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What's the lifespan of a firearm?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by orpington, Aug 11, 2019.

  1. orpington

    orpington Member

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    Before everyone digresses...which they have...

    The purpose of this thread was to inquire how long a firearm can physically exist, just oiled, maybe not fired for centuries or much more.

    Seems like many millennia would be possible...

    If oiled, etc. What's there out there to cause to cease to exist?

    If stored in a vault, and mankind becomes extinct, it's the decomposition rate of the vault and surrounding structures.
     
  2. cslinger

    cslinger Member

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    You might see polymer / rubber parts degrade but firearms with a modicum of care will basically last forever. I mean they can be shot to destruction but beyond that hundreds of years.

    Like was said about an ar15/m16 or really any similar rifle the polymer stock set my be brittle or fail in hundred or so years but those can EASILY be replaced with wood by any idjit with a modicum of skill/ingenuity. Might not be pretty but workable. Look at some of the guns in places like Burma for example. A real craftsman could make a beautiful and functional stock set.
     
  3. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    It has been said that guns only have two enemies, rust and politicians. I can do a good job of protecting against the first, but we all need to band together against the second. Otherwise, they will all be on their way to "Captain Crunch".
     
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  4. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    Well cared for wheellocks from the 16th century are fully functional today- nothing fundamentally different from them and a new steel/wood gun.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  5. roscoe

    roscoe Member

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    This is actually something I have thought about, with the new polymer-framed autoloaders. Would a Glock gripframe last 100 years?
     
  6. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Moderator Staff Member

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    I own a couple of firearms that are around 100 years old. One is 108, the other is 98. As far as I can tell, they are both just as functional now as they were when new even if they may not look as good as they did out of the box. Assuming they are maintained reasonably well, I would expect the same to be true in another 100 years.
     
  7. orpington

    orpington Member

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    I have several firearms in the 100 to 165 year old range. None show any appreciable wear, and any demonstrated is superficial/cosmetic. I'm thinking that a century or a century and a half is only a mere fraction of as long as these could reasonably be expected to exist.
     
  8. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    My source was a retired Bureau Naval Ordnance employee who was assigned to the organization making the current Naval 5 inch guns. He worked Naval cannon his entire career. I was asking him questions during breaks in a rifle match, maybe he got the number wrong, maybe I heard wrong, maybe 700 rounds were the five inch cannon that had to be replaced because they were not maintained (!), or maybe I heard wrong. However, for credibility, what is your source?

    I had some things right. It was the Civil War, it was Parrot guns, and they blew both in the service of the Army and Navy. I was wrong about Farragut, the worst blow ups in the Naval service were at Fort Fisher under Admiral Porter.

    Large Parrot rifles had the worst record of any Union cannon for premature bursting of both rifles and projectiles. The statistics you present on the 100 pounder Parrots ignores the other types that were on the battlefield. Surely the reference you used accidentally omitted the other Parrot calibers. Of 100 large caliber Union cannon that cracked or burst in action during the war, 93 were Parrots: three 4.2 inch, sixty 6.4 inch, nineteen 8 inch, and one 10 inch.

    Still, of the 100 pounder Parrots, the blow up rate is 6%. Is that acceptable for the modern Army Ordnance Bureau, that of 100 items built, only 6 out of 100 suffer catastrophic failure?



    From the 1869 Report of the Congressional Committee on Ordnance

    Each system of guns introduced in our service has been subject in proof to tests supposed to demonstrate beyond question its ability to perform the work required of it, but each has failed when submitted the real test of service. In the operations upon Morris island 22 large guns was the greatest number mounted at one time, yet 50 in all burst during the siege, as is shown by the evidence of General Gillmore. In the attack on Fort Fisher all the Parrot guns in the fleet burst, according to the report of Admiral Porter, By the bursting of five of these guns at the first bombardment, 45 persons were killed and wounded, which only 11 were killed or wounded by the projectiles from the enemy’s guns during the attack.

    11 Nov 1867 Commodore R.B. Hitchcock:


    2. Q. What is the ordinary proof to which smooth bore or rifled guns in the naval service are subjected?:
    A. In making a contract or engagement for any special class of guns, they take the first of that class and submit it to what is termed extra-ordinary proof, that is, a thousand rounds of service charge. The others are supposed to be duplicated of that gun. They are submitted to 10 charges of service rounds.

    3.Q. You take on gun of a class?
    A. Yes. For instance, if you were going to make 9 inch guns you would take the first and submit that to extraordinary proof of 100 rounds.


    4.Q. The extreme proof is 1,000 rounds?
    A. That is the initiatory proof of a class of guns. These others are supposed to be duplicated, and before reception in the service they are fired 10 rounds.

    10.Q. What is considered the measure of the life of a gun in the naval service.
    A. About 800 discharges. Not but what it will stand more than that, but we look for about 800. The Ordnance Office has withdrawn them at 500. But we think when a gun has fired 800 rounds it ought to be withdrawn.


    12 Nov 1867 Army brevet Major General A. Gillmore

    3.Q.What sort of gun had you there in use.
    A. All the heavy guns were Parrots; I had field batteries besides.

    16. Q. What damaged did it do (8 inch Parrot nicknamed “Swamp Angel”) https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/swamp-angel to the city while under your direction?
    A. That gun burst after the thirty-sixth round…………………………


    18.Q.If it had been perfectly level, how long would it have lasted?
    a. It ought to have lasted 300 or 400 rounds; and I judge because the average endurance of his guns is 310 rounds. I have always regarded the form of Mr. Parrot’s large guns as defective.

    39. Q. Do you remember how many guns were burst?
    A. Including one small gun, a 30 pounder, I burst 23.

    A. We mounted and used all the guns sent to us as long as they were serviceable. They either became unserviceable by bursting open or by the muzzle blowing off.


    Page 156. It may be remarked that no rifle gun has yet been devised which can be considered perfect, and the bureau has sought in vain among the systems of European nations and the improvements of our own country for a better gun, taken as a whole, than the Parrott rifle. Its life as fixed by the inventor is 750 rounds, but the navy guns have in many instances shown a greater endurance.


    Nine large Parrott rifles bust during the Naval bombardments of Fort Fisher. Admiral Porter stated that the Parrott 100 pounders “were unfit for service, and calculated to kill more of our men than those of the enemy”..

    I was unable to find if the service life of the Parrot, as fixed by the inventor, of 750 rounds was the lifetime of all Parrot guns, including the field artillery, or was just the heavy artillery. Considering that the heavy artillery lasted on average, 310 rounds, it does not seem unreasonable that if field artillery lasted 750 rounds, that would be considered quite good in comparison.

    My source was a retired cannon designer I met at a match. My memory was that I was asking about the lifetime of the 155 mm. I don't know about your references, but a 20 year lifetime while given for an Army material item, is also bounded by an expected number of miles, rounds, flights, etc. Sort of like a car warranty, X miles for Y years. I do not believe that any 20 years lifetime for any artillery piece assumed an infinite number of rounds, so there must be some failure criteria other than clock time. Maybe it is more than 15,000 rounds, maybe not. If the carriage cost $1.2 million, that seems to be a lot of money, but it is inconsequential for the lifetime medical costs that the services incur with severe trauma survivors.

    Somewhere, someone, has done the calculations, where the cost of replacing the items is less than the medical costs of the injuries to be expected. This was not always so. Congress established the Veterans Administration in 1930. There were patchy disability programs starting around 1917, just as America entered WW1. I read that the early agencies were funded separately from the services, which gave a perverse incentive to the services to do things, such as issue single heat treat 03's, which were known to be defective. The cost of replacing a rifle was about $40.00. If the rifle blew up in the hands of a serviceman, another agency had to pay for rehabilitation of the injured out of its budget. Prior to 1917, all the services were obligated to do, was patch the victim up, once they were stabilized and could walk, and the injured party was off Government property, Government support ended. It was very similar to how the NCAA treats inured student players today. So there was a time when the health and life of a US serviceman was worth less than a forty dollar rifle.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019 at 12:02 PM
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  9. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Firearms in storage - Metal will rust. Plastic will become harder and brittle . The NRA Museum uses wax to preserve their firearms. I bet moisture , humidity is also controled.

    Post 28 https://www.waltherforums.com/forum/pp-tp-series/13618-ppk-s-endurance-test-h-p-white-lab-3.html
    Years ago , H. P. White Laboratory did handgun tests on failure rate. Google cant fine it.

    Some military tests are also interesting. https://discover.dtic.mil
    One test found a Charter Arms 5 shot 38 revolver, where the 1 chamber of the cylinder was not heat treated correctly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019 at 11:28 PM
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  10. toivo

    toivo Member

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    I wonder about that too: polymer and rubber parts. I have a cheap BSA riflescope that came with a kind of rubber overmolding, sort of like on a Hogue 10/22 stock. After ten years, the coating turned into a kind of sticky goo. The scope still works, but it's a disgusting mess and gets slime all over your hands when you touch it. I've also seen plastic components on other devices -- not guns -- get brittle and just snap after a number of years.
     
  11. MosinT53Hunter

    MosinT53Hunter Member

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    When everything is all said and done, those darn Hi-Points will still be kicking over...
     
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  12. JTHunter

    JTHunter Member

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    One thing that can be said about guns with polymer parts is that, over time, the ozone and other contaminants in the atmosphere will cause the chemical bonds in the polymers to degrade, just like the synthetic rubber compounds in today's car tires. Wood won't break down as quickly as polymers unless it isn't cared for properly.
    While polymers is better able to resist damage from moisture than wood, it is less able to withstand exposure to the UV radiation from the sun. Granted, wood is degraded too, just not as quickly.
    Buried well below the "frost line" in a sealed PVC pipe, either gun will last decades, esp. if it was thoroughly cleaned then prepped for long-term storage (greased the metal parts).
     
  13. SpringM1A

    SpringM1A member

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    IMHO, most high quality (including Sigs, H&Ks, Glocks, Rugers, Springfields, Kimbers, Colts, etc.) semiautomatics will last decades -- if not a lifetime -- when properly maintained. I respectfully suggest the smartest thing one can do to ensure longevity is to reduce metallic fatigue crack initiation/propagation by shooting low-pressure loads for practice -- and leaving the extra-pressure rounds (+P, +P+, etc.) for defensive carry.
     
  14. FlSwampRat

    FlSwampRat Member

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    The problem is that we don't know the NYT parameters for judging lifespan.
    How often fired? Total round count?
    Are repairs allowed or does the lifespan end with the breakage of a small part?
    What are the storage conditions?
    with those X Y and Z factors as unknowns, it's really difficult to say. A rifle dug up from, for example, a 100 year old battlefield that has been underground since WWI wouldn't be safe to fire, yet a family heirloom kept under almost museum conditions would be functional for a few centuries, I'd imagine.
     
  15. illinoisburt

    illinoisburt Member

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    There is an easy fix for that nasty rubber coating: Windex with ammonia will remove the goo and dry out the material. Can do the same with rubbing alcohol. Soak a cloth and start wiping.
     
  16. toivo

    toivo Member

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    Thanks for the tip! I've got a bicycle helmet that's doing the same thing. Time to start scrubbing ...
     
  17. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    Reports published by NAVSEA on tube life.

    Unfortunately, like most Congressional inquiries important information is left out when the political axes come out...

    A muzzle blowing off is typical of a in-bore explosion of the shell, not a defect in the tube casting. The highest pressure in a cannon is at the breech, and with black powder the pressure-distance curve is a very sharp spike, so if a cannon fails due to poor workmanship or material defect in the tube it will occur at the breech.

    Given the way that the fusing was designed, it is no wonder there were many tube failures. There was no "safe-and-arming" as we have today. The fuse was simply a slow match stuck in a hole in the front of the shell, the muzzle blast should light the fuse after the shell uncorks and the muzzle flame envelopes the shell, however, it is also possible that the flame escapes past the shell due to excessive leakage due to undersized shells, poor obturation at the base, or cracks in the shell base (something that is a problem even today with forged shells, which is why they weld a base cover on the bottom of some designs of HE shells).

    So, how many burst at the breech (indicating actual barrel failure) and how many burst mid-bore or at the muzzle (indicating faulty ammunition)?

    The number come from two primary sources 1) MIL-H-45984, which requires the manufacturer prove the cannon shall last 15,000 Equivalent Full Charge (EFC) rounds before requiring rebuild, repair or overhaul, and 2) the qualification test report that stated the cannon design met and exceeded the requirement and should last approximately 20 years given typical EFC fired per year.

    The number 15,000 is correct, but scrapping of the entire carriage in lieu of repair, rebuild or overhaul is not happening because there is a substantial budget for the rework of these things. And, you can tell if they aren't scrapping the entire carriage (M777) as the the cannon tube (M776) has its own separate replacement budget line. The breech block is limited to 15,000 EFC rounds but the actual life is calculated from the number of projectiles, charges, and rate of fire used during actual firing, Zone 1 charges doesn't count as much as Zone 8, and smoke shell doesn't count the same as a HERA projectile.

    Tube wear is measured the same as in small arms, the bore diameter at a set distance from the breech face is measured for growth, when it reaches a certain diameter over the initial manufactured diameter (which is noted in the gun log), the tube is condemned, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 rounds. At that time the tube is removed from the mount, the breech and muzzle brake are removed from the tube for reuse, and a new tube is installed and life continues.
     
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  18. orpington

    orpington Member

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    A recent thread in another forum discussed cosmoline. I would think a military issue firearm stored in cosmoline could last darn near an eternity if kept dry.
     
  19. FlSwampRat

    FlSwampRat Member

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    As I said above, not clear on the parameters. The question "What's the lifespan of a firearm?" is pretty vague. Is it stored or is in use? If stored, is it just set aside and sitting in a corner or was it prepped for storage. If it's in use is it in the weather like LEO carried or just taken to the range weekly, monthly yearly? If it's taken to the range, what's the round count of the day's shooting? Is it promptly cleaned or just put back in the safe? Is it fired with max pressure loads or just mid-pressure rounds?

    Too many variables not clarified by the question.
     
  20. SpringM1A

    SpringM1A member

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    I've put 60K through my Colt Series 70 1911. Mostly done years ago in the IPSC competition days. Early on I put in a Barstow SS barrel and competition spring and guide. I had to replace the slide stop a couple years back, that's it. I carry it now as it is part of me.
     
  21. orpington

    orpington Member

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    The intent of the original post is the lifespan of a firearm, stored well and not in use. Seems like to me it might be millennia. Hence the question. What would ultimately even cause a well cared for and unused firearm composed of wood and iron, brass and steel to ultimately decompose even after tens or hundreds of millennia?
     
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