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Shooting with Damascus Twist Barrels

Discussion in 'Shooting Related Threads' started by pdq, Feb 26, 2009.

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  1. pdq

    pdq Member

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    I have an 1889 P grade Parkers Brothers 12 guage SxS with Damascus Twist barrels. I've owned it for almost 30 years but I've never shot it, as I was told that the barrels would explode given they weren't designed for the sudden pressures created by smokeless powder. Further, they would explode right about where my left hand held the forend. The gun (while used, as witnessed by the somewhat smooth checkering) is mechanically in great shape, barrels are very bright, etc.

    I read an article in a magazine the other day where they were shooting game with a series of 19th century shotguns, including ones with Damascus barrels using modern smokeless powder shells.

    Anyone have any experience shooting factory ammo through guns like this? My option would be to send it to Briley and have a pair of 20 guage steel tubes made for it, but based on my conversation with them, it's not inexpensive.

    In advance, many thanks for any advice.

    Pete
     
  2. Savage99Stan

    Savage99Stan Active Member

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    Don't shoot smokeless regardless of what anyone tells you. Use only black powder, pyrodex, or triple 7. I'd consider getting it magnafluxed before even shooting it then.
     
  3. K-80 Jim

    K-80 Jim TS Member

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    Not worth the risk involved, don't shoot it!
     
  4. timb99

    timb99 Well-Known Member

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    There are people who shoot these types of guns with very low pressure loads like Winchester FeatherLites.

    Would I, if I were you and this were my gun?

    No. Why take the risk?

    Damascus barrels are beautiful. Keep them that way.

    Buy some Briley Companion Tubes in 20 or 28 gauge if you REALLY MUST shoot it.
     
  5. KK

    KK TS Member

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    There are a lot of beautiful Damascus barreled double barrel guns being used in Great Britain today. There was a very good article published in Double Gun Journal in the last year or so that put both Damascus and steel barreled guns through a burst test. These guns were both Parkers of relatively poor quality but sound. The loads used were of increasingly higher pressures and they were all loaded identically. Both guns gave up at the same time, at a very high pressures under identical conditions. I would imagine that you could find copies of those articles at the Library. My point is that given the use of loads with reasonable pressures, I would not be concerned about shooting any well cared for Damascus gun. The Brits keep pressures down in all their ammunition so using one of the name brand English loads would also be a wise choice if you don't reload. I have shot numerous American made Damascus barreled guns including Ithaca, Baker, and Parkers with no trouble. All barrels were checked for thin spots and mechanically inspected by a gunsmith. The point of the article in DG Journal is that Damascus is getting a bad rap and the author has testing proof that they are being unfairly maligned. I believe, beautiful, good conditioned, old weapons should be shot and enjoyed. Given a gun that has been well cared for and the barrels of proper thickness there is absolutely no reason why all old guns should be relegated to wall hanger status. I have been shooting them personally for 20 years and having a lot of fun finding out what my dad had to do to get dinner or break a target. Just use your head. Kirby Kelley
     
  6. BILL GRILL

    BILL GRILL Well-Known Member

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    I have seen damacsus barrels with nitro proof marks on the bottom of the barrels. Kirby gave you good info. Go to doublegunshop.com and get on their discussion board and ask the question, you will get knowledgeable replies not old wives tales. Bill
     
  7. btsteve

    btsteve TS Member

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    Try these guys and links for good information.
    www.casidebysidesociety.com
    SXS are Way Fun. Steve
     
  8. gun fitter

    gun fitter TS Member

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    Damascus is fine if the barrels are in good shape; for any that have pitting nomatter how small inside or out I would pass on shooting them.

    Either way if your considering shooting then i would have them looked at by a smith with experience in British guns.

    Joe
     
  9. Shooting Coach

    Shooting Coach Well-Known Member

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    Going on advice by professionals, please let others know if you are going to shoot such a firearm on the line so they can make the choice whether or not to be on the line with you.

    Ammo and gun makers warn not to shoot them. This is for reducing civil liability.

    If the guns were safe, there would be no issues of civil liability.

    I have seen such barrels in good shape pressurized and submerged in a water tank.

    Such barrels are porous and leak high pressure air.

    Get your gun tubed and enjoy it.
     
  10. sxs28ga

    sxs28ga TS Member

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    I agree with Bill - DGJ excellent sourse of info - D barrels can be shot, but do your homework J Mroczka
     
  11. halfmile

    halfmile Well-Known Member

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    Twist and Damascus are 2 different things. Damascus is the higher quality. IF you have a twist barrel definitely do not shoot it.

    As others state here, consult a guru.

    HM
     
  12. BILL GRILL

    BILL GRILL Well-Known Member

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    Another bit of info. They did not quite making damacus barrels because of a strength or safety issue it was COST prohibitive.
     
  13. Bridger

    Bridger Member

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    I remember the article Kirby referred to in his post. The author tested a number of old, well worn guns and used Remington proof loads rated at 19000 PSI.After several firings not one of them blew up and these were not pretty guns. Essentially you are asking the wrong people here. Go on doublegunshop.com and talk to the sxs folks who do this regularly and have the experience to give you an answer as to what can be safely used in your gun.
     
