Polymer vs Steel & Aluminum frames [Archive] - Glock Talk

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speicher
07-02-2012, 07:44
In the long run, over years and years of use etc...will Polymer frames hold up better than steel/aluminum frames as a whole?

Do you think that the Polymer frames can withstand more abuse than steel/aluminum frames...without suffering from permanent damage?

Bruce M
07-02-2012, 08:00
My guess is that for a similar design with the same cartridge that an aluminum frame would be the first to fail. My other guess is that one would spend many times the cost of the gun in ammunition to cause any of the types of frames to fail.

smokin762
07-02-2012, 08:01
I think everything depends on the QC of the manufacture, what kind of reputation they have and was that firearm originally designed around the material that was used to manufacture the firearm in question.

I would think if the firearm was manufactured by Glock, SigSaur, HK and many other well known established Firearm Companies it should be good to go for a life time as long as it is properly maintained.

Constant abuse will shorten any firearms serviceable life.

arclight610
07-02-2012, 08:38
All things being equal, the polymer frame should last the longest with its highest elastic modulus. The aluminum will fail the first, because of aluminum's tendency to work harden and become brittle.

Shipwreck-The-Sequel
07-02-2012, 10:04
When you look at the reviews of years past - 100k thru a Glock. even 200k thru a glock... (you'll have to drop in a new barrel at some point). I think polymer frames may will last longer than steel. They will outlast aluminum frames.

Even though my fav handgun platform uses an aluminum frame (beretta 92), I will admit that polymer will go way past it in terms of rounds fired before wearing out the frame

Nakanokalronin
07-02-2012, 10:47
There are quite few variables out there. Steel slide - steel frame and rails, Steel slide - aluminum frame and rails, steel slide - steel rails inserted into polymer and steel slide - polymer frame and rails.

There are also different types of polymer, steel and aluminum. Many different lock up systems and stress points so it really all depends. Caliber has something to do with it as well as round count or what type of environment the gun sees the most.

There have been guns like the aluminum framed M9/92 that shot 168,000 rounds without a failure, but obviously that's not the norm across the board, just like every other manufacture out there no matter what the frame is made of.

I'd say that polymer gets the nod for corrosion resistance and weight, shootability goes to steel and aluminum is somewhere in between. Then again, I'm sure anyone can find examples that are the opposite of those statements as well as the durability of each.

mr00jimbo
07-02-2012, 11:54
Aluminum is reputed to fail first, because (correct me if I'm wrong) it weakens a tiny, tiny bit every time it's fired and eventually fails.
Guns like Sigs like to be run "wet", a generous amount of grease on the frame rails to keep them in optimal condition. Then again, Sigs and I believe Berettas are anodized to protect the aluminum, and once the anodizing wears off, that's when the wear to the frame continues at an increased rate.

speicher
07-02-2012, 12:13
There are quite few variables out there. Steel slide - steel frame and rails, Steel slide - aluminum frame and rails, steel slide - steel rails inserted into polymer and steel slide - polymer frame and rails.

There are also different types of polymer, steel and aluminum. Many different lock up systems and stress points so it really all depends. Caliber has something to do with it as well as round count or what type of environment the gun sees the most.

There have been guns like the aluminum framed M9/92 that shot 168,000 rounds without a failure, but obviously that's not the norm across the board, just like every other manufacture out there no matter what the frame is made of.

I'd say that polymer gets the nod for corrosion resistance and weight, shootability goes to steel and aluminum is somewhere in between. Then again, I'm sure anyone can find examples that are the opposite of those statements as well as the durability of each.

Good point. I think that the highlighted option is the best option.

Decguns
07-02-2012, 13:06
When I went through an armorers course a hundred years ago, there was a section on the lifespan of pistol frames. An alloy framed Hi-Power had a service life of about 35,000 rounds while the improved M9 frame had a service life of 75,000 rounds. While the aluminum receiver of the M16 can often surpass 200,000 rds, pistols receive substantially more battering from the slide moving back & forth than the rifle. Alloy pistol frames often have their lifespan extended by inserting steel pins in high stress areas.

The service life of the steel framed M1911 improved from about 35,000 rounds to well over 100,000 rounds as we made gains in metalurgy heading into WWII and the newer M1911A1 production. When examined closely, most steel framed pistols had developed hair line stress fractures after just 35,000 rounds, though the frame may serve well into the 100,000 range without fracturing... or maybe fracture the next round fired. They last longer than aluminum, but... they still fail.

