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Steel receivers vs aluminum

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Slater, Jul 9, 2007.

  1. Slater

    Slater Participating Member

    Jun 20, 2003
    Flagstaff AZ
    As far as I'm aware, the Remington 870 and Ithaca 37 are the only two pump shotguns in production today with steel receivers (and I'm not sure where Ithaca has landed). In fact, one of the appealing features to me of the 870 is it's steel receiver, in a world where everyone seems to be going the light alloy route.

    Think the 870 will ever be offered with an aluminum receiver? Seems that would be cheaper for Remington (if it's technically feasible) but would kikd of signal the end of a classic design.

    I'm told that the Ithaca design requires steel.
  2. Hawk

    Hawk Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Grand Prairie, TX
    I've got a model 37 ultralight that has an aluminum reciever.
  3. Slater

    Slater Participating Member

    Jun 20, 2003
    Flagstaff AZ
    Heck, guess I was told wrong :D
  4. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Mentor

    May 10, 2005
    Kingsport Tennessee
    opening post: appealing feature .... steel receiver

    Mossberg can use an aluminum receiver because the
    steel breech bolt locks into the steel barrel.

    On both my S&W 916 and my Ithaca 37 clone, the bolt locks into
    the receiver which requires a steel receiver. My dealer has a
    genuine Ithaca 37 which is steel and the bolt locks in the
    receiver also. If the Ithaca 37 ultralight has an aluminum
    receiver, the barrel must have an extension for the bolt to
    lock into.

    It has been a while since I examined a Remington 870 closely,
    but if the bolt locks into the barrel, it could be made with an
    aluminum receiver. Remington has had years invested in
    successfully making a well-functioning, well balanced shotgun
    around a steel receiver; they could make an aluminum receiver
    870 shotgun, I am not sure why. It would be like Mossberg
    making a steel frame 500.

    I like the Mossbergs, but I have to agree that a steel frame
    870 looks better, especially after a few years of hard use.
    The finish on the alumnum frame guns tends to chip, leaving
    bright aluminum shining through. Both the Mossberg 500 and
    Remington 870 are good guns, period, but an old 870 looks better.
  5. Slater

    Slater Participating Member

    Jun 20, 2003
    Flagstaff AZ
    Aluminum receivers are perfectly functional, but I've owned a Mossberg 590 and a Winchester Defender in which the finish on the reciever would scuff badly just from carrying the weapon slung and having it brush against my hip. Kind of wondered what they used to finish those guns.

    Of course, Benelli has the polymer-over-metal construction on the Nova/Super Nova series. That seems to be doing nicely as far as I can tell.
  6. Dobe

    Dobe member

    Jan 4, 2003
  7. evbutler462

    evbutler462 Member

    Feb 27, 2007
    All my semis have alloy receivers except the Remmy 11-87. No problems after 40-50 years of shooting with wear. A drop of oil now and again solves this problem.
  8. mnrivrat

    mnrivrat Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    NEF partner youth (20ga. pump) I picked up the other day I believe had a steel receiver. I didn't handle their 12ga.

    Aluminum receiver Ithaca 37 ?
  9. kirbythegunsmith

    kirbythegunsmith Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    St. Louis area

    Frame materials had been iron or steel, and brass, and then aluminum came into vogue, and titanium and scandium, and lately polymers of multiple flavors.

    Every material chosen had been expected to have qualities that could be useful with a proper design.

    Aluminum frames in revolvers can be rated +p as a matter of course.

    Lightweight materials in magnum guns can seem mis-balanced, and recoil levels are elevated. A steel slide on a polymer frame does feel top-heavy, and most of the mass reciprocates.

    The aluminum frame Ithaca 37 does lock directly in the same position in the aluminum version as the steel version. The bolt locking surface has more surface area to hold the load in the high-strength aluminum frame of those 37's than a steel bolt lock has in an 1100 or Beretta AL-2/301/2/3 steel barrel extension.

    Most of the guns discussed have stresses induced into the frame during firing, with the only exceptions being the rotary bolt designs, like the Winchester 1200/1300/1400/1500 styles, and Benelli Nova/SBE etc.
    Rotary bolts with balanced lug position divide the stresses of firing between the lugs that are evenly spaced or opposite another.

    Two frames with different materials but similar stresses induced could be the Remington 1100/870 and Mossberg 500. These designs lock the bolt into the barrel extension...
    at the top...
    above and completely out of the line of the travel of the bolt and cartridge.

