Copper Beryllium AR15 receivers and 1911 frames

USMCSGT0331

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Obviously not vintage sniper related, but this section is also for very unique firearms. Does anyone else here own any copper beryllium firearms? It's supposedly not a fun material to work with and added precautions need to be be taken when milling. Many years ago I bought some AR15 and 1911 receivers/frames from Olympic Arms. It was a weird process to buy them, I couldn't just order them on their site and have them send them to the FFL I use. Instead, my FFL had to purchase them for me, even the 80% 1911 frames. I've never had to do that before!

The AR15 lowers were made by Olympic Arms in 1991 as a limited edition. They're very heavy, so they might be good for building heavier target rifles. Put one next to a normal aluminum receiver and the weight difference is substantial, it's definitely something different.

It was supposed to be a whole rifle, but only a few of those were ever made and they usually have SGW (Schuetzen Gun Works, the predecessor/parent company of Olympic Arms) engraved on the left side of the magwell. Mine don't have anything on either side of the magwell, except the serial number. The few rifles that Olympic Arms did complete had an A2 upper with built in carry handle. These were made a few years before the picatinny rails were invented, so I don't think they really had another option.

They have a TBOR prefix to the serial number, it stands for The Bill Of Rights. It was supposed to be a limited edition to Celebrate the Bicentennial anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791. I don't know why they didn't fulfill this limited edition, probably has to do with the beryllium alloy or ridiculous gun laws.

I think the 1911 frames were made by Safari Arms, which was owned by Olympic Arms. The pistol frames and AR15 lowers were probably made around the same time, but the 1911 frames could predate the AR15 lowers by a few years. Safari Arms did make a few finished copper beryllium 1911's.

Since these are copper, it will oxidize and acquire some patina. You could polish the receivers/frames so it's nice and shiny, then coat it in clear cerakote to preserve the brilliant finish. Or you can let it patina and it will look like an old penny. Lots of character that way and each one will be totally unique.

Here's my 3 sets (was my 3 sets, I recently gave 2 sets to friends). The AR15 lowers are finished, but the 1911 frames are just 80%. I have no idea who to send them to for finishing, does anyone have any suggestions?

XvS2kd1.jpeg


I'm bringing up this topic because an unfinished 1911 copper beryllium frame just popped up on gunbroker. I think the seller also sold a few finished frames, he might be out of those and moved on to selling the 80% ones (I doubt he has many, maybe this is his only one). This is the first 80% 1911 copper beryllium frame I've seen for sale since I bought mine from Olympic Arms years ago. I know you guys like unique stuff like this, so maybe one of you will end up picking it up! Just search for "beryllium 1911" and it will pop up. I'm not affiliated with the seller in anyway (no idea who he is), I just wanted to start a conversation on something interesting.
 
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CNC-Dude

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Copper Beryllium is used in the racing industry for valve seats in racing cylinder heads that use titanium valves. It can be machined with common high speed steel tooling or carbide. Not really any special techniques or tribal knowledge required to do it.
 

USMCSGT0331

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Copper Beryllium is used in the racing industry for valve seats in racing cylinder heads that use titanium valves. It can be machined with common high speed steel tooling or carbide. Not really any special techniques or tribal knowledge required to do it.
Definitely used an a lot of stuff, I was just under the impression that extra precautions were taken against beryllium dust, but I'm sure cutting oil keeps that down. I have no idea though, I don't machine anything, I just buy the weird gun parts. And beryllium disease sounds absolutely terrible.
 

USMCSGT0331

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View attachment 7848291

But I'm sure some SteamPunk Hipster would dig it.

They're not for everyone, subjectivity and all that. I bet you're not the only one on here who isn't a fan of them and I can definitely understand why. I think they're interesting though.

Yes, cutting oils and coolants should minimize any airborne issues. I'd still wear a dust mask if it involved any grinding.

Thank you for the info! You obviously know about machining this metal, so feel free to add anything about copper beryllium or the hassles of trying to make guns from it. I'm interested to see how the patina might effect other parts, like the frame to slide fitting. I guess keep it well oiled and hope for the best, lol.

Nice looking pieces also....!👌

Thanks again!
 
