knifemaker and gunsmith

    Howdy all,

    I looked into this issue pretty thoroughly for my new book
    Safari Dreams: A Practical Guide To Your Hunt In Africa.

    by Kenneth Royce
    ISBN 1-888766-09-3
    5.5"x8.5" softcover
    352 pages, with 100 color photos
    shipping in January 2008
    $30 + $5 s&h (cash or M.O. only)

    Javelin Press
    POB 31
    Ignacio, Co. 81137-0031


    Here are some excerpts from the 5 pages generously contributed
    by renowned knifemaker and gunsmith Kevin McClung of Mad Dog
    Knives and MD Labs. He knows more about steel, heat treating, etc.
    than anyone else of my acquaintance.

    I think his remarks bear serious consideration.

    Regards,

    Boston
    http://www.javelinpress.com (Boston's books)
    http://www.freestatewyoming.org (FSW website)
    http://www.fundamentalsoffreedom.com/fswforum/index.php (FSW forum open to all)
    wyoming_freestate@yahoo.com



     
  7. JesseL

    JesseL Member

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    Boston T. Party:

    Interesting write up, but can you or Mr. McClung point to any examples of a Ruger receiver failing in circumstances that would have been survivable by a forged product of similar price or weight? IMHO real world testing trumps speculation and theoretical analysis every time.
     
  8. daniel (australia)

    daniel (australia) Member

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    Much of what he has said merits serious criticism, if not outright rejection. His overall thesis, that
    is nonsense.

    Rifle receivers are not made from high carbon steel. Instead they are usually nowadays made from a medium carbon CrMo alloy, such as 4140, or from a martensitic stainless like 416, which is fairly low in carbon (<0.15% C). Older receivers were typically made of plain carbon steel either of medium carbon content, or low carbon with a carburised surface.

    Why is that important? well, for starters the fact that the author started out with an error like this sends the whole argument down the wrong road. You see, with the steels actually used (known as hypoeutectoid) it is the ferrite which starts to solidify first as the steel cools from liquid, not the carbides. You don't get dendrites of carbide at all. Further, as-cast steel doesn't have an amorphous structure (if it did it would be glass:rolleyes:), nor is dendritic segregation going to be seen in any finished casting - especially after heat treatment, any more than forging is going to "distribute carbides":rolleyes:.

    The principal advantage of forging is that if you take this as cast structure and hammer it into shape you close up any porosity and align any inclusions - it is these which give the so-called fibre structure. You also increase the number of dislocations in the crystal structure and, if you then heat treat, this helps refine the grain size. The as heat-treated grains aren't "aligned" though, only the inclusions, and with clean modern steel this is much less a factor.

    Now with castings the principal issues of the past were such things as shrinkage, cracking and inclusions (whether solid or gaseous) weakening the structure. However with good clean steel and modern casting technology, and a product designed to be cast you can eliminate these problems, and alloy additions can serve to refine the grain structure, meaning the end product can be just as durable if not more so than a forging.

    There's three "facts", or rather assertions there, actually. Vacuum casting is one technique, where air pressure is used to drive the liquid metal into an evacuated mould. As I understand it this is not the method actually used however. Ruger for example uses investment casting. This can be done by melting and pouring the metal in a vacuum chamber (for removal of gases and to assure purity, for really high-duty results - the usual method for Ti alloys), but is more usually done in air.

    Casting actually can align grain structure, for good or ill, by virtue of the design of the gates and risers and the use of chills. Generally speaking though what is actually wanted is a fine grain structure, which is produced in forgings by the creation of dislocations to nucleate grains on recrystallisation, and in the case of castings largely by the use of good design and/or grain-refining alloy elements.

    As for "distributing carbides properly" well, it is hard to make any sense of that assertion at all. the distribution of carbides is a product of grain size, and to some degree heat treatment.

    No, forging aligns non-metallic inclusions not grain structure. If you eliminate the inclusions with a clean steel the point is moot. It is also a method of grain refinement, but the product is fine, randomly-oriented spherical grains.

    This is nonsense, particularly in view of the fact that we are talking about hypoeutectoid steels where it is the low-carbon ferrite which solidifies (precipitates) first.

