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Old May 28, 2001, 10:53 AM   #1
sopwith21
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A family heirloom of mine needs identification. Its a double barrelled 12 ga. shotgun that we know is around 70 yrs old, and we believe to be well over 100 yrs old.

On the right side of the receiver/trigger group are the engraved words "Batavia, NY." On the left side it says Batavia Leader." Remove the left hand grip stock under the barrel, and "LLH" is engraved on the underside of the barrel itself, along with the serial number 80328.

Any help would be greatly appreciated, or any direction to any other web sites on this particular gun. Thank you!
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Old May 28, 2001, 01:28 PM   #2
SDC
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This shotgun was made by the Baker Gun and Forging Co. of Batavia, New York, sometime between 1889 and 1933; according to my books, this shotgun should have Damascus barrels, and WILL NOT be safe to fire with modern ammunition.
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Old May 28, 2001, 05:36 PM   #3
sopwith21
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Yoo Da Man!!

Wow! Way cool! Thanks for the info. Can you help me understand what "Damascus" barrels are? Also, I've already shot about 50 rounds of "low brass," low power field loads with no problem... am I just lucky? I didn't want to use high power shot in it. And does this gun have any significant value?

Thank you again for your help; I really appreciate it.
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Old May 28, 2001, 05:45 PM   #4
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Imagine my surprise when I saw your post. My wife is from Batavia NY!

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Old May 28, 2001, 06:01 PM   #5
Drundel
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I believe that Damascus is the way the barrels were made of the type of steel.

I would clean up the gun and make it a wall hanger. I don't remember any problems with low brass but you never know.
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Old May 28, 2001, 06:17 PM   #6
adept
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demascus is a type of steel. it is patterened as opposed to a "solid" type steel...it is used for a lot of custom knives these days because of the patterning.


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Old May 28, 2001, 06:22 PM   #7
SDC
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A Damascus barrel was made by taking long, straight strips of iron and/or steel, then slowly wrapping, pounding, and welding those strips around a rod of the right diameter. This left a really nice curlicue pattern on the barrels, but since the metal was of questionable strength to begin with, and you could never be sure that the metal was 100% joined along the whole length, these barrels could (and can) let go at any time. You've got the higher grade of shotgun that Baker made, so it would probably be best if you cleaned it up and left it as a nice heirloom, rather than shoot it. As for value, I don't specialize in shotguns, but it'll be worth whatever someone who wants one is willing to pay. (Helpful, huh?)
Stacey C.
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Old May 28, 2001, 08:03 PM   #8
Dave McC
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Baker shotguns enjoy a rep as one of the classics, and justly so. BUT.....

NO OLD SHOTGUN SHOULD BE FIRED WITH ANY AMM0 BEFORE BEING CHECKED OUT BY A COMPETENT SMITH!!!.

Shotguns and fragmentation grenades have about the same working pressures. There's been a fair amount of funerals over the years because some one threw a goose load into Great Uncle Zeke's duck gun, ca 1890 and fired off same.

Same applies to short chambers. There's many an old shotgun out there with a 2 1/2" or 2 9/16" chamber, and using a 2 3/4" load in them runs pressures up into grenade territory.

While some of the Vintagers use the old twist and Damascus steel bbled shotguns, they are checked out beforehand, oft reproofed, and they use very low pressure handloads and light charges.

If the smith OKs using the piece and it has 2 3/4" chambers, I'd stick with light loads.

And, Briley,etc, make sub gauge tubes so that SOME shotguns of older make can be worked over into a smaller gauge, like a 12 down to a 16, 16 to 20. Not cheap.
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Old May 28, 2001, 08:21 PM   #9
Al Thompson
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Look for this in Harley's forum.

Giz
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Old May 28, 2001, 08:30 PM   #10
Dfariswheel
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I'm a veteran of the 'old shotgun wars'. Older shotguns SHOULD NOT BE FIRED. I know, I know, your granddad, daddy and you have fired thousand of rounds without trouble. I know it's a high-grade gun. I know it's just as good as the day it was made. Question: How much is your eyesight, hands, and maybe life, WORTH. How much are the same things worth to a bystander.

My brother was going to buy a Remington double made in the early 1930's, a few years ago. I told him NO, don't do it.
He and the owner took it out for one last test fire. My brother told me the owner finished ripping me for 'dissing' a fine Remington, loaded 'er up, fired it, and the right-hand barrel blew out mid-way down the hand guard. Fortunatly he was holding it with his hand against the receiver. A piece of steel about 4 inches long by 3/4" peeled back and was literally hanging by a 'thread'. If it had come free, it would have gotten him square in the right eye. he got some fragments in the face and a nice cut from the peeled section. Suddenly, I wasn't so stupid any more.