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shoobe01

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CuBe is easier to machine as far as I've been told so is used for lots of prototyping. Neat material, I've handled plenty of stuff in it. As far as I know, minimal precautions are enough for poison control. Don't hand file it, just close the door and make sure the machine station has the soluble oil reservoirs filled as they should be anyway .

CuBe firearms are in house engineering proof of concept samples AFAIK. Sometimes without final external machining, just the functional bits. Saw (with eyes, but couldn't touch) a Kahr entirely of CuBe years ago. All of it. Their pre-plastic protoype to make sure it all worked before they went to molds. Today presumably there'd be 3D printing for a lot of the frame but that wasn't a thing in the 90s.

Never seen these for sale ones. Interesting. Pretty.
 
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johnnyvw

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Beryllium is highly toxic. In the past we have sold equipment to a company that manufactured parts from a beryllium/ceramic material. When the machines reached the end of their useful life, they were treated as hazardous waste for disposal, there was no way to decontaminate them. Yes, you can machine with an oil based coolant, as long as the waste stays wet, there's no hazard. It when it dries out that you have the problem, so water based coolant is out. And forget grinding unless you have the proper dust collection equipment. Once it gets into the air, it will be everywhere, so just wearing a mask only addresses while you're doing the work. Knowing what I know about this material, I don't see any reason to make a gun out of it when there are better materials (like steel). I guarantee any company working with this material takes extraordinary measures for remediation (and the companies I know that work with beryllium materials have programs in place to test their employees)

Edit: this is one of the companies I spoke of. See page 5 for hazards
 
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n2ishun

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    . I have no idea who to send them to for finishing, does anyone have any suggestions?
    Contact Caspian.
    They are definitely setup for it, whether they will take it on is another matter entirely.
    They do make the shit though.....mmm...mmm...mmm.
     
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    cas6969

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    Other than being heavier and beryllium being bad stuff, wasn't there some other issue with those lowers? I have the vaguest recollection of people saying to avoid them back when we were all still searching for pre-ban lowers, but I can't recall the reason.
     

    Son of Dorn

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    I dunno, I maybe could be nudged toward a pre-A1 1911. Some nice wood grips. Nitre blue the small parts, charcoal blue on a steel barrel and slide. Or maybe color-case the slide...

    Ain't nothin' wrong with some good old-fashioned steam/dieselpunk! Why do you think I hang around in Vintage with firearms made or invented before anyone had ever heard of Franz-Ferdinand? :p
     
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    USMCSGT0331

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    I dunno, I maybe could be nudged toward a pre-A1 1911. Some nice wood grips. Nitre blue the small parts, charcoal blue on a steel barrel and slide. Or maybe color-case the slide...

    Ain't nothin' wrong with some good old-fashioned steam/dieselpunk! Why do you think I hang around in Vintage with firearms made or invented before anyone had ever heard of Franz-Ferdinand? :p

    Hell yeah, I was thinking the same thing with case colored slide and nitre blue parts! I should contact Turnbull and see if they want to do the build! Caspian was also mentioned, one of their damascus slides might look good on the frame as well. But I think a case colored slide would look better with patina developing on the frame.
     

    Halfnutz

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    Other than being heavier and beryllium being bad stuff, wasn't there some other issue with those lowers? I have the vaguest recollection of people saying to avoid them back when we were all still searching for pre-ban lowers, but I can't recall the reason.
    IIRC Olympic (OlyArms?) tried to make cast aluminum receivers. They had cracking issues and they would replace the cast with forged using the same serial number.
     

    Son of Dorn

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    Hell yeah, I was thinking the same thing with case colored slide and nitre blue parts! I should contact Turnbull and see if they want to do the build! Caspian was also mentioned, one of their damascus slides might look good on the frame as well. But I think a case colored slide would look better with patina developing on the frame.
    I expect they would. That's about the same finish I wanted on my Italian cowboy revolver, before I had to postpone that indefinitely due to other issues.

    Color case on the slide might be a bit iffy, though. Really depends on how it turns out in the end and there's always a chance it'd look quite bad after all. Bluing, at least, is consistent. I'd thought about a color-cased frame and blued slide a few times on a more conventional Caspian retro 1911 but I could never quite be assured I'd like the finished product.
     
