12L14 barrel comes apart

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TFoley

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Reading all this, I'm reminded of the Tay Bridge disaster back in December 1879, when the recently-built bridge across the River Tay at Dundee in Scotland failed during a storm, bringing it down with a complete train in one particular section known as the High Girders. There were no survivors - around 75 people died.

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At the board of inquiry, the chief designer, Sir Thomas Bouch, was asked about the quality of the material he had had used in the construction, in particular the tall columns on which the section rested. He told the BoI that they had been made from the 'best' wrought iron. Were there any other grades available? Why yes, he answered, there was 'Best best' and 'Best best best'.

He took the entire blame for the tragedy, and died shortly afterwards, some say from shame, with his reputation in tatters, like his bridge.
 

Dphar1950

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No, No you don't. You just "think" that you do.

You have second hand knowledge of the powder used. That's not an issue anyway.... but it could become one....,
You know that the barrel company claims to use 12L14, but until that actual barrel is tested, you only suspect it's the same steel in the ruptured barrel.
You have the opinion of one metallurgist that the steel should not be used, but a lot of other metallurgists don't agree, obviously, since it's still being used.
You have NO analysis of the barrel...,
You have NO tests of barrels made in the same way and ruptured under controlled conditions to find exactly why the barrel burst. For example,
We don't know if metal fatigue is a factor.
We don't know if length of the barrel was a factor.
We don't know if swamping is a factor.
We don't know if length and swamping combined are a factor.
We don't know if there was some flaw in the steel when the steel was made.
We don't know if that particular barrel was made with a flaw not normally found, or if all of that company's barrels are going to fail, with it just a matter of time,
We don't know if barrel corrosion is a factor

In short we, and that includes you, do not know.... we merely suspect it may have been the steel itself...

I have a degree and 32 years experience with forensic archaeology..., crimes scenes and what not..., so again, you may be absolutely correct, but there is not much to back up the opinion..., yet.

LD
Ask a metallurgist knowledgeable in barrel steels what he sees in the photos here. Its a brittle fracture. Typical of !2L14 or other cold rolled mill run steels. I don't have a degree in anything but I have 50 years in the firearms field and I have read some information by steel companies and metallurgists. Don't need a degree to know what happened here. I have see the identical thing happen with a ball properly seated. With a nominal charge of powder. I have seen and had in my possession for decades an m1 garand barrel that my dad shot with dirt in the bore. If only bulged. So if a 150 grain bullet at 2700+ hitting a dirt plug in the barrel of a garand at its thinnest part did not split it then why did this barrel split? With very little bulging? Brittle, free machining steel.
 

Dphar1950

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I shoot a Douglas barrel as does my nephew and his son. The barrels have held up for many thousand shots with no problems. In fact my nephew and his son took first and second place at a turkey shoot earlier today. The barrels are completely safe if used properly.
Douglas got out of ML barrels because their cold drawn octagonal barrels were prone to failure. The last ones I got (late 1970s) had hard scale on the flats from an annealing process they adopted to address the brittleness (I assume) and it did make them less prone to splitting I think. But heating 12L14 this high can cause migration of the lubricating metals (lead, phosphorus and sulfur) which can cause larger inclusions or so a metallurgist has stated. I have 3 rifles with 12L14 barrels, 2 Douglas. I really like the rifles and shot one a LOT in past years, killed elk and deer etc, but almost never shoot them. I shoot rifles I have made with Green Mountain barrels. I KNOW from an HP White Lab report that hot rolled GB quality 1137 will stand 50000 psi with no sign of strain. 45 caliber 1" at the breech tapered to .90 muzzle. Deep dovetails and a long one very close to the breech. I also know that a B weight swamp Green Mountan 50 cal will stand a massive overload with no issues. Limited testing I know. But I used to work for a company that made 19th c brass suppository rifle repros. The only ones that failed were improperly loaded with SMOKELESS and usually UNDERLOADS.
 