    Casting does enable savings in cost. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. It also allows the production of shapes which forging cannot, among other things. It is not true however that castings are necessarily less strong than forgings.

    That was probably true up until a few decades ago. Nowadays very high duty components are indeed cast, because in some cases that is the best technique for developing the properties needed. Turbine impeller blades are a good example. Another I've been involved in is the production of handcuff components: the little chain between the handcuff wristlets being cast in one unit so as to eliminate any welds or joins in the links which might weaken the links.

    I would rather stake my life on a product which has been properly engineered and tested than anyone's mere assertion myself. It is quite possible to make unreliable equipment with any technique, including forging.

    Probably more to do with the inherent conservatism of military weapons procurement (hey, I've been involved!) and the fact that the current service weapons of your Army were designed so long ago. That isn't a criticism of the weapons either, but just a statement of fact. The M16 platform for example is fundamentally a 1950s design, and it was designed around the production engineering of the time. Investment casting has been around for far longer than 200 years, but as a means of producing high-integrity steel components its history is much shorter. It is becoming a well-proven production method for small arms though.

    In the case of edged tools it is also gaining ground. Not perhaps in the area of custom knives - again perhaps a function of innate conservatism and the economic barriers, but is certainly is being used in the production of such items as drill bits for rock drills, shear blades, defibriators, surgical blades (as well as surgical instruments and implants), turbine blades and all sorts of other components.

    There's altogether too many myths about casting and forging. Both have their place, and with good design and materials and heat treatment both can be used to make strong reliable components for firearms and other applications.
     
  9. hubel458

    hubel458 Member

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    Companies making recievers like Ruger use a Cr-Moly alloy
    that when done right like Ruger does, and heatreated are
    stronger than forgings with heatreatment, by 20 percent.
    I bulged a barrel on a Ruger 77 that would have destroyed
    any forged or machined billet action. And still using action
    today after taking out barrel with lathe.There is no carbon placement
    problems in the process with that alloy, with heatreated tensile
    strengths way over 200,000 psi possible. Ed
     
  10. Boston T. Party

    Boston T. Party Member

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    from JesseL:
    I've not heard of a catastrophic failure of Ruger M77 African rifle receiver.
    (Perhaps the extra mass of its receiver is sufficient compensation for
    an inherently weaker material. However, I certainly wouldn't want to
    experience the first KB.)


    McClung did not claim to have heard of one in his essay, either, (nor
    did he write that the M77 is prone to catastrophic failure), but
    that one takes additional and unnecessary risk with cast steel DG rifle receivers.

    Since I can buy a forged-steel CZ550 or Win M70 Classic for
    the same (or less) money, I choose forged-steel as it hasn't the
    issue "built-in failure paths" (however theoretical such may seem
    to some).

    I have heard of a Ruger .45 Colt cylinder letting go, and the owner's
    explanation of a double powder charge seemed untenable given
    that a single charge of his published load was nearly compressed
    to begin with (hence he could have doubled charged the case).

    The pictures were inconclusive; i.e., I couldn't tell if the cylinder
    had any voids in the metal.

    ____________
    daniel (australia), thanks for the lengthy post.

    I'm not technically competent to reply, but Kevin is and perhaps he will.

    Boston

    http://www.javelinpress.com (Boston's books)
    http://www.freestatewyoming.org (FSW website)
    http://www.fundamentalsoffreedom.com/fswforum/index.php (FSW forum open to all)
     
  11. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Daniel, good post and I learned something from it. But I am still confused about grain alignment and material properties.

    I read in "Casting Handbook" that Forgings have directionality of properties, similar to the way wood is strong with the grain and weak against the grain. There are no directional variations in cast steel and therefore the mechanical properties are uniform in all directions. According to the handbook casting properties are in-between the high and the low for a forged part of the same material. The handbook also stated that forging are superior in endurance or fatigue life in the direction of the “grain”, but are inferior across the grain. Casting properties were given as unidirectional.

