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Old September 26, 2013, 11:39 PM   #1
RodTheWrench
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Side-by-side: What in the world did I trade for?

At the gun show last Saturday, I wound up trading a guy for this shotgun. Said it was his Grandpa's and he didn't have any use for it. I did the trade for a gun I had on my table that I didn't really want to take back home, so I figured no biggie.

The only information I've been able to find online is that it was perhaps made by Baker Co. out of New York in the early 1900s. Anyone else out there able to tell me better? I'd love to know the history of the kind of barrels this thing has (I love the pattern on the steel!) Also what kind of shape it looks to be in, and finally a guess as to value? Thank you all for your support.
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Old September 26, 2013, 11:42 PM   #2
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I should add that the gun has no rust anywhere I can see. It locks up tight and has no slop whatsoever. I took it down and everything looks ship-shape.

Does the "Nitro Hammerless" wording indicate that this gun was designes to fire smokeless powder? Not that I plan on shooting it, I'm just wondering.

Is it true they made these barrels by wrapping white-hot steel wire around a rod then hammering them into barrels?

How worn is the bluing? Were these made like this or were they considerably darker?

Oh, the barrels are 30" long.

Here's some more pictures:
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Old September 27, 2013, 12:56 AM   #3
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By the looks of the barrel I would say you have a Damascus twist steel barrel and I think the reference to fine twist on the receiver is proving its a damascus barrel. The reference to nitro powders normally, is smoke less powder, but I doubt that it means modern day powder. Back in that era they had a powder made by Alcan that was smokeless, but more like black powder pressures and burn rates. It was called Ballsite.
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Old September 27, 2013, 04:20 AM   #4
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Here is a little history on Baker guns. http://www.bakercollectors.com/index...the-Baker-Guns
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Old September 27, 2013, 07:56 AM   #5
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http://www.thefirearmsforum.com/showthread.php?t=77842

Have you seen this?
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Old September 27, 2013, 09:31 AM   #6
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There is some difference between Damascus and twist, with twist generally being considered the weaker of the two. That said, there are many folks who like to shoot their 100+ year old guns now and again, even use them for hunting. Caveat though, their guns have been thoroughly checked for issues and they only use low-pressure rounds from the likes of RST or Polywad. Chambers are typically shorter than modern ammo as well. IF you intend on firing, it needs to be checked, not by some local parts changer, but by a seasoned pro who knows old guns inside and out; otherwise, admire it from your easy chair as it resides on the wall.

1900 was when the transition from BP to smokeless was occurring
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Old September 27, 2013, 10:25 AM   #7
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AND, in 1926 all the ammo companies across the board upgraded their shotshell loads to ones loaded with new/different powders to higher pressures than were previously made - why special, low-powered shells from RST/etc should be used in thse older guns ILO what some think are low-powered loads but are actually not ( modern "low brass", "target" or "field" loads).

If your Baker is a 12ga (most likely), and if a qualified double gunsmith checks it out as ok to fire at all, it may be safe to shoot with modern 20ga ammo through a barrel adaptor/insert (which by themselves are strong enough for firing modern loads).

I wouldn't shoot modern ammo in those twist bbls, though, w/o full-length bbl liners (IOW, not with just a chamber adaptor).



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Old September 27, 2013, 11:58 AM   #8
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Alcan was not a powder manufacturer. Ballistite is (or was) a fast burning Swedish (I believe) powder that that was imported by Alcan and used in loading the Alcan brand of shotshells and also sold as for reloading in the 1960 era.

This website gives excellent information and photos of Baker Guns: http://www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/view/17434920

Most experts consider Damascus, Twist and Laminated Steel barrels not safe with modern ammunition. The use of Black Powder loads in these barrels is suggested only after a thorough examination (including a bore scope internal examination) by a competent double gun smith.
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Old September 27, 2013, 12:07 PM   #9
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Thanks guys, all good info!

Does this thing look to be in fair, good or better shape?

Any idea on value?
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Old September 27, 2013, 01:02 PM   #10
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Physically, looks decent except for the bluing being gone. You might asl on www.doublegunshop.com in the forum section if there is someone within reasonable distance who can give it the serious going over IF you intend to shoot it sometime. As I said there are folks (Southern SxS Championships, Vintager Society, etc.) who do shoot theirs now and again, not necessarily in a duck blind, but at some quail or at clays for some fun and nostalgia. It all depends on the gun as each is different.

If you take the barrels off and look at the barrel flats and water table, see if there are European proofmarks. many times, guns of that era had barrels made in places like Belgium and there will be proofmarks giving chamber and bore size, proofed etc. If no marks, then they were made here. Might give you a little more history about the gun
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Old September 27, 2013, 01:12 PM   #11
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I agree with the comments above.....and to me the gun is a "wall hanger"....interesting gun / but I sure would not shoot it ( unless it was thoroughly checked out / and even then I'd only shoot it with full length inserts)...and having to spend that kind of money on the gun to have it checked and the inserts fit to the gun, makes it hard to sell and/or reduces the value to a potential buyer, in my opinion.

