May 9th, 2017

High-Tech Honing — Major Advance in Barrel Making

Sunnen honing barrel hone CNC computer honer machine Pac-nor

Some custom barrel makers are now honing barrels (after drilling) to improve bore diameter uniformity, smooth the interior finish, and reduce barrel lapping times. For years, large-scale manufacturers of hammer-forged barrels have employed honing. Now the process is being used by smaller, “boutique” barrel-makers. This article explains how and why barrel honing is done. Take the time to watch the video. For anyone with an interest in barrel-making, this video is an eye-opener…

Barrel Honing Process Demonstrated (Worth Watching!):

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

For custom barrel makers, honing is a time-saver and cost cutter. A few minutes on a honing machine can cut lapping times in half, leaving a cross-hatched surface finish in single or low double-digit Ra. Honing is the same process used to make diesel fuel injectors with bore roundness and straightness controlled to fractions of a micron (<0.000040"), with surface finish Ra ≤0.15 µm (6 µin).

A key manufacturing process used for hammer-forged barrels is now getting attention from the makers of custom button-rifled barrels. This process is precision bore-honing. Honing produces a high-quality bore surface fast, which is critical to hammer forging. (Why is honing so important with hammer forging? Surface finish is the one feature of the barrel that cannot be controlled in hammer forging. Surface imperfections in a barrel blank tend to be amplified as the blank is formed on the rifling mandrel. And if the bore is chromed afterwards, imperfections in the surface finish become even more obvious.)

Honing dramatically improves bore diameter size uniformity and accuracy, surface finish and roundness throughout the length of the barrel. It can certainly be used in place of a pre-rifling lap. The chief difference between a lapped and honed bore is the direction of the finish lines in the bore. Honing leaves fine spiraling crosshatch lines, while a lap leaves lines going longitudinally in the bore. After rifling the manufacturer can remove the crosshatch finish with a quick lap if desired. Honing is fast, accurate, and can be automated. Its surface quality and geometry can duplicate lapping, except for the longitudinal lines of the lapped finish.

Frank Green of Bartlein Barrels told us: “We worked with Sunnen and we did all the initial testing on the prototype machine for them. The machine works great! We ordered and received last year a new manufactured machine with the changes we wanted on it and we just ordered a second one a month or so ago. Should be here next month.”

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

Computer-Controlled Bore-Honing
Honing can be done with great precision through the use of advanced, computer-controlled honing machines. Sunnen Products Company recently introduced a new machine for .17 to .50-caliber barrels (see control panel below). The spindles on this machine can correct bore size imperfections so small only an air gauge can measure them. The consistency this allows improves bore uniformity, which, in turn, produces more accurate barrels for the precision market.

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

Barrel Bore honing cut-rifled rifling hammer forging

Sunnen Products Company is the world’s largest vertically-integrated manufacturer of honing systems, tooling, abrasives, coolants and gauging for precision bore-sizing and finishing. Sunnen’s customers include manufacturers of diesel and gas engines, aerospace components, hydraulic components, oil field equipment, and gun/cannon barrels. Sunnen, which just celebrated its 90th anniversary, employs more than 600 people worldwide.

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