Polymer frames didn't have a service life estimate at the time. Shooting them seemed to have little impact on the cohesiveness of the polymer. What would tend to fail first is the holes where steel pins are inserted for the trigger and such. Holster wear and wear from inserting magazines were also taking a great toll on the plastic frames... but shooting them didn't.

crazymoose
07-02-2012, 15:41
I would think the biggest thing that might wear out polymer (short of an insane round count in the 100,000+ range) is degradation from UV exposure. Then again, we're talking decades. In that regard, a good steel gun is the kind of thing that could last a century or two if well cared for and if it doesn't see thousands of rounds a month. A polymer gun exposed to a lot of sunlight will eventually degrade. But if you want a gun for hard use, day in and day out, for a couple of decades, the plastic gun is pretty ideal.

arclight610
07-02-2012, 15:55
I would think the biggest thing that might wear out polymer (short of an insane round count in the 100,000+ range) is degradation from UV exposure. Then again, we're talking decades. In that regard, a good steel gun is the kind of thing that could last a century or two if well cared for and if it doesn't see thousands of rounds a month. A polymer gun exposed to a lot of sunlight will eventually degrade. But if you want a gun for hard use, day in and day out, for a couple of decades, the plastic gun is pretty ideal.

Thermal degradation would be a bigger concern. Repeated heating and cooling decays polymers fast.

Redstate
07-02-2012, 18:46
Interesting thread. arclight610, please elaborate more upon your theory of thermal degradation. Thanks.

GLOCK17DB9
07-02-2012, 18:51
Polymer all the way!:whistling:

hogship
07-02-2012, 19:11
A polymer gun exposed to a lot of sunlight will eventually degrade.

Thermal degradation would be a bigger concern. Repeated heating and cooling decays polymers fast.

Correct........Direct sunlight, and heat are bad for plastics, and so is extreme cold.

Around these parts, the temperature swing is typically around 100 degrees from dead of winter, to summer......sometimes, more than that. Although the plastics used in firearms are much better quality than the usual plastic things you find littered outdoors, they share some basic traits. After a couple years of heat and cold, plastic packaging and milk jugs get so brittle, that they break up into pieces under foot. The same sort of temperature swings will effect poly firearms similarly......although, very few of them will ever be left outdoors in the weather.

ooc

Novocaine
07-02-2012, 19:24
Steel will outlast either.

fnfalman
07-02-2012, 20:50
Thermal degradation would be a bigger concern. Repeated heating and cooling decays polymers fast.

So's exposure to sunlight. Co-polymerism can attentuate UV's effect on polymers but not proof it.

CAcop
07-02-2012, 22:34
Not thrilled with our issue Glocks holding up. Various points on the frame have gotten worn on guns with higher than normal shooting schedules tht we have had malfunctions with them. Pin holes get loose too. I think it might have to do with .40 Glocks being designed from 9mm guns and Gaston not putting too many changes into them. Browning added a third locking lug, made the slide thick, and went to a cast frame that is a stronger frame than the original design. HK started their USP series as .40 first.

I tend to look at Glocks as disposable guns to be honest. Which is fine because they are cheap at least for LE. I don't know if they are worth retail price at non LE pricing. Or just don't get bent if your gun doesn't last as long as you would like.

Boats
07-03-2012, 06:38
I don't know if they are worth retail price at non LE pricing.

Only one of the most obvious "NO" answers ever right there.

s&wfan
07-03-2012, 06:57
Honestly, if you care for any modern gun made by a major manufacturer, it will have a really long active use lifespan, regardless of what they used to make the frame.

speicher
07-03-2012, 08:18
It sounds like there is no clear cut "best" material. Polymers degrade quickly depending on temperature variances/sunlight exposure etc...steel can corrode, and may not hold up to the abuse/battering of recoil over a high round count...whereas polymer is known for absorbing the abuse of recoil without fracturing, when steel & aluminum has been known to fracture, especially when alot of those rounds are +P/naturally higher pressure loads (.40, .357SIG).

I'm not sure how a steel frame semi-auto would hold up to some of the abuse/endurance tests that Glocks have been through and still came out shooting??

Redstate
07-04-2012, 08:31
Deleted

Berto
07-04-2012, 14:27
IMO there's too many variables to isolate it soley to frame material and there's enough examples of each material lasting waaaay longer than anyone could realistically use it.

Sgt_Gold
07-05-2012, 20:48
Aluminum is by far the weakest of the three materials as far as round count goes. The only two aluminum framed guns I'm personally familiar with are Sig and Beretta. Frame rail wear is almost a fettish on the Sig related gun boards, although it isn't much of an issue on any of the Beratta sites.