In my area ...value is about $ 50 - $100....
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Old September 27, 2013, 03:13 PM   #12
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There is a guy on www.shotgunworld.com, he posts in the Ithaca forum, He's known as bpskeeter. He has two of the nicest Ithaca doubles I have ever seen, the guns have Damascus barrels and he shoots them all the time.
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Old September 27, 2013, 05:09 PM   #13
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I see people pulling wheelies on their sport bikes at 70 MPH while passing cars too, but I wouldn't do it. Lots of examples on YouTube "Fail" videos. Wallhanger in my book.
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Old September 28, 2013, 10:07 AM   #14
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Wall hanger?

There is every reason to be cautious about an old shotgun, especially with Damascus barrels. That being said....there is often more than a little over cautiousness. If a vintage shotgun passes inspection, there is no reason not to use it, especially with shells - as noted by RSI - designed for older shotguns.
There is a very informative article by Sherman Bell about "tests to destruction" that he did with Tom Armbrust. The tests involved a number of guns and included damascus barreled guns and modern proof loads.
The damascus barrels faired as well or better than more modern fluid steel, etc., type barrels.
I don't recall the issue of the magazine (The Double Gun Journal). Will look it up if anyone is interested.
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Old September 28, 2013, 01:49 PM   #15
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There is an older thread on Doublegunshop where the posters were amazed how many folks still believe that Damascus barrels are automatically a non-shooter, which just isn't true. One gent was shooting trap with a 122 year old Parker hammer gun and doing well. Again, it MUST be thoroughly checked - the main reason being that these guns were designed for corrosive BP loads and if the gun was not properly maintained, over time, weak spots could occur. If properly maintained, it is very likely they can be shot with little fear.
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Old September 28, 2013, 03:52 PM   #16
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But the question I keep asking ....is why spend $ 100 or more to have it checked ...and $ 300 or more to have inserts fitted to the gun ....so you can shoot it safely with modern ammo....

....when you have so many other good options out there for $500 ( Browning BPS pump gun is just one really good option)....in relatively decent guns, with changeable screw in chokes ...where one gun can do virtually anything you want ( skeet, sporting, trap, some hunting, defense....etc )....

I know it can be done safely - if the gun is sound / and if you shoot the right kind of shells in it....but its still a relatively short SXS, fixed chokes, with a lot of drop at comb and heel....and with these old barrels failing from the inside out / will a guy really pay to have them checked every year or two...??? Why fuss with it ....rather than just hang it over a fireplace...??
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Old September 28, 2013, 04:09 PM   #17
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Cause Jim, sometimes it's just cool to go afield with a 100 year old SxS - something that no one else is using and it is also something they can't really run down to the mega mart and buy for that price........

Just like when I was shooting an I-frame RP target revolver in 32SWL - they only made 2,000 of them and the last one was made in 1929 - just something different and cool
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Old September 28, 2013, 06:33 PM   #18
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I understand old and cool ( I'm old /not very cool anymore ) .. )...but old SXS's just don't make my heart flutter..../ they never did / never will....

but ok....to each his own.../ I'll go back to my nap...
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Old September 28, 2013, 06:55 PM   #19
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I'm with darkgael on this one. Good, well made Damascus barrels are plenty strong.
Old rust buckets are just that, and should be relegated to wall hanger status, and please remove or grind down the firing pins on those wall hanger guns.

That said I would have no qualms about shooting a quality Damascus gun with reasonable and standard loads.

Yes I do recommend having the Damascus barrels checked by a QUALIFIED smith. He should check the lock up as well, and make certain the gun is "on face" and rock solid.

I am very fond of my eyes, arms, hands, and digits. That said I also love fine old shotguns.
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Old September 29, 2013, 11:02 AM   #20
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You can all certainly do as you like, but I still say no one can look at any old Damascus barrel and tell how good it is. Having a gunsmith "check it out" accomplishes almost absolutely nothing except tell that there are no obvious visual defects and the locks work. They don't even run a dye penetrant check. I would not fire one unless it had been proofed for whatever loads I intended to fire. You cannot see if there are any voids between the bands of steel below the surface. It could have been made by the finest barrelsmith at Purdey's, but maybe he had an off day, or got distracted for 15 seconds. Is there anyone who has ever not made a mistake? The only perfect person died 2,000 years ago, and look what they did to him.
Fluid steel barrels are different. If you know the thickness and the material and the manner of construction you can really safely state the maximum loads, but many countries still require proofing of those as well. With millions of known good firearms available I do not get the insistence on firing these. But, watching the various videos on YouTube I am not surprised.
I am not questioning anyone's right to do it. I fully support that.
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Old October 1, 2013, 05:36 AM   #21
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I have a coupla boxes of 12 and 20 ga. low-power shells around here somewhere I wouldn't mind putting through that. Needs a good cleaning but nice gun!
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Old October 1, 2013, 06:16 AM   #22
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The kind of powder that's correct for this gun is smokless nitrocellulose powder, but as has been mentioned it's NOT meant for moder, high energy smokless powders.