Dphar1950

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TC had a rash of blow ups in their early production, we always suspected they changed barrel steels and this "problem" went away like someone hard flipped a switch. Their failures from the photos/reports, like the Douglas I saw and the one pictured here were classic brittle failures. I saw of photo of one that failed in the bottom of the underlug dovetail. Does anyone ever wonder why the US Rifle Musket barrels of the Civil War were skelp welded Iron and not steel? Because until circa 1870 steel was not a reliable barrel material in thin barrels. The Rifle Musket barrels were forge welded into a tube from a relatively short flat bar. The welded tube was then run through a series of rollers that brought it to length. It was then finished out ready for use and proofed with 200 gr of "musket powder" and a 500 gr Minie SPACED TWO INCHES OFF THE POWDER. If the barrel failed proof a committee would examine it. Determine where in the manufacturing process it occurred and the worker responsible had to pay for the barrel. These were "best iron" from England IIRC. The steel rifle barrels that came into use in the early 19th c MLs were generally much heavier is profile than the wrought iron barrels of the late 18th and early 19th c (till the 1830s or so). I believe the use of the early steel was the reason that the ML rifles got heavier in the 19th c rather than lighter. After the American Civil War the advances in steel making made it possible to make breech loading rifle barrels in 7-10 pound rifles (remember some actions weighed 3+ pounds) chambered for cartridges capable of 25000+ psi. Someone mentioned Damascus steels in one post I skimmed over. Late 19th c BRITISH machine made damascus was fully equal to "Whitworth Steel" according to W.W. Greener in "The Gun and It's Development" 1896. And its still possible to get British shotguns with damascus barrels today. If you pay enough.
 

rickpa

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Oldwood may have read the rebuttle in Buckskin Report . But It ran in Muzzle Blasts I wrote for Baird an article on Pinfires

You may be right I did get Muzzle Blasts but not many B skin Report might been in both . Re Kiplings the' Young British Soldier I believe the Line is.

"When arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch",Don't call your Martini a 'cross eyed old gripe ' ,She' as human as you are , You treat as sich An Shele fight for the Young British Soldier ! "
I think theirs a line '

"When shakeing thier bustles like Ladies so fine " The guns of the enemy wheel into line .'" Shoot low at the limbers an don't mind the shine cos noise never startled a Soldier " cant find my copy but sounds about right .I bought lots of Orion Brls . I found Jerry Cunningham a very remarkable Gentleman and good to deal with . He even made me some what he described as "bloody brutal Baker barrels " Being I suppose out of the common line .
Regards Rudyard
(The Original says' gripe'Not 'gripe' BTW) some how gripe becomes some PC ? gripe.' Its gripe' as in female dog B i t c h .
Thanks Rudyard. You're right about the line. That's what I get for trying to quote from memory. Too lazy to go downstairs and look up the poem in my edition of The Complete Verse of Kipling. And yes, when I posted somehow "b*itch" did get changed to "gripe" which I thought must have been the algorithm devils at work. I see it caught you out also.....and now back to our regularly scheduled discussion. ;)
 
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rich pierce

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There was an article Muzzle Blasts in the last several years by the Bevel Brothers about short starting and barrel bulging and ruptures.. Maybe someone has it and can review it, don't know if they discussed the different barrel steels or not. Do remember that they said bulging was very rare.
They could not experimentally blow up test barrels with a single charge and short started ball. If they loaded the barrel then short started a ball, it would blow up. In this case we have a conundrum. The observer wasn’t observing but seems 100% sure of what happened.
The talk of “barrel steels” is a red herring. Everyone knows that barrel steels are those suitable for smokeless powder pressures. I’m not disputing that things happened as stated. It’s just possible that we don’t know everything about this incident.
 

Dphar1950

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Here is a Douglas 45 IIRC that was shot with too much powder, the owner was using the wrong measure,. Excessively fouled the bore and stuck a ball. Got POed and shot it out. Returned the rifle to Don King to have it rebarreled. Don milled a section of the barrel to see what it looked like. I believe this is one of the later annealed Douglas barrels, but Don is now in the National Cemetery at Laurel MT and I cannot ask him. I did examine the barrel after Don had cut the "window" in it. It had some nice heat colors showing the gas passed around the ball before it could move. Regardless this illustrates that even 12L14 will SOMETIMES stand a lot of abuse. But its not reliable the next one might split full length. Don was one of the PREMIER makers of ML arms from 1960 until he mostly retired in the 80s.
bulged barrel pic.jpg
Don King Swivel004.jpg
Don's Headstone.jpg
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And then theres this about steel quality:

 
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Like you, I also wrote for John Baird's magazine Buckskin Report. Yes, he did document some issues and failures with early TC production. I'm certain that exposure both contributed to improvement in TC qc and the demise of the magazine.
 
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I never realized how many types of Steel there are until I started looking at replica swords; this is an interesting field! I'm imagining an engineer designing some tooling or engines, how the Steel factor must weigh in. Mind boggling!
 