Glock has been around since the early 1980's, and there are still generation one guns in use. Even steel frames are suspect as far as rounding out of pin holes through use, and that appears to be the main issue with polymer as well.

If you're really concerned about the longevity of a handgun frame, you're eather a serious shooter or have too much time on your hands. If you're the first then you're probably getting the guns for free or at a discount. If you're the second you need to spend more time at the range and less on the internet asking how long your guns are going to last.:supergrin:

SigFTW
07-06-2012, 07:19
Walked into a LGS I frequent every once and awhile looking for deals. One of the shop employees an older gentleman (a very nice guy) and I started talking about the Glock. I told him that I don't like Tupperware guns especially the Glock (It's not ugly, it's fugly to me:whistling:), and he said "whats the oldest Tupperware you have" well, I said, almost 30 years old!!!! and then I said, you got a good point! :wow:

I'm sure the Glock will hold up for a long time because it is made out of Tupperware:whistling:

arclight610
07-06-2012, 08:45
Walked into a LGS I frequent every once and awhile looking for deals. One of the shop employees an older gentleman (a very nice guy) and I started talking about the Glock. I told him that I don't like Tupperware guns especially the Glock (It's not ugly, it's fugly to me:whistling:), and he said "whats the oldest Tupperware you have" well, I said, almost 30 years old!!!! and then I said, you got a good point! :wow:

I'm sure the Glock will hold up for a long time because it is made out of Tupperware:whistling:

Just don't put spaghetti in your Glock, or it may discolor it.

fnfalman
07-06-2012, 08:59
Just don't put spaghetti in your Glock, or it may discolor it.

Especially not on the FDE model.

Aurora
07-07-2012, 04:51
I've been shooting and carrying a first generation Glock 17 since 1988. The pistol has 30,000+ rounds through it. The slide has lost a lot of it's finish due to holster wear and the frame has a fair amount of wear as well but overall it looks pretty good and mechanically sound for it's age.

The condition of ANY gun that's been carried and used for that amount of time is going to be rough. Some of the wear on steel framed guns that have been daily carried is remarkable to say the least but they still function.

V.

.45Super-Man
07-07-2012, 12:52
All metal guns were doing just fine, LONG before the plastic craze. I havent seen one polymer gun that could function without metal, however. I'll stick with steel and aluminum.

mr00jimbo
06-23-2013, 23:51
This subject intrigues me. The general consensus across the board is that aluminum will be the first one to fail. And I don't disagree necessarily...but there are a lot of factors involved.
The type of alloyed aluminum used in popular handguns, including P226 and 92FS pistols, is 7075 aircraft grade and type III hard anodized. The anodizing and the alloying of other metals definitely changes the dynamics.

It seems that 1911s with aluminum frames aren't going to hold up as well as guns designed to be made out of aluminum like the Sig & Beretta. I have exchanged messages with an armorer of Sig Sauers who tell me they have seen P226 pistols exceed 100,000 rounds of +P ammunition with the frame still being in good shape, but the pistol would fire out of battery due to other worn parts and failed inspection.

The venerable Glock is the benchmark for durability and it's made out of polymer. Nobody can deny polymer's strength, BUT for practical purposes, Glocks do eventually fail and while many have exceeded 100,000 + rounds of firing, the same can be said with aluminum framed guns.

Steel is another material where durability seems almost guaranteed, but I don't think it's true across the board. Look at the HiPower; an all-steel gun that does not stand up to hot ammunition and had to be cast instead of forged to ensure durability with the .40 round. It seems that the alloy p226 holds up better than the steel hipower in this regard.

Then again, accounts of the 92FS running forever are rampant, but then the 96FS, same gun in .40, seems to be comparatively weaker. This might be attributed to Beretta failing to design the thing to take .40 from the getgo.

Beretta has recently begun to supply newer alloy-framed pistols with a recoil buffer.

I understand that 99.999% of gun owners will never take their guns to the limit of using up their frame's service life, and that even if they did, the cost would allow them to purchase many new pistols, but it's still interesting to discuss which material will fail first, and why.

Also worth mentioning that the Mossberg 500/90 series of shotgun is considered very robust, but has an aluminum alloy receiver whereas the 870 has a milled steel one. The parts that lock up on the Mossberg are all steel though, allowing for similar levels of durability. I wonder if that's true for alloy pistols? The only thing is that the alloy pistols have alloy frame rails incorporated into the one-piece frame and cannot be replaced.

427
06-24-2013, 00:35
Stainless Steel will out last....

fnfalman
06-24-2013, 00:35
Interesting thread. arclight610, please elaborate more upon your theory of thermal degradation. Thanks.

