1. Bikerdoc's passing and how you can help

    As many of you know, bikerdoc- AKA Al Spiniello- is no longer with us. There are always extra expenses when someone passes. If you would like to contribute to support his family, please do so here: Bikerdoc GoFundMe page.

    (Note - this notice can be dismissed by clicking on the X in the upper right corner.)
    Dismiss Notice

Will Aluminum Frames Last?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Confederate, Nov 13, 2015.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Confederate

    Confederate Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2005
    Messages:
    3,402
    Location:
    Arlington, VA
    I've done a lot of reading about a number of handguns with alloy (aluminum) frames and I'm wondering how much is real and how much is pap. I began reading about the Beretta 92 problems and how a number of frames had cracks. Although some in the military considered it an insignificant cosmetic problem, Beretta urged the military not to accept them.

    Then there was the problem with Beretta's Tomcat. Microfractures in the frame caused many of these guns to spontaneously fail (not good for a defense gun). The military also reportedly disqualified a number of aluminum frame guns, including the popular Sig Saur entry. Other aluminum-frame guns, like the S&W 459, functioned just fine during the military trials. At the time, the Beretta 9mm was considered "overbuilt" by many, but then came the failures, causing the military to rate its service life at a mere 5,000 rounds. But the Beretta 92 problem centered on the steel slide, not the alloy frame. But cracks were observed at times in the frame.

    Apparently, polymer isn't a problem. A friend tells me he can completely rebuild his Glock in less than thirty minutes, and he says they can shoot many tens of thousands of rounds without perceptible wear.

    So will alloy frames survive?
     
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Messages:
    59,076
    Location:
    Eastern KS
    I don't know yet.

    My Model 39 S&W is only 40 years old, so I don't know how long it will last yet?

    But it's going to last longer then I will, for sure!

    rc
     
  3. 1SOW

    1SOW Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2007
    Messages:
    4,107
    Location:
    South Texas
    My 9mm Sig P-239 was bought back in the last century, and was first used when I started shooting USPSA. It still shoots to POA at 25yrds and is my edc. TOTAL failures = ZERO, and this isn't some internet exaggeration. It really has never had a part fail or fail to fire with a LOT of rds through it. I did lighten the hammer spring and put in the short reset kit.

    I do keep it lubed, and fairly clean.
     
  4. HammsBeer

    HammsBeer Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Messages:
    771
    Location:
    USA
    One of my Sig P6's is from 1980 and with all the scuffs and dings it's been through hell and back. Based on the outer barrel wear marks and the slide rail wear, it's had a TON of rounds through it. No cracks in the alloy frame or steel slide yet. Not to say it can't, but it'll take alot of rounds for it to happen.

    If a pistol designed for 9mm is upped to a higher pressure round like .40 I could see it accelerating any potential crack issues.
     
  5. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2011
    Messages:
    5,773
    Location:
    Hastings, Michigan
    My S&W 469 went out of production in 1988. Not as old as some alloy framed guns, older than others. No idea of the round count since I got it second hand. Same with my Ruger P89. Never had any issues with the M9 pistols I was issued while in the Air Force, either.

    Of the tens of thousands or more of Beretta M9 pistols purchased by the DoD, the percentage of failures among them was quite small. I read somewhere that only a small handful of pistols actually had catastrophic failures, and the majority if them were training weapons that were never combat issued. When thousands of troops train on a few pistols that are constantly being disassembled, reassembled and aggressively cleaned, accelerated parts wear would be expected. But still, a half dozen guns among tens of thousands or more, with above average use... I would still trust a Beretta M9, or any other proven alloy frame gun from a reputable manufacturer.
     
  6. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Messages:
    24,065
    I have a Manurhin P1 made quite some time ago. Still going strong with no signs, other than finish wear, of any problems with the aluminum frame.

    068_zpst2tsmsuk.gif
     
  7. JDGray

    JDGray Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Messages:
    5,560
    Location:
    SW MI.
    Sounds like a Beretta problem...
     
  8. Devonai

    Devonai Member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2003
    Messages:
    3,993
    Location:
    Connecticut
    My 92FS has been going strong for 18 years and I wouldn't expect anything else.
     
  9. tarosean

    tarosean Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2010
    Messages:
    7,494
    Location:
    TX

    I think you probably need to reread what actually happened at the XM9 trials in the 80's. Seems your version is based on internet rumors..

    http://gao.gov/assets/210/208564.pdf
     
  10. ku4hx

    ku4hx Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    Messages:
    2,793
    Our Ruger KP90s have certainly lasted with no more wear than you normally see on steel frames. Not a semi auto, but the AL frame of my early '60s Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum has been unaffected by time and shooting.

