Steel vs Stainless Steel

Steel vs Stainless Steel

This is a discussion on Steel vs Stainless Steel within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I originally threw the idea of steel out completely when the option of stainless was available, but I was just thinking, chromium is what makes ...

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Thread: Steel vs Stainless Steel

  1. #1
    Member Array pirate252's Avatar
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    Steel vs Stainless Steel

    I originally threw the idea of steel out completely when the option of stainless was available, but I was just thinking, chromium is what makes stainless steel stainless right, well is that only on the surface like I recall? So that would mean if stainless gets scratched it would rust.

    I was thinking this because if a steel one with a coating on it gets scratched, all you would have to do is recoat it, but if stainless will rust when it gets scratched you cant just recoat it, so whats the story here, am I missing something?


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    Member Array pirate252's Avatar
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    Nevermind, I found the answer, but incase anyone was wondering also....

    What gives stainless steel its properties?

    The chromium content in stainless steel alloys is what generally prevents corrosion. Pure iron, the primary element of stainless steel, is extracted from its natural state as iron ore, it is unstable by itself, and naturally wants to corrode (rust). The chromium helps to procrastinate nature's attempts to combine the pure iron with oxygen and water to form rust.

    The chromium works by reacting with oxygen to form a tough, adherent, invisible, passive layer of chromium oxide film on the steel surface. If damaged mechanically or chemically, this film is self healing as long as it has enough oxygen.

    Because oxygen is necessary for the reaction, liquids and other foodstuffs stored for a prolonged time in stainless can prevent oxygen contact and thus promote corrosion, as can prolonged contact with household cleaners such as bleach.

    Generally, an increase of chromium content improves the corrosion resistance of stainless steels. The addition of nickel is used to raise the general corrosion resistance required in more aggressive usage or conditions. The presence of molybdenum (Mo) improves the localized corrosion resistance, such as against pitting (scarring).

    Other alloying metals are also used to improve the structure and properties of stainless steels, such as Titanium, Vanadium and Copper. Non metal additions typically include natural elements such as Carbon & Nitrogen, as well as Silicon.

    High-carbon stainless steel contains a minimum of 0.3% carbon. The higher the carbon content, the less formable and the tougher the steel becomes. Its hardness makes it suitable for things such as cutting edges, and other high-wear applications like plow blades. Carbon thus helps makes the edge easier to sharpen, and helps retain a sharp edge longer.

    Credit to http://www.fantes.com/stainless_steel.htm

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    VIP Member Array pogo2's Avatar
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    Stainless throughout

    Stainless steel used in guns has the same composition throughout the material. The steel starts out in molten form, with the ingredients mixed together. So if you scratch the stainless gun, there is identical stainless at the bottom of the scratch.

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    Resistant is the key here, it will rust and pit if you try hard enough.

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    Member Array pirate252's Avatar
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    Luckily I dont see myself trying to make my gun rust ;)

    Sounds like as long as you dont gouge it and submerge it in water, your fine...

    I am finding it is slightly less strong then steel, in tensile strength anyways, it is harder, but this also means it more brittle, but either way its still stronger than aluminum, so its strong enough :D

    Thanks

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    There are two types of Stainless - Chromium Stainless & Nickel Stainless.
    Stainless Steel is "Stainless" all the way through.
    It is not a surface finish.
    It IS possible for Stainless Steel to show minor rust in spotty areas if it is "worked on" with Carbon steel tools that leave particles of Carbon steel embedded in the Stainless surface.
    It's not likely though or common though.
    Usually after a Stainless gun is machined and finished the Stainless is passified which totally eliminates that possibility.
    Really it is almost impossible to get a Stainless firearm to show any traces of rust.
    Stainless is FANTASTIC material for firearms.
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    Senior Member Array Shizzlemah's Avatar
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    stainless is typ an alloy of chromium and nickel with a decent percentage of iron.

    stainless is the same material all the way through , a scratch just opens up more stainless.

    don't get too hung up on hardness and tensile... there are a million alloys of stainless (302,303,304,309,316,410,416,420,440,17-4 off the top of my head) and another million alloys of steel (41xx chromoly series, 86xx chrome-moly-vanadium, oodles of "tool" alloys too). And compound that with the myriad of annealing profiles... You can get stainles harder than hell or softer than butter. Same with steel.

