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I Forge Iron

damascus steel gun barrels

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  • 2 months later...

Quite a few years ago I remember reading in one of the gun magazines about an 8 gauge double barrel that some gunsmith in England put together. If I remember right he obtained a set of Damascus barrels that were made in the late 1800's. The smith made the complete gun except for the barrels. His work was superb, I just wish that I could remember his name. Anyhow he proofed it for smokeless powder. I remember him stating that at 50 yds. he could flip a truck tire .

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  • 1 year later...

Some first hand observations of Damascus forging.

Our shop is in it's fifth generation of smiths, with our founder serving a 20 year apprenticeship at an English firearms company in the 1800s. He was fully trained in making these barrels and he passed along his skills to his son and so on. Third generation smith learned these skills but knew, and felt, he did not have sufficient experience to assure a properly made barrel. Our fourth generation, my boss, revisited learning to make these barrels and feels he is reasonably competent though he is fully aware he lacks the experience of his predecessors.

I've watched my boss make 3 barrels and remake a fourth one. It becomes immediately obvious why the exploding barrel fear is so common. I'm mega meticulous when doing normal gunsmithing. It can easily take me an hour or more to do a set up in the boring lathe the bosses can do in 15 minutes. But the level of detail and meticulousness my boss undertook to assure the forge welds were flawless left me in the dust. It reminded me a lot of the descriptions of Japanese sword masters who may only make 10 or 15 swords their entire lifetime. I personally wouldn't even consider making such barrels. Spending over a thousand hours easily, the perfect temperature, the perfect surface coatings, the precise pressure, and the endless repetition and annealings.


The bottom line is there is no place in proper firearms, in making or firing, where 'probably' enters the picture. Modern powders and loads should never be used, unless you like walking on the wild side.

My boss's axiom: "If it isn't in the exact same condition after 5,000 rounds through it, it's a slop job."

Me? just made a 12 inch group, 10 rounds, 1500 yards. Maybe I should quit while I'm ahead. It took me all totaled 3 1/2 years to make that gun.

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11 hours ago, Walking Crow said:

The bottom line is there is no place in proper firearms, in making or firing, where 'probably' enters the picture.

One reason that I continue to resist the entreaties of the kids across the way to make them a cannon.

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What Thomas said. A bit more detail. The difference in combustion between black powder and smokeless is the problem. Simply said black powder does a slow burn ad it travels down the barrel. Smokeless does a complete burn when ignited. Thus there is far more initial preasure with smokeless than black powder.

Thus it's very dangerous using damascus for smokeless powder barrels.

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Also I seem to remember a LA motorcycle custom chop shop that had a tv show did this as well. For modern powder I would say this is the best way also a well known smith "back in the day" did this and did a couple articles in "the Ring".

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