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Old May 6, 2005, 06:54 PM   #1
hap
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shooting damascus

I handled an 1889 Remington sxs grade 1 that had been cut to 20" - pointed
really nice and looked great - mechanicals felt great- on site gunsmith
assured me it was safe to shoot with reduced power ( cowboy )
smokeless loads - did a little web research and found all kinds of dire warnings
about steel twist and Damascus barrels degrading over time- anyone out there got a handle on this? What is the difference between "steel twist"
and "Damascus"? Are any of these ok to shoot? Anyone actually doing it?
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Old May 6, 2005, 08:24 PM   #2
Ozzieman
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I cant be much help with the "steel twist"

BUt "Damascus"? the way it is made can over time becomes very week. Damascus steel is made up of layers ether (If I remember correctly) heat treated togther or soldered. Looked at very closly you can see wavey hair lines that run down the barrel. New they were strong enough for the loads at the time but I have read that they can rust or corrode between the layers and become very week. The big problem is that it is very hard to detect. In most cases from where I come from, we always said that if its Damascus gun, its a wall hanger, beautiful to look at but never fire.
Twist steel, I have never heard of the term and am looking foward to some one smarter than ME to explain that term. Which I am sure there are many out there.
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Old May 6, 2005, 08:28 PM   #3
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I did find this

The 1874 catalog explains each grade of the Whitmore Model 1873:

Our $45ºº gun is perfectly plain. All ornamentation and checking has been omitted in order to reduce the cost. We have endeavored to construct a gun that should possess the important features of a first class gun, and still be sold at a price within reach of all.

The barrels of this basic style of shotgun are made of decarbonized steel containing only enough carbon to give strength, combined with a toughness that allows it to be bent double when cold. This steel is now largely used in gun work, and is much stronger and more reliable than the cheaper kinds of twist found in many imported guns.

Indeed, many gunsmiths prefer it to any twist, and claim that it makes a better shooting barrel, owing to its being perfectly homogeneous. In the manufacture of these barrels they are rolled from the solid metal, without weld.

And this system of manufacture, combined with the toughness and strength of the material, ensures a strong barrel, without weld or seam, and capable of receiving a fine interior finish.
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Old May 6, 2005, 08:40 PM   #4
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I found this and the remainder can be found at the page at the bottom.

From roughly 1880 to 1930, there were several manufacturers and importers in this country that supplied double-barreled shotguns to anyone who would order them. They not only made them under their own name, but for dozens and dozens of hardware wholesalers, hardware stores, mail- order catalogs, sporting goods stores and many other retail and wholesale gun dealers, each engraved or stamped with their individual trade name or names. Add to this various grades, and suddenly there are vast numbers of essentially the same shotgun, all with different names engraved on them. Made largely with Damascus, twist or laminated-steel barrels, virtually none are safe to shoot as they are.
Damascus or twist-steel barrels are made by layering alternate strips of steel and iron then welding them together. The strips are then twisted until they resembled a screw, three of these wound strips are then welded together, wound around a steel mandrel, then welded and hammered into a barrel tube. Laminated steel barrels are a bit different. They start with a ball of steel and iron that is then hammered into long strips and twisted, then, like their Damascus cousin, wound around a mandrel, welded and hammered into a barrel tube. Inherently, these barrels are quite strong, and many best-quality Damascus barrels pass nitro proof. However, because of the iron content and welded manufacture, twist barrels have a propensity for rusting within the barrel material. Added to that is the fact that these guns were primarily used with non-corrosive priming, and are therefore potentially honeycombed with weak spots. While there are first-quality Damascus Parker and Purdey barrels that can be shot with modern ammunition, most if not all are not up to the task. Briley Manufacturing [(800) 331-5718] can either make full-length tubes of a smaller gauge--20 ga., 28 ga. and .410 bore in a 12 ga.; 28 ga. in an existing 16 ga., etc.--or, provided the barrels are good condition, install steel chamber sleeves of one gauge smaller--12 ga. in a 10 bore, etc.--enabling the use of smokeless-powder ammunition. Shooting these old hammer guns is real fun. Organizations like The Vintagers [(413) 339-5347] are devoted to shooting and keeping alive the tradition of these old guns through clay-target competitions. As much fun as shooting these guns is, safety is the prime consideration, and one should never, ever consider shooting a Damascus, twist or laminated-steel barreled shotgun without first having it inspected by a truly competent gunsmith, and, if necessary, altered by an outfit such as Briley.
http://www.briley.com/articles/grampas_shotgun.html
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Old May 6, 2005, 08:55 PM   #5
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The problem (or at least one of the problems) with shooting nitro in a Damascus gun, even if it is in top-notch condition, is that the ballistics don't agree with the chamber pressure. A lot of those light loads use fast burning powder and the chamber pressure is no lower than a full power round. Maybe higher.
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Old May 7, 2005, 12:29 AM   #6
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I've met folks who shoot their old Damascus barrel guns all the time. The trick, low black powder loads. When in doubt, magnaflux it at your local garage.
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Old May 7, 2005, 07:06 AM   #7
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Thanks for the info and input- the barrel sleeve thing occured to me,
find a 10ga and use 12ga inserts, but with the cost of the shotgun
itself it could get pricey compared to an old Stevens 311 or 260.
Gary: what's magnafluxing and how would it help?
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Old May 7, 2005, 09:49 AM   #8
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Magnafluxing is magnetic particle inspection done by running a liquid (with metal particles) over the ferrous object. While the liquid is running over the object, it is viewed under a fluorescent UV light. The metal particles will fall into any cracks which are then detected as a line under the UV light. This tells you that you've got a crack or flaw in the piece that may render it unsafe.
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Old May 7, 2005, 07:58 PM   #9
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Old shotguns

