Gun Barrel Holds Up Under Extreme Heat

By Eric Beidel
In the heat of battle, machine gun barrels firing repeated rounds can become so hot that they begin to melt. Soldiers and marines carry extras just in case.

They may not need to if Texas State University researchers can prove that a ceramic lining will prolong the life of barrels.

Intense heat can warp and bend normal barrels, affecting accuracy and requiring soldiers to take 10 seconds or so to switch them out — not a fun task to perform in the midst of a firefight.

“Ten seconds seems like an eternity” on the battlefield, said Clois E. “Bert” Powell, a Texas State University chemistry professor and lead researcher on the project, which was commissioned by the Marine Corps.

Researchers are using a combination of silicon and nitrogen called silazane, which is heated up to more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit to create the ceramic coating used inside the barrel. They took their creation to a shooting range and fired 36 rounds. The barrel was hot to the touch after 30 shots in 22 seconds but showed no degradation and even appeared shinier after the test, Powell said.

A second phase of the project will see how the coating holds up after the firing of 15,000 rounds, which is generally the specification for the lifespan of a barrel. Researchers hope to be able to double the life of machine gun barrels with their coating and reduce the number of spares carried into the field.

Topics: Science and Engineering Technology

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