Why not more stainless steel?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by labnoti, Sep 3, 2020.

  1. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    Any disadvantages besides the non-traditional appearance? Maybe a little more expense?

    I have revolvers and while I think most people prefer the look of polished blued steel with wood stocks, there's no question I am a lot more carefree with the stainless steel guns. I realize a person could just choose not to care about holster wear, pitting, discoloration, or anything outside the finest turn line on the cylinder, but it seems I'm fastidious against my will. I just find stainless steel guns to be a relief from any bother but cleanliness.

    It would seem that Glock struck-out with their grey-colored slides and promptly introduced the black option on those models. While they were never stainless steel, it seems like black-coated slides on pistols are far more popular than stainless even when some of the black coatings are flakey.

    I suppose that blued steel remains a favorite on traditional sporter-style bolt-action rifles with walnut stocks because of the traditional aesthetics. Why isn't stainless steel more popular on plastic-stock rifles like the Ruger American, Tikka, Savage Axis, Mossberg, etc.? I know it's an option, but usually with fewer chamberings and less inventory. The few optional rifles are priced a little higher but it's not clear whether that is due to the expense of the material or just the slight premium market position.

    What about shotguns? Why are there hardly any stainless steel shotguns? I realize the markets for both types of double-barrels feature tradition, with a few competition guns in there. A lot of the repeaters have aluminum receivers, but why are there "marinecoat" barrels rather than stainless steel? Why not a stainless 870 Express or Wingmaster? Most of the guns these days have vent ribs unless they're tactical or slug guns with peep sights, so I don't see the light colored matte-finish barrel causing too much glare. What about the old Winchester nickel steel and stainless steel barrels before the switch to "Proof Steel" ? Maybe the hardness was not good for modern steel shot, but the proof steel was not made for that either.

    Do you like stainless steel long guns or do you not favor them? Why?
     
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  2. slicksleeve

    slicksleeve Member

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    I like both stainless and blued. I love stainless revolvers. I too have wondered why shotguns aren't made of stainless more often. There is probably a good reason out there, but I've never thought to ask.
     
  3. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    Stainless is expensive. In a world where polymer is injection molded into everything, and aluminum alloys are inexpensive alternatives there just isn’t a huge demand. I do agree though, pocket pistols should be polymer and stainless, even if it’s coated stainless.
     
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  4. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    I'm not convinced it's expensive. It may be priced at a premium by some manufacturers, but a stainless steel Savage Axis is listed at $419.99. It's true that might still be $100 more than a similar blued rifle, but we can also find hardwood-stocked rifles that sell for $100 more than the same model with a synthetic stock. Is wood expensive? Obviously, some wood is, but Mossberg did not have to add $100 to the cost of my old shotgun to keep their margin when it had a birch stock. It seems to me the difference in the expense for a manufacturer between carbon steel and stainless steel could be a very small amount, especially if stainless steel was not unpopular. In revolvers, the MSRP for the Model 19 ($843) is not much less than the Model 66 ($854). The 19 has a wood stock instead of rubber.

    I do agree that machined steel is expensive compared to injection molded polymer. There's no question there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
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  5. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator Staff Member

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    From the standpoint of material cost, high grade stainless is quite a bit more expensive than a good carbon steel.

    The reason we see many more stainless revolvers than blued is the environmental costs of using and disposing of the bluing chemicals.

    The real reason that metal handguns cost a lot more than polymer lies in the cost of making anything out of the materials.
     
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  6. Obturation
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    Obturation Contributing Member

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    I like stainless revolvers. Anything else I'm kind of impartial , if the gun will see hard use and likely abuse the stainless finish is easier to clean up blemishes (if you care) , either way any gun can be coated to be resistant to elements. If I were taking a glossy blued long gun out to the woods for a couple weeks in a wet environment I would expect some deterioration of the finish and if it wasn't damaged cosmetically I would consider myself lucky, with a stainless long gun a couple weeks outdoors wouldn't bother it a bit if you gave it just a little TLC .
    I did have a stainless sig 1911 that rusted continually no matter what I did to prevent it, in the same conditions that I stored dozens of other guns in and none with a rust issue but that gun was born to discolor and pop out rust freckles every few weeks. Easy to clean up but I really shouldn't have had to. Stainless does rust.

