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The lower receiver of the M16 rifle is an anodized forging of aluminum alloy 7075-T6. Degradation of the receivers was observed after three years of service in a hot, humid atmosphere. The affected areas were those in frequent contact with the user's hands. There was no question that the material failed as a result of exfoliation corrosion, so an investigation was undertaken, centered around the study of thermal treatments that would increase the exfoliation resistance and still develop the required 448 MPa (65 ksi) yield strength. The results of the study concluded that rolled bar stock should be preferred to extruded bar stock. Differences in grain structure of the forgings, as induced by differences in thermal-mechanical history of the forged material, can have a significant effect on susceptibility to exfoliation corrosion. Regarding thermal treatment, the results show conclusively that large changes in strength and exfoliation characteristics of 7075 forgings can be induced by changes in temperature or time of thermal treatment. With regard to the effect of quenching rate on exfoliation characteristics, a cold-water quench below 25 deg C (75 deg F) would appear to be far superior to an elevated-temperature quench to minimize exfoliation for 7075 forgings in the T6 temper.

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Failure of Rifle Receivers Caused by Exfoliation , ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Failure Modes and Mechanisms, ASM International, 2019,

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