In a Winchester 1873, the carrier block is the part that moves a cartridge from the magazine up to the chamber, and that pushes the previously spent shell up out of the top of the rifle. It moves back down and out of the way before the cartridge is fired.

The carrier block seems to always be made entirely out of brass, and it seems to be the only part of the rifle that is made out of brass.

Why is this? I figure that brass sinks a lot of heat and is relatively elastic, but neither of those properties seem relevant since the block isn’t near the cartridge when it is fired. Why is it not made out of steel or another cheaper metal?

  • $\begingroup$ Its friction properties? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 11 at 14:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I expect the block requires some complex machining and brass is chosen for good machinability. Modern guns use investment cast ( lost wax) low alloy steels for complex shapes. This was not an option until much later . Ruger even used casting for revolver frames. $\endgroup$ Sep 11 at 16:19

Brass is a natural choice for accomodating sliding or rotating contact with steel surfaces. This is because oxide grit or metal particles which would cause galling get embedded into the (softer) brass instead of peeling material off of both sliding surfaces, as commonly happens when the sliding surfaces are made of the same material (bad design choice!). This is particularly important if the sliding surfaces are not well-lubricated and exposed to dirt- both conditions being met in gun mechanisms.


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