KINGFISH

damascus steel gun barrels

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O.K., I don't know much about forging and smithing, only what I've read here and there on the information highway. I'm mainly interested in damascus and have a question about it. I'm a 'gun nut' and think that the old double barreled shotguns with damascus barrels of yesteryear are BEAUTIFUL, unfortunately most of them are not capable of firing todays high pressure ammunition.
I was just wandering if with todays advancements in damascus, is it possible to create gun barrels and/or cylinders with it capable of handling todays high pressure ammo?

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Yes, there are some modern day manufactures that make barrels that are capable of handling the high pressures generated by modern powders. We recently had a lengthly discussion about this very subject and someone had a link to these modern Damascus wonders. You may want to do a search for it. :blink:
http://www.damasteel.com/pdf/newsletter2002-1.pdf and http://www.damasteel.com/images/Bosspipa_stor.jpg

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There is also the method of wrapping and welding the pattern welded material around a solid steel to create strong but beautiful barrels.

IIRC Jim Hrisoulas has done it that way before.

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I've been looking but I can't find any "lengthy" discussions on the topic. I already knew of damasteel but their process of making those barrels is complex and pattented. What I want to know is: can a smith forge a damascus barrel himself and it be capable of firing todays ammo?
From what I've read, the problem with the old damascus gun barrels are that they are weak from age, rusting between the layers, and corrosive ammo. So if that's what causes them not to be able to handle modern loads, wouldn't a newly forged damascus barrel be safe?

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The book FOXFIRE #5 has a large chapter on how to make gun barrels. If a person had enough Damascus made up I don't think that it would be a problem to weld up 2 pieces together. Kinda twist welded around a static pole.

about 10 bucks

http://www.amazon.com/Foxfire-5-Inc-Fund/dp/0385143087/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277492420&sr=8-1

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The other question is "Whose life are you going to bet on your forgewelds?"


That is why guns are "proofed" to a larger charge than they are used with. Either have it professionally proofed or consult an expert.

Phil

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Where are you I know of a couple of professional black powder makers a but north of me. I could get the contact info if you were interested. They make everything from the barrel to the lock.

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I remember a guy (MP me) who did some barrels the old way with actual tool steel and can't even think why it shouldn't work... And yes, it needs to be improoved over-loaded to be safe with regular loads...
Excuse my English, I'm French :P

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Had any MatSci? "Proofing" can introduce flaws that catastrophically fail later under repeated cycling at lower pressures.

I had one MatSci course that should have been titled "Things Break---and here's why" graphically illustrated with pieces of the "Oops" moments. One in particular was a high quality part that had to be certified where the certification stamp ended up propagating a stress riser into the part...Another was a pressure vessel that went through a concrete block wall right next to the Professor (do to a machining toolmark: it was ok at rated pressure but was then reused at a higher pressure for hydraulics and finally was re-used at *below* rated pressure where it failed catastrophically)

Most gun barrels are not made of high carbon steels---and for a reason! Making a pattern welded barrel out of tool steel would probably not be a good idea even if making one from a lower alloy pattern welded billet might work.

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Kingfish,
It might be possible to make a gun barrel with todays materials. I would definitely want to go to professionals to do so. There are many factors involved in just the selection of what materials to star with. Then the technique used to form the Damascus. The engineering research involved would be intensive. I would want a lot of NDE (non-destructive examinations) of both the material and final welded forms. Then there would be the "legal" tests of proofing the barrels. For someone to make one for you, there would be the liability issues also. If you made one for yourself, the question then would become are you expert enough (or have proper access to experts) to make one. Not something I would want to try. With the demand that has been present over the years for someone to produce the works of art that a Damascus barrel can be and still be function-able, if it could be done, one of the big gun manufactures would have done so. Since none of the high end companies will touch it I would question the risks of going it alone.

Make one for the wall. It would be a conversation piece for years.

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It's not the twist or the rust or corrosion. Quite simply Old damask twist barrels were made for black powder
Not modern propelants. Question is can ya forge weld that spiral strip at 110%. Had a school mate in the 60s
Determined to break 5,000 fps with his daddys 220 swift. Left hand has 2 fingers and 1/2 a thumb. If ya build one
use a looong pull string to touch it off.
Ken.

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I think that Bruce Lepage may still be around. He used to pattern weld barrels. He's either in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Bruce is an expert engraver and engraves the froes that are given to Alex Bealer Award recipients.

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Here is a thought for ya. there a lot of us old shooters would like to see twist barrels for modern powders. The mfg's woun't touch it. Any one here got the insurance to make them for sale? Should we use 1800S Tires on a 2000s roadster? I live by the rule. "Just cause ya can don't mean ya should"
Ken.

