Stainless steel barrels are popular with many shooters. Because of this, a number of our rifle models utilize them. There is no single metallurgy of stainless steel that can be said to be "the stainless steel for rifles." Different stainless steels types have different qualities that are best for different situations. Stainless alloys are also used for receivers and other components on selected models.
Advantages of Stainless Steel:
The primary advantage of having a rifle with a stainless steel barrel or receiver is its greater resistance to rust and corrosion. Although a stainless barrel is still susceptible to rust and corrosion, it is less likely to do so under normal circumstances.
Another key advantage is the slight improvement of durability when it comes to throat erosion. This can be important with very large calibers where a great deal of powder burn is involved. As noted in an article found online by Chuck Hawks on barrels, "The higher the pressure and velocity of a cartridge (pressure and velocity often go up together), the faster it will wear out a barrel.'
It is true that the choice of barrel steel can have an impact on the life of the barrel. However, under normal conditions stainless and non-stainless barrels perform with excellent results when it comes to accuracy and overall durability -- when normal care is taken.
Most people assume that stainless steel is not magnetic. Is this true?
There are multiple alloy combinations that make up stainless steel. From a metalugy point of view, stainless steel is divided into two main types: Ferritic and Martensitic stainless steels. According to a great article on Wikipedia on stainless steel, "There are different types of stainless steels: when nickel is added, for instance, the austenite structure of iron is stabilized. This crystal structure makes such steels virtually non-magnetic and less brittle at low temperatures. For greater hardness and strength, more carbon is added. With proper heat treatment, these steels are used for such products as razor blades, cutlery, and tools." Read the full article by clicking here.
Other alloys, however, remain magnetic. Some people think that you can determine if a metal is stainless by using a magnet to determine if the metal has a magnetic attraction or not. This is simply not true.
Ferritic and Martensitic stainless steels ARE magnetic.
Austenitic stainless steels are non-magnetic.
Stainless Steel commonly used for barrels.
Most stainless barrels (and sometimes receivers) in use today start with steel in the 400 Series of stainless steel. 400 Series alloys are considered ferritic and martensitic chromium alloys. They are magnetic. For more on steel grades read the article on SAE steel grading on Wikipedia.
NOTE: There are many Websites that offer a more detailed look at stainless steel. The information above is provided just to help you distinguish between the types. No attempt has been made to give a comprehensive, point by point description of the advantages of each type of steel in making barrels. Photos and copy Copyright Browning 2013. Selected quotes in this review are used from Chuck Hawks and Wikipedia. RBS
The Tech-Term "Stainless steel" is referred to in the following products: