How Forgings End Up As Guns

Thought this was a neat picture from the National Firearms Museum. In it you see forgings as they are shipped from the steel plant on the left. And on the right you see the completed components after they are “milled” from forgings into completed parts.

Forgings on the Left. Gun and parts on the right.

Forgings on the Left. Gun and parts on the right.

What some don’t understand is firearms manufactures are not stupid. While they could mill finished parts from square or round stock, machine time is money. So why not have the steel plant pour forgings that save machine time? So you end up with forgings that resemble the outline of a gun.

It is inevitable I will get some questions on this so I will address it here. If you have heard of 80% receivers, which according to the BATFE are not firearms, this would be a 0% receiver. Legally a 0% receiver has the same weapons classification as a rock.

Aren’t you glad federal money was spent on that question? I know I’m not.

“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

Marky Mark

Marky Mark

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Writer for Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast. Video content provider for John1911-TV.

Areas of focus: Defense and National Security, Modern Light Weapons, Analysis of the Geo-political / Military Relationship in the Context of Strategic Goals.
Marky Mark

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  • Brennen Munro

    Can the terms “forgings” and “castings” be used interchangeably, or would something “cast” not be considered a “forged” piece unless it was struck by some type of hammer during the process of forming? I am not trying to play word games with you, I’m just trying to make sense of this myself…


    • Sorry for the delay.

      First of all, I am not sure. But if I were to guess I would say no. The forgings posted here are rough items. It is my guess, that castings are much more finished when they come out of the mould.

      Maybe someone more knowledgeable than me might swing by.


      • Outlaw

        I’m no expert either, but a casting is poured from a molten (liquid like) metal. A forging is pounded into shape by a large hydraulic press from steel that is heated to a soft but not liquid state. As I understand it forging also changes the molecular structure of the metal which makes it stronger, but again I am not an expert either. Just passing on what I have seen and read.

        • Well…there you go. Teaching me something. I thought steel mills poured molten metal. So I just assumed…ASS-U-ME-ED.

          Here’s the funny thing. I have a close personal friend who is a Phd metallurgist and a shooter. I could ask him, but he would probably spend an hour explaining both processes to me starting at the Bronze Age up to today.



          • Outlaw

            You might make my head swell up giving me credit like that. I like to try and find out how things work and how they are made so I watch, and read many different things. It has helped broaden my knowledge base, whatever good that does me in life I’m not real sure. As Ronnie VanSant so aptly sang it “I know a little” LOL. Sometimes the “little” that I think I know gets me in a world of trouble though. BTW you are right steel mills do pour molten metal but that is to form different types and qualities of metals (think I-beam for bridge building vs. a round steel rod like you would use for a barrel blank. The place that casting happens is at the manufacturing level where specific parts need to be cast or machined from raw steel.
            It’s pretty amazing to me what people do with metal. Casting it, forging it, to think that something as hard as metal can be worked into these tiny parts and pieces with such precision is just mind boggling. The talent which is necessary to allow this process to be used to build a gun is mind boggling. A gun, which ignites and then contains a not so tiny explosion which takes place mere inches from our faces and we place unwavering trust that it will happen again and again without failure and it does 99.9% of the time.
            Keep up the good work. I get more out of reading your features than I get from any other firearm related blog. The Gorilla piece was mind blowing and 99% of the industry would have never thought of it and if they had would have never brought up the question. It really made us all think, most of us anyway, (some people…….) that you did says much (good, LOL) about your character and thought process and where your head is at.

  • Conner

    ‘A gun, which ignites and then contains a not so tiny explosion which takes place mere inches from our faces and we place unwavering trust’. That’s a great point Outlaw. As one who works with antique, milsurp and about every other type of firearm on a daily basis your point is always a subconscious thought as it should be. A great example would be (some)1903 Springfield’s. I can’t remember the particular years this morning but during an effort made for a quicker receiver hardening process they actually came out more brittle. Collectors (that I know) stay away from these. The serial number range of these rifles should be easily available. Although this is common knowledge to Springfield Collectors I myself have never heard or read about an actual failure. Then again we know that any unique items become collectors sooner or later.