The 3 parts comprising the barrel are
1st the barrel itself
2nd the front sight
3rd the breech pin
The Barrel of the Enfield Rifle as indeed of any other barrels in the service, with but one exception, is of wrought iron.
The chief points required in the metal of which barrels are made are Toughness, Tenacity and Ductility.
A good tough metal is a very essential point as in the event of a barrel bursting if the metal be tough it will usually rip open without any of the pieces being detached, and then no injury is done to any one.
If on the contrary the metal be brittle and a burst occurs the barrel will fly and several pieces will be scattered about with a possibility of injury to persons near.
Now the best wrought iron has this toughness to a very great degree, and it is difficult to obtain steel which is not more or less brittle.The brittleness however can be partly overcome by annealings, but there again on the other hand steel is a much stronger metal than iron, and therefore a steel barrel will perhaps be able to withstand an explosion which would burst an iron one.
The great objection to using steel for barrels are 1st the great expense of the raw material. 2nd its hardness, and 3rd the great difficulty experienced in welding.
With regard to its hardness, it can readily be understood that this adds materially to the cost of manufacture, as it cannot be cut so quickly as iron, therefore as the time occupied in the manufacture is longer, of course the [sic] the wages must be proportionately higher. Its hardness also necessitates a much greater wear and tear of tools and cutters.
To make these as tough as possible all steel barrels are annealed previously to being worked up. This process takes about 30 hours.
From the difficulty of working steel it is found impossible to weld the lumps for the nipple to the barrel.
The barrel must therefore be rolled with sufficient metal at the breech end for the nipple lump. All these things add greatly to the expense, so that unless the benefit over iron as regards durability & strength is as great as the extra outlay in money, there can be no advantage in adopting steel for the barrels. At present the expense is certainly against the introduction of steel, but as the manufacturers become from experience better acquainted with the best manner of turning out metal possessing the particular qualities required for gun barrels, the cost will be materially reduced.
By: G.C. Holden
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