  14. Savage99Stan

    Savage99Stan Active Member

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    Twist or Damascus barrels were made by hand (or machine) forging alternate strips of iron and steel around a mandrel. Some of the strips were twisted as they were forged/welded. Dissimilar metals have a tendency to oxidize more than similar metals when welded together.

    Ask yourself, "Do I want to trust something made of old horseshoe nails welded together with 10,000 psi inside it next to my face?"

    I've shot quite a few, my old uncle's market 10 ga, several original muzzle loaders, and a few breechloaders including Parkers, LCs and Bakers. Each and every one I fired first while it was held in a tire and pulled off with a string, the breech and barrels wrapped with paper. That said, I was never totally confident in their safety. Always, always loaded with a coarse grade of black powder, usually 1F, which produces about half the pressure of even the lightest loads of smokeless.

    Your face, your choice. I discount what people assure me is o.k. when dealing with safety and it isn't their lives on the line.
     
  15. Jim Porter

    Jim Porter Well-Known Member

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    I do shoot these guns too. I have read the Double Gun articles and they are excellent. Two things though. One- No one made comment about chamber length. Most of these guns were for shorter shells and all had roll crimps that made the overall length shorter. I have mine lengthened to a 2 3/4 equavilent length. This can cause an added pressuer problem. Two - obviously you don't intend to use these as primary guns that thousands of rounds will go through. Have some fun. Get some Federal papers and fiber wads from circle Fly, some black powder and make a few boxes of SAFE shells and go have a BALL. I dove &duck(Bismuth shot) hunt with one of these and had taken turkeys as well. About 27.5gr ffg = one dram equavelent. 90gr with 1 1/8 of 7.5 and you have a very near 1200fps load that is very mild. Remember ANY black powder load is far less pressure than even the lightest smokeless load. Don't let cleaning hold you back. These are much easier to clean than rifles. The poster above said he wanted to used what did used---well dad used black powder.
    These guns have an appeal like nothing else in the sporting world.
     
  16. Savage99Stan

    Savage99Stan Active Member

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    Good post Jim. I recall an old American Arms double I shot at the Wisc. state blackpowder shoot. Kicked harder than its twin. I only fired two shots as I saw that the paper shells, when removed had not opened up all the way...short chambers.
     
  17. wm rike

    wm rike Member

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    There's a lot of opinion on Damascus/twist barrels, but not too much fact.

    We know that Damascus was considered higher quality than twist because its manufacutre was more involved and costly, but to my knowledge there is no definitive evidence that one is stronger than the other. Damaascus looks nicer and the manufacturers could charge more. The marketing guys knew they had to say something more substantial than, "It's prettier."

    The Brits regularly nitro-proof damascus barrels, so there must be some inherent strength in the stuff. Remington nitro-proofed their damascus/twist barrels after about 1900.

    Chamber length. You need to poke around at this one a while. When chambers were made for brass hulls the forceing cones tended to be very short. It is not a hard and fast rule, but cones got a bit longer with the advent of the thicker-walled paper hulls. The bottom line is that if you put a 2.75" paper hull in a short chamber, the mouth of the hull may impinge on the working bore diameter. However, today's plastic hulls have very thin mouths, about 4-5 mils, and even in short chambers the thin mouths will open up in the forcing cone area to something larger than the nominal bore diameter. But you gotta' know the profile of the forcing cone area.

    Years ago I was regularly magna-fluxing and x-raying damascus/twist barrels - a lot of them. At some point I realized that the bottom line was the procecces weren't telling me much. Today I do a good visual inspection of the dry bore after having cleaned it of all gunk and oil. A little oil in the barrel will hide a lot of flaws. Spotless bores pass, as do ones with only the very faintest pitting.

    My observation has been that a lot of damascus/twist barrels are overbored. Some think this was some sort of a factory option, but I am of the opinion that it was a regularly offered gunsmithing service to clean up bores that had sustained pitting. If the bores are over gauge you need to inspect even more closely and test for wall thickness.

    Lastly, some fact. Check out the superlative articles by Sherman Bell in the Double Gun Journal. Bell's stuff is required reading. If you have questions about black vs. smokeless powder (which he rightly refers to as the modern black powder substitute), chamber length, or anything else, he answers it.
     
  18. SeldomShoots

    SeldomShoots Active Member

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    pdq, I have heard of people using PB powder in 7/8 and 1 ounce light low speed loads, 1050 to 1145 fps, configurations, with no malfuntions or blow ups, in Damascus barrels. However, this is a delicate area and your cannot replace a hand, fingers facial features or eyes very easily or inexpensively. Accordingly, as stated by others, you probably shouldn't do it or do it with extreme caution and care with an understanding that your loads would have to be extremely soft.

    I think timb99's suggestion of using a 20 gauge briley tube set is the best if you want to try to shoot trap with it and use a standard 7/8 or 1 ounce loads. I have shot 1 and 1/8 ounce loads out of briley 20 gauge tubes in modern proofed guns with no damage to the tube or chamber.


    John E.
     
  19. gold40

    gold40 Member

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    While each person needs to make his own choice, I do shoot my quality SxS's with damascus and twist barrels using low-pressure smokeless hand loads. Both PB and #7625 powder work well at about 4,000 to 5,000 psi. Currently I'm shooting a LC Smith, a Remington 1900 and a Baker with these light loads. No problems.

    gold40
     
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