Bridge Gun Company "Black Prince"
I've been trying to find out more information about my "Black Prince" .410 shotgun marked; Bridge Gun Company . I did a search of this and other sites but didn't find much of anything, so here I am.
Below is all I've been able to find.
The Bridge Gun Company never existed. It was a trade name used by Shapleigh Hardware of St Louis on guns made by Crescent, Harrington & Richardson, Stevens, and several Belgian gun makers.
The "Belgian Laminated Steel" suggests that it was made in that country, and the crowned-oval-ELG* mark shows for certain that it was proof-tested there sometime after 1893. The import of these hardware store guns pretty much ended with the start of WWI, so you can say it is a century old, +/- a decade.
My "Black Prince" and it is great .410 and still shoots with the best of them.
Does anyone have any more information on this model?
I would like to find out, via s/n how old this particular gun is.
"Belgian Laminated Steel" means the barrel is twist or damascus steel. Those barrels are generally considered to be unsafe with modern loads.
You've done well with your research and probably know as much as you are likely to learn. This is a 'contract gun' and dating them other than production periods is nearly impossible.
"The "Belgian Laminated Steel" suggests that it was made in that country..." It means the barrels were made in Belgium, not necessarily the gun. The companies you listed were known to make low-end guns and barrels were often imported because they were cheaper. The proof mark only means it was proofed with something but the mark can tell you what it was proofed with and that's important.
To add to DC's warning, it is likely that a .410 of this age might be chambered for the 2" shell, maybe the 2 1/2", which would increase the danger of using 3" shells in it! Laminated or damascus barrels are strange animals, some being very strong and some not. They may fire hundreds or thousands of shells before they give way so past preformance means nothing! I would strongly encourage you to have the gun checked by a knowledgable gunsmith and follow his advise, for your safety and those around you.
I did a little looking, and all I can add is one mor caution. Your gun was proofed for Black Powder, not Smokess.
The description of the “Crowned ELG*” Proofmark:: <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
[b]Introduced to designate arms in conformity of German Proof Law of 1891. It now represents definitive Black Powder Proof except for muzzleloaders.
410 black Prince
I have 410 black Prince by bridge company as well here that a friend gave. With it there was a paper clipping worth gun about it that is ashame that I maybe lost. I did get to read before lost it but was some time ago. I thought maybe it said the gun was made in 1892 but several said that couldn't be right. I know article in paper mentioned that year and dad told me that maybe was year of company or something. Going to keep eye out and see if can find that paper clipping as would be nice to have with the gun too. Just shot yesterday evening, gun is really great.
I will reiterate that you are taking at least some risk in shooting your gun. Damascus steel barrels were made in a wide range of quality, ranging from barely able to meet proof standards with blackpowder loads to a quality and strength that would match any modern steel barrel. Generally speaking, as with many other things, you got what you paid for -- and keep in mind, "hardware store guns" often sold brand-new for no more than 2 or 3 dollars. Even allowing for 120 years of inflation, they were inexpensive guns to begin with.
Complicating matters further is the ammo they originally fired. Damscus steel, by its very nature, contains millions of microscopic seams, cracks, and voids -- the cheaper the barrel, the more of these it has. Ammo loaded with BP and mercuric primers produces fouling that is highly corrosive to steel. Unless these guns were meticulously cleaned after every use through the years, it is very possible that fouling residing in these flawed spots has weakened the structure of the barrel. You may get away with firing many, many smokeless rounds in your gun with no trouble and then, without the slightest warning, find it flying apart in your face.
In England, thousands of fine Damascus-barreled shotguns are still in use; but, England has the advantage of having a government proof house. A blackpowder shotgun can be sent in and proof-tested for smokeless loads, and if it passes it can be considered as strong as any modern gun. In the US, we don't have such facilities, and you are essentially proof-testing the gun every time you pull the trigger.
I am not saying don't shoot your gun; I am saying, though, that if I am standing near you when you are shooting I would appreciate knowing you are shooting a Damascus gun unproofed for smokeless so I can keep my distance.
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