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Firm Pitches Carbon Fiber Barrels to Military Market

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A Montana-based company is marketing carbon fiber-wrapped rifle barrels to high-tech hunters, as well as military shooters interested in a stronger, lighter -- albeit pricier -- weapon system.

Proof Research generated some buzz at this year's Modern Day Marine expo at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, with a booth featuring the technology on different sized barrels.

"The Proof composite barrel is similar to a conventional barrel in the contour in that it uses a steel liner system," David Curliss, president of performance polymer solutions at Proof Research, said in a video interview with Military.com. "What we do to produce the composite barrel is contour down and use an air-space composite overwrap system so the barrels are much lighter and they have better performance than a steel barrel."

How much lighter? Anywhere from 25 percent in a typical 15-inch AR-15 assault rifle to as much as 60 percent in a longer, bolt-barrel system, he said.

How does the technology improve performance? "We don't see a [point-of-impact] shift with sustained firing," Curliss said. "The composite and the steel liner system are thermally engineered to work together and they don't develop thermal residual stresses as you fire."

Perhaps the price tag is the only catch. The single barrel retails for about $900, depending on the length of contour and caliber. While the cost could drop if a military customer places a bulk order, it's not hard to envision shooters on such special units as reconnaissance or sniper teams opening their own wallets to buy the new technology.

"The barrels are used by precision shooter, hunters looking for lightweight rifles," Curliss said. "We're looking at military opportunities for the gas-operated guns, crew-served weapons -- any opportunities to take our technology, lighten the weapon system and improve performance."

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