GP100 Frame Material Question

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jstanfield103

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Ok guy's

I asked this on another site also but thought I would get this sights group thoughts

This might be a stupid question but has me wondering a bit. I was watching a video the other day between a GP100 and a S&W 686. The guy was comparing the two. He made the statement that the GP100 was cast and the S&W was cut from one solid steel block of steel. I do know that this is true. But he then went on to say that everyone always talks about how the Ruger is built bigger and like a tank. He says that the Ruger has to be built bigger because it is cast. I always heard that the GP100 was built bigger and stronger to handle full 357 Mag. loads all day long.

The top strap is a lot heavier or larger than the 686, so what do you all say, is it because the cast frame on the Ruger ?

Me my self I feel it is because Bill Ruger wanted it stronger. I also feel that Ruger has the casting process down to such a science that their steel is just as good as S&W's.

I would also ask this on the S&W forum but I do know they would over whelming say that the S&W is stronger steel.

I just had the LGS order me a GP100 TALO 6" addition with the unfluted cylinder (which I Love) so I was just watching video till I can afford to get it out of layaway.
 

NikA

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There are three interconnected components to the performance of a material such as steel in an application: structure/composition, processing history, and material properties.

Ruger's firearms are cast from alloy steels such as 4130 and 4340 for blued guns and 400-series stainless steels. This information comes from Ruger's casting division (https://www.ruger.com/casting/PDF/PineTreeCastings.pdf). The actual compositions used are dependant on the supplier and material ordered.
For argument's sake, let's say that these steel alloys are not different than S&W is using to FORGE (NOT cut from a single block) their frames (they are different, but probably only due to processing considerations, i.e. Ruger wants steel that casts well, S&W steel that forges easily).

Although you may start from a single composition, the two processing paths (casting vs forging) result in different materials properties, and therefore different performance profiles. People tend to dismiss castings as weak and inferior because their experience with castings is cheap consumer goods cast from garbage zink alloys. In fact, Ruger uses an investment casting process that is similar to the one developed since the 1960's to produce blades for turbine engines, some of the strongest metallic components in existence. Barring any processing issues, Ruger's steel should have a granular structure that is medium-fine and approximately equiaxed with minimal work hardening, so the steel with have very similar properties in any direction, with a medium level of strength and ductility. Forging used by S&W, by contrast, should have directionally orient grains (a feature of forgings) that are somewhat finer and more work hardened due to the processing that has occurred, making their steel somewhat stronger (per unit area, not the design overall) in critical directions, but with less ductility. The reason S&W does NOT cut their revolvers from a single block (billet manufacturing, popular with people that don't know materials for ARs) is because they are relying on the additional strength gained from the forging process to meet the strength requirements of their frame design.

The net result is that neither steel is necessarily better, but they are engineered to different standards via different processing paths the perform the same task. As to whether one gun is stronger than the other, that's propietary and based on safety factors, but from a wear perspective, I'd say bigger is better, even if the limits of the design strength are approximately the same. Both have their place and ideal application.
 

jstanfield103

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NikA,
Very good explanation. Easily understood. Almost like the difference between animal muscle and human muscle (kind of)
Thanks for that.
 

contender

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NikA has done an excellent job of simplifying metallurgy in terms that can be understood. I saw this post & wondered if I could explain it in such terms, and now I don't have to!

Simply put,, as he says,, metal strength comes from different things, and both processes can & do produce excellent guns.

But from field experience,, most custom gun builders seem to prefer Rugers over S&W for their strength in handling heavy calibers for serious long term use.
 

Sugar River

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That's an excellent description above. I would add that a critical aspect of the "processing history" is the heat treatment, hardening and tempering. Ruger does these with the raw castings and before any machining.
 

CraigC

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Diehard S&W fans love the oversimplified cast versus forged debate because they think it's a windfall for their favorite play-pretties. It ain't. Apparently they think because forged pistons and wheels are better than diecast, that they know everything they need to know about the subject. They don't. In reality, S&W's forged frames are left intentionally ductile so they can be slapped back into shape with a lead babbitt. Forgings are only stronger in one direction. Investment castings are strong in all directions. It also takes minimal extra material to make up the difference. Don't know why S&W fans think the Ruger's thicker top strap is done so to 'equal' their S&W's. I guess it fits their narrative.

In fact, the biggest difference between the two is not the manufacturing process but the design itself. S&W has stuck with turn of the 19th century designs, relics from the blackpowder era that precede anything remotely similar to the .357Mag of 1935. They have merely adapted their old designs to the new cartridges. Ruger started from scratch and designed their guns for the high pressure .357 and .44Mag's. Ole Bill set about to eliminate the KNOWN weaknesses in the S&W design, the biggest factor being the sideplate design. Ruger frames are solid, more rigid and measurably stronger. They also have three locking points, things that S&W eliminated from their own design. They beefed up the crane, frame and barrel stub, learning from S&W's mistakes with K-frame .357's. All cylinders are cut from bar stock so there's no issue there. Except that Ruger offsets their bolt notches and that makes them stronger.

The .357's are relatively close in strength but in the .44's the differences become profound. S&W fans will argue against it until the cows come home but it's a known fact that the N-frame is over its limit with the .44Mag. They are known to shoot loose with full power loads. Not only does the Redhawk tolerate a steady diet of full loads but it's strong enough for heavy loads in the 50,000psi range. With its long cylinder and incomparable strength, the .44 reaches its full potential with loads that will shake a S&W to pieces. As we see, Ruger needed only change the alloys used to accommodate the .454Casull and .480Ruger chamberings and still maintain six shot capacity. S&W had to design an entirely new, portly frame to accommodate 65,000psi with only a five-shot cylinder. It's so huge because they stuck with the sideplate. The RH/SRH could easily accommodate 62,000psi .500 cartridge in a five-shot cylinder and would only need to be lengthened to work with the .500S&W. It wouldn't be 20oz heavier more either.
 

jstanfield103

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CraigC,
I like that info. Thanks. It makes a whole lot of since also. I only own one S&W revolver a 617 (great revolver) but the rest of mine are all Ruger's. I wish that Ruger would make the GP100 in 22 with the full lug like the 617. I like that extra weight.
 

Jimbo357mag

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No side panels on a Ruger. The metal is stronger on a Smith because it is hammer forged but the construction makes all the difference.

Remember this S&W ad??? :D :D :D :mrgreen:
 

David Bradshaw

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“.... He made the statement that the GP100 was cast and the S&W was cut from one solid steel block of steel.... .... He says that the Ruger has to be built bigger because it is cast....
.... I also feel that Ruger has the casting process down to such a science that their steel is just as good as S&W’s.”
----jstanfield103

*****

To bury a dead man, we dig a hole one man-length deep in the ground, box the croaker, lower him in solemn incantation to convince everybody he won’t be coming back, load him down with dirt, then place a heavy stone over him to make sure he doesn’t climb out. Poor fellow won’t be coming back.

Not so with trying to bury a myth, such as the corn that DROP FORGED steel is stronger than INVESTMENT CAST steel. Let’s leave metallurgy out of the discussion to presume equally fine alloy steel is used for each process; the internet doesn't formulate steel, nor refine heat treatment. The two methods share the economic advantage of creating basic shapes to reduce machine time. LOST WAX casting as practiced by Ruger produces a raw part closer to machined finish than the drop forge.

Drop forged
The S&W empire was built on drop forging for most of a revolver’s parts, including but not limited to: frame, sideplate, yoke, barrel, hammer, trigger, hand, cylinder stop, thumpiece, rear sight base, rebound slide, mainspring. Drop forging lends itself well to making a sideplate frame. (Nowadays it appears some of these parts are made by other means.)

Investment cast
The Ruger empire was built on investment casting for many of a revolver’s parts, including but not limited to: frame, crane, hammer, trigger, SA grip frame, DA trigger guard, cylinder latch, transfer bar. Investment casting lends itself to the “solid frame” Ruger double action. The void for lockwork is readily incorporated in an investmnt casting, impossible by forging. The solid frame absorbs stress symmetrically. The open, or sideplate frame absorbs stress asymmetrically. The beefy Ruger frame is more compact for its strength than a similar-size forging. To carry this note a step further, Ruger fashioned a non-rotating ejector rod for the Redhawk and lowered it to increase diameter of the barrel socket in the frame. This simultaneously eliminates grinding the the barrel tenon at 6 o’clock, which thin section invites cracking from hot loads. I have heard persons say a Freedom Arms frame is stronger than a Ruger. I mentioned this to Bill Ruger, Jr., while looking at wood boxes full of FA M83 frames in Ruger's New Hampshire foundry. “We cast those of 17-4 PH. Tensile of these steels is very close."

By grain structure, a drop forging is at its strongest when the final shape closely follows the part as it comes out of the forging dies, such as a wrench handle. The grain structure of an investment cast part is not affected by machining. This is a minor detail, of nearly no relevance to the revolver.

Design is influenced by the technology available to the manufacturer. I’m sure we could take the INFERIORITY MYTH and bury it like a dead man. Yet, whereas the dead man isn’t about to crawl out of the ground, a myth surely will.
David Bradshaw
 

Enigma

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Back in the day when revolvers were king, and many folks carried DA wheelguns, the common wisdom was that if one decided to carry an S&W M29, he needed to own three. One to carry, one as a backup, and one at the gunsmith shop being 'tightened back up.' That way he could rotate them out as each one became loose.

Forged VS cast is also a big item of contention among fans of the M14-type rifle. Springfield Armory Incorporated, the 'Big Dog' in the game, uses an investment cast receiver, as do some of the smaller players. A couple of others make forged receivers - "just like the government did." Except they're not exactly like a USGI receiver, but that's another story. SAI has determined that their investment cast receiver should last for around 40,000 rounds of full power .308 Winchester ammo before any issues arise, and they back that up with a lifetime warranty (life of the gun, not the original owner). That translated out to around four barrels on the rifle - possibly more. I don't think that very many people could afford 40K rounds of ammo, or will shoot anywhere near that in their entire life - professional shooters excepted. Yet the argument continues.
 

David Bradshaw

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Enigma said:
Back in the day when revolvers were king, and many folks carried DA wheelguns, the common wisdom was that if one decided to carry an S&W M29, he needed to own three. One to carry, one as a backup, and one at the gunsmith shop being 'tightened back up.' That way he could rotate them out as each one became loose.

Forged VS cast is also a big item of contention among fans of the M14-type rifle. Springfield Armory Incorporated, the 'Big Dog' in the game, uses an investment cast receiver, as do some of the smaller players. A couple of others make forged receivers - "just like the government did." Except they're not exactly like a USGI receiver, but that's another story. SAI has determined that their investment cast receiver should last for around 40,000 rounds of full power .308 Winchester ammo before any issues arise, and they back that up with a lifetime warranty (life of the gun, not the original owner). That translated out to around four barrels on the rifle - possibly more. I don't think that very many people could afford 40K rounds of ammo, or will shoot anywhere near that in their entire life - professional shooters excepted. Yet the argument continues.

*****

I purposely mention drop forgings by Smith & Wesson and investment castings by Ruger to prevent the quality discussion falling off the table. To my knowledge, many of the SA Inc., M1A receivers were made in Brazil. Serrations in the receiver for elevation adjustment would wear down in a fraction of the time of a genuine Springfield Armory M1 Garand or M14 receiver. The issue is either metallurgy or heat treatment.

As for the Model 29, a fine example holds up a very long time. IHMSA silhouetters proved the S&W isn’t robust enough to share the Full House lifetime of a Ruger. A proper M-29 with excellent chamber-to-bore alignment, kept greased or oiled, and fed a bit beneath Full House, lasts very well. Once the pressure and hammer ceiling is reached, shake develops rather rapidly.

Those who play the magnum revolver game owe it to themselves to know their equipment, and to load accordingly.
David Bradshaw
 

BDM1

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This is a great thread, i think i may have learned a little bit! Thanks to all who have posted!
 

jimd441

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I too have this to be an educational thread. Thanks all for your insight.

Jim
 

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