Explosion Welded Framed 1911 Pistols by UA Arms

UA Arms makes a lightweight 1911-style pistol called IA 5.0. The gun uses a metal frame, which is made of aluminum or titanium combined with stainless steel. It is not an alloy, but the two metals are bonded together by a process called explosive welding. The result is a 1911 pistol with up to 50% lighter frame.

The explosive metal welding allows combining two different metals in a single piece. During explosive welding one of the metals is smashed into the another one driven by the force of exploding chemical compounds. So it welds the different metals at the molecular level and makes a clean and strong joint.

This method of manufacturing makes possible to use the benefits of different metals in the same part. In the case of the 1911 frame, this welding technique allows a stainless steel portion for the frame rails to ensure the durability, longevity and smooth operation of the moving parts. At the same time, the lower portion of the frame is made of either aluminum or titanium, which obviously makes the gun much lighter by replacing the heavier steel in the places, where you don’t really need steel. So the durability of the all steel gun is retained with the advantage of the lighter metals used. Well, at least it looks to be so in theory.

The explosive bonding process is used in space and naval applications, in the chemical industry and elsewhere. UA Arms claims that they are the first to use it in the firearms.

Although UA Arms uses this technology for 1911 frames, it is certainly applicable for other firearm uses too. I can think about a theoretical possibility to use this welding method instead of silver soldering, which is used in soldering double barrel shotgun barrels, vent ribs, iron sights etc. I am not sure if it can work there or does it superior to silver soldering in the mentioned applications. What do you think? Can this technology can be used in firearms industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at Hrachya@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • Giolli Joker

    Kinda looks like overkill.
    Interesting application of the technology, but I guess that I’m missing the point…

    • ozzallos .

      I’m pretty sure you can use it as a talking point to drive up the price though.
      Gotta love marketing.

  • Tassiebush

    I think this has also been used to fuse steel barrel liners to aluminum barrels. I can’t recall who I need to credit with sharing that but it was probably Daniel E. Watters.

    • ostiariusalpha

      I think it’s the other way around, Tass; steel barrel with aluminum liner. A rifled aluminum barrel with a steel liner would last maybe one shot. ?

      • nate

        I think you might have so terminology mixed up, revolvers have aluminum shrouds with steel liners for barrels and they work just fine.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Ha ha, yeah that was just me confusing “lining” with “sleeving” after a late night of work. Sorry, Tass!

      • Tassiebush
    • Giolli Joker

      PK (AFAIK) told us something about tantalum barrel liners.

      • Tassiebush

        Ah yes that’d be the article

  • guest

    Or you know, you could just move the f*** out of the 18’th century and into the 21’st by buying a polymer framed handgun.

    • ozzallos .

      This bait looks tasty.

    • Roper1911


      (Because cool tech applications are cool, even if this problem was solved years ago with tactical Tupperware.)

      • GaryOlson

        Don’t you mean “CLAD HIM IN STAINLESS STEEL”….assuming he can survive the explosive process.

    • Cm

      gun bullies/bigots are boring people. new technology coming into the industry is always good in the long run. anyway, by your argument everyone should be driving a hybrid vehicle because it is the most efficient. and it’s very 21st century….

      • guest

        my argument, which escapes you due to logic issues that you have, is practicality and use vs personal taste and historical affection.

        Let me dumb it down so you may have a better chance at this:

        – 1911 as a whole is an outdated gun that is kept “alive” by fanboys like yourself
        – Using WHATEVER new tech does not make it a new gun. Pretty much the same way using carbon fiber in a horse carriage makes it… still a f***ing horse carriage.
        – calling a spade a spade is not “gun bigotry”, it’s common sense and/or clear view of what I’m looking at

        As for cars, though I own none and I would never leave my 2 wheeled Kawa pony for no reason unless I really have to, electric cars are the future. A hybrid is like a cross breed between a 1911 and some future lazer weapon… a technological cluster**** beyond reason.

        • Charles Applegate

          You must be the coolest man to ever comment anonymously.

        • Dan

          Well you “dumbed” it down pretty well. Because you’re argument was dumb. You didn’t have an argument, you stated an opinion. You did however seem to assume people buy guns solely because they are practical. There are people who like metal frames and this technology may be of interest to them. Guns are not just a tool to some people and if they want a 20th century design so be it. I am not a 1911 fanboy yet I still own one. Why? Because I can. So grow up a bit. Show some maturity realize people have their own intrests which may conflict with yours.

          • guest

            “I own one because I can” and then you go on to say that I need to “grow up”.

