History of metals used in early firearms before 1850
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    History of metals used in early firearms before 1850

    I found a series of articles which detail the history of metals used in firearms which I found to be very interesting, especially this one: Firearms History, Technology & Development: Metals Used in Firearms - VIII. It seems to indicate that firearms before 1850 were made using wrought iron not steel. It could be read that early steel was produced from wrought iron by adding carbon, so this may have been used to manufacture parts in Patersons and early Colts. Does anyone know of any definitive statements as to what materials were used to make Paterson parts, especially the barrels and action bodies?
    A further source of information on early metals used in firearms for comparison is at https://www.slideshare.net/JamesKell...-metalsfeb2014, both of these articles are worth reading for the antique firearms enthusiast.

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    Thanks ALSS...should make interesting reading material for later this evening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ALSS View Post
    I found a series of articles which detail the history of metals used in firearms which I found to be very interesting, especially this one: Firearms History, Technology & Development: Metals Used in Firearms - VIII. It seems to indicate that firearms before 1850 were made using wrought iron not steel. It could be read that early steel was produced from wrought iron by adding carbon, so this may have been used to manufacture parts in Patersons and early Colts. Does anyone know of any definitive statements as to what materials were used to make Paterson parts, especially the barrels and action bodies?
    A further source of information on early metals used in firearms for comparison is at https://www.slideshare.net/JamesKell...-metalsfeb2014, both of these articles are worth reading for the antique firearms enthusiast.
    I am not any kind of expert on the history of steel, but the early springs required carbon steel with approx 0.70% to 0.80% carbon in the iron. So, any gun with such as a V-Spring required steel, a quench at 1200F and a temper at 600F.

    As for Colt's early barrel and cylinder failures (the Walker etc) , I get the impression that slag inclusions in the steel caused much of this. We see gray slag lines frequently in such as Colt Navy frames, but Colt could let a frame pass, as it was not likely to result in a bursting failure. Right now I have a Colt SAA in the 1200 serial range with a slag line in the topstrap! The slag popped out, just leaving a small unfilled crease.
    Last edited by victorio1sw; 11-16-2019 at 01:05 PM.

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    Based on my reading over the years, it seems that iron was a strong enough metal for most firearm frames and receivers up into the 1880's or even up to the use of smokeless powder.

    I'm not sure what year Winchester changed to steel rifle receivers, but the Henry and early 1873 rifles were iron.
    Colt probably used iron for some time because the frame wasn't under that much pressure in muzzle loading revolvers.
    The Confederates used brass for revolver frames.
    Just as a guess, I'd think at least the early 1873 Single Action Army models were iron framed.
    victorio1sw likes this.

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    1898: Steel or iron? Precaution against smokeless powder. Early in 1900 Colt's stated guarantee of their revolvers against smokeless powder (Sutherland & Wilson's Book of Colt Firearms, page 240)
    nghiggins likes this.
    Hans Maag, Switzerland

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    Thanks Hans, that would be very interesting to read, unfortunately I haven't got the book (the cheapest copy I can find is approximately £83) so could you scan and post a copy of that page here so we can all read in the forum, what was written about the types of steel used in smokeless powder guns. This will add to my on going research on early Colt revolvers around the 1898 period.

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    This has been on my mind for years. I'm a toolmaker by trade for the last 35yrs , and have considerable experience in metallurgy as it pertains to alloy and tool steel selection. I've always wondered what measuring tools and more particularly , the steels they made the cutters from. They certainly didn't have a wide selection of catalogs from suppliers for high-speed , cobalt or carbide cutting tools of every type and size.

    I have read Colt's was a pioneer in the used of fluid or 'cast steel' parts. A superior metal than what came from beating red hot iron and carbon together with a hammer on an anvil.
    "One does not sell Colts , one buys Colts! "

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    Quote Originally Posted by mkk41 View Post
    This has been on my mind for years. I'm a toolmaker by trade for the last 35yrs , and have considerable experience in metallurgy as it pertains to alloy and tool steel selection. I've always wondered what measuring tools and more particularly , the steels they made the cutters from. They certainly didn't have a wide selection of catalogs from suppliers for high-speed , cobalt or carbide cutting tools of every type and size.

    I have read Colt's was a pioneer in the used of fluid or 'cast steel' parts. A superior metal than what came from beating red hot iron and carbon together with a hammer on an anvil.
    Colt used machined forgings for almost all the parts. Cast steel is an old term that was often used next to wrought iron, but I don't know what its carbon contents would be.

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    At ALSS
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    Hans Maag, Switzerland

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    Springfield .45-70s were Wrought Iron Barrels, if memory serve...


 
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