Cut rifling vs button?

YancyW

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Does anyone think there is any real difference between cut and button rifling? I have always thought cut put less stress on the steal. But is it in my head that it really makes any difference?

I think it is pretty well established that cut barrels last a bit longer, how much I assume varies on a ton of different factors. However, some of the best barrel makers in the world use button rifling, I know Hart, Douglas and Shilen use button rifling. I know Hart isn't as popular as it once was, but I still like them and have had really great results with them.
 

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We are very lucky in the fact that we have a LOT of good choices.

I'm a cut man myself but have had buttons shoot in the teens as well. Out late friend Bob was button fan. He said less break in and more barrel life. I definitely respect his opinions when it comes to shooting.

Pick a quality maker and don't look back.

And if you have ever heard a bad story about on, take it with a grain of salt. All and I do mean all have had a bad batch of steel at some point.
 

Ray B

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CP Donnelly was a student of PO Ackley and knew a great deal about rifle barrels and how to make them. He rifled them with a button. those that I have are very accurate and have maintained accuracy through several hundred rounds, including a 257 Wby, known as a barrel burner.
 

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It seems that button rifled barrels can frequently appear in mass produced rifles of questionable quality. However, as others note, there is no inherent reason button rifled barrel cannot be superbly accurate. I prefer cut rifling myself but the most accurate hunting rifle I've ever shot is a friend's 300 Win Mag built by Hill Country Rifles with a button rifled Benchmark barrel.
 

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CP Donnelly was a student of PO Ackley and knew a great deal about rifle barrels and how to make them. He rifled them with a button. those that I have are very accurate and have maintained accuracy through several hundred rounds, including a 257 Wby, known as a barrel burner.
I would get get about 1k out of my 6CM barrels. That was on 8 tubes. My accuracy expectations are pretty high. When you spend the effort and money to shoot matches well barrel are like race car tires if they are not in good shape you will not win the race.
 

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My modest opinion.
Top long range and olympic shooters generally use either cut or button rifling.
And this gives probably the best accuracy.
Hunters and general purpose users (people that actually live on planet Earth) can use anything to absolute satisfaction, and without any second thoughts

To compare modern and vintage barrels:
Old lee enfield rifles of ww1 (cut rifling) kept accuracy within 500 - 1000 shots, around 2 moa, with ballistically average high power cartridge .303 enfield. (I am saying average, when compared to similar cartridges of the era). I took number of accurate shots from my memory, from the Prescotts book, sniping in France in ww1, where they kept notes on accuracy of their rifles, and prescott has noted it in his book.

Today with similar cartridges we are speaking of thousands of shots (+5000?) of 30-06, 308, etc. regardless of barrel production type.
This reflects on latest development in technology and tolerances, plus better materials in modern world today, when compared to early XX century.

The quality of barrel steel is better.
And longevity of barrel with cut bbl, button rifling or forging is no longer an issue.

And speaking of factory hammer forged barrel and its features:, if I can make 1/3 moa on a good day with factory mass produced hammer forged barrel, I dont even think about accuracy as an issue today.

The issue on barrel type - is also investment for manufacturers.
The largest investment giving also the cheapest barrel is hammer forging, and this is typical for European big factories, mass producing barrels in thousands.

Much smaller investment in equipment is in cut rifling and button rifling tools, so this will be typical for smaller production and smaller workshops.

My guess, top quality, custom rifle, from small elite workshop, producing own barrels in small quantities most probably today will have cut rifled barrel, as they will have no need to invest in hammer forging press, and besides that - they prefer to charge man hours for their skilled labor, to astronomic prices.
 

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Cut involves a sharp edge being drawn through the barrel and removing the groove metal. Button involves a piece of metal with high spots for the grooves and low spots for the lands being drawn through the barrel and pushing metal to compress it. Hammer forged has a large piece of metal the shape of the desired interior of the barrel. It is placed in a barrel that is drilled out to groove size, then hammers pound the metal down into the shape of the insert.
 

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1. Cut Rifling
Cut rifling is the oldest method of rifling a gun barrel. The cut-rifling method removes metal from the surface of the bore to create the grooves using a single-bladed, hook-type cutter of groove width that is pulled through the cold barrel. It is sometimes called "hook rifling" after the fishhook-shaped cutter used. Cutter depth is adjustable, so that it removes only a small amount of metalona pass. Each groove must be cut individually with multiple passes of the cutter. The cutter is indexed to each groove in turn and positively rotated by the rifling machine using a sine bar.

Advantages of cut rifling:

The shape and number of grooves and groove depth can be easily changed as necessary.
Rifling twist rate may be easily changed as required.
Rifling twist is consistent from one end to the other.
Little or no additional stress is imposed on the barrel.
Cut-rifled barrels may be contoured after rifling.
Close tolerance can be held.

Disadvantages of cut rifling:

The process is slow and not well adapted to mass production.
Cut barrels normally cost more due to the slower manufacturing process.
Some metal alloys can not be cut.
A mistake or machine malfunction at the end of the process can prove wasteful.
Cut-rifled barrels must be lapped.

Many target shooters prefer cut-rifled barrels for their uniformity and close tolerance. The cut-rifling method is normally used on prototype or test barrels where only a small number will be made for experimental purposes.

2. Button Rifling
Button rifling is a modern method that creates the grooves in the cold surface of a rifle bore by displacing metal using a bullet-shaped, super-hard button of tungsten carbide. The rifling button has the reverse pattern of the groove profile ground into its surface. As the rifling button is pushed or pulled through the barrel, the groove pattern is ironed into the bore surface by displacement. There are several variations in button-rifling procedure. Some barrelmakers prefer to pull the button through the bore, while others prefer to push it through. In most cases, the button remains free to rotate during this process, dependent on the angle of the grooves in its surface to cause the desired degree of rifling twist. As variations in rifling twist may occur during this procedure, some barrelmakers affix the rifling button to a rod and positively rotate it with a sine bar.

Advantages of button rifling:

The procedure is fast and very economical, as only a single pass of the button is required to rifle a barrel.
Button rifling is well suited to mass-production methods with high output.
Button rifling leaves a smooth, bright finish inside the barrel that need not be lapped.
Button-rifled barrels are very accurate.
Bore and groove dimensions are very consistent.

Disadvantages of button rifling:
Button rifling creates stress in a barrel; high-quality button-rifled barrels must be stress-relieved after rifling.
Buttons are expensive and difficult to make.
Different groove configurations and different rifling twists require a new button.
The button-rifling system is not flexible.

Button-rifled barrels can be extremely accurate; more bench-rest records are held by shooters using guns with button-rifled barrels than by any other type. Button-rifled barrels are very common on modern centerfire and rimfire guns.

3. Hammer forging is an ultra-modern method of rifling a gun barrel that is well suited to high-volume production by large manufacturers such as government arsenals and commercial corporations that can afford the sophisticated machinery. This method begins with a metal barrel blank about 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter with a hole in its center honed to a fine finish. A tungsten carbide mandrel with the pattern of the rifling lands and grooves machined into its surface in reverse relief is then inserted into the hole of the blank. A forging machine with a series of radially opposed hammers is then used to compress the blank inward against the mandrel. As the hammers compress the outer surface, the blank is reduced in diameter and lengthened, simultaneously creating the bore and rifling. If needed, hammer forging can form the chamber and throat as well as a fully profiled outer surface. The spiral tracks of the hammers can often be seen on the outer surface of hammer-forged barrels. Some manufacturers turn the barrels to remove this surface, while others leave it in place.

Barrel blanks may be hammer forged cold or hot. Hot hammer forging reduces the amount of effort that the hammers must exert on the blank, and can result in better grain structure and improved strength. However, hot hammer forging is more expensive and requires more sophisticated machinery. The cold hammer-forging process produces barrels of excellent quality. Hammer-forged barrels are very common on high-volume centerfire hunting rifles and pistols where their consistency and strength outweigh their accuracy capabilities. They are not common on match-grade or varmint barrels, as their accuracy is perceived to be inferior to cut- or button-rifling methods.

Advantages of Hammer Forging:

  • Hammer forging consistently produces high-quality barrels.
  • It can form chamber, throat and outer profile if necessary.
  • It does not remove metal; there's no waste or chips.
  • It produces barrels with excellent grain structure and high strength.
  • Hammer forging produces superb bore finish, no lapping needed.


Disadvantages of Hammer Forging:

  • Machinery and mandrels are expensive.
  • It's inflexible; changes in rifling require a new mandrel.
  • Quality is very good, but not match grade.
  • Hammer tracks are left on outer surface.
  • Process introduces stress in the barrel; must be stress-relieved.
Copied from the NRA site.
 

CoElkHunter

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Cut involves a sharp edge being drawn through the barrel and removing the groove metal. Button involves a piece of metal with high spots for the grooves and low spots for the lands being drawn through the barrel and pushing metal to compress it. Hammer forged has a large piece of metal the shape of the desired interior of the barrel. It is placed in a barrel that is drilled out to groove size, then hammers pound the metal down into the shape of the insert.
Very interesting! Thank you Ray!
 

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@CoElkHunter its a long story.
Cut rifling (or single point cut rifling) is the oldest method. Basically you pass a cutter inside the barrel, making a thread, noumerus passes for only one rifling to be made. Then the craftsman goes for next. It takes hours.
Speedy process is broaching, where 3-4-6 cutters are on one tool, and with one pass you start creating multiple rifling. Broaching is not frequent method, and I think if used today will be used for short barrels like for pistols.