Break out a book on Materials Science & Engineering from your local public library. It ain't a new thang, this thermal/UV degradation of plastics.

fnfalman
06-24-2013, 00:35
There are steel guns that are like 500-years-old...

bac1023
06-24-2013, 05:59
Stainless Steel will out last....

That would depend on the stainless.

bac1023
06-24-2013, 05:59
There are steel guns that are like 500-years-old...

Very true

brisk21
06-24-2013, 07:29
When you factor in the cost of ammunition it would take to "wear out" any of these type of guns, it far exceeds even a whole departments cost of outfitting their officers with the guns. So the point is, is that it really doesn't matter which would last longer. They all last WAY longer than they even need to.

M&P15T
06-24-2013, 09:24
Not thrilled with our issue Glocks holding up. Various points on the frame have gotten worn on guns with higher than normal shooting schedules tht we have had malfunctions with them. Pin holes get loose too.

Let me get this straight; you know actual LEOs that shoot their issued GLOCK pistols so much that they malfunction from worn frames, and that "pin holes get loose"?

This is one of those "pics or it didn't happen" moments.

WayneJessie
06-24-2013, 13:43
Not thrilled with our issue Glocks holding up. Various points on the frame have gotten worn on guns with higher than normal shooting schedules tht we have had malfunctions with them. Pin holes get loose too. I think it might have to do with .40 Glocks being designed from 9mm guns and Gaston not putting too many changes into them. Browning added a third locking lug, made the slide thick, and went to a cast frame that is a stronger frame than the original design. HK started their USP series as .40 first.

I tend to look at Glocks as disposable guns to be honest. Which is fine because they are cheap at least for LE. I don't know if they are worth retail price at non LE pricing. Or just don't get bent if your gun doesn't last as long as you would like.

I agree. I'm not sure you can wear a steel-framed CZ75 out with decent care.

crazymoose
06-24-2013, 20:06
Let me get this straight; you know actual LEOs that shoot their issued GLOCK pistols so much that they malfunction from worn frames, and that "pin holes get loose"?

This is one of those "pics or it didn't happen" moments.


If they were earlier-generation .40 cals, I wouldn't be surprised. Haven't heard of this issue with newer guns, though.

Haldor
06-25-2013, 11:07
Stainless Steel will out last....

SS is very susceptible to galling if inadequately lubed or any time you have SS to SS moving contact. I seriously doubt if SS will outlast polymer in real use.

sciolist
06-25-2013, 14:10
Not thrilled with our issue Glocks holding up. Various points on the frame have gotten worn on guns with higher than normal shooting schedules tht we have had malfunctions with them. Pin holes get loose too. I think it might have to do with .40 Glocks being designed from 9mm guns and Gaston not putting too many changes into them. Browning added a third locking lug, made the slide thick, and went to a cast frame that is a stronger frame than the original design. HK started their USP series as .40 first.

I tend to look at Glocks as disposable guns to be honest. Which is fine because they are cheap at least for LE. I don't know if they are worth retail price at non LE pricing. Or just don't get bent if your gun doesn't last as long as you would like.

I absolutely agree. The Glock is designed as a disposable gun. It's a great design, and it could easily be transformed into a much more robust product, but longevity is not part of the Glock program.

Brian Lee
06-25-2013, 15:17
My guess is that for a similar design with the same cartridge that an aluminum frame would be the first to fail. My other guess is that one would spend many times the cost of the gun in ammunition to cause any of the types of frames to fail.

I think you're right, except that I have seen aluminum crack pretty quickly, but possibly mainly due to bad design. All the engineering books say that aluminum develops eventual metal fatigue issues steel does not have at low loads, (with enough repetition of that load).

Though I've never tested the idea to know for sure, I strongly suspect that plastic - the right kinds - would do best at resisting wear inside holes where the metal pins get driven in and out lots of times for cleaning & disassembly, because plastics like Nylon (pronounced Glock Polymer here on GT) can actually stretch a little bit instead of wearing off some of the surface each time the pins are moved - as eventually happens with holes in a metal frame.

Zombie Steve
06-25-2013, 16:07
Change out your (steel :supergrin:) recoil spring with some regularity and your family can compete with the gun for generations.

As for me, I'll take steel.

crazymoose
06-25-2013, 20:05
I absolutely agree. The Glock is designed as a disposable gun. It's a great design, and it could easily be transformed into a much more robust product, but longevity is not part of the Glock program.

Tell that to Chuck Taylor (the man, not the shoe), or just about every serious competitive shooter not using a 1911.

mr00jimbo
06-25-2013, 22:37
The Glock is not a disposable gun - they have held up impeccably to high round counts.