    When the pressure of firing pushes the case back against the bolt face, that takes the slack out of the parts involved up to the locking block.
    But it's only locking at the top?
    Some level of force is going to be directed downward into the frame via the bolt slide/action bars in the frame guide rails, since the locking lug (being one-sided with the force) has the effect of a pivot, albeit at a mechanical disadvantage.
    If the bolt face had 5000 lb. thrust against it, maybe 1000-1500 lb. could be exerted downward into the frame (these are example numbers, not measurements) due to the locking lug pivot of force.
    The Ithaca 37 has the same effect due to the upper locking recess for the tail of the bolt pivoting a portion of the force down into the bolt slide/frame rails interface.
    The Model 12 Winchester does this without benefit of a bolt slide with broad surfaces to distribute the stresses. That is one reason the later versions of the Model 12 had the square faced bolt face, trying to resist the pounding from the pivotal action. Slack in the parts makes for a more abrupt impact and pounding action, and the deformities that are generated increase the slack. Now the parts get even more of a running start before they are abruptly stopped.

    One final note:
    the Remington/Mossberg type bolt uses a movable locking block, while the Ithaca 37/ Win. M-12 style rock the entire bolt to lock.
    The locking block is an integral part in the chain of force transfer, and any slack in the fit can result in the pivotal force to transfer partially through the locking block having a minor rocking/tilting motion. This tilt is restrained by the barrel extension, the pivot pin (Moss. 500) and the bolt slide locking block seat section. Therefore, the pounding actions possible may also manifest themselves in those points of impact, but ultimately the final absorption point is the frame, itself, in these design situations.

  10. vynx

    vynx Active Member

    Sep 11, 2005
    Not sure but thought I heard the mossberg 590 or 590A or 590A1 --- some type of 590 came with a steel receiver?
  11. Slater

    Slater Participating Member

    Jun 20, 2003
    Flagstaff AZ
    As far as I know, all Mossberg 500/590 series shotguns have aluminum receivers.
  12. SwampWolf

    SwampWolf Senior Member

    Sep 18, 2005
    North Central Ohio
    The Browning BPS has always been made with a steel receiver.
  13. mjolnir

    mjolnir New Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    Carl, bolt lockup is not the relevant issue.

    The Remington's shell latches are STAKED into the receiver...can't do that with aluminum.

    If Remington redesigned how the shell latches were retained in the receiver, they could go with aluminum as well...but you can't simply replace materials...you'll notice aluminum-receiver Mossbergs & Winchesters have much thicker walls than Remingtons...and narrower bolts and slides to match.

    So if you keep internal dimensions the same to avoid using redesigned internals, you get a bulkier 870/1100. Which would be pointless.

    Ithaca avoids this because 37 receivers have thick walls to begin with, since the bolt locking notch is cut into the receiver.
  14. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Mentor

    Dec 26, 2002
    The Remington 870 receiver "could" be made of aluminum, and in one respect, it already HAS been.

    The S&W Model 3000 pump shotgun was made for S&W and later Mossberg by Howa of Japan.
    The 3000 was offered in both steel and aluminum receivers, and it was a very close copy of the Remington 870.
    As I recall, the shell releases were staked in place, just like the Remington.

    Where the steel receiver has it over the aluminum guns is in long term durability.
    Super heavy shooters like clay shooters report the aluminum guns like the Mossberg will start to develop receiver failure around the 60,000 to 70,000 round area.
    The steel Remington 870 is said to start to develop receiver cracks somewhere around the 250,000 round area.
    People say that since the aluminum guns bolt locks into a steel barrel, that makes it just as strong as a steel gun, but a high round count indicates that other things come into play.
  15. Geno
    • Contributing Member

    Geno Elder

    Jun 11, 2005
    I will never buy an aluminum receiver. I like steel.


    You are correct that they could make the 870 in Alum. I saw a knock-off of the 870, imported from goodness-knows-where...the entire receiver was aluminum. It was absolutely identical to the 870 in appearance, but about 1 pound lighter.

    But, I still like steel.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2007
  16. Fish Springs

    Fish Springs New Member

    Jan 2, 2003
    Remingtion did make an alloy framed gun, the M31 Lightweight.
  17. rocketman424

    rocketman424 New Member

    Oct 10, 2007
    I will take steel over aluminum any day. Part of that is personal preference, part of it is something else. Steel is stronger then aluminum and even if the average shooter would never wear out an aluminum receiver why buy one. the company saves money with aluminum but they dont make the gun cheaper. if i am paying the same amount for steel or aluminum it is a no brainer. besides aluminum fatigues unlike steel. that is why planes can only fly for so many hours before they are scraped.
    it is the same as when car companies switched over from full frame to unibody construction. you get a crappier car for the same if not more money.
  18. Hoser

    Hoser Moderator

    Dec 29, 2002
    Aluminum good. No rust. Light weight.