Dphar1950

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They could not experimentally blow up test barrels with a single charge and short started ball. If they loaded the barrel then short started a ball, it would blow up. In this case we have a conundrum. The observer wasn’t observing but seems 100% sure of what happened.
The talk of “barrel steels” is a red herring. Everyone knows that barrel steels are those suitable for smokeless powder pressures. I’m not disputing that things happened as stated. It’s just possible that we don’t know everything about this incident.
Year ago some experiementers tried to blow an orginal Springfield Rifle Musket barrel. They did not try short starting etc. But could not get enough powder in the barrel (I have read) to damage it. If you really look into the barrel steel thing you will know its not a "Red Herring". If a modern maker has a catastrophic failure there is a recall, there is a court case if someone is injured etc. Remember the Remington shotgun fiasco and the Sako rifle recall? ML barrel makers rely on the "handloader defense" even modern firearms makers are exempt from any legal problems if handloads are used. ALL ML arms are hand loads. So the ,makers are immune from legal issues. In one case I know of the defense did testing on the residue and "proved" that smokeless had been used. Later a friend of mine who does such things as a hobby, bought a can of GOEX, burn some, tested the fouling as done by the lab in the case and got a "smokeless" result. Think about that when you read that "they proved smokeless was used". ML barrels are very hard to blow up with BP. The pressure, unless very high sectional bullets are used is low comparted to modern guns and well below the (faulty) tensile strength of as produced 12L14 which is WAY higher than best wrought iron used in the Rifle Musket. So it SHOULD be impossible to hurt a barrel made of this stuff. But they have been randomly failing for DECADES. How come. Modern firearms made from modern steels of suitable alloy will stand massive over pressure with grey powder. The barrels can be and are shot when hot enough to light a cigarette off. Yet we have instances of what is supposedly a very strong steel failing a low pressure and room temperature. If you dig into the shock loading and the critical temperature 12L14 you will REALLY scare yourself. You see with a brittle steel is shock loaded the tensile drops to almost nothing. And its intolerant of internal pressure too boot. Read up on it. Here is a blast from the past that most here have never seen from a magazine most under 50 have never seen. Note the "special process comment. They have to have a CLEAN crucible to make a high quality steel so its not been contaminated by old Buick bumpers and such used for mill run steels. Then there is TESTING to assure it meets spec for alloy and for the number of inclusions allowable for the grade.

LaSalle Steel letter001.jpg
 

M. De Land

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I could not agree more, having witnessed a case similar to what you are describing in 1980 on THE Marine Corps Rifle Team. Yes, I'm sorry it was an unmentionable rifle, BUT it will become quite apparent how it also pertains to ML rifles a little later on.

The barrel opened up like a banana on BOTH ends, which also broke the front of the receiver, the pressure tore off the rear of the receiver and God only knows how it didn't hit the shooter's face. The stock split at the forearm to well backwards and was the result of the worst injury to the shooter, a lacerated arm. (He was back shooting five days later when a Doctor cleared him.) FORTUNATELY he was wearing real shooting glasses, as there were a number of pieces of brass and steel imbedded in the lenses, that completely saved his eyes. The Dr. did have to remove some small pieces of brass and steel from the rest of his face as well.

Many, but not all of the Shooters wanted to blame the Armorers, but we Armorers knew the guy who barreled the rifle could not have done something to cause such catastrophic failure.

Fortunately, THE premier Firearms Laboratory in the U.S. - H.P. White Laboratory was still in operation and did the most extensive test on the whole gun possible. Their results completely cleared the Armorer, as the barrel had been made of some cheap steel with Sulphur stringers in the alloy and of course that Steel Alloy was NEVER meant to made into gun barrels.

We notified the barrel maker of what happened. He had PAID for best quality SS Barrel Alloy, but the metal supplier screwed up which alloy to send on his order from another order with the low quality steel. So it was not the fault of the barrel maker either.

If barrel makers PAY for good quality barrel metal and the metal suppliers send the WRONG barrel alloy metal, the same can happen with muzzleloading or modern barrels.

Gus
I know who the barrel maker is and I know they use 12L14 for their barrel steel ! . Not wanting to except the truth changes it in the least.
I have on file a metallurgist report explaining why 12L14 is unsuitable for barrel use ,
I know Douglas barrel Co. used it for muzzle loading barrels and stopped making them after several barrel failures and subsequent law suits.
Now I've seen it happen where I could examine a barrel failure for myself and have come to the conclusion that the report was accurate.
The information is their for all to see and make a decision about for ones self. I've done my part to promote safety awareness and can do nothing more.
 

Notchy Bob

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The topic of barrel steels is well over my head, but this has been a very informative thread.

Burst barrels are well documented in the literature of the American frontier, usually attributed to a ball not seated on the powder, or to use of inappropriate projectiles, e.g. chunks of iron.

