Why You Should Stay Away from Damascus Barrels
Blackpowder has been used for proofing barrels exclusively in the U. K. until fairly recently. It is well-known and well-documented, and was the subject of much discussion when the "then-new" Rules of Proof 1954 were released. See:
Goex / Hodgdon considers all Damascus guns unsafe.
From: Clark Towle Gunsmith
Subject: Re: Damascus-barrelled Shotguns
#Everytime someone writes to the gun rags about a Damascus-barrelled
#shotgun, he is told not to shoot it.
For good reason... They tend to come apart like a cheap suit.
#Do Damascus-barrelled shotguns weaken with age, or were they not a
#good idea to begin with? Could someone shoot low-powered loads (either
#factory or handloads) through such a shotgun?
Yes. Age and corrosion within the laminates causes microscopic structural
failures that actually de-laminates the steel. Damascus because of the
dissimilar metals in contact with each other is sort of like a battery. A bit
of moisture penetrates the layers of lamination and electrolytic corrosion
begins to separate and weaken them. This in combination with the corrosive
properties of black powder and the use of water to clean the barrels plus the
advanced age of the shotgun sets the stage for disaster.
Additionally there is usually no warning that the barrels are about to let
go. And when it does happen, it happens quite violently. I personally know a
gentleman who lost part of his left hand and nearly lost an eye while
shooting "low power black powder" loads he brewed up for a beautiful old Colt
made damascus barreled side by side shotgun. I advised him not to do it but
he went ahead and shot it anyhow. Now he is paying the price.
Why Damascus welded barrels were doomed by their very nature is discussed here.
Jack O'Connor wrote:
"A good many people resent being told that their much loved old guns were no longer safe. Just for the fun of it, Lou Smith (President of Ithaca Gun Co.) proofed (using 17,500 psi Proof Loads in 1942) a dozen or so damascus and twist beauties which were lying around the plant. Here's the dope: Most of the old timers busted loose with the first proof shell. The rest did with the second. Guns tried were cheap, medium priced and expensive: but all of them went. So if anyone wants to go ahead using modern smokeless stuff in a gun built for black powder, he can; but he can include me out." -- Jack O'Connor, 1942.
There was a fairly recent lawsuit against an ammunition manufacturer. The customer was told that no, there was no guarantee that the ammunition was safe in his gun unless the individual went through appropriate and costly testing.
The owner then decided to do his own "proof-testing," firing seven rounds with his gun in a fixture.
The eighth shot was from his shoulder. The gun failed, and the shooter lost his left arm in the incident. He sued. He lost his lawsuit.
"Safety First, and then have a good hunt!"
Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.