    Stainless pump shotgun is appealing to me, they really are uncommon though. My childhood friend has a 500 mariner and I would guess the barrels stainless but I honestly don't know- maybe chrome? That gun looks good after 10 years of the world's dumbest man owning it- that's impressive.
     
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  7. Outlaw75

    Outlaw75 Member

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    I like stainless revolvers, but not semi-autos. I'd prefer them to be either parkerized or have tenifer/melanite type finish. I blame Hollywood for that! Always seemed like the villains on TV and in the movies carried stainless semi-autos, or polymer framed pistols with stainless slides.
     
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  8. bassjam

    bassjam Member

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    There is a cost to using stainless steel that's not just in the cost of material, but also machining it. Typically, feed speeds are slower, so you have a lower hourly/daily output when machining stainless. It can also be harder on cutting tools, so you either buy a higher quality, and/or sharpen and replace them more often.

    It's much easier to work with something like 4140 and then heat treat it and blue it or put a melonite treatment on it to add hardness and corrosion resistance.
     
  9. Stophel

    Stophel Member

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    With stainless, you have to take galling into account. The stainless galling problem has been figured out for some time now, but still, it's something that may cause trouble and has to be figured into the manufacture of the gun.

    I think a black colored gun is better for defensive purposes, as it lets you focus on the sights and the target without being distracted by a big shiny white/silver gun.

    Stainless is ok. It is more rust resistant, obviously, but otherwise, it is lifeless, cold, and uninteresting.
     
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  10. Tommygunn

    Tommygunn Member

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    I have a S & W 686 in stainless steel, .357magnum. It's a nice looking gun. I have a Pietta Colt 1851 that, while not staineless, is left "in the white" with a nice polish, and looks stainless.

    It is a nice look.
     
  11. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Handguns that are carried everyday are exposed to a lot more salty sweat than long guns. SS handguns solved a lot of problems going back 30 years ago. But lots of folks never liked that it was flashy and the military and LE worried that it would be easier to see in low light situations giving away their position to the bad guys or enemy. Since then darker colored finishes used by Glock and others has proven to be at least as effective, and less costly.

    SS never really caught on with shotgunners. It could be an asset for duck hunters, but the flashy appearance just didn't sit well with everything else being camo.

    SS was quite popular for rifles. It still is, but seems to be less popular than it was a few years ago. In my experience it is easier to keep a SS rifle looking nice, but a rifle with a blue or dark coating isn't terribly hard to maintain even if used in harsh conditions. Any issues that lead to a failure will be due to neglect that would happen with SS as well as blued steel
     
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  12. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    If you were to order a barrel from McGowan, you would pay a $15 premium on any size or length barrel.

    As far as raw materials go, SS just isn’t that much more expensive.

    Machining it on the other hand, can be a pain since it work hardens.
     
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  13. Prince Yamato

    Prince Yamato Member

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    Personally, I like my semi-autos all black and my revolvers blued (or that M&P black finish). I can’t stand reflective anything on guns.

    I’ve always associated stainless guns with older guys- now that I’m almost 40, that would be folks in their 80s. Given that generation is passing away, that may be why you see less stainless guns. Probably the same reason you see less baby blue colored cars too.

    I think FDE is the stainless of my generation. I suspect in 40 years, all the threads will be asking, “why can’t I buy a Glock 15th gen in FDE?”
     
  14. Frulk

    Frulk Member

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    Own quite a few stainless guns. I prefer wood and blued steel. That being said, my first preference would be color case hardened frames with blued barrels on my single actions and blued frames/barrels on my double actions with case hardened triggers and hammers.

    Don’t have a preference on semi autos except for 1911s. Prefer them blued.
     
  15. kell

    kell Member

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    Maybe stainless is nickel plating that you don't have to plate?? I like beautiful guns, they're works of art and engineering marvels. I enjoy just holding them. I don't care for polymer ( I own several and they're ugly) 'member those nylon .22's back i the 60's ? Pffftffttt.
     