    I guess that means if the part is designed with the grain in the proper direction, a forging would have superior material properties. So what does heat treatment do to this? Does heat treatment remove this directionality of properties, or make it insignificant? Or does this only apply in terms of high carbon steel, not alloys like 4140?
     
  12. Horsemany

    Horsemany Member

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    I have noticed several desireable features about the Ruger 77 castings and other Rugers. Ruger spins their castings in a centrifuge as the are filled with steel to improve density. Ruger receivers are Rockwell hardness of Mid 50s to 60. Forged receivers are typically in the 20's Rockwell from what I've found. This allows Ruger to use one piece stainless bolts and not have galling issues. Mine has been used hard for 10 years and has approximately 1000 rnds through it and the bluing isn't even worn off the bolt raceways. And I recently noticed something interesting about the integral ring dovetails. I have had the rings on and off a dozen times or more and the sharp edge of the dovetail is pristine. The bluing is still perfect even. This would not be the case with softer forged steels. My gunsmith also told me he couldn't put a scope base on my GP100 because it was so hard he couldn't tap it properly. I am not claiming Rugers are flawless, but I do not think the fact that they are cast makes them inferior to my other guns which cost several times more.

    Also I have something to add in regards to quality forgings. I work in the manufacturing field. We use Craftsmen forged 5/8" open end wrenches to tighten jigs for fabricated roof trusses. The brackets are tightened by tapping on the back of the wrenches with a hammer. Many of the wrenches will last several months with this type of abuse. Most are so beat up the edges of the wrenches have flat lips from the hammering. But some of the wrenches will crack after only a few hours of use. It is my job to make exchanges and supply new wrenches when needed. Most of the wrenches that break prematurely have a grain structure and the steel breaks on that grain. In the forged wrench world I can tell you that the failure rate is around 1 in 10. It's been that way for years so it's not just a fluke. We go through hundreds per year. I'm not sure how this relates to firearms mfg. but I thought it might be helpful to acknowledge that forging steel is not always a perfect science. Just as the quality of castings can vary so can forging.
     
  13. scotjute

    scotjute Member

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    SlamFire1,
    The purpose of the heat treatment (post heat treatment) is to relieve the excessive stresses in the forged piece. This restores a certain amount of ductility to the piece. Too much heat treatment would eventually undo most of the benefits done by the forging process. Too little and the part might be brittle. Correct heat treatment is very critical to achieving the optimal properties of the steel. A plain carbon steel knife blade properly heat-treated is normally preferably to an expensive alloy steel blade with poor heat treatment. Without proper heat treatment, the full potential of a piece of steel (whether from forging, alloying, etc)will not be realized.
     
  14. skinewmexico

    skinewmexico Member

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    It's all fun until someone picks on someone's favorite brand, then it's "get out the textbooks"! Kool-Aid at 5!
     
  15. Dobe

    Dobe member

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  16. daniel (australia)

    daniel (australia) Member

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    Thanks mate. You’ve also asked some excellent questions.

    It is important to point out that “forging” is done hot – ie above the recrystallisation temperature of the metal. If we were to deform the metal cold the grains would indeed be deformed and elongated in the direction of metal flow. The properties in such a cold-worked structure are quite directional and the metal typically strain hardens to a considerable degree. We see this with brass cartridge cases, which are cold drawn.

    If the metal is deformed hot however (or subsequently heated above the recrystallisation temperature) then recrystallisation occurs, with the deformed grains replaced by new strain-free spheroidal grains. Indeed the dislocations in the crystal structure produced by the deformation act as nucleation sites for new undeformed grains to grow, so forging (or cold work followed by heating) acts to refine grin structure.

    Why then do forgings have directional properties? Well the answer is largely in the impurities/inclusions in the metal. Straight out of the mill inclusions tend to form around grain boundaries, creating weaknesses. Forging tends to line them up with the direction of deformation.

    If we imagine forging a sword for example you’d be lining them up along the blade. This means that they are not there to facilitate the propagation of a crack across the long axis of the blade, and in fact act to interrupt the growth of such a crack. The inclusions may however act to facilitate splitting along the length of the sword, but we’d hope to avoid the imposition of a load which would do that. In the case of a wrench or spanner we’d aim to have them flow along the handle and around the crescent

    [​IMG]

    as opposed to what you’d get if you machined from bar stock:

    [​IMG]

    Of course, the cleaner the steel the less this is a factor.