    Nothing lasts forever, but with reasonable care and when used as designed, AL framed guns can easily outlast their owners.
     
  11. psyopspec

    psyopspec Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Messages:
    4,713
    Location:
    Cape Cod
    Source on the 5k number?

    I've definitely seen M9s that needed work due to neglect and abuse, but the receivers themselves were Joe-snuffy proof from my own experience and shooting the bull with every armorer I met downrange. If you got a frame to crack from wear, that would be somewhat newsworthy in the shooting world. And I would guess the number of rounds to make it happen would be well into the 6 figures.
     
  12. flphotog

    flphotog Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2013
    Messages:
    260
    Location:
    Clearwater,FL
    I wouldn't worry about it, you mention aluminum but that isn't exactly true, they are made of various modern alloy's that are extremely light and durable and should last a very long time.
     
  13. JTQ

    JTQ Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2009
    Messages:
    9,102
    Location:
    NW Florida
    It does seem like the OP has grabbed onto a few chunks of misinformation that he has shared with us in a few of his recent posts.

    Here is Ben Stoeger talking about his Beretta's and how they've held up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue8_uN0OIVs
     
  14. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Messages:
    8,911
    I think the OP has misunderstood the concept of "mean rounds between failures." Failure, in that context, does not mean frames falling apart or the gun being junk thereafter.
     
  15. Taurus 617 CCW

    Taurus 617 CCW Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,807
    Location:
    Northern Idaho
    The only aluminum framed gun that I have ever seen fail personally was a Bersa Thunder 380 we had as a rental gun for the range I worked at. It was a very reliable gun and must have had between 10K and 20K rounds through it before the frame cracked. Bersa replaced the gun free of charge.
     
  16. eldon519

    eldon519 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2005
    Messages:
    2,449
    Location:
    Georgia
    A frequent cause of frame failures for any gun of any material is inadequate maintenance. You need to change the springs once in awhile or any semi-auto will beat itself to death. Some guns can go 20,000+ plus rounds between changes, others need them swapped much more often than that.
     
  17. PJSprog

    PJSprog Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2013
    Messages:
    1,167
    Location:
    Southern Illinois (STL area)
    I've had an aluminum framed S&W 622 for about 25 years. No idea of round count through it, but it shows no signs of cracks or any other damage.

    I carry a S&W 637 every day. I'm none too worried about it either.

    I think the aluminum/alloy frame worries are much ado about nothing.
     
  18. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Messages:
    5,666
    Location:
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Steel has a bit more resiliency than aluminum. When bent or beat upon, it returns to it's normal state more easily, without damage. Aluminum tends to break. That's why you don't see aluminum springs.

    Most handgun frames aren't meant to do a lot of bending or flexing -- they're supposed to be the handle that makes the gun (barrel and slide/bolt) work. In some respects, polymer frames act more like steel than aluminum does -- and for a gun's frame, may be better than aluminum.

    That said, SIG has been using aluminum frames for most of it's models for 40 years, and SIG aren't know for frame failures.

    I've seen a couple of aluminum-framed guns crack. One was S&W 669 that I sold to the owner of a local gun range/gun shop. S&W replaced it, and acted embarrassed by the failure. (They replaced it, but didn't replace the very nice trigger job that had been done to the gun before I sold it. The range owner was just happy to get the gun replaced.) I've seen a few steel frames crack, too. Some 1911 show that -- but the cracks are often ugly looking but don't change or hamper the gun's ability to function. I've seen steel slides crack, too -- but that seems to be a design issue, not a "material" issue.

    The question isn't really HOW LONG before the aluminum frame cracks or fails -- it's not really a "TIME" issue. It's a work issue: how much work of a particularly difficult nature must be done before the metal begins to fail or show structural damage. I suspect that most guns will do pretty well, and it won't matter whether they're steel, alloy, or polymer.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  19. HammsBeer

    HammsBeer Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Messages:
    771
    Location:
    USA
    I agree with what eldon said about spring maintenance. I bet alot of these alloy frame cracks can be attributed to worn out recoil springs allowing the slide to beat the heck out of the frame. Springs are cheap, a new gun is not. Here is an example of spring maintenance schedule for Sigs:

    SIG Sauer’s recommended maintenance and parts replacement schedule (as of March 2008):

    Barrel: If the pistol exhibits keyholing or unacceptable accuracy.
    Decocking lever spring: 10,000
    Extractor: 20,000
    Extractor spring: 20,000
    Firing pin: 20,000
    Firing pin spring: 20,000
    Magazine spring: When magazine fails to lock the slide open.
    Recoil spring: 3,000 - 5,000
    Safety lock spring: 20,000
    Slide catch lever spring: 10,000
    Takedown lever: 20,000
    Trigger bar spring: 10,000
    Mainspring (hammer spring): 5000 or when misfires due to light hammer strikes occur.
     
