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US Army Wants Powder Metal Gun Barrels

This article was originally posted on Thefirearmblog.com

Last Thursday, we discussed the US Army’s solicitation for combustible cartridge cases. Today, we’ll take a look at another interesting solicitation published in the same US government program called SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research). This time the Army is looking for powder metal small arms barrels.

A liner made of an alloy called Stellite has been used in M60 machine gun barrels

The idea behind this request is to have a bi-metal barrel made by powder metal technologies which will allow having a bore liner made of a stronger and more heat resistant metal combined with an outer conventional steel barrel. The Army expects to get longer barrel lives at the same time having lighter barrels.

US Army Wants Powder Metal Gun Barrels - 1

Back in 2011, Picatinny Arsenal Engineers were experimenting with cobalt alloy barrels.

For a more detailed description of the requirements, read the full text of the solicitation:

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this SBIR proposal is the demonstration and subsequent production of new small arms barrels with improved durability, and maintaining performance in a high rate of fire in varying environmental conditions. For example; Titanium barrels with deep titanium nitrided bores have been made using Powdered Metal (PM) and Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) technology. A bi-metal barrel with refractory liner will create a heat and wear resistant bore using a conventional barrel material as the outer tube. Longer barrel life is expected at a reasonable cost. The new barrel can result in a long life barrel at significant weight savings as compared to conventional steel barrels.

DESCRIPTION: New Powdered Metal (PM) gun barrel technologies are being studied and new manufacturing methods and material combinations have been proposed which promise to show gun barrel life extension and consistent accuracy. Goal is to have a barrel capable of a rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 16 minutes and 40 seconds without a barrel change or risk of cook-off. Cyclic 200 rounds without cook off (Threshold). Capable of 108 rounds per minute sustained for 9 minutes and 16 seconds without barrel change or risk of cook off.(Objective). A cost target of $900.00 (Threshold) $400.00 (Objective) PM technologies have matured to a point where the construction of sample test barrels can begin and made ready for live fire evaluation. Advancements include: • Dual material (bi-metal) gun barrels with PM refractory material bores. • PM titanium barrel with thick titanium nitride bore. • Others A bi-metal barrel with refractory liner will create a heat and wear resistant bore using a conventional barrel material as the outer tube. Longer barrel life is expected at a reasonable cost. The titanium barrel promises a long life barrel at significant weight savings as compared to steel. Bore wear concerns are addressed by deep titanium nitriding using Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP).

PHASE I: The Phase I effort is intended as a first step into a new world of gun barrel manufacture. Demonstrating a sample bi-metal barrel or rugged titanium barrel, or both, will open the door to a new light weight and long lasting gun barrel technology available at a reasonable cost. Phase activities shall include: a) literature survey, b) market research, c) samples acquired and demonstrated in lab. Along with the sample supply a report providing results of the literature survey, market research, weight and cost projections, material specifications, and fabrication process description will also be supplied.

PHASE II: A Phase II effort is envisioned to expand the types of new material bores and further develop as a viable gun barrel material. Government furnished ammunition will be requested for Phase II in order to establish and validate the durability, extended life, and performance of these new technology gun barrels. Government issued weapon barrels will also be requested for use as control samples. No other certifications or restrictions are envisioned. The goal is to deliver two finished barrels made with new technologies, each having been subjected to limited testing to validate feasibility, determine accuracy, and record initial muzzle velocity. The barrel technologies shall demonstrate capability of a barrel capable of a rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 16 minutes and 40 seconds without a barrel change or risk of cook-off. Cyclic 200 rounds without cook off (Threshold) at a target of cost $900.00 USD.

PHASE III: DoD and Federal Agencies Successful demonstration of PM technology in gun barrels will lead to enormous opportunities for commercialization. The DoD is interested in maximizing barrel life while at the same time offering lighter weaponry. Once the technology is proven viable, the market will expand to other defense agencies. Commercial Firearms Market Powder metal technology can be the answer to early throat wear in high velocity cartridges. This technology will be promoted on the commercial market to major U.S. firearms manufacturers as an answer to the technological challenges presented by these calibers. The Commercial firearms market has been growing steadily with over 10-million firearms produced annually. More than 4 million of these are rifles, where the PM technology is expected to show the most significant advantages. If 10% of this market can be captured in the near term, 400,000 gun barrels yearly will represent a sizeable market. It is believed this market potential can be achieved over a 5-year period.


SBIR is a US government program that helps the domestic businesses to engage in Federal research and development programs which has the potential to be commercialized. This program particularly includes projects initiated by the Department of Defense. Besides the program that is the subject of this article, there are a number of other defense and small arms related programs in the list of solicitations. You can read the list and brief descriptions of other SBIR programs by clicking here.


Sources:

“A18-090: Powder Metal Gun Barrel”. (2018, January 08). Small Business Innovation Research. Retrieved From: https://www.sbir.gov/node/1409921

Images from: www.army.mil, www.entrustmt.com, www.usord.com

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