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    db2000

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    Do those actually feel softer? I’d heard that from a couple BeCu owners but have never swung em in person.
    I’m not an avid golfer and was looking for a club that was more forgiving and produced good spin around the green. They seem to do that if I do my part. They definitely feel softer compared to semi-cavity backs and 100% better than blades. I haven’t hit them next to their steel counterpart Eye 2s.
    I have Project-X rifle shafts and nice grips so these clubs remain “relevant”. I’ll possibly play these irons for the rest of my life. I get a lot of compliments and “I wish I never sold mine” stories. 🍻
     
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    USMCSGT0331

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    Looks like there's another copper beryllium 1911 frame up on gunbroker. The last 80% the seller had sold for over $1k, it will be interesting to see what this 100% frame goes for (serial number 6).

    Did anyone here win the auction for the 80% frame?
     
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    akmike47

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    Definitely be careful working with that. I used to work race props made of that and the dust from filing and sanding is claimed to be pure cancer. I normally don't worry about shit but I covered my nose and mouth for that stuff
     

    Charger442

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    If you want it, let me know. I won't bid against you!

    Cheers,

    Sirhr

    I appreciate that, I'm interested but I'm worried how high it's going to get. I've got my upper end, just like everyone but what I want to pay and what it goes for are going to be far off, I think. Let's powwow on it and make sure who really wants it more, measured in dollars 😀
     
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    USMCSGT0331

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    So I put in a bid…. I’ll run it up a bit. I could see building a cool .45 with this.

    Sirhr
    Congrats on winning the auction! It definitely went cheaper than the 80% frame that was up a week or so ago! How do you plan on building the pistol? Are you going to polish the frame or force some interesting patina? Looking forward to seeing photos of the completed project!
     
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    sirhrmechanic

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    Congrats on winning the auction! It definitely went cheaper than the 80% frame that was up a week or so ago! How do you plan on building the pistol? Are you going to polish the frame or force some interesting patina? Looking forward to seeing photos of the completed project!
    Actually it’s going to be Charger’s to do something with. I’m going to see if I can get the other one. But we made a deal and it’s his.
     

    BeastMasterActual

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    Beryllium is highly toxic. In the past we have sold equipment to a company that manufactured parts from a beryllium/ceramic material. When the machines reached the end of their useful life, they were treated as hazardous waste for disposal, there was no way to decontaminate them. Yes, you can machine with an oil based coolant, as long as the waste stays wet, there's no hazard. It when it dries out that you have the problem, so water based coolant is out. And forget grinding unless you have the proper dust collection equipment. Once it gets into the air, it will be everywhere, so just wearing a mask only addresses while you're doing the work. Knowing what I know about this material, I don't see any reason to make a gun out of it when there are better materials (like steel). I guarantee any company working with this material takes extraordinary measures for remediation (and the companies I know that work with beryllium materials have programs in place to test their employees)

    Edit: this is one of the companies I spoke of. See page 5 for hazards
    So I’m a big time lurker and hardly ever comment, but I cannot emphasize enough what Johnny’s said here. You should be exercising an extreme amount of caution if you plan on machining these.

    Beryllium is used extensively in our National Laboratories for it’s reflective abilities in thermonuclear weapons. The pit liner, sometimes also referred to as the "skull", surrounds the spherical plutonium pit and is in turn surrounded by high explosives.

    With that being said, the OSHA Short Term Exposure Limit is only 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3), which is an incredibly small amount. First time exposure can result in Beryllium Sensitization (BeS) as well as Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD).

    I’m a pretty big gun enthusiast, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to cut these in my own garage, especially with a high potential of exposure to kids and family pets. Even at a dedicated shop, dust will get tracked into the car & house through clothes/shoes, commingle with family clothes in the washer, etc.

    OSHA Cliff Notes: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1024
     

    Charger442

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    So I’m a big time lurker and hardly ever comment, but I cannot emphasize enough what Johnny’s said here. You should be exercising an extreme amount of caution if you plan on machining these.