Aluminum by textbook definition has a relatively short service life but the guns that use it are often anodized and alloyed with other metals, which complicates things, no?

WayneJessie
06-26-2013, 12:01
The Glock is not a disposable gun - they have held up impeccably to high round counts.

Aluminum by textbook definition has a relatively short service life but the guns that use it are often anodized and alloyed with other metals, which complicates things, no?

Aluminum is no different than steel. There are so many grades and quality of treatments to make a blanket statement. Aircraft probably flex aluminum more than any other application and you know how long some commercial aircraft have been in the air. I do consider Glocks(and many other poly guns) to be disposable in nature. That does not negate their usefulness that comes from their light weight; corrosion resistance; and simple design. I've seen several examples of CZ75 steel frame guns that came from the elite Israeli black-op training schools. They were shot hundreds of rounds a day for 25yrs and other than putting new springs in them they had no issues. They got lube on a regular basis but were run hard.

Zombie Steve
06-26-2013, 12:05
I read an article not long ago on explosive welding as it pertains to firearms. Blast hard enough and you can weld aluminum to steel. Expensive as all get-out, but an interesting concept to have an aluminum grip and lower frame with all of the contact points being steel.

:dunno:

427
06-26-2013, 12:17
SS is very susceptible to galling if inadequately lubed or any time you have SS to SS moving contact. I seriously doubt if SS will outlast polymer in real use.
All things being equal, which would last longer in real world use:

A 3rd gen S&W or same vintage Glock?

garya1961
06-26-2013, 20:06
If you go by wear on the slide and frame the polymer frame and steel slide would last longer. I read once that aluminum on steel would wear the steel faster. So a gun with aluminum frame and steel would wear faster than a steel frame and steel slide. Polymer on steel would wear the least. So a polymer frame and steel slide would last longer.

mr00jimbo
06-26-2013, 22:25
Has anybody ever heard of a Ruger P89 with an aluminum frame being worn out? What does Ruger do to those things? Cast aluminum frame, robust as any gun.

WayneJessie
06-27-2013, 03:25
Has anybody ever heard of a Ruger P89 with an aluminum frame being worn out? What does Ruger do to those things? Cast aluminum frame, robust as any gun.

Exactly. Aluminum can be made as tough as anything. The key to aluminum with a steel frame is keeping them lubed correctly. If one is not inclined to keep their gun lubed:shocked: it may be best if they purchased a polymer gun.

SigFTW
06-27-2013, 06:58
The CZ P-01 has an aluminum frame and carbon steel slide.

Service life: (pulled off the CZ NATO approval test page)
The service life requirement from the Czech police was 15,000 rounds of +P ammo!
The pistol will exceed 30,000 rounds with ball 9mm.

I would say, not to bad for an aluminum frame gun.

full wright up here:
http://www.cz-usa.com/press-releases/102/

faawrenchbndr
06-27-2013, 10:52
I'd say steel is where it's at! The 1911 is virtually unchanged since it's introduction.
The Glock is on it's 4th generation in 30 years.

WayneJessie
06-27-2013, 13:32
The CZ P-01 has an aluminum frame and carbon steel slide.

Service life: (pulled off the CZ NATO approval test page)
The service life requirement from the Czech police was 15,000 rounds of +P ammo!
The pistol will exceed 30,000 rounds with ball 9mm.

I would say, not to bad for an aluminum frame gun.

full wright up here:
http://www.cz-usa.com/press-releases/102/
That service life was without ANY lube whatsoever. Owing a PO-1 I can tell you they will go much further with proper care.

crazymoose
06-27-2013, 17:55
I'd say steel is where it's at! The 1911 is virtually unchanged since it's introduction.
The Glock is on it's 4th generation in 30 years.

Besides the 1911 to 1911A1, there have been a ton of changes: triggers, hammers and sears of all kinds, extended thumb and grip safeties, a million sight variations, bushingless barrels, collet bushings, Swartz safties, Series 80 safties, FLGR setups, dual spring setups, aluminum frames, plastic frames, light rails, etc.

Although I'll grant you that one would expect a lot more change in the 1911, given that it's now 102, whereas the Glock is barely over 30.

crazymoose
06-27-2013, 17:58
That service life was without ANY lube whatsoever. Owing a PO-1 I can tell you they will go much further with proper care.

Those contract service life requirements are frequently insanely low. I think the M9 trial required something like a 5,000 life. While I don't believe that the Beretta is the most durable pistol in the world, it'll easily go at least eight or ten times that figure with proper care.