Regarding the subject barrel, it was noted that the split occurred in the bottom corner of a groove, and followed the groove as it twisted. If the waist of this barrel was .750” and the caliber .50, barrel wall thickness of the lands would be .125”. Assuming a groove depth of .010” - .012”, we have an actual wall thickness of .113” to .115”, or less than 1/8 inch. That isn’t much. I know the barrel walls of some early fowling pieces were quite thin at the muzzle, but I’ve been a little uneasy with our current trend toward thinner, lighter rifle barrels. People are asking about getting 15/16” straight octagon barrels bored out to .58 caliber. That just doesn’t seem like a good idea, regardless of the type of steel.

Thanks to all who shared their expertise on this interesting topic.

Notchy Bob
 
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Muzzleloaders using black powder and its substitutes don't require barrels made from expensive steel used in centerfire rifles.

Many years ago a friend and myself chronographed the velocities and logged the pressures of black powder and its substitutes. BH 209 was not in production at that time.

150 measured grains of GOEX FFG powder generated a pressure of 14,000 psi. 150 measured grains of Swiss FFG gave a pressure reading of 18,000 psi. The highest pressure reading we obtained was from 150 measured grains of Pyrodex P, 21,000 psi.

Manufacturers of muzzleloaders are well aware that expensive steels required for centerfire rifles whose barrels must withstand 50,000 to 65,000 psi are not required for muzzleloaders using black powder and the substitutes.

Reading some of the comments a newby could be lead to believe that muzzleloader barrels manufactured from 12L14 steel routinely explode That is not the case. Very few muzzleloaders ever blow up. When they do, i'ts nearly always the fault of the shooter.
 

M. De Land

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A barrel of certified steel designed for this purpose does not need very much thickness to contain the pressure. A very good read on barrel strength can be found in Col Hatchers book .
In WW2 the barrel steel was 10xx series which is carbon steel with manganese and silicone in alloy which had suitable stress numbers to contain pressures in excess of 50K. In the Col's blow up tests the chamber of a barrel in the .30-06 was repeatedly reduced in diameter and proofed with a 70,000 PSI load. The barrel wall thickness over the chamber area was reduced in increments to .0625 before the over load bulged it. That is 1/16 of an inch of 10 series steel containing 70 K PSI.
Black powder pressure in a muzzle loader rarely exceeds 20 k PSI and normally is in the 12 to 15K range from what I have read.
It seems to me that knowing that short starts and short seats are a rather common occurrence in muzzle loader use one would want to have a safety margin in the barrel steel of their chosen arm.
I won't ever make another of 12L14 alloy and be reluctant to even work on one for someone else.
 
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mhb

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12L14 is a mild carbon steel, and has a small percentage of lead added to make it a free-machining steel. It is often used for muzzleloader barrels and .22 rimfire barrels. It is strong enough for typical muzzleloader charges, but does not have the safety margin of higher-alloyed steels, which are not often used for ML barrels, anyway. ML barrels are typically made from cold-rolled 12L14 bar stock, which has a tensile yield strength of 60,200 psi, and an ultimate tensile strength of 78,300 psi. 12L14 cannot be through-hardened to improve its physical strength, though it can be case-hardened to improve its resistance to wear.

mhb - MIke
 
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1. There is a message here for new shooters, don't fire a short started rifle.

2. There is a message here for those instructing new shooters, don't allow your trainee to short start a rifle.

3. Before allowing the trainee to fire the rifle ensure that he has not short started said rifle by instructing said trainee to insert the ramrod into the barrel.

Don't cry when your very nice rifle is reduced to a tomato stake.
 

Loyalist Dave

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Ask a metallurgist knowledgeable in barrel steels what he sees in the photos here. Its a brittle fracture. Typical of !2L14 or other cold rolled mill run steels. I don't have a degree in anything but I have 50 years in the firearms field and I have read some information by steel companies and metallurgists. Don't need a degree to know what happened here. I have see the identical thing happen with a ball properly seated. With a nominal charge of powder. I have seen and had in my possession for decades an m1 garand barrel that my dad shot with dirt in the bore. If only bulged. So if a 150 grain bullet at 2700+ hitting a dirt plug in the barrel of a garand at its thinnest part did not split it then why did this barrel split? With very little bulging? Brittle, free machining steel.
My point has not been, "It wasn't the steel".

My point is until somebody who knows about steel looks at the barrel, not photos, not listening to "eye witness accounts", nor comparing anecdotal stories about other rifles and other steels (I can show you a Browning rifle barrel that was split like a banana due to snow at the muzzle...so what?) ..., but actually examines the barrel, tests and confirms it's is 12L14, and has the qualifications to match, then confirms it was a rupture due to the steel and not another anomaly..., until then..., it is merely supposition. IT would be nice if the examination included a measured and tested conclusion that it was indeed simply the steel, not poorly cared for, or had a flaw nobody saw at the factory...

LD
 

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