Jacketed bullets in old barrels

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coyote nose
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Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#1 Post by coyote nose » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:58 am

This may have been rehashed to death here but a quick search found nothing regarding my question. Has there been any scientific tests as to whether firing jacketed bullets IN OLD BARRELS (ie: 1800s Winchester barrels) cause significantly more wear than lead bullets? I keep hearing that old barrels are 'soft' steel, but it still is MUCH harder than a copper alloy bullet jacket with a soft lead core correct? And if most firing wear is caused by high pressure/temp gas causing gas cutting, plus erosion by the powder granules, seems to me the fact that a bullet bearing surface is lead versus copper alloy would be trivial. And actually, since, for a given powder charge and similar bullet weight lead bullets generate higher pressure (can't tell you how many times I've read it the other way but I'm pretty sure lead pressures are higher due to the deformative 'sealing' effect of lead), it would seem that bullet alloy would not be a factor as to which bullet to use.
I ask because I have an older beater (1888 mfg) model 1886 in 45-70 that has been shooting 405 GN cast ok...nothing special. But several years ago I tested a few different 300GN jacketed loads and my oh my did the accuracy go up and the recoil go down. I use very mild loads (actually meant for the trapdoor rifle) for both weights but sighted it in and hunted deer with the 300 GN (as usual with my title being world worst deer hunter, I didn't see a single deer the entire season so I can't talk about bullet performance). Any way, only shoot a few jacketed each year to check sights, the rest of the time I use the 405s. Just wondering if I'm being too cautious and wondering if anybody actually did a study of this.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#2 Post by Pete44ru » Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:26 pm

.

I would respectfully suggest remembering that gun metal (barrels & actions) metallurgy has changed vastly over the past 140 years, and also keep in mind how aging can effect (beside us shooters ;) ) the durability of those same older guns, and the wear already developed to the rifling & action mechanism's over the years.

IMHO, it's never a mistake to respect age (whether toward a person or an object), and in the case of ammunition, err on the side of caution.

An antique firearm is IMO no place to use rip-snorting loads - if that's what's wanted, there are more suitable firearms available with which to do so.


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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#3 Post by coyote nose » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:01 pm

Thanks Pete. My loads, as mentioned above, are incredibly mild and NOT rip snorting. Rip snorting is NOT what I want. I used data for the weak trapdoor rifle for my use in a Model 1886. I am in no way trying to hot rod the old gal! My question is, does jacketed bullets in those old barrels wear the barrel out faster than lead?
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#4 Post by Pete44ru » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:45 pm

coyote nose wrote:
Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:01 pm

My question is, does jacketed bullets in those old barrels wear the barrel out faster than lead?

Yes - pure lead is softer than copper (jackets); hard cast, IDK, but most likely still softer than copper.

Pre-smokeless barrel steel is somewhat softer than modern steels.


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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#5 Post by earlmck » Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:06 pm

coyote nose wrote:
Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:58 am
Has there been any scientific tests as to whether firing jacketed bullets IN OLD BARRELS (ie: 1800s Winchester barrels) cause significantly more wear than lead bullets?Any way, only shoot a few jacketed each year to check sights, the rest of the time I use the 405s. Just wondering if I'm being too cautious and wondering if anybody actually did a study of this.
Surely you jest coyote nose. This is the "gun community". We have an opinion based on some level of experience. We have a couple others agree with us and then the opinion becomes fact, especially if we are "gun writers". We don't need no stinkin' scientific tests.

Back in my young and foolish days I "wore out" one barrel (hot loads in a 225 Winchester). All the detectable erosion was in the first several inches of the barrel where the gasses would be hottest but bullet velocity the slowest. The last 15" of the barrel still look pristine. That shouldn't be so if the copper jacket gave any appreciable wear to steel I would think.

I share your suspicion that the erosion attributable to jacketed bullets vs. lead bullets is not significant but have never seen any "study" to back this up. My old guns get mostly cast bullets but that is an economic thing and enjoyment of "rolling my own" thing and not because of worries of barrel wear.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#6 Post by Bill in Oregon » Mon Dec 18, 2017 6:00 pm

I'm with Earl on this. If you are shooting a couple of dozen Trapdoor-pressure 300-grain jacketed loads per year for hunting purposes through your old 1886, I doubt you'd see any appreciable wear in a lifetime. For plinking, I'd stick mostly with lead but for Earl's reasons -- cheaper and fun to "roll your own."