There are some companies that manufacture shotshells with less than 7,000 psi pressure, most of them can be found on the web by a search.
Even these shells are not safe if the barrel has mechanical defects such as corrosion from corrosive primers in the layers.
A source for inexpensive chamber adapters is Numrich Gun Parts.
It would likely be a better route to just hang it on the wall and buy a new cowboy style shotgun if you want thatstyle.
Don
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Old May 7, 2005, 08:33 PM   #10
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Another problem with nitro in Damascus is that smokeless is more progressive burning than black, and a load with what appears to be a safe chamber pressure will have a pressure curve that sustains it farther down the barrel where BP shotguns get thinner faster than nitro. My neighbor, the local repair gunsmith, had a Damascus double on the wall, not visibly in bad shape... except for the 2" plug blown out of the left barrel just over the edge of the foreend. Right where your left hand goes.
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Old May 8, 2005, 11:43 PM   #11
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I shoot Black powder shotguns regularly ( I own about 11 in different gauges)
and would never consider shooting Nitro out of them!
Reduced BP loads are what I shoot.

I use brass cases from Huntington's, and load them by simply pushing the wads in by hand.
An over shot wad in laid on top of the shot and kept in place by contact cement so I don't stress the brass from by roll crimoing it.

My 16 gauge was once owned by my Grandad and is a nice light partridge gun.

I shoot a 60 grain charge of FFG and an equal volume of shot.

David
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Old June 27, 2005, 01:16 AM   #12
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Drinks was the only one who got close to hitting the nail on the head. Limit your self to 7000 psi loading data by using for example (Federal Paper Champions and uniwads) in a "quality" damascus shotgun. The twist or 2 bar damascus barrels are not safe to shoot with anything. A 3 bar or star pattern damascus barrel in good condition is up to the task. Better quality Remingtons, Parkers, Ithaca's, and many English and European gun had the 3 bar damascus withe very fine star pattern. Just to condemn all damascus as unsafe shows a lack knowlege on the subject.
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Old June 27, 2005, 06:18 AM   #13
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The problem with using a Uniwad( I'm assumming that this is a plastic) is that unless an overpowder wad of somekind is used, a layer of plastic will build up iin the barrel.
In the course of a BP tarp competition , you will get greatly increased pressure in only ten shots!

We don't clean between shots as sometimes we are on a trail walk.
I use a card base wad, then a cusionwad from Ox-yoke, then an over shot wad, sealing the over shot with contact cememt so I don't have to work the brass with crimping.
60 grains of FFG and an equal volume of shot well under 7,000PSI.
You can get load data from several BP books.

Factory BP shells from Kent are about $10 a box of 25 , so I prefer to handload.

David
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Old June 27, 2005, 10:46 AM   #14
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Damascus - there were good quality and bad quality barrels, BP and nitro barrels and even fake damascus where the barrel was etched to look like damascus ! They should all be treated carefully . A magnetic particle or die penetrant test is a good idea.
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Old August 18, 2005, 12:48 AM   #15
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damascus barrels

damascus barrels were made by twisting long iron wires together and forge welding around a mandrel. the more wires the higher quality. all the old american rifles were made in the same way. just think about how many impurities could be incorporated into this process!! some of the later guns made in this manner were really good in their time, but just think about all the little cracks and crevicies that are in the weld and then think about if you want to shoot this thing.they say time heals all wounds but in the case of old damascus guns time will cause all wounds. be careful, better, just dont shoot them, you just cant tell if they are good or not.
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Old August 18, 2005, 03:35 PM   #16
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Were all shotgun barrels made this way? were they using smokless in the
shells for 1887 or 1897 Winchester? When did the process for making barrels
change? An article on the 1889 Remington says that all 1889 models
were nitro proofed, but that the nitro then in use was not comparable to
the smokless in use today.
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Old August 21, 2005, 08:57 PM   #17
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Solid steel came into use around 1900, but even after that many buyers preferred twist (Damascus) barrels because of the beauty of the better ones.