For a number of years after the advent of smokless powders, companies such as Du Pont and King's offered what were called bulk smokeless powders.

These were low energy smokeless powders that could be used volume for volume the same as black powder.

In other words, a shell that was loaded with a scoop of 3 drams of black powder could be loaded with a scoop of 3 drams of bulk smokless. Generally these smokless powders would generate about the same pressure as black powder, too.

Today's powders have to be measured in dram equivalents.

Bulk powders haven't been available since shortly after World War II.

Today the closest thing we have to a bulk smokless powder is Trail Boss. It's close, but not close enough.
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Old October 1, 2013, 07:08 AM   #23
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Both RST and PolyWad offer Vintager shells designed for older guns.
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Old October 1, 2013, 01:09 PM   #24
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Several correct statements have been made, and I agree with the general feeling that a Damascus barrel gun should hang on the wall. Its not the most fun, but it is the safest thing to do.

I don't doubt there are people, and some very expert people still shooting twist guns. But even with ammo tailored to the specific requirements of twist guns, there is still a risk.

Damascus barrels were made by winding 6 or 8 steel straps around a mandrel and hammer welding them together. Damascus was high grade in its day, and expensive. Cheaper version was made using 2 or 4 straps. These guns were referred to, in the day as "stub twist" or just "twist" while the others were called (true) Damascus.

Again, as others have mentioned, the Damascus method can produce gaps or voids between the straps, underneath the surface of the hammer weld, and so invisible to the naked eye. Modern x-ray and other tests can identify these, but to the best of my knowledge, no (non destructive) test can show if (a hundred years and more of rust or corrosion -possibly) the welds have been weakened, or how much.

Twist barrels can survive shooting with modern ammunition, for a while. But the odds are high that eventually they are going to come apart. No one can say with certainty when, though. You might be able to put a few thousand rounds of modern ammo through a particular gun with no issues at all. OR the barrel might unravel the next time you pull the trigger. Or somewhere in between. This is why we recommend all twist barrel guns be wallhangers.

IT's not un heard of for these old guns to come apart even shooting ammo custom tailored for them. Even guns in excellent condition can conceal potentially dangerous flaws in the twist barrels so the best choice is don't shoot them. Also, many, if not most guns of that era have chambers made for something other than the standard lengths today. 2 9/16" was a popular length at one time. And, even with guns chambered for the standard 2 3/4" length we use today were made to shoot paper shells that used a roll crimp.

Modern star crimp cases should not be used. Nor should anything but lead shot be used (and soft lead is easier on the gun, a possible concern).

My Grandfather had an Ithaca stub twist gun in the early 1900s. He told me he was very fond of it, and used it for several years, until a neighboring farmer "finally" talked him out of it.

I have the gun he replaced that one with. It is an Ithaca "flues model", he ordered with custom features and received in 1909. That gun, while a "plain" field model, has a stock made to my grandfather's specifications (more drop than standard), 26" barrels, choked (to his order) FULL/FULL. It also has a 3 position safety that also allowed the gun to be stored uncocked, without snapping the hammers! Grandpa was very adamant about the fact, that gun should never be dry-fired. There simply was no reason to, ever.

The springs were guaranteed by Ithaca NEVER to take a "set". The barrels are fluid steel, and so safe to shoot with suitable current ammo.

I have a letter from Ithaca to my Grandfather, dated 1949, re-affirming their guarantee on the springs. IT also says that "express" loads were neither desired nor needed, saying it was akin to "using a bulldozer to thread a needle".

The twist gun my Grandfather sold in 1909 blew up in the 1940s. Somewhere around a foot of the left barrel unraveled when it was fired. This is why I do not recommend shooting twist barrels, with anything, today.

You can do it, with the proper ammo, in relative safety, provided you always assume that the gun might fail on any shot, and prepare accordingly. I just don't think you should do it, even taking all the possible precautions. Your gun, your life, your choice. I wouldn't do it, but that's just me.

My Grandfather also loaded his own shells, back in the day. He told me he used DU PONT "Bulk" powder. It was loaded dram for dram as black powder. I have fired a few of those shells, years ago. I would call it "semi smokeless" powder. It has nearly all the smoke of black powder, but only a small amount of fouling compared to black powder. The powder in those shells looks like instant oatmeal, for both color and texture. Neat stuff, but not something one can get today, as far as I know.
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Old October 1, 2013, 06:00 PM   #25
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44 Amp, I love your shotgun's story. I'd like to see a picture of your Grandad's gun and as well as the OP's!
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