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Chuck Jones
09-15-2009, 08:47 AM
Okay, I have a few questions for a manuscript I'm working on.

In modern firearms, specifically standard issue police and U.S. Military pistols and rifles, what parts are made of plastic? Could these firearms be easily modified to function without those plastic parts?

Also, going back through time... when was the last time firearms were made that did not require the use of plastics?

quixote100104
09-15-2009, 12:29 PM
Okay, I have a few questions for a manuscript I'm working on.

In modern firearms, specifically standard issue police and U.S. Military pistols and rifles, what parts are made of plastic? Could these firearms be easily modified to function without those plastic parts?

Also, going back through time... when was the last time firearms were made that did not require the use of plastics?

I'm not an expert, but probably pretty recently, including many current production models. Polymer frames have been on the rise since the 1980s when Glock pioneered them, but even then the whole "plastic pistol" thing was a joke; all the innards are steel AFAIK and they show up just fine on xrays and metal detectors.

If a weapon is listed as having a polymer frame/stock, then you'd have to basically rebuild it to make it function without, but all the working parts would still be metal, in most if not all cases. You'd just have to refabricate the frame/stock.

Chase
09-15-2009, 06:47 PM
In modern firearms, specifically standard issue police and U.S. Military pistols and rifles, what parts are made of plastic? Could these firearms be easily modified to function without those plastic parts?

Chuck,

As Mark posted, barrels and slides are still metal.

Smith & Wesson, Colt, and a host of other gun makers switched from wood to synthetic grips and butt plates as far back as the latter 1800s. After that, small "non-essential" pieces were often molded from synthetics until examples like Remington’s Nylon 66 .22 rifle and Colt’s AR-15 .223 rifle went to "plastic" for most of the stock, as Alleycat said, in the 1960s.

To answer the specific question, any competent machinist/gunsmith could recast any part into metal.

Gaston Glock mated his polymer fame with metal parts to make his pistols also in the ‘60s, and as Mark said, they really hit their stride in the ‘80s when the Austrian and Norwegian armies officially adopted Black Blocks for sidearms. I suppose a creative metalworker could replace those synthetics with metal, but there’d have to be a darned good reason.


Also, going back through time... when was the last time firearms were made that did not require the use of plastics? 
 
Both Alleycat and Mark bracket a good time frame. I think in general plastics hit their stride when the lightweight--in more ways than one, many opine--AR-15 (M-16) replaced the M-14 in Vietnam the 1960s. By the 1980s, wood was pretty much something woodchucks chucked, Chuck.

RJK
09-16-2009, 12:20 AM
My Ruger .357 revolver has rubber grips. Everything else is stainless steel. My S&W .38 Chief's Special has wood grips. Everything else is steel. My .45 ACP Automatic had plastic grips. Everything else was steel. My 12 gage Winchester Shotgun had a wood stock and plastic slide. Everything else was steel. I could go on.

Brindle Chase
09-16-2009, 01:07 AM
Most reputable firearms, (hence anything a law enforcement official would use) uses plastic only for cosmetics. All of the "function" parts, trigger, spring load, hammer, etc... are all some form of metal. the plastic parts are grips, clip caps, sometimes sights. Alot of clips have a plastic feedbar, but high quality guns use metal. Wood would work just as well, since all it does it sit on a spring that lifts the next bullet to be chambered.

revolvers have no plastic peices except handle grips. A nice one uses wood. Glock and Baretta seem to be police fav's these days. I prefer Sig Sauer and Taurus... I recommend looking through their inventory's.

Tiger
09-16-2009, 01:09 AM
I'm thinking your scenario involves something happening to the plastic leaving your MC having to improvise. A revolver would not be a problem since the only synthetics would either be on the grips or something like the sights. It'd be uncomfortable to fire, but it'd probably work "as is." An auto, like a Glock or and H&K USP would be more problematic. The frames/receivers on these weapons are made of plastic. All of the little springs and levers that would house the barrel, trigger assembly--everything-- that would make the weapon function normally would be nothing but loose pieces. Your MC would need plans and precision machinery to put together a functioning auto. She or he might be able to rig something like a zip gun using the barrel and striker/firing pin, but I would think that would be it.

Shattuck
09-16-2009, 07:02 AM
Everything has been pretty well established here so far. And yes, all metal fabrication began to fade around the time of the Vietnam War, with the introduction of the first M16's. There were a few small scale experiments with plastic components around the world before then, but nothing that was mass produced.

Another important thing to realize is that "plastic" is a tenuous description of the materials currently used. Polymers and Nylons are not your run-of-the-mill plastic. They are very durable and resistant to impact and heat (look to the Glock "Torture Tests" that include being dropped from a plane at 1500 feet). It would help if you gave us some more specific info, but just keep in mind that even "plastic" parts on a firearm are going to be difficult to destroy.

Also, random tip, but it might come in handy. If your character has access to a lathe, it is possible to shape many materials, including polymers and nylon, with it. There are even people that have lathed nylon bullets, although that is a pretty unsafe practice.

hammerklavier
09-18-2009, 06:52 AM
Explain more about your situation and I'm sure we can be of more assistance.