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Rockwell Hardness of Winchester Barrels
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January 14, 2024 - 5:17 pm
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I recently added a Rockwell hardness tester to the shop and the first thing I did was to test the hardness of the different Winchester barrel steels.  I tested a variety of barrels from different time frames.  I also tested mild steel barrels as well as barrels marked “nickel steel” and “proof steel”.  It may come as a surprise to some just how late Winchester was still producing mild steel barrels.  Hint – it was long after Winchester started producing nickel steel and even proof steel barrels.  I’ll be delving into the relative hardness of receiver steels soon.  Mark

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January 14, 2024 - 5:52 pm
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I’ll be interested in seeing the results…after the Cowboys game this afternoon of course Wink

Thanks for keeping up with the channel and producing content!

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January 14, 2024 - 6:36 pm
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Mark,

Great video!

As an added point of interest, the “mild” steel barrels were described by Winchester as “High grade” steel.  In the original catalogs, Winchester even provided the tensile strength for the “high grade steel” and the “Nickel steel” barrels.

Barrel-strength.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Do you know what the correlation is between the hardness and the tensile strength?

Bert

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January 14, 2024 - 8:02 pm
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Interesting indeed, Mark. Fascinated by an old machine like this one that still works after all these years. How did you learn how to use it? 

 

Mike

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January 14, 2024 - 8:57 pm
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Bert H. said
Mark,

Great video!

As an added point of interest, the “mild” steel barrels were described by Winchester as “High grade” steel.  In the original catalogs, Winchester even provided the tensile strength for the “high grade steel” and the “Nickel steel” barrels.

Barrel-strength.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Do you know what the correlation is between the hardness and the tensile strength?

Bert

  

Thanks Bert.  I’m looking forward to doing some hardness testing on receivers.  Unfortunately, Winchester didn’t mark steel types on receivers like they did on barrels.  Any chance you’ve come across any documentation that shows when receiver steels may have been changed.  Of course, that’s assuming there were changes in receiver steels.

My guess is that the term “high grade” steel was more of an advertising term.  I would also expect that Winchester used a very high quality steel for barrels, so the term “high grade” steel may have been accurate, but was still a mild steel of good quality.

As for the correlation between hardness and tensile strength, it’s my understanding that there isn’t a direct correlation between the two.  While we can generally expect a higher tensile strength in steels with more hardness, it isn’t a linear relationship.  As evidence, the difference in hardness between the “High Grade steel barrels tested versus nickel steel barrels is 26% (73 HRB vs. 98 HRB) while the difference in tensile strength is 83%.  There are too many variables in metallurgy, alloys, heat treating, etc.  Two different types of steels with the same hardness can have different tensile strengths. Tensile strength can’t be predicted by hardness alone.  Mark

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January 14, 2024 - 8:59 pm
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TXGunNut said
Interesting indeed, Mark. Fascinated by an old machine like this one that still works after all these years. How did you learn how to use it? 

 

Mike

  

Thanks Mike.  That Wilson hardness tester is the same model that I learned to use in gunsmithing school, so it’s like an old friend. Smile  Mark

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January 14, 2024 - 11:54 pm
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 Looking forward to reading your results,Mark.

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January 15, 2024 - 1:02 am
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  Mark,

 Thanks for the education, very revealing. You really are a super gunsmith. Where do you come up with these ideas?

                                                                                                                                 T/R 

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January 15, 2024 - 1:09 am
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Mark,

this was a very interesting video.  Surprising that a 1942 barrel was still mild steel.  Thank you very much for putting together these interesting presentations. 

Kevin 

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January 15, 2024 - 1:39 am
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Mark Douglas said

Bert H. said

Mark,

Great video!

As an added point of interest, the “mild” steel barrels were described by Winchester as “High grade” steel.  In the original catalogs, Winchester even provided the tensile strength for the “high grade steel” and the “Nickel steel” barrels.

Barrel-strength.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Do you know what the correlation is between the hardness and the tensile strength?

Bert

Thanks Bert.  I’m looking forward to doing some hardness testing on receivers.  Unfortunately, Winchester didn’t mark steel types on receivers like they did on barrels.  Any chance you’ve come across any documentation that shows when receiver steels may have been changed.  Of course, that’s assuming there were changes in receiver steels.