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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#7 Post by harry » Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:29 am

Well I tell you what, I'll give you an old steel rifle barrel and you go down and buy a piece of 1/2" copper tubing and you rub the two together and get back with me in say 5 or 10 years and you tell me which one has the wear on it.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#8 Post by GunnyMack » Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:16 am

Most barrel wear is as mentioned, high velocity, high pressure. The lower velocities of hard cast are not going to show rapid wear, hence the jacketed bullets causing more wear( higher velocities). But lead being softer has more 'grab' and that's why leading happens. Granted as hard cast its much less.

I've not heard of 45-70's being shot out, 30-30? no not ever... 17,22-250,220 swift, 264 shot out ? Yup quite common. Heck I knew a guy that shot out a 220 swift barrel in one semester!

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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#9 Post by piller » Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:58 am

Just a thought, but it seems that pressure and flame erosion are the biggest issues. High pressure cartridges, and those which have more powder than what can fully burn within the first few inches of bullet travel are the ones which have reported issues with barrel destruction. Yes, even comparatively softer steels are still harder and more resistant to wear than copper or brass. Without knowing the exact composition of the steel or its hardness on the Rockwell C scale, it will certainly be enough to take the mild trap door level loads with jacketed bullets in moderation. Having leading in the barrel when shooting jacketed bullets is a potential problem which can increase pressure and lead to barrel failure. Since that is something which is well known, it is certain that Coyote Nose is cleaning his rifle and that the bore is free of leading. Some older guns have well seasoned bores which are so well polished from years of proper care that they don't need any more care than being wiped down and lightly oiled occasionally. Anyway, some use of jacketed bullets in a barrel which is in good shape and is not of the wrapped steel type known as a damascus barrel should not increase wear to any measurable extent as long as the loads are kept mild like Coyote Nose is doing. Just my thoughts on the matter.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#10 Post by marlinman93 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:06 am

Copper is softer than steel. Yes, old steel barrels are much softer than smokeless steel barrels. But even if you shot nothing but lead in a barrel, eventually you would wear it out. So if you shoot something harder, like a jacket bullet, you'll simply speed up the process and wear the barrel out sooner.
Competitive shooters wear out barrels using many thousands of round of jacketed bullets, and they're doing so in modern steel barrels. So why wouldn't you believe that old soft steel barrels can't wear out from jacketed bullets?
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#11 Post by M. M. Wright » Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:36 am

Me, I don't know about wearing out barrels with jacketed bullets but I suspect it will happen much quicker than with plain base lead bullets. I have an 86 made in 1916. Doesn't say nickel steel so I'm assuming pretty soft stuff and it was in horrible condition when I got it. I actually planned on re-lining it but it shot jacketed OK and the old hands here said to try gas checks which I did and they work great. Now mine is a 45-90 and has a slow twist barrel so it really likes 300 grain bullets but will stabilize 350 or so. I had a new mold made for a 325 grain gas checked bullet. I doubt I can ever wear it out as I'm 78 and can shoot just so much before I'm worn out. My advice for you is to buy a mold like mine and shoot them through your 86 using 30 grains of 5744. I have 3 other rifles in 45-70 that like this bullet too; Trap Door, Rolling Block, Browning 86 SRC. Now I'm wondering if gas checks wear out barrels faster than plain base lead but I won't worry about it very much as none of my rifles is a pristine collectible. Just shooters.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#12 Post by 450 Fuller » Tue Dec 19, 2017 4:38 pm

I have a few 1886 Winchester rifles and an 1885 in 45-60 WCF.

Cup and base luballoy jacketed bullets, AKA 95% of jacket material is a copper alloy-malleable
for bullet jacket forming. BUT-still potential there to wear much faster than lead.

The EXCEPTION is Hawk bullets which are heat treated copper jackets -soft-and is easy on old bores. Kills critters good too.
Hard cast silver bullets from OR. or cast your own to reduce bore wear. Its the velocity-that can cause premature bore erosion.
Reduce velocity to duplicate factory pressures and velocity-bore wear will be non-existent.