    That is not necessarily true. With what you might call old-fashioned casting technology you typically have small grains at the surface but long columnar grains growing away from the casting surface into the body as the casting cooled. Shrinkage and cracking also would often be found (and ideally repaired before the casting was finished). All of this could lead to some lack of uniformity of properties, and it is this sort of casting that many people are thinking of when they think of a cast receiver. In fact this used to be the running gag about castings:

    Cast’ing n. : product comprised of various proportions of metal, moulding sand, slag and other inclusions, porosity, shrinkage and cracks, more or less held together by welding repairs and ignorance.

    This is all a fairly gross oversimplification but techniques have existed for a fair while to eliminate such problems in high-spec. castings.

    To some degree this is the crux of the argument. The thing about forging is that by giving the steel (which originated as a casting) a good bashing you’d close up all the voids, line up all the inclusions, refine the grain and end up with a reliable part. Fatigue resistance and for that matter shock or impact resistance were thereby improved, as the cracks, voids, and inclusions which serve to initiate and/or propagate failure were eliminated.

    Now with a good clean steel, the right alloy additions and casting technology you can produce a casting which can have the same properties, by making it without the cracks, voids and inclusions in the first place.
     
  17. daniel (australia)

    daniel (australia) Member

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    Horsemany

    50-60 on which Rockwell scale? I'd be pretty surprised if the core hardness was much over 30-35 Rc, but a hard skin is certainly a good way of reducing galling and wear. The old Mauser actions (forged) were carburised to the same effect, with a fairly soft but very tough core surrounded by a thin glass hard case, and that makes them very slick working.
     
  18. cracked butt

    cracked butt Member

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    Does anyone make centerfire barrels that are cast? If casting is as strong as forging, it would seem that this would be a good way to make them?
     
  19. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Daniel: Many thanks for your reply.

    This discussion of forged versus casting is always and interesting one, and because of it, I did my own research, but obviously, you know more.

    I think forgings have been an issue for a number of reasons: I think first and foremost because of the lack of decent technical gunwriters in the US.

    One standard reference, “Hatcher’s Notebook” is excellent, but dated. General Hatcher’s majority experience with forging and metallurgy dated from 1917. He put out the best information we have on the metals and heat treatments used in US firearms, but the information dates to WWII. General Hatcher died around 1964 and there really has not been a gunwriter with his technical or managerial background in print since then. When the Ordnance writers of his generation died or retired, very little new technical information on firearms has been made to the public. (Stuart Otteson wrote two books on the Bolt Action but that was almost 30 years ago). The modern gunwriter is a guy who knows how to align his sights, pull the trigger and is able to describe the event from a keyboard. And that is as technical as they get in print.

    Your statement was right on mark:

    The prototype M14 was designed in the late 40’s and tested as the T44 until adoption in 1957. Having just read “The Great Rifle Controversy” by Ezell, I was surprised to find out how much influence the Production Engineers at Springfield had in the decision of what rifle replaced the M1 Garand. They wanted a rifle like the M1 Garand because they were familiar with manufacturing an M1 Garand. They pushed hard to keep the new rifle as similar as possible to the old one. The M1 had forged receivers, the M14 was a forged receiver. Incidentally, I think every firearm built at Springfield Armory, back to the 1873 Trapdoor, was built from forgings.

    A large number M14 fans virtually worship forged receivers, have created vast libraries of threads why forged is better than anything thing else, and I think their devotion to the hammer of Vulcan has created a lot of negative information about castings.

    If you don’t mind, if I ever get into discussions again with these gentleman, I am going to liberally use the information from your post. You say it so well.
     
  20. SwampWolf

    SwampWolf Member

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    Responses to a thread that is over four years old are just as undetermitive as the original posts were and my take remains the same: though I may prefer forgings because they seem to be intrinsically "stronger", investment castings that are executed well and may make a quality firearm more affordable is a process that benefits the consumer in terms of value. Though a forged Model 70 may well be stronger than an investment cast Model 77 (and I'm not saying it is), in the real world it doesn't make any difference. And, as a side note maybe based on hyperbole, Ruger is still making guns and Winchester isn't.
     
  21. Boston T. Party

    Boston T. Party Member

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    For an illustrative comparison, try the modern cast M1 vs. the forged WW2/Korea M1.

    I had a cast M1 from SA which began to suffer failures to fire from
    light primer strikes. Three different trigger groups times several
    different ammo types didn't solve it.

    Ron Smith personally examined the rifle and measured receiver stretch.
    The M1 gas system is more violent than the M14/M1A's, and a cast receiver
    just isn't suitable for a Garand, was his observation.

    btw, if there is anybody who is qualified to answer the cast vs. forged
    issue regarding rifle receivers, it would be Ron. (I should have mentioned him
    in conjunction with Kevin, but Ron is very busy. I'll give him a call and ask
    if he's already written something I can include here.)

    ___________
    from cracked butt:
    Not rifle barrels, TMK.
    Pistol barrels (Ruger), yes.

    Is the reason one of strength, or are 16+" long gun barrels
    (including shotguns) too long for the casting process?

    I'd bet on lesser material strength vs. uncastable part length.

    Boston
     
  22. cracked butt

    cracked butt Member

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    What I don't get is everyone says that Ruger castings are as strong and cheaper, yet Rugers are usually priced as much if not higher than its competitors.
    Example: the Ruger M77 is usually priced the same if not more than a Win Model 70. The Ruger MKII/MkIII pistols are far inferior to Sig Trailside pistols and are similarly priced.

    This is true, but FN will start making Winchester Model 70s soon, and Miroku will be or are making winchester leverguns, my guess is that neither will be going with cast receivers?
     
  23. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Maybe. But I would bet that the primary reason no one casts barrel blanks is that you can get round bar stock from lots of suppliers.

    I don't know if the suppliers get the bar stock direct from the mill, or turn it from extruded pieces. I don't see any reason why a steel mill could not or would not extrude or roll hot steel into round bars. When you think of it, there are a lot of things that start off as a round piece of steel.
     
  24. daniel (australia)

    daniel (australia) Member

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    For the ordinary rifle barrel there'd be no advantage. Bar stock is fairly cheap, pumped out in vast tonnages by steel mills. Existing processes, especially the rotary forging machines made by GFM and others pump out good barrels quickly and cheaply. Investment casting comes into its own for complex shapes which would otherwise require a lot of machining - like receivers for example.

    That said enormous numbers of barrels of artillery size have been cast over the past several centuries, and there's also such specialist applications as Stellite liners for machine-gun barrels, which are cast to very close to final form because the stuff is so hard to machine. Actually a cast Stellite liner, finished internally by EDM and carbon-fibre wrapped would have to be close to the ultimate, but serious bucks would be required.

    Stretching indicates the steel was soft, and that almost certainly has nothing to do with whether it was cast or forged. More than likely a heat treatment issue, or perhaps the wrong steel. Do you still have the receiver? It'd be worth checking the hardness, and not just in one place but a few including in the load-bearing areas.

    It is also worth noting that the M1/M14 receiver was of course engineered to be forged and machined. You can't necessarily take such a design and blithely make a replica by investment casting - you'd need to consider carefully the way the mould will fill and solidify, and that would require careful consideration of the mould design and perhaps some tweaking of the receiver details for the best results. The better approach of course is to engineer the design for production by casting right from the start, as Ruger and others have done.

    All the design and engineering work will be for nought if you don't get the material and heat treatment right though, just as it would be in the case of a forged receiver.
     
  25. Kurac

    Kurac Member

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    When Sears Craftsman brand starts advertising that their wrenches are cast then we will know that it is just as good as forged. Maybe turbine blades are cast but you can bet that the hub which holds them all together is not. Yes Bill Ruger was a smart man, thats why his cast frames are quite a bit thicker than the forged frames of his competition. I lost track of how many cast items I have broken in my lifetime but I cannot think of one forged part that I have broke.
     
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