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I believe the main reason you don't see modern pattern welded shotgun barrels is the cost to manufacture. Damascus barrels are still being used in some circle for trap/skeet shooting. One of the magazines like Guns and Ammo, or Outdoor Life did an article on them. Winchester made a shotgun barrel that was a thin steel tube wrapped with a mile long fiberglass thread. They feel like a piece of paper they are so light.

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Hello all, new member. Here's what I know. My experience with damascus barrels are on the muzzleloader style, blackpowder. In their era, they had "patented" breeches-the breechplugs had a chamber that was smaller than the diameter of the barrel-for a couple of reasons. The first, it made the rear ends of the guns narrower, a good thing with doubles-Locks, especially flint, had a depth requirement for the internal springs. Second, the compression required to properly propel shot (and some solid projectiles), was easier to achieve if you only had to gas up a .40" tube section than a 12 gauge one wall to wall. Breeches were set to minimum powder charges expected, and made of fluid steel. So most of your pressures happened within a very heavy wall area. The issues came with corrosion-blackpowder is some caustic stuff, and even with cleaning, any voids made guns...questionable in their safety.

All of this being said, I have an 1820's Manton double on my drawing board-and am in need of 2 (possibly 3) sets of long, unchoked 20x20 or 18x18 gauge barrel pairs, unchoked, from donor guns, damascus with damascus ribs. One will stay shotgun barrels, one will have a shotgun barrel on one side, and a .50 rifle (linered of course). Prospective 3rd pair of barrels will be .50x.50 rifled, but not pushing my luck. Dyson of England has original unused tubes, if any of you are interested...but for a price.

Mark

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I know of a few Smith's who have built modern barrels for modern cartridges. The process is to wrap a pattern welded skin over a 4140 core and weld solid, then drill like a modern barrel. The Damascus is purely decorative and has no real effect on the barrel. Damascus barrels fell out of common use when powders started generating higher pressures, steel got better and finally,  high pressure rifle rounds came into use. The cost/safety issue was the end of them. Black powder in a traditional muzzle loader would represent a technology that Damascus has the capability to function with, but I dont think a straight up Damascus barrel could handle the 50,000+ cup most modern barrels are subjected to.

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Pattern welded gun barrels were abandoned when shooters stopped using gun powder as a propellant and started using,  a gun cotton and nitroglycerin mixtures.

The extra pressure, of those propellants, caused the pattern welded barrels to blow up.

Alfred Nobel invented ballistite.  (nitroglycerine with gun cotton (soluble), plus camphor as the chemical stabilizer" in 1887.

Abel and Dewar invented 'cordite', two years later which is a modified ballistite.*

Many shotgun cartridges still use gunpowder. They develop less pressure.

SLAG.

*Nobel sued both of them and lost the patent infringement suit. (because of sloppy claim drafting.) they were unnecessarily too narrow.

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The other difference between black powder and modern propellants is the pressure curve. With black powder it is more of a gentle curve, while modern propellants develop a sharper spike.

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Yah,

Modern propellents experience detonation. Black powder only undergoes deflagration. (the latter is less than the speed of sound.)

Thanks,

Big Gun ...

SLAG.

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I just make up black powder cartridges for my old damascus barreled 12 bore britch loader. The bloke who had it originally used modern smokeless in it and it held fine. As it is only proofed for black, that is all I use in it now. Black powder as stated  has a softer pressure curve than smokeless. There are some good vidieos on utube of gun makers a the williamsburg gun shop forging barrels from old buggy tyres. Quite fascinating as these two blokes made every last screw and part for this rifle by hand using period equipment. The barrel forging process was quite fascinating. 

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The gunsmith is the name of the video. It's on here. I watched it a month or so ago. I seen it as a boy. It's what got me into black powder rifles.

Pnut (Mike)

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On 6/25/2010 at 12:50 PM, KINGFISH said:

What I want to know is: can a smith forge a damascus barrel himself and it be capable of firing todays ammo?

No.

You can make your own barrels from damascus that will work with blackpowder.

Otherwise, wrap and forgeweld an existing modern barrel with damascus.  

The forgeweld is the weak link for modern high preasure barrels, as has been stated

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As I recall JPH did some barrels by wrapping and welding the pattern welded strip to a solid barrel worthy steel core and then had that bored out for a gun barrel and shocked a bunch of people shooting modern loads from the result...

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There was an article in a long ago Anvils Ring about this. I suspect that " Ring" most likely needs Rob Gunther to reface it by now.  ;)

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