  20. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Messages:
    5,666
    Location:
    Winston-Salem, NC
    You may be right, but I don't think a weak recoil spring is likely to lead to a damaged alloy frame. A recoil spring weak enough to allow damage the frame is probably so weak it won't be able to store enough energy to strip the next round from the mag and feed it into the chamber. The gun will probably stop running before that happens. I suspect SIG recommends regular spring replacement to assure continued proper function and feeding, not to protect the gun.

    The main function of the recoil spring is NOT to protect the frame, but to store enough of the moving slide's energy to be able to strip the next round off the magazine and feed it into the chamber. Frames are generally pretty robust, and the points where slide or barrel interact with the frame are also robust and well designed to manage the forces they encounter. With nearly all of the aluminum-framed guns, where slide and barrel hit the frame, the interface is steel.

    1911Tuner a some-time participant here and on other forums, has shown that shooting a 1911 without a recoil spring doesn't destroy the gun; those who have examined the gun he has done this with (many times) say that there's no evidence of damage. Those who shoot that gun (or their own) without the recoil spring installed also tell us that they don't really notice much difference in felt recoil. That would suggest that the recoil spring isn't doing MUCH to reduce slide/frame impact.

    The fact that you can typically rack a slide by hand without needing a bumper jack to do it tells you that the recoil spring isn't really strong enough to protect the frame from a lot of slide impact.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2015
  21. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2010
    Messages:
    8,412
    Location:
    Florida
    It's when all the airplanes start falling out of the air that bothers me.:)
     
  22. sigarms228

    sigarms228 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,150
    Location:
    Illinois
    Beretta's website states that typically a M9 will fire OVER 35,000 rounds of commercial ammunition before a failure. That's pretty dang robust and fix the failure and shoot a ton more.

    http://www.beretta.com/en-us/m9/

     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  23. grter

    grter Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    Messages:
    910
    It depends on the type of aluminun used. Properly made and treated aluminum can rival steel in it's tensile stregnth according to Cold Steel and I have to agree because in EMS we used to use very light weight aluminum stretchers that would go through absolute hell from getting serverely banged up to rolling 500lb people and those things rarely broke despite their daily life of flexing and impacts.

    I also read that aluminum of that quality is not easy to make, is significantly more expensive to make, and requires stricter quality control that raises the price even more.

    One thing I don't like is a lot of businesses don't talk about the type of materials they use, are very tight lipped about it when you inquire, and it is quite possible they don't tell because they don't want you to know they use the cheapest stuff that they can and it may be on the border of being able to be durable enough for the use it's put to.

    That is my take on the subject.
     
  24. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2007
    Messages:
    15,163
    Location:
    Georgia
    It's not the years, but the mileage. Most of the data I've seen shows a life expectancy of around 35,000 rounds for aluminum allow framed guns. Most of us will never wear one out. That is 700 boxes of ammo. At $15/box you'll have to spend over $10,000 on ammo to wear one out. If you can afford the ammo, you can afford to buy a new gun.

    In comparison most steel framed guns are usually good for at least 100,000 rounds and there are multiple Glocks out there with over 300,000 rounds documented.

    Aluminum is the least durable, and offers very few advantages over steel. There is a reason plastic guns are replacing them. But for most of us it is a non-issue.
     
  25. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Messages:
    5,666
    Location:
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Your take MAY be correct when applied to some businesses, but I'm not sure it really applies to the firearms industry. If there were a LOT of aluminum-framed guns failing you'd probably be justified in making such a statement in the context of this discussion -- but that doesn't seem to be the case.

    While the exact composition of any aluminum alloy used in a gun's frame can probably be determined by a metallurgist, I suspect that most gun makers consider things like their metal frame's "formula" to be a trade secret -- they'll talk in generalities, not specifics.

    Beretta, S&W, SIG, and CZ all have made a lot of aluminum framed guns -- and none of them have reputations for selling aluminum-framed guns that fail.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice