Has the Army Invented a Fouling-Proof Gun?

An firearms innovation expected soon from the U.S. military may permantly change how firearms are made and used, in all walks of life, and it has to do with perhaps the most mundane aspect of shooting: cleaning the gun.

According to this armytimes.com story, the Army engineers at Picatinny Arsenal say they've developed a new surface applicant, which could go into production by 2018, that would literally prevent dirt and debris from sticking to the working parts of a firearm. This is especially important for military machine guns with high rates of fire, but could be used to enhance the capabilities of pretty much any firearm.

If it works, there’s no doubt it will get to the civilian market in short order.

When a gun is fired, byproducts such as powder residue, and tiny pieces of the projectiles left behind, plus regular dirt and grime, build up on the working parts of a gun as fouling. If you get too much in the barrel, it starts filling in the rifling grooves and affecting accuracy. In the action, especially after it's exposed to moisture, the works can get all gummed up, causing jams, and slowing down the cyclic rate in full-auto firearms.

The solution, since rifles were first invented, is to break out the cleaning solution, brushes, and patches, scrub off all that fouling, and re-lubricate.

This new material, known as a durable solid lubricant, would be applied during manufacturing to the weapon's moving parts, the story says. It prevents material from sticking to the surfaces. Since fouling only loosely adheres to a DSL surface, any force from moving parts or vibration from firing is enough to shake it loose and keep the firearm clean.

Not only that, but the coating reportedly improves a firearm.s general reliability and may increase its overall life.

“Christopher Mulligan, a research engineer who has a doctorate in materials science and has worked for Army Research, Development and Engineering Command for 13 years, said the material is a hard coating that drastically reduces friction and corrosion, improving the rifle's reliability. Explosive byproducts don’t stick to the material, he said. The Army has a patent pending on DSL; he and Foltz didn’t want to go into detail on the technology until the patent is approved.

“Testing so far has been limited but encouraging, the two said. A 10,000-round test of an M4A1, for example, produced zero stoppages despite testers never cleaning the gun, Foltz said. 'The only time we weren’t shooting was to let the barrel cool.' There have been other tests that, while lab-based, incorporated sand, mud and extreme temperatures.

“Not only does DSL make a rifle easier to maintain, but it greatly reduces wear thanks to removal of CPL. The oil mixes with phosphate and hot propellant gas produced by firing, which increases the volume of a buildup that can erode a weapon’s moving parts, Mulligan said. The engineers provided an image depicting test results which they say show parts of a bolt and bolt carrier 50 percent to 90 percent worn after firing 15,000 rounds while treated with CLP. The DSL-coated parts showed wear ranging from 10 percent to less than 5 percent on the same parts over the same use.”

The story also says that the few soldiers who have tested firearms with the new coating have given positive feedback. This summer, the Army will conduct a more comprehensive test at Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland on the M4A1 and additional on the M240 and the belt-fed 51mm machine gun.

The story says the dry lubricant coating can be applied to all moving parts, but it doesn't specify if it can be applied to a rifle bore, meaning it may still be necessary to clean the barrel to maintain accuracy.