I have read all of the above, and some writings from folks who think the Damascus or laminated barrels are safe. Some have cited century old tests to "prove" that twist barrels are stronger than solid steel. But I have sectioned old Damascus barrels and found chamber and barrel walls like honeycombs, rotted out from black powder residue and corrosive priming. Even barrels that look good when viewed from the end can have microscopic holes and occlusions that will spell trouble eventually. I know all about British proof, and all about how this or that maker's products were perfect, and how some test or other in 1890 or 1900 or 1910 showed that Damascus was stronger than solid steel. Nonetheless, I still strongly recommend that NO Damascus, twist, or laminated barrel be fired with ANY load of ANY type of powder.

I said essentially the same thing to a customer some years ago, and he informed me that his old gun had been proofed and was very strong. His father had used it, his grandfather had used it, etc., and he stuck to "low base" loads. He came back in a couple of days later, with a bandage where parts of three fingers were missing off his left hand. The right barrel of the old gun let go right at the end of the forearm. He had the courage to admit that he had been wrong, something not many folks do. That was one of the guns whose barrels I later sectioned; they were rusted out shells.

Jim
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Old August 22, 2005, 12:59 AM   #18
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First find out what type of tubes the gun has, that model is very common to find having forged steel tubes with just the fake twist finish on it.
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Old August 22, 2005, 11:45 AM   #19
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I find it Mildly Amusing (tm) that back when solid steel barrels came out, many makers would etch them so they looked like damascus. It seems like leather-grain on plastic-- disguising a cheap substitute. At least I seem to remember that around 1900 a steel-barreled shotgun was cheaper than a good damascus-barreled one, as I read in yet another copy of the 1900 Sears catalog.

You know what, I think the damascus probably was better-- back when the gun was new. But that was before nitro powder became standard, and before a century of use, wear, and corrosion. The corrosion is what would worry me the most, perhaps. Being made up of laminated strips of steel, the damascus barrel seems purpose-designed to provide nearly infinite sites for corrosion to take hold.
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Old August 22, 2005, 12:57 PM   #20
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There is no doubt that even after solid steel barrels came into use, some buyers preferred the look of Damascus to the point that fake Damascus was made; the comparison to "leather look" plastic is a good one. And SOME well made Damascus barrels really were stronger when they were new than SOME solid steel barrels. But that does not mean that as a group, Damascus barrels were the stronger, and to claim otherwise is foolish.

As to Hafoc's mention of "infinite sites for corrosion", he is absolutely correct. Worse, the corrosion takes place inside the barrel walls. When people cleaned their shotguns, they oiled the barrels, inside and out, so that corrosion did not set in on the surface of the metal. But the black powder residue (which is highly hygroscopic) had been forced into the tiny crevasses and pores by the firing pressure, along with the residue from corrosive primers. The surface oil never reached into those tiny holes, and the rust and corrosion spread inside, like a cancer, over the years.

Cheap and poorly made barrels were more susceptible, but all Damascus twist and laminated barrels have the same problems. I have met Anglophiles who claim that no English Damascus barrels could possibly be dangerous because they are English, that English guns were proof tested, that the English did the best work, etc. Nonsense, of course, when it comes to the safety of those barrels after a century of use and abuse.

Jim
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Old August 22, 2005, 01:34 PM   #21
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Damascus barrels can be "sleeved" after being cut off ahead of the lumps. Steel barrels are inserted into the "monobloc", that is the sleeves are inserted into what's left of the original barrels and lumps. Kirk Merrington is one of the very few 'smiths here in the U.S. who does a first class job of this. Pressure limitations will, however, remain. The strength of the action of fine shotguns is, and has been generally "balanced" to the requirements of the gun.

The procedure isn't cheap, running something over $1000. It may not be something that you'd want to consider for a high grade U.S. made gun (due to collector value), but, as european guns are often evaluated very differently in the market, the procedure may actually increase the value of some guns.

By the way, the joint is often so good when done by a careful craftsman that a very powerful magnifying glass is needed to find it.

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Last edited by bfoster; August 23, 2005 at 01:55 AM. Reason: mucked up editing, created duplicate.
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Old August 22, 2005, 01:37 PM   #22
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Duplicate post, removed.

Last edited by bfoster; August 23, 2005 at 01:48 AM. Reason: duplicate post
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