    You can assume that the mfg did the math on the alloy and it's suitable properties.

    It is called stainLESS for a reason. It stains less than carbon steel. It's not stainFREE or stainMAGIC ;-) 416 will rust pretty agressively...

    You wont fund much carbon steel in guns aside from the 1090 used in springs. Most of the "steel" in guns today is alloy, 8620 is exceptionally common.

    (poured more than my share of molten metal!!)

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    Great addition Shizzlemah - good post.
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    Senior Member Array jeep45238's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pirate252 View Post
    Luckily I dont see myself trying to make my gun rust ;)

    Sounds like as long as you dont gouge it and submerge it in water, your fine...

    I am finding it is slightly less strong then steel, in tensile strength anyways, it is harder, but this also means it more brittle, but either way its still stronger than aluminum, so its strong enough :D

    Thanks
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  10. #10
    Member Array pirate252's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shizzlemah View Post
    stainless is typ an alloy of chromium and nickel with a decent percentage of iron.

    stainless is the same material all the way through , a scratch just opens up more stainless.

    don't get too hung up on hardness and tensile... there are a million alloys of stainless (302,303,304,309,316,410,416,420,440,17-4 off the top of my head) and another million alloys of steel (41xx chromoly series, 86xx chrome-moly-vanadium, oodles of "tool" alloys too). And compound that with the myriad of annealing profiles... You can get stainles harder than hell or softer than butter. Same with steel.

    You can assume that the mfg did the math on the alloy and it's suitable properties.

    It is called stainLESS for a reason. It stains less than carbon steel. It's not stainFREE or stainMAGIC ;-) 416 will rust pretty agressively...

    You wont fund much carbon steel in guns aside from the 1090 used in springs. Most of the "steel" in guns today is alloy, 8620 is exceptionally common.

    (poured more than my share of molten metal!!)
    So what would you suggest as better, steel or stainless steel for a gun frame and slide? Also stainless on stainless should wear 'better' than the stainless on aluminum guns right?

    Thanks for all the great posts everyone, learning a lot, soing a lot of research on stainless and steels to, got my roommates MET book opened up, good reference too... :D

  11. #11
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    The stainless used in most guns will be 400 series stainless steel, usually 410,416 or 425. This stainless had enough carbon in it to be heat treatable and they will rust if not taken care of.

    The most stainless grades...being the 300 series are too soft and do not contain enough carbon to be able to be heat treated.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Array Shizzlemah's Avatar
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    Pirate - "Better" is whatever tickles your fancy.

    Hot - Also as a general rule of thumb, stainless will oxidize FAR less after it has been hardened. 316, 17-4, 410 / 416 are common in pistols.

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    VIP Member Array Tom G's Avatar
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    I used to work in the Restrurant repair business and have found that a magnet will stick to some stainless. Some of it has a higher iron content

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    Member Array pirate252's Avatar
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    Does anyone know what steel grade Kimber uses?

    Better, haha, I know it was kinda a hard question to answer...

    While I have a lot of people responding that seem to sure know what they are talking about... I am 6 foot, but only like 150 lbs, will a 36 oz 4" stainless steel 1911 be to heavy to comfortably carry. I think I would really like the steel more, since I will be shotting it quite a bit, but the aluminum weighs 7 oz less. BUT then again, alot of people seem to carry these full size steel 1911's that weigh upwards of 40 oz...

    I plan on carrying IWB...

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    Ex Member Array dwolsten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom G View Post
    I used to work in the Restrurant repair business and have found that a magnet will stick to some stainless. Some of it has a higher iron content
    They all have high iron content, that's the main property of any type of steel.

    Some grades of stainless are nonmagnetic because of the way the chromium interacts with the rest of the materials. I'm not a metallurgist, but I believe that the higher-chromium steels are less magnetic than the lower-chromium steels. They're also more corrosion-resistant (but also more brittle). Of course, the addition of other alloying elements changes these properties as well. I think, as a general rule, if some "stainless" steel sticks easily to magnets, it's probably not very corrosion-resistant, and in the restaurant business, is probably a crappier grade used to cut costs while still looking like stainless. By the time it's started rusting, it's too late to file a warranty claim.

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