My guess is that the term “high grade” steel was more of an advertising term.  I would also expect that Winchester used a very high quality steel for barrels, so the term “high grade” steel may have been accurate, but was still a mild steel of good quality.

As for the correlation between hardness and tensile strength, it’s my understanding that there isn’t a direct correlation between the two.  While we can generally expect a higher tensile strength in steels with more hardness, it isn’t a linear relationship.  As evidence, the difference in hardness between the “High Grade steel barrels tested versus nickel steel barrels is 26% (73 HRB vs. 98 HRB) while the difference in tensile strength is 83%.  There are too many variables in metallurgy, alloys, heat treating, etc.  Two different types of steels with the same hardness can have different tensile strengths. Tensile strength can’t be predicted by hardness alone.  Mark 

Interesting, but from an Engineering point of view, the more important factor in the development of steel alloys used in making gun barrels and receiver frames is the tensile strength.  Hardness is a detriment to the ease of the machining process (much faster tooling wear), and generally speaking, the harder a material is, the more brittle it also is.  A steel alloy with a high tensile strength and elasticity is the preferred goal.  It would be interesting to know what the tensile strength is for the CMS (Proof Steel).

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January 15, 2024 - 2:01 am
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This is quite an interesting video!  Thank you!

And so, I imagine since Bert has stated that most Winchester rifles are safe to fire with smokeless powder, that since the 1941 Winchester 1886 barrel is mild steel, that there is no correlation between mild steel and harder steels and usage of a black powder round or smokeless round in a particular barrel?  1941 was over four decades after smokeless powder became readily available in cartridges.

Please clarify and what Winchester rifles should only be fired with black powder and why.

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January 15, 2024 - 2:08 am
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I’m amazed by the quality of steel used by Winchester. They apparently had the means to accurately measure both strength and hardness and their steel suppliers managed to deliver a high quality product. All with technology probably invented when the automobile was a novelty. Mind boggling.

 

Mike

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January 15, 2024 - 3:30 am
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TR said
  Mark,

 Thanks for the education, very revealing. You really are a super gunsmith. Where do you come up with these ideas?

                                                                                                                                 T/R 

  

Thanks Tom, but I’m a relative rookie.  I’ve been very lucky to have some exceptional mentors and friends who’re willing to help out a guy with an appetite to learn all I can about the trade.  Not too long ago, I recall a couple of very helpful brothers who went out of their way to help me repair an 1876 set trigger.  Thanks again for that help!

As soon as I saw that hardness tester was for sale, I was planning to test Winchester barrels.  I enjoyed making this episode because I was answering some questions I’ve long had about Winchester barrel steels.  Mark

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January 15, 2024 - 3:47 am
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Bert H. said

Mark Douglas said

Bert H. said

Mark,

Great video!

As an added point of interest, the “mild” steel barrels were described by Winchester as “High grade” steel.  In the original catalogs, Winchester even provided the tensile strength for the “high grade steel” and the “Nickel steel” barrels.

Barrel-strength.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Do you know what the correlation is between the hardness and the tensile strength?

Bert

Thanks Bert.  I’m looking forward to doing some hardness testing on receivers.  Unfortunately, Winchester didn’t mark steel types on receivers like they did on barrels.  Any chance you’ve come across any documentation that shows when receiver steels may have been changed.  Of course, that’s assuming there were changes in receiver steels.

My guess is that the term “high grade” steel was more of an advertising term.  I would also expect that Winchester used a very high quality steel for barrels, so the term “high grade” steel may have been accurate, but was still a mild steel of good quality.

As for the correlation between hardness and tensile strength, it’s my understanding that there isn’t a direct correlation between the two.  While we can generally expect a higher tensile strength in steels with more hardness, it isn’t a linear relationship.  As evidence, the difference in hardness between the “High Grade steel barrels tested versus nickel steel barrels is 26% (73 HRB vs. 98 HRB) while the difference in tensile strength is 83%.  There are too many variables in metallurgy, alloys, heat treating, etc.  Two different types of steels with the same hardness can have different tensile strengths. Tensile strength can’t be predicted by hardness alone.  Mark 

Interesting, but from an Engineering point of view, the more important factor in the development of steel alloys used in making gun barrels and receiver frames is the tensile strength.  Hardness is a detriment to the ease of the machining process (much faster tooling wear), and generally speaking, the harder a material is, the more brittle it also is.  A steel alloy with a high tensile strength and elasticity is the preferred goal.  It would be interesting to know what the tensile strength is for the CMS (Proof Steel).