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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#13 Post by piller » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:45 pm

marlinman93 wrote:
Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:06 am
Copper is softer than steel. Yes, old steel barrels are much softer than smokeless steel barrels. But even if you shot nothing but lead in a barrel, eventually you would wear it out. So if you shoot something harder, like a jacket bullet, you'll simply speed up the process and wear the barrel out sooner.
Competitive shooters wear out barrels using many thousands of round of jacketed bullets, and they're doing so in modern steel barrels. So why wouldn't you believe that old soft steel barrels can't wear out from jacketed bullets?
It is not stated that they don't wear out the barrels, but that small numbers of jacketed bullets don't increase the wear to any appreciable extent. High pressures and flame erosion cause faster wear than what sounds like about one hundred or less jacketed bullets per year at low pressures and modest velocities would cause. Just a difference in how we are looking at it. Pushing the limits of the old barrel's strength would increase the wear speed. A matter of how fast it is happening, not whether it happens or not.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#14 Post by marlinman93 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:56 pm

I have no doubt that higher pressures, or flame cutting can wear a barrel out also. But regardless of how little or how much you shoot jacketed bullets in old soft steel barrels, they will wear the barrel faster than cast lead. Those barrels are from a period when there was no such things as a jacketed bullet, or smokeless powder, so they never saw either until the late 1800's.
If you only care about the old gun you own for the time period you possess it, then have at it. But I'd hope that as collectors who shoot these old guns, and caretakers of these guns; we'd want to do whatever we can to ensure they're well cared for, so future owners can also enjoy them. I know I wont shoot jacketed in mine, and I hope future owners appreciate they're still as nice as they were when I bought them.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#15 Post by Bullard4075 » Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:48 pm

Well that discussion is sure settled.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#16 Post by earlmck » Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:16 am

Bullard4075 wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:48 pm
Well that discussion is sure settled.
:D
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#17 Post by Ben_Rumson » Sat Dec 23, 2017 3:02 pm

Ive always been amazed that when Ive used TP as a way to keep the powder in place that the paper survives the shot and paper burns at F 451 degrees. :shock:
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#18 Post by earlmck » Sun Dec 24, 2017 10:45 am

It is a quiet morning in Central Oregon, I'm working on my second cup of coffee and looking at the "Active Topics" in Leverguns. IQ as good as its going to get, and I have this great idea for answering coyote nose's question. Let's vote!

Now back in my college days (this would have been my second go-round of "higher education" with GI Bill backing me up) I was required to take a certain number of what I considered to be "fluffy" courses. In one of these the Sociology Professor had an object on his desk (I'm remembering it as a telephone, which isn't normally found on a classroom desk, but that 's what I remember) and he assured us that if we all came by and hoisted it in our hands and then guessed the weight, with 50 students guessing we would come very very close to the actual weight and if we did it with 1000 students we would be accurate to the nth degree.

No, just like in this barrel wear thread we did not see any actual results to prove his assertion. But he was an expert in his field and did not need any further study anyway.

Which brings me to my "great idea". Since this forum contains the fount of all knowledge levergun related -- let's develop a truly useful result by voting on how many shots would be needed to produce significant barrel wear in a late 1880's Win 1886 in 45/70. Let's use 20k psi loads suitable for trapdoor Springfield use, 300 grain jacketed bullets which will sail out at about 1900 fps from a 24" barrel if we use something like IMR 4895 powder. And of course we would use a very leisurely pace for the shooting so that barrel heating effects would be of minimal concern.

My assumption is that it would take quite a lot of shooting for the average group size of our 100 shot group to increase by 25% which we would consider to be "significant barrel wear" and so we would have a very statistically sound set of data.

If somebody here knows how to construct one of those "polls" where you vote and then immediately see the cumulative statistics shown, I'd be very grateful for them to step in here. Me -- I don't know anything better to do than to use a), b), c) ... as in:
a) 100 rounds
b) 1000 rounds
c) 10000 rounds
d) 25000 rounds
e) 50000 rounds
f) 75000 rounds
g)100000 rounds or more.

While we are gaining wonderful information for mankind, let's add in the same vote for a cast lead 405 grain bullet using our favorite lube.
And then the same bullet powder coated (something I would really like to know).

My vote (totally plucked out of you-know-where, but my sociology prof assured us this didn't matter) is: e); f); and d). So 50k rounds of jacketed, 75k of the cast/lubed, and 25k of the cast/powder coated.

For you folks who don't have the benefit of higher education maybe we could get a confirming test. I'd nominate Shrapnel to find us a suitable rifle (it'd have to have a virtually pristine barrel to start with, and who else would have such a beast hanging around?). I'd be willing to come back and hang around with the Wyoming bunch this next summer and help do the loading and the test shooting. Maybe we could find a nice batch of prairie dogs to add spice to the testing job. But of course this actual testing would be wholly unnecessary because the TRUTH would have already become known through our vote.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#19 Post by vancelw » Sun Dec 24, 2017 8:43 pm

You left off selection h) "more rounds than you'll ever shoot in your lifetime"
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#20 Post by coyote nose » Mon Dec 25, 2017 9:08 pm

Bullard4075 wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:48 pm
Well that discussion is sure settled.
Well, its my post so I guess I better chime in, and chime in with a story as to WHY I asked. I hope you will bear with me as I branch off to a separate topic for awhile.