    Beryllium is used extensively in our National Laboratories for it’s reflective abilities in thermonuclear weapons. The pit liner, sometimes also referred to as the "skull", surrounds the spherical plutonium pit and is in turn surrounded by high explosives.

    With that being said, the OSHA Short Term Exposure Limit is only 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3), which is an incredibly small amount. First time exposure can result in Beryllium Sensitization (BeS) as well as Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD).

    I’m a pretty big gun enthusiast, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to cut these in my own garage, especially with a high potential of exposure to kids and family pets. Even at a dedicated shop, dust will get tracked into the car & house through clothes/shoes, commingle with family clothes in the washer, etc.

    Its good I didn't get the 80%, just the 100% completed frame
     
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    USMCSGT0331

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    So I’m a big time lurker and hardly ever comment, but I cannot emphasize enough what Johnny’s said here. You should be exercising an extreme amount of caution if you plan on machining these.

    Beryllium is used extensively in our National Laboratories for it’s reflective abilities in thermonuclear weapons. The pit liner, sometimes also referred to as the "skull", surrounds the spherical plutonium pit and is in turn surrounded by high explosives.

    With that being said, the OSHA Short Term Exposure Limit is only 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3), which is an incredibly small amount. First time exposure can result in Beryllium Sensitization (BeS) as well as Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD).

    I’m a pretty big gun enthusiast, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to cut these in my own garage, especially with a high potential of exposure to kids and family pets. Even at a dedicated shop, dust will get tracked into the car & house through clothes/shoes, commingle with family clothes in the washer, etc.

    OSHA Cliff Notes: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1024

    f87.png

    (Meme isn't referring to you, it's referring to how dangerous the CuBe frames are)

    My shitty firearms recommendations might actually lead to something terrible. I hope everyone working with these frames is taking necessary precautions!

    Question for everyone here who knows stuff about metallurgy. Is there any danger of inhaling beryllium particles when firing the pistol? I assume that the slide might scrape off pieces of CuBe particulate, which could become airborne. Do we need to wear respirators when firing these things or is that crazy thinking?
     

    Charger442

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    Question for everyone here who knows stuff about metallurgy. Is there any danger of inhaling beryllium particles when firing the pistol? I assume that the slide might scrape off pieces of CuBe particulate, which could become airborne. Do we need to wear respirators when firing these things or is that crazy thinking?

    its an excellent line of thought, and something that has crossed my mind also. i think its going to have to do with the hardness of the material that is rubbing against each other.

    i need to do more research into the hardness of the frame itself, but going off of Rockwell Hardness scale, if a slide is made from stainless 316 that has a hardness of B95, depending on the information i find online, the hardness of Berylium Copper can be from B68 to C44. Obivously, you want your Berylium to be harder than the slide and wear points on other components.

    on top of that, the frame has an oxidation that coats the Berylium that would be the real "bearing" surface to get worn down first.

    im not all that worried about it but its definitely interesting to look into. May just be a case of the gun needs to be run wet to contain any small amount of wear particles that are rubbed off.
     
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    USMCSGT0331

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    its an excellent line of thought, and something that has crossed my mind also. i think its going to have to do with the hardness of the material that is rubbing against each other.

    i need to do more research into the hardness of the frame itself, but going off of Rockwell Hardness scale, if a slide is made from stainless 316 that has a hardness of B95, depending on the information i find online, the hardness of Berylium Copper can be from B68 to C44. Obivously, you want your Berylium to be harder than the slide and wear points on other components.

    on top of that, the frame has an oxidation that coats the Berylium that would be the real "bearing" surface to get worn down first.

    im not all that worried about it but its definitely interesting to look into. May just be a case of the gun needs to be run wet to contain any small amount of wear particles that are rubbed off.
    Thank you for the analysis! I was thinking the same thing as your last sentence. Maybe if it's well lubed there won't be an issue, just like how cutting oil keeps particulate out of the air when milling the frames. My friends and I have 80% frames, so we need to find someone that will risk finishing it in their shop
     
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    Tokay444

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    If you’re just cutting it, beryllium is fine. It’s very free machining and chip control is much easier than copper alone.
    I’ve done years of lathe and mill work with the stuff. Grinding with abrasives that put the dust to atmosphere is where it gets bad.