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I have an old single shot 12 ga. modified choke shotgun that I believe my grandfather bought new. It was originally purchased around 1900 and designed to shoot black powder cartridges. I would like to find out more of its history, but there are no markings on the gun. It is a typical takedown model with the fore stock removed, allowing the barrel to be removed from the stock. Each of the three pieces is stamped with the number "74". No other markings. Does anyone have any ideas?
 

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This is sort of like asking, "I saw a girl today, really pretty brunette, maybe 5'2" tall. Anyone know her name?" Post some pictures showing as much detail as possible and maybe someone can help. But don't get your hopes up; in that era, many, many tens of thousands of "hardware store" shotguns were made and sold by manufacturers both domestic and foreign, and precise ID is often impossible.
 

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I'm having trouble attaching any photos to this site. I did found another document in my relics and its a possibility that the gun was purchased from John P. Lovell Arms Co. in Boston, Ma.
 

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I'm having trouble attaching any photos to this site. I did found another document in my relics and its a possibility that the gun was purchased from John P. Lovell Arms Co. in Boston, Ma.

Not much help. They were a turn-of-the-century (1890s) wholesaler who sold thousands of domestic and imported shotguns. Put photos in to a site like Photobocket, and then you can post image links here. Try to show any proofmarks you may find on barrels or the frame.
 

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Now does this shotgun have a Demasscus barrel on it? If so I would not even think about trying to shoot this gun. :eek: :( You just hang it up and look at the weapon instead.;) :)
 

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Now does this shotgun have a Demasscus barrel on it? If so I would not even think about trying to shoot this gun. :eek: :( You just hang it up and look at the weapon instead.;) :)
In England, Damascus-barreled antique shotguns are in common use -- BUT, they have a government proof-house where you can send them to be tested for barrel integrity. Here, we have no proof-house, and most Damascus guns found are of the cheap hardware store variety which, in truth, weren't all that well made to begin with -- in period catalogues, you will see them advertised for as little as a couple of dollars!

If you have a top-quality English or Belgian Damascus double it may well be safe to use with blackpowder loads (still available), or even with smokeless field loads, but it should be in excellent condition AND checked out by a real double-gun expert, at least, before trying it. Even a Damascus barrel that looks to be excellent can contain hidden fatal flaws. Wall-hanging is the proper role for one you don't KNOW is safe.
 

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In England, Damascus-barreled antique shotguns are in common use -- BUT, they have a government proof-house where you can send them to be tested for barrel integrity. Here, we have no proof-house, and most Damascus guns found are of the cheap hardware store variety which, in truth, weren't all that well made to begin with -- in period catalogues, you will see them advertised for as little as a couple of dollars!

If you have a top-quality English or Belgian Damascus double it may well be safe to use with blackpowder loads (still available), or even with smokeless field loads, but it should be in excellent condition AND checked out by a real double-gun expert, at least, before trying it. Even a Damascus barrel that looks to be excellent can contain hidden fatal flaws. Wall-hanging is the proper role for one you don't KNOW is safe.
Late and well designed damascus barrels were perfectly safe for modern smokeless cartridges of the length for which they were designed, if they received British, Belgian or one or two other European nations' government approved smokeless proofmarks. Remember than pressures were a lot more liable to variation between batches of the early smokeless powders. If it was used with smokeless long ago, it has probably experienced severe pressures at times.

The trouble is, are they in original condition? Any old shotgun barrel may have been refinished on the outside and bored or lapped on the inside, to remove pitting. Fairly late Belgian ones may have the bore dimensions in mm. and a weight for the barrel assembly stamped on the flats, which seems like a very sensible idea.

But with damascus barrels there is another danger. Damascus wasn't drastically weak as regards rupturing. (A steel shotgun barrel could be made thin as paper near the muzzle, and the reason it isn't is to avoid dents and buckling.) But damascus has a low elastic limit, and bulges more easily than plain steel. A gunsmith can reduce bulges (or dents) to become invisible. But if they were larger than is wise to treat this way, there may well be hidden cracks in the tiny welds with which it is made up.

Most of them were chambered for 2.5in. cartridges, and there is some danger in using them with 2.75 inch ones. The difference in intended pressure may not be great enough to strain a good gun, if unmixed with other factors. But if the opening of the case crimp is constrained by end of the chamber, the shot and wads may have to be forced out through an orifice smaller than either case interior or bore. This is going to happen at just the spot where the tapering barrel is weakened by the front of the chamber, too.
 

