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Thread: Of sears and bolts

  1. #1

    Of sears and bolts

    All, this was originally posted in two parts on MCB, but Nobody wisely suggested posting here as well. So hang on, it's windy:
    *******************
    Gang,

    Some questions for you:

    1. What exactly causes bolt nibble?

    2. Does anyone know what type of stainless AGD used for their bolts, specifically, the L10? Am guessing 300 series, but that could be wild.

    3. Does anyone know the RC hardness of the classic L7 sears? I'm not concerned about the cad coating, just the sear itself. It's plenty hard. A regular steel file will skate on it, unlike the L6 sears. A good file will cut, but not hungrily.


    I ask this because all of my mags (classics) have bolt nibble, except for my L6 mag. That one, despite coming to me in nasty fashion, had an absolutely perfect sear, and a perfect bolt. The thing was used heavily before I got it, and heavily after, and there was never any hint that any wear was taking place.

    On the other hand, all of my L7 mags have nibbled bolts. Some of them are just slightly nibbled, while others look like they've spent considerable time in a garbage disposal.

    This all came from an episode a while back wherein I switched from the L6 sear to an L7 sear on a classic with L10 bolt.

    Previously, the L6 sear and L10 bolt got along famously. Both mating surfaces were glassy smooth, case after case after case after case.

    Perfection.

    But there was another issue so I put in the L7 sear and, after one day of play, the L10 bolt was really chewed up, and so was the sear.

    Now the irony is that the L7 sear was brand spanking new. Never used. And of course, the L10 bolt was perfect.

    So I started really looking at my other mags, and sure enough, all the L7 combos had bolt nibble, from slight to great, with no exceptions, and all are running bone stock. Mags that came to me in superb condition had it out of the box.

    So I decided to do some closer looking. First, I cleaned up the bolt lips. Don't worry, it was done correctly. I then cleaned up the sears. Then I started mixing and matching, but only firing a couple of shots before breaking them down.

    Sure enough, in every case, the L7 sears (and I mean every single one of them) began to nibble at the bolts. Made no difference what frame, body, rail combo was made, they all did it.

    However, the L6 sear, when applied first to these same bolts, produced no wear whatsoever. Cleaned up bolts stayed clean with the L6 sear. Made no difference whether it was the old short foamy bolt, long nose bolts, L10 bolt, all of them stayed perfect. But as soon as any of the cleaned up L7 sears were dropped in, they all got nibbled, even after a couple of shots.

    This, ladies and gents, is what we call a mystery.

    So I really began looking at the sears. Already noted (on MCB) that there were some significant differences between the L6 and L7 sears in terms of geometry. But I went back and really looked again, and the two are different in other notable respects. First, the mating surface of the lip catch is nearly flat on the L6, but is markedly convex on the L7. And second, the L6 sear is significantly softer than the L7.

    I did several tests with cleaned up edges and noted that a single shot will not produce bolt nibble. But it will, however, cause a tiny tear-out in the sear. That tear-out will then nibble the bolt further, which will in turn return the favor, and so on until both are ugly again.

    Now all this is on a very small scale. My guess is that a lot of folk don't even pay attention to it, so long as the marker functions. But that kind of stuff really bugs me. It shouldn't be happening on any scale. There is no good reason for this to be taking place. And it certainly makes no sense that a relatively inexpensive sear should destroy an expensive bolt. The cheaper of the two should be the 'disposable' item in theory, but in reality, neither should be a disposable item.

    There is absolutely no good reason why these shouldn't be able to get a million cycles at least. This is a wonderful marker, and I don't tend to get sentimental about such things. It's just a shame that this should be a weak link.

    And based on the complete lack of any wear evidenced by the L6 sear, the problem lies in some aspect of the L7 sear, either in design or in execution. The L6 sear has it's own design flaw in terms of geometry, and is a rare item besides, so that's out as a fix.

    We know that even the L6 sears were consciously made harder than the bolt in order to determine wear. And it is certainly the case that the L7 sear is even harder.

    My hypothesis is as follows: The L7 sear, possibly owing to geometry of the catch surface, and likely owing to the excessive hardness, is getting injured by the bolt on the return phase. The convex face was likely designed to more closely match the curvature of the inside of the bolt lip, but it translates to a lot more force being applied to a small contact area, creating a stress point.

    The higher hardness means that the L7 sear is not as 'tough' as its older cousin, and under shock (as with bolt cycle) is therefore more prone to chipping than to simple plastic deformation.

    My guess is that at some point in the cycle, probably on the return phase, the bolt is dropping down over that catch and causing a tiny chip in the edge. Then, when the bolt goes forward, that edge chip gets caught by the forward travel of the bolt, which then gouges up the top land of the sear. Under magnification the gouge looks like it has been violently torn out, rather than smoothly displaced. Those gouges look like dragon teeth, and no doubt are responsible for chewing the bolt, no pun intended.

    What I want to do is to sacrifice an L7 sear and temper the hardness down to something similar to the L6. If I can get a precise hardness for the L6, and further determine what sort of steel is used for the sear, it will be a simple affair. Even if precise hardness or composition remains a mystery I can get it pretty close.

    I will then see if the issue remains. If it does, I will then modify the catch geometry to match the L6. If that works, I will then modify the geometry on a fully hardened L7 sear and test again in order to isolate the problem.

    What do you all think? And please, let's not have a chorus of voices warning against messing with sears. I am going to mess with some sears, rest assured. It will be done carefully, but it will be done.