Button rifling. Method without skill. Machine.
in Europe patented by Lothar Walther 1929, in USA patented by Remington in 40 ties.

in short, there is a negative of rifling, made of thungsten - called button.
Button is a bit wider then inner diameter of raw barrel. By force it is pushed through the raw barrel, and in process leaves barrel a bit "wider" with "engraved" rifling.
Button can be pushed (pushed button rifling) or pulled (pulled button rifling)

Hammer forging is Austrian steyr invention in 1939. This was developed for mass production of barrels for GMPG automatic weapons,. as they need barrel changes and barrel replacement frequently, especially on eastern front.
This technology was discovered by allies after end of ww2, on liberation of Europe.
Europan manufacturers loved it.
The raw barrel, very short and very thick is passed through the 4 - sides hammer press. Inside the barrel there is a negative of rifling,(not sure of english term) and 4 hammers are pressing from sides, and shape the barrel over the negative, the barrel moves through the press out and gets longer in lenght, thiner in thicknes and gets out with pressed in rifling.

For button rifling and hammer forging typical is the stress imposed to barrel material structure.
So next phase will be stress relieving.
It is done either by cryogenization of barrel, or thermal heating of barrel to extreme high of low temperatures and then by easy retrieving to room temp.

After that lapping and reaming follows. (lapping can be done by machine or by hand)
For hammer forging and button rifling skilled labor is not necessary, for cut rifling yes, skilled labor is necessary.

Final method, at least in theory, is chemical rifling process, and i have no idea how it is done. And is not common method.
 

CoElkHunter

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1. Cut Rifling
Cut rifling is the oldest method of rifling a gun barrel. The cut-rifling method removes metal from the surface of the bore to create the grooves using a single-bladed, hook-type cutter of groove width that is pulled through the cold barrel. It is sometimes called "hook rifling" after the fishhook-shaped cutter used. Cutter depth is adjustable, so that it removes only a small amount of metalona pass. Each groove must be cut individually with multiple passes of the cutter. The cutter is indexed to each groove in turn and positively rotated by the rifling machine using a sine bar.

Advantages of cut rifling:

The shape and number of grooves and groove depth can be easily changed as necessary.
Rifling twist rate may be easily changed as required.
Rifling twist is consistent from one end to the other.
Little or no additional stress is imposed on the barrel.
Cut-rifled barrels may be contoured after rifling.
Close tolerance can be held.

Disadvantages of cut rifling:

The process is slow and not well adapted to mass production.
Cut barrels normally cost more due to the slower manufacturing process.
Some metal alloys can not be cut.
A mistake or machine malfunction at the end of the process can prove wasteful.
Cut-rifled barrels must be lapped.

Many target shooters prefer cut-rifled barrels for their uniformity and close tolerance. The cut-rifling method is normally used on prototype or test barrels where only a small number will be made for experimental purposes.

2. Button Rifling
Button rifling is a modern method that creates the grooves in the cold surface of a rifle bore by displacing metal using a bullet-shaped, super-hard button of tungsten carbide. The rifling button has the reverse pattern of the groove profile ground into its surface. As the rifling button is pushed or pulled through the barrel, the groove pattern is ironed into the bore surface by displacement. There are several variations in button-rifling procedure. Some barrelmakers prefer to pull the button through the bore, while others prefer to push it through. In most cases, the button remains free to rotate during this process, dependent on the angle of the grooves in its surface to cause the desired degree of rifling twist. As variations in rifling twist may occur during this procedure, some barrelmakers affix the rifling button to a rod and positively rotate it with a sine bar.

Advantages of button rifling:

The procedure is fast and very economical, as only a single pass of the button is required to rifle a barrel.
Button rifling is well suited to mass-production methods with high output.
Button rifling leaves a smooth, bright finish inside the barrel that need not be lapped.
Button-rifled barrels are very accurate.
Bore and groove dimensions are very consistent.

Disadvantages of button rifling:
Button rifling creates stress in a barrel; high-quality button-rifled barrels must be stress-relieved after rifling.
Buttons are expensive and difficult to make.
Different groove configurations and different rifling twists require a new button.
The button-rifling system is not flexible.

Button-rifled barrels can be extremely accurate; more bench-rest records are held by shooters using guns with button-rifled barrels than by any other type. Button-rifled barrels are very common on modern centerfire and rimfire guns.

3. Hammer forging is an ultra-modern method of rifling a gun barrel that is well suited to high-volume production by large manufacturers such as government arsenals and commercial corporations that can afford the sophisticated machinery. This method begins with a metal barrel blank about 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter with a hole in its center honed to a fine finish. A tungsten carbide mandrel with the pattern of the rifling lands and grooves machined into its surface in reverse relief is then inserted into the hole of the blank. A forging machine with a series of radially opposed hammers is then used to compress the blank inward against the mandrel. As the hammers compress the outer surface, the blank is reduced in diameter and lengthened, simultaneously creating the bore and rifling. If needed, hammer forging can form the chamber and throat as well as a fully profiled outer surface. The spiral tracks of the hammers can often be seen on the outer surface of hammer-forged barrels. Some manufacturers turn the barrels to remove this surface, while others leave it in place.

Barrel blanks may be hammer forged cold or hot. Hot hammer forging reduces the amount of effort that the hammers must exert on the blank, and can result in better grain structure and improved strength. However, hot hammer forging is more expensive and requires more sophisticated machinery. The cold hammer-forging process produces barrels of excellent quality. Hammer-forged barrels are very common on high-volume centerfire hunting rifles and pistols where their consistency and strength outweigh their accuracy capabilities. They are not common on match-grade or varmint barrels, as their accuracy is perceived to be inferior to cut- or button-rifling methods.

Advantages of Hammer Forging:

  • Hammer forging consistently produces high-quality barrels.
  • It can form chamber, throat and outer profile if necessary.
  • It does not remove metal; there's no waste or chips.
  • It produces barrels with excellent grain structure and high strength.
  • Hammer forging produces superb bore finish, no lapping needed.


Disadvantages of Hammer Forging:

  • Machinery and mandrels are expensive.
  • It's inflexible; changes in rifling require a new mandrel.
  • Quality is very good, but not match grade.
  • Hammer tracks are left on outer surface.
  • Process introduces stress in the barrel; must be stress-relieved.
Copied from the NRA site.
Very interesting and thanks for providing this detailed explanation. I’ve heard the different rifling terms before, but wasn’t completely sure about the different processes.
 

CoElkHunter

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@CoElkHunter its a long story.
Cut rifling (or single point cut rifling) is the oldest method. Basically you pass a cutter inside the barrel, making a thread, noumerus passes for only one rifling to be made. Then the craftsman goes for next. It takes hours.
Speedy process is broaching, where 3-4-6 cutters are on one tool, and with one pass you start creating multiple rifling. Broaching is not frequent method, and I think if used today will be used for short barrels like for pistols.

Button rifling. Method without skill. Machine.
in Europe patented by Lothar Walther 1929, in USA patented by Remington in 40 ties.

in short, there is a negative of rifling, made of thungsten - called button.
Button is a bit wider then inner diameter of raw barrel. By force it is pushed through the raw barrel, and in process leaves barrel a bit "wider" with "engraved" rifling.
Button can be pushed (pushed button rifling) or pulled (pulled button rifling)

Hammer forging is Austrian steyr invention in 1939. This was developed for mass production of barrels for GMPG automatic weapons,. as they need barrel changes and barrel replacement frequently, especially on eastern front.
This technology was discovered by allies after end of ww2, on liberation of Europe.
Europan manufacturers loved it.
The raw barrel, very short and very thick is passed through the 4 - sides hammer press. Inside the barrel there is a negative of rifling,(not sure of english term) and 4 hammers are pressing from sides, and shape the barrel over the negative, the barrel moves through the press out and gets longer in lenght, thiner in thicknes and gets out with pressed in rifling.

For button rifling and hammer forging typical is the stress imposed to barrel material structure.
So next phase will be stress relieving.
It is done either by cryogenization of barrel, or thermal heating of barrel to extreme high of low temperatures and then by easy retrieving to room temp.

After that lapping and reaming follows. (lapping can be done by machine or by hand)
For hammer forging and button rifling skilled labor is not necessary, for cut rifling yes, skilled labor is necessary.

Final method, at least in theory, is chemical rifling process, and i have no idea how it is done. And is not common method.
Thanks Mark!
 

Ray B

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Broaching is not frequent method, and I think if used today will be used for short barrels like for pistols.
I recall reading that Remington used Broaching gangs to rifle some of their rifles in the early 60s
Button rifling. Method without skill. Machine.


A poor barrel can be made as noted with a button and no skill but to make an accurate long lasting button rifled barrel requires a great deal of knowledge and skill. those in South Africa may recall Musgrave rifles was attempting to use button rifling equipment and was having great difficulty getting the barrels to come-out as expected. Musgrave hired CP Donnelly as consultant- he flew to SA and reviewed their process, showed them how to get things right and Musgrave barrels became known for their accuracy- because they now had the skill and knowledge to do things correctly.
 

CoElkHunter

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So, when one has a barrel “rebored” to a different caliber, I’m assuming it’s done with the button rifling method?
 

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Does anyone think there is any real difference between cut and button rifling? I have always thought cut put less stress on the steal. But is it in my head that it really makes any difference?
All things being equal, including barrel maker skill, the differences are generally not measurable by us mere mortals.
 

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