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Letters To the Editor :- Early Stainless Steel ?? Barrels

Bulletin March 18, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Sent: Monday, March 02, 2009 3:25 PM
1. Subject: Stainless Steel barrels.
Hi Ron.
I have been interested in stainless steels for barrels for some time, since acquiring a Model 1904 rifle with it, see photo

Photo 018 Winchester Model 1904 #707136 - Left Side-Stainless Steel Barrel a
I note your Bulletin No 11 that you advised:
“For several years prior to 1930 the Winchester Repeating Arms Company supplied a “stainless” steel to a limited extent. It was really not a steel but rather a high chrome iron, its approximate composition being chromium 13 percent, carbon 0.10 percent, and copper 1.50 percent. Certain intricate heat treatment was necessary to make it both machinable and rust proof. It could not be successfully blued and was copper plated outside and then subjected to a treatment which turned the copper black. High cost of production and the advent of non-corrosive ammunition led to its discontinuance. “
Can you please advise the source of this information, and the method of painting them?
George Madis’ book, The Model 12, makes reference to stainless steel barrels on pages 46, 47, 138 and 139
“Stainless steel barrels were a Winchester development announced on June 9, 1926. Although the company ran a number of advertisements and pushed this feature, in spite of Winchester’s belief that stainless steel barrels would be great sellers the sales were poor.
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons the stainless steel barrels did not sell very well was given by Captain E. C. Crossman and other gun editors. In various articles stainless steel barrels were criticized with the apparent opinion that cleaning your gun was a necessary evil, part of hunting and apparently good for the soul. In one of his articles, he stated, “Stainless steel resists rusting, hence resists bluing or browning. So Winchester put on some sort of paint and if it does not look like hell in six months, it is because the gun has been kept in a glass case”.
A blue-black varnish-like Japanned finish was originally applied to stainless steel barrels, and as the old Captain says, it quickly loses that finish and appears patchy.
On July 15, 1930 Winchester advised all dealers that stainless steel barrels were to be discontinued and were offered at no extra charge over guns with standard barrels while the stock lasted. “
Madis claims that barrels were made for the Models 1897 and 1912 shotguns. Have you ever seen one?
From Arthur Pirkle’s books on the Lever Action rifles Models 1886 and 1892 I had noted on page 166 that “stainless steel barrels were made in limited numbers from 1924, and discontinued soon after”, and that “they were distinguished by having “-STAINLESS STEEL-” rather than “-NICKEL STEEL-” or ” WINCHESTER PROOF STEEL” in the barrel markings”.
I have seen two Model 1892 rifles with Stainless steel barrels.
I would be interested to hear if you have ever come across other models of Winchester rifles with Stainless Steel barrels?
As you can see it is a topic near to my interest.
You also stated:
Chrome Molybdenum Steels. About 1930 the chemists and metallurgists of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company undertook a study of their barrel steels, resulting in a complete revision of their specifications, and that study is continued until the 1960’s with a view to utilizing the most recent knowledge of metallurgy to provide the best steels possible; which is as it should be. These steels are termed “Winchester Proof Steel” which title does not mean any particular kind of steel, but rather “the best steel which Winchester has been able to find for the particular purpose.” Thus the Winchester Proof Steel used in .22 caliber rim fire barrels may be entirely different from that used in high power cartridge barrels.
It is understood that the Winchester Proof Steel now being used in high power rifle barrels is an alloy steel containing chromium and molybdenum, heat treated to give the required physical properties.
Is this steel 4140 as we know it today?
Regards
Keith N


Dear Keith
Came across a Winchester in bolt action centrefire in 220 Swift in about 1969 the rifle had been made in the late 1920s. Resembled a M17 with the rear sight ears removed, mauser type extractor and a patchy plating finnish on the surface which was mainly an alloy of some description, silver in colour. I have heard or read somewhere that Winchester had a lot of trouble with the 220 Swift eroding barrels due to the heat from hot loads and tried to find a alloy mix which would hold together. I found some information for the article in Wheelan’s Small Arms and Ballistics.
4140 is a Chrome Molybdenum Steel.
All The Best
Ron Owen

One Response to “Letters To the Editor :- Early Stainless Steel ?? Barrels”

  1. Regarding Vintage Stainless Steel Barrels –
    I own a Winchester 1890 (1929 serial) with a factory Stainless Steel barrel (about 40% black finish remaining). I am to understand they were very rare from factory while some were return guns to be retrofitted with SS barrels and distinguishable by double proofs. I was also to believe all Winchesters had this option available. I have seen a model 12 with one as well. What interests me is the fact that most Winchester enthusiasts have never even heard of the stainless option at all. Certainly, few have seen these rare guns as well.
    Cliff

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