    I have a Benelli with 25,000 + rounds through it. Still runs fine.

    I also have a 10/22 with more than that, still going strong.
  19. sm

    sm member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Between black coffee, and shiftn' gears
    The whole is equal to the sum

    Metallurgy, Craftsmanship, Design, and Quality Control "Should

    Why do folks "have to" do Versus ?
    I mean what is with all all the negative vibes ?-Dirty Dozen.

    For the new folks, Please do not get "attached" or "caught up" on one Buzzword, or one Facet of anything, please. Investigate, Educate and Verify

    dfariswheel, mnrivrat and kirbythegunsmith, amongst others here, are passing forward some valuable information.

    Browning Citori's , great gun, proven, (I used a 3 barrel set for instance) had a taller receiver. Many folks did not like this Receiver.
    Beretta O/U on the other hand were not as tall, Looked better to some, and fit folks better.

    Both Steel Receivers, Both had a proven design, Part of the reason the Citori was taller, it was NOT Heat Treated the same as the Beretta Receiver Was.

    Win 1300's have a Aluminum receiver, these are proven.
    Beretta Gas Guns have a Al reciever , these are proven.

    Cast vs Forged, usually is brought up with comparing S&W and Ruger.
    Ruger has a very high quality , and pays attention to their Casting Process.
    (Pine Ridge) does Casting for other folks, and even other Items, besides guns.

    Forged, as S&W does, is another proven design, still the quality of components (metallurgy) quaitly control and everything else is what makes these Frames and all work.

    Knives: Folks can take "the" best steel, great design, and all - still if that steel is NOT properly heat treated, it is not worth anything.
    Take a 1095 steel, one many look down their noses on, and that blade, properly heated treated is a better blade than the newest, latest , greatest steel knife blade that was not.

    My '74 Win SX1 is made from great Metallurgy, Machined Steel Receiver and Internal parts, of a design, crafted, and quality control was a important part of Mfg for Win, and everyone else at the time.
    I have ~ 300,000 rds through this gun.

    "Money Gun" , is a 870 28 ga, with 300,000 rds.

    Beretta 303, 20 ga, Al receiver, again over 200,000, more like 250,000

    1300 in 20 ga, again, Al receiver and again over 200,000

    1100...same deal.

    These guns for example, were made with Metallurgy, Craftsmanship, Design, and Quality Control.

    The reason some of us, including myself get irate, is WE see some guns of yesteryear, cutting corners, and NOT maintaining the standards that gained them the status and Reputation WE know and appreciate.

    This is why I, and others suggest "Get a OLDer gun"

    Too many years ago, The first of these Repro Guns, Made in 3rd world countries come out.
    I /we messed with a few of these, as folks were asking - these were less money.

    These "looked" like the gun "Repro", but the Metal , QC and all was NOT anywhere the same.

    870s for example. One can take parts off one and they fit another. Modular if you will.

    This "knock-off" 870? Heck it would really fit itself, forget trying to get parts of another "knock-off" made with 100 numbers of serial numbers working.

    I/we used these knock offs "less" or more "gentle" than the 870s we used, with the round counts we shot..and these broke, cracked and you name it.

    I did not have the 3 box finished when I cracked the Clone stock using light 2 3/4" target loads. Less than 75 rds

    We had run 100-200 rds of slugs and 00 buck thru 1300, 870, Beretta, Win , Ithaca guns...etc. the day before, and some of these guns like one 870 and the Model 12 was older than I was!

    Mossberg. Don't ask me why Mossberg was just not around my locale, or circles, it just was not.
    I was born in '55 and I grew up with Winchester and Ithaca, and some Remington.

    Safety - don't bring up the location of safety on shotguns, especially in this thread.

    WE removed the safeties on purpose for what we were doing. We ran hot ranges. Safety is between the ears, not on the gun.

    Money Gun, that 870 in 28 ga I mentioned with 300,000 rds?
    Most all of its round fired , were done so with the trigger group without a Safety.

    Gun Fit, correct basics, get a Quality gun , Al, Steel, - don't matter, just become one with the gun and get on with it.
  20. nicksterdemus

    nicksterdemus New Member

    Sep 1, 2008
    "I mean what is with all all the negative vibes ?-Dirty Dozen."

    'Always with the negative waves Moriarty, always with the negative waves."

    Oddball, Kelly's Heroes.

    Gimmie an A, gimmie an L...

    Whats that spell?


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