||03-14-2010 06:37 PM
Stainless steel gives up a little ductility as the chrome content rises. Any metallurgist will attest it is a trade off, ductility for corrosion resistance. I personally have seen stainless .45s from multiple sources with cracked side rails and even once a snapped off hammer. To be fair, I have seen cracks in the carbon steel 1911 frames too, just not nearly as many.
Corrosion resistance... Which manufacturer's product, and in what year and month? The stainless used in guns is (sadly) not the stainless used in your kitchen butter knife. A decade or so ago some gun writer wag did a test where he took several manufacturers "stainless steel" pistols and hid them in the ocean pulling them out every few days to photograph the damage or lack of. One of his 'discoveries' was very, very, few springs were stainless in any way. [Making stainless steel springs is HARD, and most manufacturers won't spend the money to do so, and we probably couldn't afford them anyway.] The second discovery is the manufacturers have a very loose definition of what stainless means. And sooner or later they all corroded.
Further they don't make their own steel (those days ended around 1900 or so) and buy it in lots on bid. There is a range of steel formulas (they have numbers) considered acceptable for gun making. [The metal used in butter knives, and other things that go in your dishwasher, is not usually in that range.] As a manufacturer uses up a lot he bids on the next order. [Note: the use of the word bid. That means sometimes he gets outbid and must try again. Called, Commodities Trading. Steel is a commodity.] The end result? One week of one year a sear may be have been made of 440C steel, but next month it was 440A, or 410, etc. There are no binding rules on the manufacturers as the definition of stainless is the steel contains any percentage of chrome whatsoever. All that being said, some manufacturers have (privately) acknowledged early mistakes in steel selection and no longer use the same steel they did a decade ago. Or at least they try not to. 17-4 is a for instance. It used to be common, but it isn't used much anymore. There are also ease of machining and hardening considerations when choosing a stainless steel.
There is nothing wrong with a stainless pistol. You just need to understand it is not impervious. Acid, including the acids formed by powder combustion, leather holsters, and skin perspiration will etch out pits over time. So too can salt. With some steel formulations oxidation (i.e., rust) can still occur. It just takes a lot longer which gives you more time to clean the gun. Likewise blued steel looses the bluing over time due to wear. Stainless finishes will probably look (assuming some rational care) the same 140 years from now.