Wonder if you might elaborate a bit. There are, without attempting to look up the actual number, a couple thousand alloys of steel. All are fully described by ANSI with a numbering system that relates to the actual combination of elements in the melting pot. The gun industry likes to use terms like "carbon steel" and Stainless. But these don't really tell us much. In fact carbon steel is a pretty meaningless term as steel is not steel unless it has iron AND carbon in the pot - at least.
Additionally, its quite common to talk about the higher cost of stainless steel as you just did, being do to higher material cost and more difficulty in machining. The higher material costs have to do with the more complex chemistry. But different alloys of non stainless steels also vary widely in material cost, for the same reason.
Similarly, the machine-ability of various non stainless steels varies as well. And some stainless is down right easy to machine, without resorting to special cutters.
I get that the various alloys produce differing end product attributes like tensile strength, hardness, wear resistance, resistance to taking a set from bending, hardness. And in making the choice of which alloy to choose any manufacturer looks at processing costs vs the desired end product attributes.
What really matters to those of us looking to buy a pistol and make the choice between stainless and non stainless has to do with several factors. I suspect the original questioner, who asked about the relative accuracy may be aware of the Les Baer position that he can make 1.5" non stainless pistols but wont offer this accuracy guarantee on stainless guns. That certainly sets up suspicion in our minds. And yet Wilson makes no such distinction as you reported.
I wonder about the relative hardness of the parts and wear ability - long term durability. And might this be the reason Baer shrinks from the tighter accuracy guarantee? Wilson can make the 1" at 25 yard guarantee, for a new SS pistol, but is there some idea that this accuracy fades faster in a stainless gun, because in order to assure easy machining of stainless the parts just aren't as hard and/or resistant to wear, do to alloys chosen?
It appears that you are either a machinist or a metallurgist. Not speaking for WCR, but a quick look at the barrel page at WC's site shows that the barrels they sell "over the counter" are all stainless. They state the following "Wilson Combat® match-grade barrels are fully machined from aircraft grade stainless steel forgings and heat-treated to R/C 40 for maximum service life"
Being a dumb electrician, this really has no reality in my daily life, but it may mean a great deal to you. Then again, it may not. The term "aircraft grade" may also have a large scale from which one could pick.
The bottom line to me is that Wilson Combat will guarantee the pistol for as long as they exist. Your not happy,,,, their not happy.
Aluminum frames-7075 T6 forgings, mil-spec hard anodized.
So, as you can see-the hardnesses for stainless and chromemoly (carbon) are the same. Stainless doesn't machine as cleanly, so there is more fitting required. If you fit it too tightly or improperly, it can gall.
WilsonCombatRep, Indeed I can! You get my attention.
Wonder if I might impose a request - probably belongs on your gun of the week pic thread. Those of us in the peoples Republic of Kalifornia feel persecuted enough. Any chance you can be persuaded to show pics of the California "Approved" Protector, one of these.. er, ah.. weeks? Since its in Stainless, you'll get the connection to this thread.
Saying something is "aircraft grade" or "aircraft quality" is really kind of meaningless-though it sounds cool. There are stainless steel hydraulic lines, bolts, screws, turbine blades, ash trays and so on. The materials vary widely in their properties and are selected to work within the stresses of the individual part's function...
Different alloys of aluminum are used depending on if they will primarily be under tension or compression loads for instance.
You'd be able to find most any kind of alloy in a large aircraft from relatively soft aluminum like a beer can to the exotic stainless types in a high pressure turbine section and everything in between.
I doubt that you would find the aluminum-magnesium alloy that is used in light aircraft wheels (a Cessna or Piper) in the frame of anyone's gun-but it is "aircraft grade"!