For my entire gun reading life Ive read about how the crown of a barrel is so important to accuracy. So important. Wow is it important. So as I started collecting old guns I also started, with my experience as a tool and die maker, working on them and fixing them up. Buying beaters and getting them shootable. Laser or TIG welding old parts and re-machining them, making and heat treating springs and firing pins, even relining and chambering barrels etc. This gun work even applied to newer guns I bought that had accuracy problems. In my stable of tools I bought a crown cutter that is piloted, then made a set of about 30 pilots for the various bore sizes. Great! So many of those old guns (and some new ones) didnt shoot good. Without exception NOT ONE gun shot any better with a nice crown versus a bad one. I'm even including guns that had hacksawed barrels rough filed crowned vs uncrowned. I do not have my records here right now but a rough guess would be that maybe 15-20 guns were tested with various loads before and after (rifles and handguns). Yet i continue to read how even a little nick the size of a helium atom will ruin accuracy. What was wrong with me?

Then one day I picked up the then latest issue of "Precision Shooting" (from 2010-11???) and there was an article with the name of something like "The Holy Crown". Now this is a magazine devoted to benchrest shooting. In the article the author wondered like I did just how important the crown was. So he tested a rifle. Then nicked the crown and retested. Then, seeing no ill effects he gouged the crown. That will do it. Nope. Same accuracy. So he eventually gets mad, puts a carbide burr in the dremel and proceeds to carve out the crown, BREAKING the burr in the process!! Guess what? Point of impact changed but after a few shots (which smoothed any slivers off I guess) the accuracy was the same! Finally here was a well known caveat of accurate gun knowledge put to an actual test and found wanting. Its just something repeated over and over. And more importantly, it matched what I've noticed personally. Do I still crown barrels? Yep! It sure looks pretty! Do I expect accuracy to improve? Nope.

So as I shot these jacketed bullets in the barrels I was wondering, knowing most of the wear on a barrel is due to powder erosion and gas cutting which would be the same for lead versus copper, if the old well known fact that jacketed bullets wear a barrel faster than lead was true. The crown story was in the back of my mind as I would touch off the trigger. Perhaps someone had a barrel that shot to a certain accuracy with their favorite lead load, then went with jacketed bullets for awhile then went back to lead and the accuracy was gone. I certainly don't plan to test it with MY barrel!!!! Lead all year for fun and plinking, then a few mild rounds jacketed to sight it in for deer season. Then back to lead. But was wondering if anybody else did inadvertently do this and notice any degradation. THAT was the basis of my question. I sure do appreciate ALL responses and thank everybody for their time.

As another aside, I am going to find one of my old beater barrels and do a Rockwell hardness test on it to determine just how soft the steel in the old barrels is. The only problem so far with my retirement is that I do not have access to some of the tooling I used to have.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#21 Post by earlmck » Tue Dec 26, 2017 12:36 am

vancelw wrote:
Sun Dec 24, 2017 8:43 pm
You left off selection h) "more rounds than you'll ever shoot in your lifetime"
So can I put you in as a vote for g -- 100,000 or more?

And thanks for that story coyote nose -- I have my own "stories" like that where an expert said something and 6 generations of shooters have parroted it unquestioningly. "Dasn't use pointy bullets in tubular magazine"; and "Flutes in Remington M14 magazine were to allow use of pointy bullets in tubular magazine" are a couple that come immediately to mind. I hadn't caught the article on the barrel crowning -- I still thought that was a known "fact". Thanks for adding to my tally of EXPERT's FACTOIDS.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#22 Post by M. M. Wright » Sat Dec 30, 2017 8:54 am

When I was shooting IPSC back in 70s and 80s I wore out a couple of 1911 45s. It took about 200,000 rounds but the barrel bores still looked really good. Rest of the gun was pretty trashed and most wear was on barrel lugs and locking cuts, especially in the slide. Nearly all lead bullets though.
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Re: Jacketed bullets in old barrels

#23 Post by marlinman93 » Sat Dec 30, 2017 11:55 am

I've done restoration work on both black powder and smokeless marked Marlin and Remington barrels. I haven't done a Rockwell hardness test, but I can tell you the feel of the metal on both types of barrels while draw filing is enough to know the difference without a test. The older BP era barrels are much easier to draw file, and take mush less time to prep for rust bluing.
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