US Army & Marine Artillery Getting Upgraded $130,000 Chromed Bore Barrels

Artillery is a staple on the modern battlefield. With its awesome destructive power and long range, it is a fantastic support tool for the grunt on the ground. Adding in laser guidance on projectiles, the sheer variety of ordnance types, and general accuracy, I’ve known a grunt or two who would rather have artillery support than the sometimes spotty air cover.

But, artillery has its own costs. With the huge heat generated by firing, artillery barrels are not known to last very long (even compared to good modern rifle barrels). According to UPI, it would seem the US Army and Marine Corps are upgrading their new artillery barrels with the modern rifle barrel chroming process, which UPI stated:

The Marines began testing the chrome tubes in 2016, finding they were easier to clean than steel tubes and that thousands of rounds could be fired before they started to show wear.

According to the Army, the new barrels result in nearly 50% additional increase in usable life for the artillery tubes. Current barrels do not have a chrome bore. I, personally, find this shocking considering the huge benefits of chrome and nitride in rifle barrels. It took this long for the Army to use technology from almost 100 years ago?

The new artillery barrels are for the M777A1 towed system, the Army and Marine Corp’s “lightweight” towed systems. Current orders for the barrels have them priced north of $130,000 a unit, with two 100 barrel orders in from the Army and Marine Corps.





Frank.K

TFB’s FNG. Completely irreverent of all things marketing but a passionate lover of new ideas and old ones well executed. Enjoys musing on all things firearms, shooting 3-gun, and attempting to be both tacticool AND tactical.


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  • Ron

    Was required because of spiral wear associate with the MACs charge system.

    • B-Sabre

      Probably the M777 PM was trying to avoid a Nunn-McCurdy program cost breach, and “deferred” the chrome barrel until later in the program.

    • tony

      what is spiral wear?

      • Ron

        Firing high charges of MAC forms a ceramic as a byproducts of the melted copper rotating, talc and titanium oxide in combustible case and other high zone charge by-products. This ceramic deposits near the muzzle end and adhering to the tube in a non-uniform pattern causing asymmetric wear that degrades accuracy and severely reduction in service life of the tube.

        • phuzz

          TFB editors!
          I think you should get Ron to write this article, he seems to know what’s what.

  • DW

    Nitride is where it’s at guys :p

    • Ron

      That was discussed with Pic Arsenal about year and half go when spiral wear become an issue, bottom line is there are bathing vessels large enough to nitride treat 39 caliber tubes.

    • Alex A.

      It’ll prob take another 100 years for the military to figure that out.

  • Anon

    Chroming may be a 100 year old tech, but it still seems to be magic voodoo what eith the number of people who can do it reliably. I’d also imagine having to comply with the environmental regs for Chrome lining arty barrels would be horrible.

  • Rnasser Rnasser

    “Current orders for the barrels have them priced north of $130,000 a unit”

    Is that the barrel alone?
    How many rounds in the barrel life?

    • Old 0802

      The number of rounds fired depends on the charge used. The higher the charge the less rounds the tube will last. So….. it depends?

    • Ron

      The M776 cannon tube has a dual condemnation
      criteria of 2650 EFC (fatigue) rounds and 6190 wear rounds

  • Jay

    “Easier to clean”

  • SerArthurDayne

    Wait wait wait wait wait…. I thought the Zumwalt’s Advanced Gun System was replacing artillery?! I am shocked.

    • Ron

      No ammunition for the AGS, the LRLAP was approx. 1 mil a round

      • SerArthurDayne

        Yeah Ron, I was being facetious. When the Zumwalt program was being bandied as “The Next Big Thing” (a land attack stealth cruiser being called a multirole next-generation destroyer) , the 2 AGS were supposed to “replace the 16″ guns of the Iowa-class” and be equivalent to “a USMC Artillery Battery of 6 Howitzers shelling the beach” or something like that. Then they can’t buy the ammo, so they’re going with the Excalibur artillery round, with half the range. But by the way, that means the ship has to come closer to shore , and is now detectable, defeating the entire purpose and putting the entire thing in critica danger. BUT WAIT, There’s more! The Excalibur can’t actually fire through the bores of the AGS ! They need new barrels! New feed systems! New FCS! Lol. And still, they said it would replicate a Marine artillery battery. Our good old $30-billion stealth, land-attack, destroyer program. — As you can see, not a fan lol.

        • Ron

          They have not determined if they are going go Excal N, HVP or any of the other alternatives to the LRLAP or for that matter if AGS will be the land attack platform for the 3 ships of the class.

  • Ranger Rick

    I’m not ot a Gun Bunny, but I thought this was a given years ago.

