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Stainless versus chrome-moly barrels

Q: Which kind of barrel do you prefer, stainless or chrome-moly? Cold hammer-forged or button-rifled? Why? What advantages does one kind have over the other?

– Martin Montgomery

A: Barrel steel alloys and manufacturing methods have improved over the years and my preferences are personal ones that might not be shared by others. 

A stainless (SS) barrel has the advantage that it will stand more shots without cleaning than a chrome-moly (CM) barrel, and no matter how badly metal-fouled, all of it can be removed if one uses the right bore solvent. I use Ballistol. 

And unlike a CM barrel, the fouling is removed entirely. SS has no pores for the metal to get into, whereas CM barrels are fairly porous and once metal fouling becomes embedded in the pores it cannot be removed entirely, no matter what solvent you use. 

It can be taken off the surface of the bore, but not out of the pores. Consequently, it picks up again when shooting commences. 

SS barrels wear longer and resist erosion better than other steels due to having a lower carbon content. CM will have three times as much carbon. 

SS varies in hardness, but a SS barrel with a Rockwell hardness of 32C would be just as abrasion resistant as a CM barrel. SS is also more rust resistant. 

Button-rifled SS barrels may be softer, but hammer-forged SS barrels like the ones Remington used to make back in the 1980s were not only superbly accurate, but would also wear longer. 

Over the years I’ve owned stainless and chrome-moly barrels and all were very accurate. Today, I don’t have a preference for one over the other, and just take ’em as they come.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.