I do a fair amount of maintenance on guns, especially bolt action rifles. Mind you by maintenance, I am talking just that. I am not a gunsmith nor do I pretend to be. However, just like a mechanic changes oil, some of the things we do to firearms falls into the realm of gunsmithing. Swapping barrels and parts on barrels happens to be a couple of tasks that fall into this category.
When it comes to dealing with a barrel, anti-seize is a must. The tight tolerances and heat levels lay the perfect foundation for galling. I have read a few horror stories where galling has resulted in countless hours and creative thought to save actions. While some of these events were likely related to age or unusual events, we can avoid the majority of them on modern firearms by applying anti-seize.
Things That Bother Me
I have been called a perfectionist (and critical, and difficult, and …), but I truly believe I just have a problem with things that are half baked and messy. This is not saying that I cannot tolerate clutter or dirt. However, if i am going to put something together or use something that became a grease magnet, it is getting cleaned up. Anti-seize (AS) just happens to be one of those things that can get messy.
When you replace a barrel, or even a muzzle device, you cannot simply screw things together and expect to get them back apart. At the same time the tolerances are, or certainly better be, so tight that even the smallest amount of AS is going to get pushed out of the surfaces on onto whatever it darn well pleases. Worse than goat tails. I have seen and even tried things to get around this. The AS sticks that Loctite makes, applying thin amounts then screwing and unscrewing parts to get the thinnest spread possible, tape and gloves, and so on. With each of these I have managed to eliminate large messes but I have always wondered if I am risking not having enough AS in order to keep things clean.
A Better Way?
After reading about shooters that use graphite to treat barrels, namely like the kit that is available from Gre-tan Rifles, I started reading up on different types of graphite treatments. Colloidal graphite comes in a few different forms. The liquid that is used to suspend the graphite seems to be the main difference. For working on rifles, it is apparent that isopropanal based, is the better option.
There are several options for alcohol based graphite. Lock Ease seems to be the cheapest so I purchased some. It goes on super thin and is easy to wipe off. I know that shooters are treating the inside of barrels with this stuff but truthfully I have a hard time believing that it is doing much good. This is not to say the product is not good. Rather the graphite is large enough, and sparse enough in the carrier, that you can see that you have graphite pieces in a carrier fluid.
The better option is Neolube. The colloidal graphite form comes in two flavors, Neolube No. 1 and No. 2. Neolube 1 and 2 are designed to be an anti-seize and lubricant for use at nuclear power plants. The exact differences are tough to pin down, but No. 1 has a mil-spec number in the MSDS.
When I first linked colloidal graphite as anti-seize and nuclear power plants, I instantly went to heat resistance. Well, as it turns out that may not be the best way to look at it.
Both Neolube 1 and 2 have a service temp of 400F, although the temp rating is not in the technical section of the MSDS for No. 2 (it is in the description). However, No. 1 has an intermittent temp rating of 850F. This has me thinking that No. 1 has a reasonable chance at working on rifle barrels. Certainly on the muzzle device, which is where I am starting at.
So far I have been able to install and remove the brake from 2 different barrels without issue. This was completely expected since they get hot, but not 400F. Before applying I cleaned off the threads and shoulder of mating area on the barrel with contact cleaner followed by alcohol. Brushing the graphite on is simple. It disperses quickly and evenly. I have been reapplying it every time I take the brakes off as I always see a small amount of bare metal, mostly the top ridge of the threads, after taking them off.
The Next Step
I am still contemplating if it is worth risking a barreled action to find out if it will be a problem at the receiver end. My gut says it will be fine.
I have a heat gun that I take with me every now and then to get data on barrel temps. The plan is to keep it with me and make a point to start checking the inside and outside of actions as well. If things look good, I will wait for a factory barreled Remington 700 to start showing signs of non compliance as I think I am willing to test it there. Should I lose the barrel, not big deal. If I lose the action, while it has always been solid, I am only out a few hundred bucks and some luck. I say luck since this particular action is definitely not a Monday or Friday action.
Hopefully this is TBC.