  16. Frulk

    Frulk Member

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    You talking about the Remington Nylon 66? Called the Mohawk I think. I’d pay top dollar for one in pristine condition. They have a niche collectors following.
     
  17. Steve S.

    Steve S. Member

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    Both are fine by me depending on the gun - I (probably like most on this board) own both.
     
  18. kell

    kell Member

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    I know they are valuable, and I'd like to have one just cause they're different. But even when I was 10 years old and saw this rifle in the general store, there was something just not right - no wood, plastic - I don't know???
     
  19. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    Stainless is a bit more expensive to machine vs carbon steel, requiring less productive fees rates

    On any good quality handgun (I'm looking at you CZ. . .) that's not a coating, and it's not flakey. It's Ferritic nitrocarburizing. It changes the surface chemistry of the steel to vastly increase hardness, lubricity, and corrosion resistance. The original part is mild carbon steel, and the finished surface will compete with hardened tool steel for toughness.
     
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  20. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    I think I understand you're slighting CZ for their black polycoating. Yeah. But Glock Gen 4's had problems too with whatever nitriding melonite finish they used instead of tennifer of previous generations or the current nDLC all of which have their critics. Then there's all the people that cerakote their guns because obviously whatever other finish the factory puts on leaves something to be desired.
     
  21. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    I would prefer stainless in everything. I would love a stainless (hunting) shotgun. I am willing to pay the premium for guns that do not rust and can live in the real world with minimal upkeep to the finish (or worry over it).
     
  22. Darkhorse

    Darkhorse Member

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    I also like stainless for virtually all guns, but I have several blued ones too.

    I suspect that many people prefer blued guns like they had in the army or whatever, but the army can re-blue 1000 guns at a time, with no effort.

    For me, always expecting restrictions on gun ownership, I find stainless to be the ideal material for guns which may have to live "underground".
     
  23. 792mauser

    792mauser Member

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    Stainless 357 new model vaqueros!
    I love mine.
    Shoots blackpowder all day a day just wipes down clean.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2020
  24. Old Dog

    Old Dog Member

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    I am of the opinion that the only firearm that should be allowed in stainless is a S&W Model 66. Or a Ruger 10-22 TD.

    That is all.
     
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  25. MikeInOr

    MikeInOr Member

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    When buying a modern gun (pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun) whether the gun comes in stainless is a BIG factor in my buying decision. I like to be able to carry a gun and not worry about scratching or chipping the finish. The only real finish for me that fits this bill is stainless. If there is a scratch I can easily buff it out. If it is neglected and some surface rust starts forming I can pretty much wipe the rust mark off a stainless gun. For me stainless is just MUCH more practical. It took about an hour with a white Scotchbrite pad to get rid of the years of little bruises on my Dan Wesson 744 when I bought it (used of course) and it now looks brand new! I don't like the black coated stainless pistols either. Why put a finish that is going to scratch and chip over a stainless slide???? (I know some people like the lower profile of a black finish where a stainless finish would be much more noticable)

    That said the majority of my gun collection is blued or parkerized. I was lucky enough to be in on and take advantage of the military surplus market in the 80's and 90's where stainless obviously isn't a choice.

    At times I wish I were more ammenable to buying blued guns. There was a great deal on a Dan Wessom model 15 in 357 with a couple of extra barrels a few years back. I just could not get over the fragility of a blued finish and the mismatched blueing on the Dan Wesson barrels and frames (They were made out of different steels so the barrels stay black and the frames turn a dark plum after many years). I also passed on a great deal on a Dan Wesson .22lr revolver for the same reason. I would love a RIA double stack 9mm/22tcm 1911 BUT I really want my next 1911 to be stainless. A new model Mini 14 is on my list. I have passed up many good to very good deals waiting for a stainless model.

    I do believe that 4140 chrome molly steel is harder than the stainless steel used in most guns which might actually give the blued guns an edge in wear resistance between moving parts like a slide and frame???
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2020
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