I’m not a metallurgist. Nor do I play one on the Internet. But I know how to cut and paste electronic data. So . . . “If you look at steel in a machine gun environment, it gets very hot at a high rate of fire,” Vinny Leto told army.mil. The Systems Project Engineer at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (Weapons System Technology Directorate) knows the answer to that problem: cobalt. “The benefit of the cobalt alloy is that it is designed to operate in high-temperature, high-stress environments. It has the added benefits of corrosion and erosion resistance.” Unfortunately, “the material, for all of its phenomenal properties, is very difficult to manufacture and machine.” Especially the rifling part of the program. Until now . . .
In flow forming, a cylinder of metal has a hard, preformed mandrel inserted inside it. Then, ultra-powerful rollers squash the cylinder onto the mandrel, so causing the inside to take on the desired shape. The rifling is pressed into the bore, rather than being cut as with a steel barrel.
Leto and his colleagues have apparently made a barrel from 50+ per cent cobalt alloy using flow-forming and test-fired 24,000 rounds through it, causing it to reach temperatures of 1,100 degrees. A steel barrel would have failed under such treatment.
If the manufacturing method proves efficient and cost-effective—a strange concept for the military but there it is–cobalt barrels could eliminate the need to swap out big ass machine gun barrels in combat. A useful time saver I’d say. Just did, in fact. Well, wrote. Soldiers could also shoot their light arms on full auto longer without fear of failure. Although I’m not entirely convinced that that would be such a good thing . . .