Bert

  

Exactly.  Those are the main reasons that the harder “tool or high carbon” steels aren’t used for barrel manufacturing.  The harder the steel, the more brittle and the harder to machine.  

I don’t have a way to test tensile strength, so testing hardness is my best tool to identify barrel steel types.

According to Winchester:                   Tensile Strength                   Elastic Limit                        Hardness (My Tests)  

High Grade Steel (Mild)                        60,000 PSI                           40,000 lbs.                            73+/- HRB

Nickel Steel                                       110,000 PSI                           90,000 lbs.                            98 HRB 

Proof Steel                                        129,150 PSI                          112,500 lbs.                           102.5 HRB  

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January 15, 2024 - 3:59 am
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mrcvs said
This is quite an interesting video!  Thank you!

And so, I imagine since Bert has stated that most Winchester rifles are safe to fire with smokeless powder, that since the 1941 Winchester 1886 barrel is mild steel, that there is no correlation between mild steel and harder steels and usage of a black powder round or smokeless round in a particular barrel?  1941 was over four decades after smokeless powder became readily available in cartridges.

Please clarify and what Winchester rifles should only be fired with black powder and why.

  

The very simple answer to your question is “none”.  Any Winchester rifle can be safely fired with smokeless loads as long as the smokeless loads used are loaded to produce equal or less peak chamber pressure than black powder loads.  This can be accomplished in any Winchester caliber or model.  Keep in mind, though, that shooting high velocity smokeless loads with jacketed bullets (WHV loads for example) in mild steel barrels will prematurely wear rifling.

This may answer your questions more thoroughly:

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January 15, 2024 - 1:00 pm
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Mark,

Like everyone else said another great video and just a very informative way of explaining this to us novices. If I’m remembering correctly Winchester introduced their Winchester Proofed Steel in 1931 on their model 21 and in 1932 for the model 12.

Thanks again,Smile

Anthony

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January 15, 2024 - 5:39 pm
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Antonio said
Mark,

Like everyone else said another great video and just a very informative way of explaining this to us novices. If I’m remembering correctly Winchester introduced their Winchester Proofed Steel in 1931 on their model 21 and in 1932 for the model 12.

Thanks again,Smile

Anthony

It was also 1932 for the Model 94 and all other rifles that were in production at that time.  The Model 71 was (I believe) the first to use Proof Steel for both the receiver frame & barrel.  

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January 15, 2024 - 6:31 pm
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Wonderful video, Mark.

When I first started reloading one of the first tools I bought was a chronograph.  I never load ammo without using a chronograph. 

If you want to read something on what Mark touched on, flash over, read P.O. Ackley’s Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders.  Page 91.  You will see examples of blown up cases caused by greatly reduced loads that caused flash over.  I never use smokeless powder in a black powder cartridge without using toilet paper to ensure all of the powder is down by the primer. 

Another toy is QuickLoad Ballistic Software.  It does not list most of our obsolete cartridges but you can play with it and see what types of pressures you would get with a certain amount of powder.

Lastly, I spent most of my 45 year career working with pipelines and piping systems.  What we paid a lot of attention to was the tensile/yield strength of the pipe.  This is where the pipe will not recover if pushed to this amount of pressure.  At some point above this the pipe will rupture. 

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January 15, 2024 - 10:26 pm
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Bert H. said

Antonio said

Mark,

Like everyone else said another great video and just a very informative way of explaining this to us novices. If I’m remembering correctly Winchester introduced their Winchester Proofed Steel in 1931 on their model 21 and in 1932 for the model 12.

Thanks again,Smile

Anthony

It was also 1932 for the Model 94 and all other rifles that were in production at that time.  The Model 71 was (I believe) the first to use Proof Steel for both the receiver frame & barrel.  

Bert

  

Bert,

That’s great information once again as I didn’t remember that. Makes sense now that I think about it.Smile

Anthony

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January 19, 2024 - 12:00 am
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Mark,

Just found your channel a few days ago. I am impressed! I just moved to TN from southern OR coast and am trying to expand my collection. Your videos have been an enormous help as has your suggestion to join the Winchester Collectors Assn. I just finished watching your video on the Morse carbine. I’d love to have one if you ever run into one for sale.  Your land looks like it’s near Klamath Falls, is it?

Bart

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