Ruger’s Investment Casting Technology?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by jski, Jan 10, 2020.

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  1. jski

    jski Member

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    How good is it?
     
  2. RON in PA

    RON in PA Member

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    They've been doing it since the 1950s and they have been making revolvers that are well known for their ruggedness. How good is it? Damn fine.
     
  3. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    The process is thousands of years old. Rugers are strong
     
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  4. beag_nut

    beag_nut Member

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    There are a bunch of youtube videos, produced by Ruger, which show every step of their manufacturing process, including investment casting. Start here:


    Their "Pine Tree Castings" company is considered to be one of, if not the, best in the world.
     
  5. gotboostvr

    gotboostvr Member

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    Considering they do casting for a number of other firearm manufacturers, and other industrial and commercial applications I'd say they know what they're doing.
     
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  6. jaguarxk120

    jaguarxk120 Member

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    The No. 1 Rifle is cast and one of the strongest rifles made!!
     
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  7. jski

    jski Member

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  8. MaxP

    MaxP Member

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    They are the top of the industry. They produce many parts for many firearms manufacturers.
     
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  9. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd member

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    Considering that they currently represent *the standard* in the industry in many ways and in fact set the standards in several particulars - I put them equal to the best... at least.

    Todd.
     
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  10. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    So they are good at investment casting as investment casting goes, but the question could have been how good is that compared to alternatives like machining from bar stock or forging?

    This is a topic that is pretty commonly discussed because Ruger is somewhat unique in their process. From what I've come to understand, I do not see a strong reason to prefer one method over another in general and would be more inclined to evaluate a product based on the total end result rather than the method. Things like the design and the quality of an individual specimen are more likely to matter.

    Some common comparisons of similar products might include their cast M77 receivers versus pre-64 milled from bar stock M70's versus a modern forged M70. Another one could be their GP-100 versus the forged L-frame - that horse is pretty well beaten isn't it? How about a comparison one of their semi-automatic slides versus something comparable machined from billet?
     
  11. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    One thing I will say has been a persistent observation of mine is that their casting process should allow them greater flexibility in their design offerings. S&W offered two or three revolver frame sizes for nearly a century, and have only in recent decades introduced a fourth and fifth. The forging process they use is costly to tool-up. Ruger, on the other hand, can introduce a new casting as easily as creating a wax plug. They ought to have a lot more flexibility in their designs that what they have been showing. It ought to be easy for them to shrink the No. 1 for smaller cartridges or grow it for a .700 NE. I can't think of why they haven't cast a mini bolt-action receiver for intermediate cartridges like .223, 7.62x39, .300, 6.5G, etc. like the Howa and CZ527. And their M77 for the magnum handguns has an excessively long two-piece bolt kludge and strangely adapted large receiver. Why couldn't they cast a more appropriate frame size for handgun cartridges? Where is the versatility that casting should be giving them?
     
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  12. WrongHanded
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    WrongHanded Contributing Member

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    We could compare an N Frame to a Blackhawk.
     
  13. adcoch1

    adcoch1 Member

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    I think the reason they don't branch out more is strictly volume for a specific market. Ruger doesn't create markets, they take over and dominate them. And assembly line builds are a lot cheaper than stocking ten million little unique per model parts. Ruger does a great job with innovation for a company the size they are. In fact 7 of my top 10 most desirable new guns to purchase are Rugers, and that isn't because I am a fan, just because they offer the features I want.
     
  14. jski

    jski Member

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    I guess what I’d like to see is a comparison of S&W machined frame vs a Ruger cast frame? Does Ruger need to add steel to their frame to compensate for the cast frame? Are cast frames more prone to failures?

    Any metallurgist out there ?
     
  15. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    This question used to come up quite a bit over a decade ago in relation to cast frames and slides for 1911's and with Ruger's guns. It faded away as a discussion as time proved there has been no issue in practice.

    Rugers frames are of steel. Just cast steel rather than forged billets.

    Are or were Ruger's handguns heavier and bigger than S&W's due to the casting process? Maybe in some guns and some features. But more it's the design than the fact of casting. Bill Ruger designed the guns to be stronger and simpler in design than similar guns from Colt or S&W.

    http://www.atcgroup.com.au/CustomCastingForging/TheDifferenceBetweenCastingForging.aspx

    No cast frames for guns are not more prone to failure. Time has proven that especially with Ruger's guns.

    S&W and Colt traditionally took barstock steel and stamped into roughly the shape of a frame. This they than machined.
    Ruger manufacturers a cast frame and then machines that into a finished frame. Casting with voids or other imperfections are rare with Ruger's advanced methods of casting and those are not used in the final product.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2020
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  16. MaxP

    MaxP Member

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    No. Forgings are only directionally stronger whereas the casting doesn't have that issue. Ruger has always over engineered their guns but it's not to compensate for weaker material. I toured the Pine Tree facility when I was researching my Ruger book and it was impressive to see the process up close and personally. By the way, Ruger also heat treats their frames.
     
  17. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    I agree with both the above assessments and that this has been hashed out for more than 30 years with no good reason to fault otherwise good products.

    When we start talking about "theoretical" advantages in frame strength with one method or another it becomes irrelevant because the results have already proven themselves "good enough" by any reasonable standard. Where we could conceivably apply the theoretical advantages in "strength" would only be if we were to materially change the design. Suppose we wanted to make a different design than what has been done for decades, with less material in some places or a different shape or something. Then the merits of casting versus forging might come to light. But suppose the design criteria was simply "lighter." If we simply wanted to make a "lighter" revolver, which method allows for a frame to possess sufficient strength while using less material? The answer is that neither method can even begin to compete with aluminum alloys, Titanium and polymer -- but this does not seem to deliver the advantage we might hope for. Both Ruger and S&W have achieved remarkably lightweight revolvers using these alternative materials, but these ultralight revolvers aren't very good. They're too hard to shoot well. They do have some purpose and desirability, but they just don't have the universal utility of a steel revolver. Essentially, what I'm saying is that aluminum, Titanium, and polymer have shown that even if forging or casting was "stronger," it doesn't really allow us to make the revolver a lot lighter without an undesirable consequence. So what good does it do us? Could we use it to allow the revolver to shoot loads that are far overpressure? There's just not enough of an advantage to accept the increased risk. The cylinder is the first thing that must hold the pressure and in all cases it is machined from bar stock -- not cast or forged. Could we use the superior strength of one method or another to increase the revolver's lifespan? Not practically, because the lifespan has more to do with the wear of small components like the cylinder stop, the notches and the hand, and it is limited by things like barrel face and forcing cone erosion. Those things are replaceable, but after a few replacements, we've spent more than the price of a new revolver and our ammo budget to wear out a revolver must necessarily dwarf the cost of the gun anyway. The frame strength is just not a limiting factor to lifespan. So what good does it do us if the frame is made super-duper strong, whether by some special method or a super-steel? It adds no more utility than encrusting it with jewels.
     
  18. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

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    Years ago Ruger began advertising that their lost wax cast revolvers were superior to S&W's forged frame revolvers.
    S&W struck back with what may be the most devastating media ad ever done with the infamous "Hamburger" ad.
    Ruger dropped their ads and slunk off.

    GnvPrDB.png

    It's accepted that in order to have the same strength of a forged part a cast part needs to be slightly larger due to the more porous nature of cast metal.
    For the average pistol, that slightly more massive part is not enough to make much difference.
     
  19. jski

    jski Member

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    I assume their stainless frames are cast as well?

    BTW, I always assumed their cylinders and barrels were machined from forged steel.
     
  20. MaxP

    MaxP Member

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    Rugers are not larger because they “require” more material to obtain strength. Ruger always builds a margin of strength into their firearms. Compare the Redhawk to its forged counterpart, the Model 29. The Redhawk will shrug off loads that will stretch the Smith & Wesson like taffy.
     
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  21. LaneP

    LaneP Member

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    I remember that ad campaign well.
     
  22. evan price

    evan price Member

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    What difference does it make!
    We're chewing old bones here.
    As long as you are shooting SAAMI-spec ammunition in the firearm for which it is designed, cast or forged won't matter. Generally there is an engineered safety margin that is generously calculated.
    What it comes down to is personal preference.
     
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  23. jski

    jski Member

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    These puppies are frequently bought with the notion of pushing the boundaries. I am looking at the stainless .45 Colt. And since I reload and since I use Starline brass, which is tested to 44 Mag pressure levels, I feel I can safely go to that level.
     
  24. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    One needs to truly understand what investment casting is before comparing it to other things. Investment casting uses a waxy substance as a form, and a material is packed around that to form a barrier to contain molten metals. For the casting to work properly (especially thin or long parts) the molds often have to be heated to prevent rapid cooling which will leave voids or other deformations in the part. So molten metal hits the wax, burns the wax away and then solidifies and is used as a rough part to machine down I to a finished part.

    Bar stock or billet is similarly made in that the metal is molten, poured into a form and allowed to harden. The big advantage of barstock is that the pour is larger and more consistent, but also has less intrusion of particles left over from burning out the shape which was in the form of wax or foam. Metals also move as they cool so there is some risk of a part twisting in a casting as it cools and cracking or getting out of dimensional tolerances. Billets can be thermally treated to get certain characteristics in large quantity, but castings similarly can be treated in batches with similar result.

    Realistically either way you end up with an oversized part which must be milled and finished to given specs. If processes are well controlled then you end up with very similar products. Casting simply eliminates a lot of milling time, and wasted material. Often a cast product has a bit more material left in place just to overcome any inclusions or issues with the casting and are often just a bit heavier because of that.
     
  25. jaguarxk120

    jaguarxk120 Member

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    If you notice Ruger frames do not have a milled out section for the internal parts.
    The frames have more material because all parts slide in from the top or bottom.
    Are they stronger than frames with cutouts for a side plate, I don't know.
    But I like the idea of having more steel in the frame.
     
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