            And there’s your consumer group in a nutshell: buying antiquated nonsense with a gimmick technology for the sole reason of being able to, then defending that choice with a TL;DR called “getting triggered with a new 1911”.

            And yes, guns are a tool. But for immature little “because-I-can’s” it will always be a toy.

          • throwedoff

            You do realize that your “Kawa pony” utilizes technology that is older than the 1911, don’t you? The only improvements that have been made to motorcycles since their introduction have been better metallurgy, better fueling, and better tires. Multi-cylinder and multi-valve motorcycle engines have been around for close to 100 years along with water cooling. The latest and greatest advances in motorcycling have been electronic fuel injection and electronic rider aids.

    • Eric S

      Or you know, join the 41st millennium and embrace plasteel.

  • micmac80

    Its also used to made the bimetal material for joining hulls(steel) and decks (aluminum) on ships

    • Longhaired Redneck

      Slight refinement, steel hull/deck to aluminum superstructure. Also very, very expensive, about $15 per running inch for steel/aluminum material in a 1″x4″ dimension. Last time I bought some for use in a small shipyard where l worked, there was only one manufacturer, as I recall somewhere in Texas

    • noob

      I remember there is also a technique called friction stir welding that MegaStir and DiamondBlade knives have used to successfully weld very dissimilar metals.

      If you xray the joint for hidden longitudinal tunnel defects you can achieve high quality control https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6d3f42828f38b956180f9b4786d6567abf6a6baa6d394f89b489c781d059843a.jpg

  • NPB

    Super cool, but could this be done with a non-stainless to mitigiatebagainst galling on a tight slide-to-frame fit?

    • Roper1911

      Yes. Explosive welding can weld almost any two metals that can survive the process.

  • Badwolf

    Galvanic corrosion?

    • Patrick Karmel Shamsuddoha

      minimized by the selection of specific alloys

  • Norm Glitz

    Might be a little tough on shotgun barrels.

  • Matt

    Isn’t that how they make quarters. You can see the weld on the edge.

    • ostiariusalpha

      No, those are just roll bonded claddings, which is the cheap way to do it. It’s not as strong, but it only has to survive being sat on and stuck in a vending machine.

  • mrpotatocat

    This isn’t that impressive. I do explosive welding in my bathroom after every time I eat Taco Bell.

    • Gregory

      Do you weld your rear to the toilet seat?

      • mrpotatocat

        More like I weld the contents inside the toilet bowl together.

  • Outbound

    The concept sounds really nice until you see the quality of the built in its entirety. The company is more in to metal fusion than building quality 1911’s. Although that is NOT reflected in the price. Better to invest in a gun built by a quality full house custom shop.

  • Edeco

    It gets my attention more than a “new” commander with different checkering, special 16.5 degree crown etc for $3K. Just a more fundamental change, which in an ultra-legacy design is what it takes to roust my small, indolent, capricious attention-span.

  • Big Daddy

    I think the question is can it stand up to the round counts 1911s are known to have. Even Glocks for that matter. I have a friends with a very old Glock with over 200K rounds through it. He’s a Glock dealer. How many rounds before you get failure?

    • ostiariusalpha

      The old forged frames would develop cracks with very high round count sessions, especially with +P ammunition. The cast and billet frames have more flex, and don’t crack as readily; obviously, a polymer frame also flexes.

  • nate

    any advantage of this method over say a polymer frame and inserted metal rails?

    • Full Name

      I guess there is for people who really don’t like polymer

    • Mark Horning

      Nobody has managed to make a 1911 out of plastic that wasn’t overly thick. Plastic simply isn’t strong enough. That’s why most to date have been double stack with extra thin grips.

  • Vet for Trump

    Hmmm. Make the gun so light the recoil is atrocious.

    • Mystick

      Oops. Gotta love those unintended consequences.

    • FWIW: Colt introduced the aluminum frame Commander nearly 70 years ago. Others are now marketing full-size Government Models with aluminum frames.

      The SIG-Sauer P220 has been rocking its aluminum frame for over 40 years.

      If anything, the UA frames are slightly heavier than the legacy all-aluminum frames.

      • Charles Applegate

        My 3″ aluminim Kimber in .45 ACP is perfectly controllable, and I’m not some superduperman. .45 just doesn’t have that objectionable a recoil.

  • bull

    so it will bend when it gets hot or cold?

    • Travis

      yeah, I wonder if they tested it? Theoretically the slide would start to lock up in extreme temperature change.

  • Captain Obvious

    Obsolete gun design made out of high tech metal is still obsolete. Just saying.

