The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The North Corral > Curios and Relics

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old September 29, 2011, 08:39 AM   #1
Peaches2
Junior Member
 
Join Date: September 29, 2011
Location: Montana/Michigan
Posts: 4
Damascus Barrels

I was just given a Forehand Arms 16 Ga. single with a Damascus barrel. I have been led to believe there are safety issues with these old guns. Can you fill me in? It is on its way to the gunsmith. Needs some TLC but will be a pretty thing when i get through with it.

Thanks for your input

Peaches2
Peaches2 is offline  
Old September 29, 2011, 08:57 AM   #2
Doyle
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 20, 2007
Location: Starkville, MS
Posts: 5,100
Damascas barrels were desiged for low-pressure black powder loads. Even the lightest field loads with modern smokeless powder aren't safe to shoot in it. Once the gunsmith gives it a clean bill of health, you can shoot it with back powder shotgun loads. There are a few companies that make these loads specifically for these old guns. Or, you can get into reloading and load your own.
Doyle is offline  
Old September 29, 2011, 09:02 AM   #3
Peaches2
Junior Member
 
Join Date: September 29, 2011
Location: Montana/Michigan
Posts: 4
Damascus...

Thanks Doyle,

It's on its way to the GS. If he gives the OK i will start looking for the shells you recommended. I will probably just fix it up and put it with the rest of the old timers.

Thanks again,

Peaches2
Peaches2 is offline  
Old September 29, 2011, 12:35 PM   #4
DG45
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 5, 2009
Posts: 904
Are you certain that your barrel is Damascus steel? At least some of the Forehand Arms shotgun barrels weren't. I have a 12 gauge, single-barrel, break-action Forehand Arms shotgun with shell ejector. It has a milled steel barrel. I use it to shoot "light" blackpowder and "vintage" smokeless loads. Great fun!
DG45 is offline  
Old October 2, 2011, 10:08 PM   #5
Gunplummer
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 11, 2010
Location: South East Pa.
Posts: 1,543
The best thing is to hang it on the wall. It simply is not worth the risk of shooting it. Cleaning them sometimes makes it worse, as the oil gets down into the tiny crevices and now you may get hydrolic pressure working against it also. On the side, I did see an article on a company that was making modern high power rifle barrels with the damascus process but they were really pricey.
Gunplummer is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 12:01 AM   #6
Hawg
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 8, 2007
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 11,867
The chamber is probably 2 1/2 inches also.
Hawg is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 06:10 AM   #7
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 36,327
Damascus steel barrels are made by hammer welding multiple strips of metal around a mandrel, or bic.

The problem with these barrels is that you can never make those welds perfect. Black powder residue can get into those seams and slowly rot the welds, leaving weak spots in the gun that can open up on subsequent firings, even with black powder rounds.

It's always been a rule of thumb that smokeless loads should not be fired in these guns, but lots of people over the years have done so successfully.

Lots of others have also blown open the barrels on fine old shotguns.

That said, in the transition between smokeless and black powder, lower-end shotguns were often "fake" Damascus in that they were made with solid steel barrels (at the time seen to be of lesser desireability) and a Damascus pattern was then either printed or etched on the barrels.

It takes someone who knows what he is looking for to tell the difference.
__________________
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 09:12 AM   #8
oneounceload
Junior member
 
Join Date: April 18, 2008
Location: N. Central Florida
Posts: 8,518
Damascus barrels that were nitro-proofed are shot all the time. Check out a group called The Vintagers
http://www.vintagers.org/

these folks shoot old guns all the time - maybe they can give you some insight
oneounceload is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 09:27 AM   #9
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 36,327
Nothing that I can find about shooting Damascus barreled guns on that site.

Damascus guns that were never shot with black powder should (hopefully) still retain most of their integrity.... As long as corrosive primers didn't come into play.

The problem is, even if you have a gun from the VERY last days of the Damascus era, you still have no idea how it was cared for, if, one day, a previous owner came across a box of BP or corrosive primed shells, anything like that.

Yes, Damascus shotguns can be tested today, and will hopefully be found to be usable.

But, it's not unknown for a Damascus shotgun to have been so tested, to have been used for years, and to one day finally open up at a seam.

That's the unfortunate nature of twist-welded shotguns and modern powders.
__________________
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 05:03 PM   #10
44 AMP
Staff
 
Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 11,845
My Grandfather had an Ithaca 12ga double with "stub twist" barrels. Stub twist was a "poor man's" Damascus, being made from either 2 or 4 straps hammer welded, rather than the 6 or 8 straps used in "proper" Damascus. After many years of owning the gun, he finally gave in to a neighbor's requests, and sold him the gun.

Grandpa then ordered a new Ithaca, and got one with "fluid steel" barrels. This was in 1909. Sometime in the early 1940s, the neighbors gun had the left barrel unravel. The fluid steel barrel gun I still have, and its perfectly fine with light field loads, which is what a letter from Ithaca recommended in 1949.

Damascus barrels should NEVER be shot with smokeless powder, and its better if they are not shot at all, even with black powder, because there is simply no way to determine the quality and strengths of the barrel welds today. As was mentioned, rust can form in the tiny gaps inside the welds (and not be visible to even a detailed examination), affecting the strength of the barrel.

Even though it may have lasted over a century of use, and even if proofed with nitro powder, you should expect a Damascus barrel to fail at some point, and hang them on the wall.
__________________
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
44 AMP is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 06:26 PM   #11
Shotgun693
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 3, 2011
Location: Poteet, Texas
Posts: 959
A Damascus Barrel was considered the very best that the Gun Makers produced, at the time. Yes, very many fluid steel shotguns were treated so that the barrel appeared to be Damascus. A 'smith can tell you about yours.
As a Damascus barreled shotgun will likely be 100+ years old, I'd pass on shooting one.
Shotgun693 is offline  
Old October 5, 2011, 09:17 PM   #12
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 20,015
"Lots of others have also blown open the barrels on fine old shotguns."

And some have lost fingers due to the fact that progressive burning smokeless powder keeps its pressure up beyond the point black powder did, or just about where the shooter has his off hand. This is not BS or something I read. I have known two people who lost fingers and/or parts of the hand when Damascus barrels blew.

Some people will argue, vehemently, that Damascus barrels passed proof in 1890-something and are as strong or even stronger than modern steel. They are wrong. Even if the gun was strong in 1890 something, A lot can happen in the little cracks and crevices of a welded barrel in 100 years. I once sectioned a nice looking Damascus barrel and the inside looked like orange lace.

Those barrels are pretty and, like a pretty picture, should be hung on the wall.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:19 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2014 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.08598 seconds with 9 queries