    *************************
    I'd appreciate your wealth of knowledge to ensure it goes (more) smoothly.

    My thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
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    Dayton OH
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    i say go for it. if the result is a longer lasting bolt, i can't imagine that being bad.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Halifax, N.S., Canada
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    Bolt and sear nibble is typically caused by a timing issue where the sear is not fully rotated forward before the bolt is forced forward against it. The lip of the bolt contacts the tip of the sear. Being that this point of contact is small, the pin point force is high causing fracturing of the hardened metal. Your observations and hypothesis of the bolt lip riding on the top of the sear and dropping down (or possibly the sear popping up) so that the lip of the bolt cracks the tip of the sear is interesting. It would require feathering of the trigger to prevent the sear from being held away from the returning bolt though, or the bolt would be in the reset position before the sear could be pushed back into place and no contact would be made.

    The sear face is machined so that it has the same general angle as the bolt lip providing a larger area of contact. When the sear is rotated, the sear should smoothly slide off the lip of the bolt. The sear does not always match the bolt lip perfectly. If you slowly rotate your sear, you will notice that the bolt moves back slightly as the tip of the sear gets closer to the edge of the bolt lip.

    Things that could affect sear-bolt contact and possibly be related to chipping.:

    - slow bolt cycle due to worn bolt spring
    - slow bolt cycle due to tight carrier size in level 10
    - powertube spacer too short (this could cause excessive force on the tip of the sear as it passes down across the lip of the bolt, and also when the sear resets back across the lip of the bolt)
    - on-off pin too short causing the bolt lip to get pushed against the tip of the sear before the sear rotates far enough to contact a flat surface.
    - improper bumper thickness


    I haven't had any of the chipping issues on any of my mags, even my level 7 mag from 1993. I also have an early model retro valve with no issues. I still have all of my original bolts. The only change was when I installed the level 10 bolts. I did have to change sears on each of my mags in their life times due to normal smooth wear, but they had no evidence of chipping.
    Except for the Automag in front, its usually the man behind the equipment that counts.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Sebring, Florida
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    548
    Huh?
    I took the road least traveled...now where the hell am I ?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Plymouth, WI
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    7,034
    couple of points here:
    1) you have put waaaay too much thought into this
    2) thank you for putting this much thought into this
    3) I would be more then happy to send you one of my spare sears to try this out on, if it works then I get it back, if it dont then throw it away and I wont be mad


    I give you serious props for putting all of your thoughts into words that made sense, although you could have shortened it as I looked at it and instantly had my mouse hovering over the back button

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  6. #6
    Athomas,

    Thanks for the great reply. Will chew on all of that for a good while. But recall that the L6 sear works perfectly in every combination, while the L7 sears do not. Hence the mystery.

    Runamok, I'll see your 'huh', and raise you.

    BT,
    (1) Over-thinking everything (including the over-thought parts) is part of my job description.
    (2) A thing worth doing is worth doing well. This marker, and this esteemed community, are well worth the effort.
    (3) I appreciate it very much, but have plenty of sears on hand. Thank you for the generous offer.

    And finally, thanks for your patience in reading anyway. Figure a longer initial post is less likely to cause confusion in the long run, and so less wordy all in all. Data is tasty, and I always find myself wishing people would say more in their posts to clarify what they meant.
    Last edited by Menace_AO; 11-11-2013 at 05:14 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
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    Halifax, N.S., Canada
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    Quote Originally Posted by Menace_AO View Post
    But recall that the L6 sear works perfectly in every combination, while the L7 sears do not. Hence the mystery.
    Check the vertical distance between the horizontal sear tip plane and the horizontal plane where the sear pin is. Do the same for the on-off contact point at the back of the sear. A difference between sears at those locations will make a difference in how the sear contacts the bolt.

    Also, I wonder why the ones you have (and apparently a few others) are having issues, and ones that I have and others I have seen have never have had those issues.

  8. #8
    Some pics might be nice.




    When you guys talk about L7 sears, does that include RTP sears? Those are what I've been using lately and I have not noticed this effect. So it might be good to gauge what kind of scales of damage we're talking about.

    Many of my bolts arrive to me in varying condition, but they never seem to get worse in my hands. So it is a bit of a mystery to me as well.
    "Accuracy by aiming."


    Definitely not on the A-Team.

  9. #9
    GB,

    Have a lot on the plate currently, so cannot do too much with this right now other than throw out questions and do some mulling. Taking pics means going through the whole cycle of testing, with pics before and after, and there simply isn't time at present. But as noted before, this is a minor issue, one that in no way affects performance. All my mags work great. My bolts and sears look like most others, save for the L6 sear and bolt. This is just a persnickety kind of thing. I like wear surfaces to be perfectly polished, mirror smooth, and to stay that way. Just don't like all the scuffing that goes on internally, and want to figure out a way to be rid of it, and if others can benefit from it, so much the better.

    On the sear type, I only own classics, so L7 means just that: a classic L7 sear, vice the older L6 style sears, as in the old AGD training video. However, this talk about sears has made me think of considering using the Rt pro sears, but I guess that means getting a new rail, owing to the bushing issues, correct?

    Still, if that bushing really locks the sear in and prevents lateral movement/wobble, it might be worth an additional look. Always hated how floppy the classic sears are in the body . . .

    If someone can advise me on the rail/sear interchange, I'd be much obliged for the additional chewing material.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    548
    I'm not to sure of the L6 /L7 sear difference. I know there was a sear that was triangle shaped, but never did find out what the change was made for. I figured it was a material saving move. Pics of the two types?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Halifax, N.S., Canada
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    7,235
    Quote Originally Posted by Runamok View Post
    I'm not to sure of the L6 /L7 sear difference. I know there was a sear that was triangle shaped, but never did find out what the change was made for. I figured it was a material saving move. Pics of the two types?
    The larger triangular sears were heavier due to the larger mass of metal. This also causes inertia issues and slows down trigger pull and reset. There isn't much force involved, so even more metal could theoretically be removed. The first level 7 mag I purchased new in 1993 had one of those larger sears.

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