    • Dan

      How is it obsolete? Does it still work as intended? Will it still kill you dead? Can one still enjoy shooting it? Muscle cars are obsolete. Chances are the device you posted with is considered obsolete by some. If it does what it is supposed to do and it’s owner or potential buyers finds a purpose for it, than it’s not really obsolete.

    • No one

      Not to sound like a 1911A1 fanboy (Which I’m not in the slightest), but the metals aren’t really high tech alloys either, stainless steel is old and rather cheap by the standards of steel alloys and aluminum and titanium are simply base elements.

      Explosive welding isn’t really a new thing either, DuPont patented the process way back in 1964.

      So, really It’s just a really expensive way to make a gun as technical specialists that have the licensing and expertise to use high explosives in this matter aren’t exactly cheap or easy to come by.

  • Jim_Macklin

    That is how US coins are made. But the metal has to be relatively thick, clean and flat. The explosion would flatten a shotgun barrel into a solid bar stock with a seam.
    Coin metal is probably over an inch thick and rolled to thickness after welding.

  • Dougscamo

    You guys need to watch the movie “52 Pickup”….yeah….it’s old….but it does have
    Anne Margaret in it….in her prime…. 🙂

  • Gen10

    Why not just use brazing? Its cheaper.

  • spiff1

    Next is the ceramic Glock…

    • ralph

      No way. That will pass through metal detectors. Saw it in a movie once.

  • AD

    I’m not an engineer, so forgive me if this is a stupid question, but wouldn’t the two metals still expand at different rates as the frame heat up, causing stress along the weld?

    • throwedoff

      A 1911 frame doesn’t experience much heat soak from the barrel and rarely gets hotter than the ambient temperature.

  • jerry young

    So this is about the same as Damascus steel only using explosive chemicals instead of a fire and hammer to weld dissimilar metals? I guess it will hold up just glad it’s not the barrel made of layered twisted metals or we might as well go back to the days of black powder and ram rods

    • Nate

      Short version: No.

      Longer version: Using pattern welding (“damascus”) blends both metals throughout the billet to bring the combined properties to the entire part made from that billet. This is basically a very fancy forge weld. Heat and pressure are used to fuse two distinct billets along a weld line, with no blending outside that weld line.

  • Seth Hill

    I’m no metallurgist but I thought that titanium was stronger and more durable than steel. If that is the case, why would you want to have steel rails on a titanium frame?

    • Reality

      You cant harden Titanium…. Its NOT stronger, its only stronger for the same weight, not the same size.

      • Seth Hill

        So then you are saying titanium is not more durable than hardened steel. If that is the case then that makes sense. Like I said, I’m no metallurgist.

        • darkdrifter

          Reality is full of it. The most common grade of titanium alloy is Grade 5 (AKA 6-4Ti). It has an annealed tensile strength of 138,000PSI. Common annealed 4140 is around 100,000PSI tensile strength. Titanium alloy can be hardened like aluminum alloy.. using “age hardening” AKA solution treating or precipitation hardening. Basically elements in the the titanium are precipitated out using a heat cycle, causing it to work harden. Just like 7075-T6 aluminum (around 80,000PSI tensile strength, for comparison).
          Ti has OTHER characteristics that would make it undesirable as rails on a pistol, such as shear strength and poor surface wear properties. Ti does not like to be sliding against other things, even with a high hardness (full annealed Grade 5 is HRC 36, doesn’t help it). Galls and wears easily with sliding. There are treatments that can help, but it isn’t inherently good at it.

  • dhdoyle

    This process is also used for joining identical metals, of course. I know of projects that used spools of aluminum pipe (for natural gas pipelines) that were joined by explosives. Handy stuff for working in remote sites in the Rocky Mountains, where you can’t get semi trailers loaded with sections of steel pipe and welding trucks to the pipeline location.

  • Wow!

    If you want a light frame, there is this great company called Glock…

  • Core

    Been around for some time. Always wanted one of these frames.. I’ve watched the video of these explosive welders it’s amazing. The frequency can be altered to increase or decrease the weld wavelength between the two adjoining materials.

  • Colonel K

    To the best of my knowledge, silver solder is not normally used to join barrels in a side-by-side or over-under shotgun. The temperature required to get it to run can be as high as 1300 degrees F, depending upon the strength of the silver solder being applied. Soft solders (some of which contain small amounts of silver) that run at temperatures in the 400 degree range are typically used for this process, which is one reason you can’t hot blue these guns (it weakens the barrel joints). I suppose you can refer to both processes as silver soldering, but it makes differentiating the two difficult. Most folks I work with use the terms soft solder and brazing/silver soldering to avoid confusion.

  • aevangel1

    That’s cool and all, but how much does it cost???

  • Leigh Rich

    I’d buy that for a dollar.