  • Brett baker

    #ROCKETARTILLERYLOOKSCHEAPERALLTHETIME

    • Ron

      Rockets are even more expensive per round than cannon

      • Brett baker

        Tragically, you are right,sir!

        • FarmerB

          Excalibur, at $39K per copy, excepted.

          • Renato H M de Oliveira

            Guided rockets won’t be any cheaper than Excalibur. Apples to apples.

  • Ron

    The reason chrome is the only solution for artillery and tank cannon due to temperature constraints. Fairly early in the processing of the tubes, just about all artillery and tank cannon are subjected to autofrettage, which imparts deep compressive residual stresses to the bore. The benefits of this include greatly improved fatigue life and ability to design cannon with thinner wall thickness and higher firing pressure capability. The final thermal soak on the gun tube after autofrettage is ~650F, and subjecting the tube to sustained temperatures higher than this would relieve the beneficial autofrettage stresses. The temperatures associated with these types of case hardening processes are all significantly higher than the soak temperature which eliminates them as alternatives for large caliber gun bore protection.

    • tony

      very informative post, thank you Sir! Good learning!

  • Gary Kirk
  • Timothy G. Yan

    If it doesn’t shot sub-MOA at 100 yds…..it’s crap, said by many internet gun experts.

  • Question

    Why not black nitride?

    • Question

      *question answered beneath, due to temeprate constrains of the “autofrettage”.

  • George

    *Cough* Ta-W10 *cough*

  • USMC03Vet

    This will just further the myth that non chrome lined barrels are trash even if it’s about artillery…

  • Kurt Akemann

    Just 1 correction: The Army barrels are for the M777A2, not the A1. A2 barrels are longer and are being adopted to allow the M777 to have an equivalent range to Russia’s newer 152mm towed guns.

    • Ron

      Incorrect, the difference between the A1 and A2 is towed howitzer digitization, the A2 has the same 39 cal tube but adds the Digital FireContol System (DFCS) giving the ability to fire Excal

      The 52 cal tube project is separate from this and under the extended range 155 program

      • Kurt Akemann

        I stand corrected. I guess the longer tube will be an A3 version. Thank you for explaining the situation.

  • Ron

    M712s were shot during OIF also, because of the need to hit moving targets there is potential that 5,” 155mm and the MFOM will have multimode guidance in the future with GPS, midcourse update and laser.

  • Isa Akhbar

    They should also look at propellant additives…in WWII the Navy vastly extended the service life of their 16″ rifles on the Iowa class BBs when they started using “Swedish additive” sheets, which were rayon cloth coated with TiO2 and wax. IIRC the process was to place the additive sheet behind the first bag of the powder charge. At least in the 16-inchers the additive made a huge improvement to barrel erosion. Why not in the 155m?

    • Ron

      The Ti additive in the modular charge system is contributing factor to the wear problem.

      • Rnasser Rnasser

        Wow, Ron. Thanks for all the comments.
        Are you in the USMC Artillery?

        • Ron

          Yes, although for Os it is considered more “fires”and not just artillery

      • Rnasser Rnasser

        Wow, Ron. Thanks for all the comments.
        Are you in the USMC Artillery?

  • valorius

    These barrels could be plated with gold for less.

  • LazyReader

    50 years ago, M16’s…………the Whiz Kids The principal and most serious cause of the
    malfunctions of the AR-15/M16 rifle in Vietnam was the failure to chrome
    plate the chamber. From experience gained in the Pacific Theater
    during World War II, it was found that chrome plating a chamber of a
    firearm would prevent many serious failures to extract. This military
    requirement was set forth by Ordnance Technical committee since 1957.
    Corrosion causes pitting in the chamber. When the cartridge is fired,
    it expands to the walls of the chamber. The cartridge would stick in
    these pits causing the extractor to tear the rim off the cartridge cases
    and the only way to remove it was to hammer it out with a cleaning rod.
    If the chamber was corroded and pitted, no cleaning would make it
    function properly. The question is, if we learned this lesson in World
    War II and made it a military specification on all U.S. small arms, why
    did the AR-15/M16 rifle not have it? The blame here goes not to
    Ordnance Corp but to the “Wiz Kids” on Secretary of Defence McNamara’s
    staff who made all the decisions. This micromanagement of money in
    resources and decisions was made by people who had not the slightest
    clue about small arms. As stated by William Davis, Jr. about the
    decision to not chrome plate the chamber, “If the rifle needed a chrome
    chamber Stoner would have designed it that way. So it did not have one
    therefore it did not need one.” Despite that fact, the rifle that
    Stoner and Colt showed the government was not a finalized weapon. It
    would need development to get ready for the troops to use at large.

    Learning your lesson all over again.