Over the years I've seen a number of guns blow, and it AIN'T funny, even when nobody gets hurt.
No gun is worth your life. Hang the old ones over the mantle.
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Old May 28, 2001, 10:13 PM   #11
Mike Irwin
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The big problem with Damascus-welded barrels isn't the steel itself, which is usually more than adequate, it's the welds BETWEEN the steel.

Hammer welds, to begin with, aren't known for their great strength. There's a lot of incorporated slag and voids, which means even with a new barrel there are a lot of "weak" spots.

In and of itself, and with very low pressure ammo, that's usually not a problem.

But, given that many of these guns started out life being used with black powder, the by corrosion-causing by products of which often get into the voids and are virtually impossible to remove, and that the welding flux often used was highly acidic, the barrels begin to weaken almost from the day they are made.

I've personally witnessed several very nice looking Damascus guns that have had holes develop along the welds due to years of corrosion.

I've also seen a set of barrels on a very high-end for its time shotgun tested with an air pressure device pumping colored smoke into the plugged barrels.

The left barrel had 4 "jetters" as the tester called them where colored smoke was coming out, while the right barrel had ELEVEN!

My old gunsmith up in Pennsylvania had a single-barrel Damascus shotgun that someone had brought him hanging over his work bench for public view.

The shooter had apparently tried it with newly made Winchester pheasant loads, which resulted in a very unique looking partially unwound barrel.

That's a long way of saying, don't shoot a Damascus shotgun.

Interestingly enough, you'll still find very high end Damascus shotguns that were made well in to the 1920s. Even though fluid steel was common, a Damascus barrel was much more desirable, and a lot more expensive, because of the extra work that went into it and because of the patterns that a master barrelsmith could forge into the barrel.
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Old May 28, 2001, 11:15 PM   #12
James K
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Great posts! I will add one point. The strips which were used to make Damascus barrels were not all steel, but were twisted from smaller strips of steel and iron. It is this difference in metals that gives the barrels their patterns, but obviously iron is even less strong than steel.

Jim
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Old May 29, 2001, 02:04 AM   #13
Mike Irwin
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Jim,

Actually, from what I understand that actually depends on the vintage of the gun.

Apparently later American Damascus barrels used all steel, just varying grades, which were then treated with acid baths and staining solutions to really enhance the differences.
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Old May 29, 2001, 05:12 PM   #14
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Some years ago my mother-in-law found an old shotgun under the bed of her 94 year old uncle who was being moved from his bay area home to hers in Santa Barbara after no longer being able to care for himself alone. Following his passing on some two years later, she asked me if I wanted the gun. If not she was going to "throw it in the trash." I said "Sure, I'll take it off your hands." The piece was identified as a "New Baker" .12 ga. manufactured in 1880 by the Baker Bros. of Batavia, NY.; a SBS with Damascus barrels and exposed hammers. One breaks it open by pushing one of the triggers forward. I carefully stripped, cleaned and oiled it.

Wanting to shoot it, I called the folks at Martin B. Retting, a local gun dealer and gunsmithing outfit here in L.A., and asked how I might go about doing so. The gunsmith's reply was, "Are you right handed or left handed?" "Left handed when shooting a rifle or shotgun," I said. To which came his retort, "Then you'll blow your left hand off." He advise against shooting the gun at all. It is a "wall hanger," and the only non shootable gun I own.

The Blue Book of Gun Values 21st Ed. values it at $225 in 90% condition. But there are Cowboy Action and SASS folks who collect these old shotguns and, depending on condition, might pay quite a bit more.
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Old May 29, 2001, 08:18 PM   #15
Clead
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Does this mean that I have to worry about my 1917 Model 12? Or are vintage standard steel barrels OK to shoot? I don't intend on putting anything crazy thru it, but I do want to shoot some target loads at the skeet range. What's the scoop?
Thanks,
Clead.
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Old May 29, 2001, 09:34 PM   #16
Mike Irwin
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Clede,

To the best of my knowledge, all Model 12s used fluid steel barrels, meaning you don't have to worry about the barrel TOO much.

Now, the steel on these old guns was softer than todays, and not as strong.

Have it checked out by a good gunsmith, but my guess would be that it will be absolutely fine to use with moderate loads.

There is a SLIGHT possibility that it could have 2 9/16th" chambers, but I doubt that. I'm pretty certain they had dropped out of production by 1917.

Absolutely NO steel shot!
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