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Developing carbon fiber barrels
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  weaponeer

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Posted: January 08 2013 at 10:26pm | IP Logged Quote weaponeer

Proof Research developing carbon fiber barrels for military and commercial applications

Proof Research, a relatively new small arms firm operating out of Kalispell, Montana, with a specialty in making lightweight, accurate and extremely thermally conductive barrels, is looking to change guns pretty fundamentally.

Founded just a few years ago in 2010, the firm uses front-line carbon fiber technology to make rigid wrap around super-thin barrels. The combination of materials reduces the overall mass and improves the barrel in other ways as well.

In fact, while the weight reduction is probably the most sought-after property of Proof Research’s technology, the heat conduction of carbon fiber may be more important still.

As a barrel heats up, the metal expands, and it expands unevenly, exaggerating small imperfections in the rifling, in the smoothness of the bore, and any metallurgical flaws that normally don’t affect shooting.

This means that after shooting enough to heat the barrel, the point of impact will shift. There are ways to adapt to this, such as using a heavier barrel that requires more shooting to heat, but that adds weight. For a range rifle that’s not necessarily a bad thing; for a fighting rifle it’s terrible.

One of the sweet spots for us is to lighten the soldier’s load,” Proof Research CEO Pat Rainey told a local Kalispell newspaper. “You can only take so much weight off a gun, and the best place to do that is the barrel and stock. Our barrels are lightweight and extremely accurate, and the soldier has a heavy gun to carry, so if we can take some of that weight, it makes a huge difference. We make the weapon a lot easier to handle.”

“We can take a 19-pound barrel off of a .50-caliber sniper rifle and we can make it 2.2 pounds, so the heaviest thing on the gun is the glass from the sight,” Rainey said. “That’s a huge weight savings, and in the past you’d have guys jump in and have to leave the barrel behind because it was just too heavy to get out easily. Now it’s no big deal to pack it out, too.”

The carbon fiber sleeve channels heat to the outside of the barrel where it can radiate away without compromising the barrel’s strength. In fact, carbon fiber adds a level of rigidity that isn’t matched by steel in the first place, making it more precise from the start.

Also, as a barrel heats up, so does its chamber. With high-volume of firearms like machine guns, a hot barrel is a sure way to cause malfunctions. The chamber heats up the ammo, and hot ammo acts, er, unpredictably. The last thing anyone wants is unpredictable ammo.

The final product is a barrel that weighs up to 50 percent less than a standard barrel that does not have any measurable impact shift with high-volume fire and little to no appreciable barrel harmonic vibration. Also, they’re tough. Really, really tough.

The long-term goals of Proof Research include military contracts, and the military could do a lot worse. While there is obviously a place for this barrel technology in the commercial market, this technology would be a very welcome sight in the field. According to Proof Research, they have done some production for special forces, and that their barrels are being used overseas. We have to admit, we’re a bit green with envy.

Proof Research does offer several different firearms with carbon fiber-wrapped barrels, and also takes custom orders. They currently manufacture eight different rifles, in tactical and non-tactical styles, both bolt-action and semi-automatic.

Be prepared to crack open your wallet, though, as they’re not inexpensive. Their AR-pattern rifles, an AR-15 and an AR-10, run $3,113 and $3,417, respectively, and they’re the cheapest. That doesn’t make us want them any less; the designers are definitely gun lovers and no feature is overlooked.

They start with Mega machined receivers including a monolithic upper, go with a mid-length gas system and quality Magpul furniture and complete it with a Geisselle trigger. You get your choice of muzzle devices from AAC, SureFire or Yankee Hill Machinery.

These are some s**y guns, and yeah, we hope our troops get to use them… but we’re glad they cater to the commercial market, too.

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  UKBiker

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Posted: May 05 2014 at 4:16pm | IP Logged Quote UKBiker

I've been shooting a tricked out Ruger 1022 equiped with a Volquartsen 13 inch carbon fibre barrel for the last year, and even after pumping 300 rounds through it at the range the point of impact doesn't really change at all.
The barrel is more accurate than I am, my best so far with it is a 10 shot group in an 8mm circle at 25 yds at the club I shoot at.
Benchrested I'm shooting 239 from 250 with it, and compared to a stock Ruger 1022 barrel we cut to the same length the groupings are far better as the round count increases the heat in the barrel.

I would be very interested to shoot a larger calibre version of these barrels as the weight saving alone is huge and the maintained accuracy as the barrel heats up is a huge benefit.
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 12:41am | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

It's certainly a very promising technology, but the market for them is fairly small, so don't expect the price to drop anytime soon.
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  Sagittarii

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Posted: May 06 2014 at 1:18am | IP Logged Quote Sagittarii

If they can get it to work properly its a winner trouble is every time they try to replace steel they just get a reminder of why they keep using it. I wait with baited breath for more news.
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 2:47am | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

The trouble with wrapping a barrel with CF, is not introducing any "warpage" in the barrel, keeping it dead straight while you wrap it, and keep enough tension on the CF in order not to introduce any voids in the lamination.

My guess is they use resin infusion, wrap dry CF then vacuum bag it, get the vacuum to tighten up the wrap.
Then open the valve and let the resin flow through the CF.

If I was going to do it, thats how I'd try it first.

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  UKBiker

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Posted: May 06 2014 at 4:45am | IP Logged Quote UKBiker

I think that's how they produce them North, my mate used a similar method to make carbon fibre tubes to build the subframe on a motorcycle we built.
I know the Volquartsen carbon barrel isn't cheap at around the £300 mark although what that would cost in the US I don't know.
It does make for a very light and accurated rifle though
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 5:44am | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

By using resin infusion, you don't have to worry about voids. As long as you've degassed the resin, you'll end up with a very high quality and dense, but light wrap.

It looks like, in the pics I've seen so far, the muzzle is threaded and the wrap is machined so accept a tight fitting "crown piece", then the muzzle is crowned.

If thats the case, then a very sleek muzzle break can be made to fit right up tight against the carbon wrap, which can be bonded into place.
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 9:44am | IP Logged Quote backbencher

Biker,

https://www.volquartsen.com/products/1143-ultralite-barrel

$286 - but we can't buy the 13". 

Another .17"WSM for you to consider:

https://www.volquartsen.com/products/1164-17-wsm-semi-auto-r ifle

It would perhaps attract less attention from Her Majesty's Police than the Alexander Arms AR upper.
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 10:43am | IP Logged Quote boss429

northumbrian wrote:
The trouble with wrapping a barrel with CF, is not introducing any "warpage" in the barrel, keeping it dead straight while you wrap it..


Acording to the website they rifle the tube after wrapping. That may be how they get around the warpage issue.

There was accompany years ago selling carbon wrapped barrels and had some cool infared pictures of hot steel vs. CF barrels. That company became another company that only sold CF barrels on complete guns. Is this the same outfit?
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 11:08am | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

Ah, I must have missed that bit.
That make more sense, wrap a solid blank and then bore & rifle afterward just like a normal barrel.

As per the other company your talking about, not sure what happened or who they were.
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  UKBiker

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Posted: May 06 2014 at 12:15pm | IP Logged Quote UKBiker

From what I can see of the Volquartsen 1022 barrel, it looks like a bull barrel that has the middle diameter reduced and wrapped in carbon fibre, with the muzzle being threaded for a muzzle brake, and the breech end as per the 1022.

I'm not sure of the reduced diameter dimensions though but the OD is I believe .922" same as the usual all steel bull barrels for the 1022.
The weight saving is very noticable over even a standard 1022 barrel let alone a bull barrel.
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 4:14pm | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

The difference in weight can be astonishing.

I wonder what would happen to a standard barrel, if it were machined and wrapped, such as a Mosin Barrel.

I wonder if it'll shoot better or worse, given some mosins shoot better with the barrel braced and others free floated.
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Posted: May 06 2014 at 10:55pm | IP Logged Quote backbencher

I would shoot worse w/ a significantly lightened Mosin.  It thumps hard enough as it is!
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Posted: May 07 2014 at 12:17am | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

I was thinking of keeping the Mosin barrel as it is, just give a light skim to ensure a good surface adhesion.
So not actually reduce the weight of the Mosin, but increase the rigidity of the barrel.

Have you ever shot a .338 Lapua Magnum, that make the Mosin feel very light.
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Posted: May 07 2014 at 12:23am | IP Logged Quote backbencher

I was looking @ a Barret .50" in the gun shop today, and made mention that it didn't look fun.  The largest magnum I've ever fired is a .44" - my buddy & I went through 50 rounds of .44" Special & 150 rounds of magnum in an afternoon.  We had stopped flinching by the end of the session b/c we could no longer feel our hands.  
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Posted: May 07 2014 at 12:37am | IP Logged Quote northumbrian

Overall mass of the gun is very important when firing certain calibers, such as the 7.62x54r, .338 LM, and the .50 BMG, these caliber need a heavy gun to absorb as much of the recoil as possible to ensure accuracy.

The barrel is probably the heaviest part of the system, as far as I am concerned, Carbon Fibre technology only increases rigidity, without adding so much weight that you can't carry the thing.

Can you imagine how heavy .50 BMG straight Benchrest barrel would be if it was made entirely from Steel, with CF, you can strike a balance between weight & accuracy.
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