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I shoot around 20 to 22 full driven days a year and up to my buying a new 410, I have used an Army & Navy 16 gauge with Damascus barrels every year since 1984. The gun was made just after the turn of the last century and was originally black powder. However when I took possession a gunsmith advised it was so well made it would 90% certainly pass nitro proofing, which it did. I shoot standard 2 1/2" 7/8 ounce #5 game loads and it is a joy to use.
Our proof houses are not government run, but are independent. Google Birmingham Proof House for the whole story.
They will not only proof guns but will for a relatively small charge test a batch of your reloads for you as well.
If you are ever over here , then a visit is recommended and they have a great museum as well.
There is a minimum number required for a guided tour(4) so if you do get over and need extras let me know, it can be arranged.
 

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I shoot around 20 to 22 full driven days a year and up to my buying a new 410, I have used an Army & Navy 16 gauge with Damascus barrels every year since 1984. The gun was made just after the turn of the last century and was originally black powder. However when I took possession a gunsmith advised it was so well made it would 90% certainly pass nitro proofing, which it did. I shoot standard 2 1/2" 7/8 ounce #5 game loads and it is a joy to use.
Our proof houses are not government run, but are independent. Google Birmingham Proof House for the whole story.
They will not only proof guns but will for a relatively small charge test a batch of your reloads for you as well.
If you are ever over here , then a visit is recommended and they have a great museum as well.
There is a minimum number required for a guided tour(4) so if you do get over and need extras let me know, it can be arranged.


So-called black powder proof means different things at different periods. Before 1896 there was no such thing - only "proof", although the early smokeless shotgun powders, beginning before they were usable in rifles, were quite well known. Between 1896 and 1906 there was a black powder proof which was optional, and plenty of gunmakers still went for the old definitive proof. .

Guns unsuitable for smokeless powder were still made, at the cheap end of the market, although in the case of Britain and Belgium, if they were unabused, I think this would mean rapid loosening up, rather than fragmentation. Probably they benefited from the fact that black powder was still the commonest and cheapest propellant, and people who went for a cheap gun were unlikely to go for expensive innovation in the ammunition department.

It is a great pity we will never know the names of the anonymous firms in the Birmingham trade, from whom the Army and Navy Stores bought in guns just as good as those of many famous gunmakers. You might be interested in the enormous 1910 Army and Navy catalogue, which is available on the used book market (never cheaply, unfortunately) reprinted as "Yesterday's Shopping". I'm thousands of miles from mine at the moment, but remind me if you would like me to check on any details, since I think I remember damscus guns in it. My sidelock Gibbs, although it has steel barrels, is probably an 1890s gun. But I don't believe there have been any significant improvements in function and strength of double shotguns since then. Chopper-lump barrels came later, but the lumps don't actually fall off those of dovetailed and brazed construction, and it does allow the use of two different steels for lumps and barrels.
 

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Thanks John. The original markings just indicated BP proof but I am certain the gentleman I purchased the gun from maybe shot standard modern 16 gauge shells as I do not believe he was the original owner as he would have been born about the same time the gun was made. Possibly his fathers gun handed down. A number of 'experts' have handled and admired the gun over the years and given views as to who actually made it. It is certainly a Birmingham made gun. The last person to look at it pointed to a small screw on the left hand side of the action, which he said had influence over how the internal parts worked and this indicated the make without any doubt. I include a photograph of the gun. Just for a bit of fun, can you make an informed guess at manufacture?
I would indeed like to know more of the history of the gun and will look up the book you describe. Many thanks.
I love it and it would probably be the last thing I would sell after the dog and the wife :D
 

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Not every dog or wife is that lucky. That is a very nice gun, and I'm sorry to take so long replying, but I haven't been back here in a while.

My first reaction was to think it was something I haven't seen in several decades, namely the Walker gun. This is one of the very few so-called hammerless guns which really doesn't have concealed hammers. Rather bulky strikers are powered by vertically oriented V-springs, and the sears, rather long, are pivoted where your screw is, and extend back under the top tang of the action.

I don't think a straight Walker design is what you have, though. The Walker had only a round cocking push-rod extending through a hold in the front of the action body, weakening it much less than the slots for mainsprings, cocking levers and front of the hammers which most boxlocks require. But you have the ordinary transverse pivot screws for the hammer (itself considered a source of weakness, though an action is liable to tear along the dotted line only if something else is wrong), and for the cocking lever.

The most likely thing is that you have Walker-type sears, acting on notches in the top of conventional hammers. It isn't a bad idea. The further from the pivot of the hammers these notches are, the less the force acting on them. They would have less tendency to wear, and a light but reliable trigger pull would be obtainable. I think the safety would require less wood to be removed from the stock, too.

Another feature I find very interesting, although I have no idea where it comes from, is the black piece of metal dovetailed into the underside of the doll's head barrel extension. Unless I am mistaken about its function, it is a stop and guide for the extractor. This should enable the gun to dispense with one out of two extractor-leg holes, eliminating the weakening one between the barrels, and the screw-hole between the lumps into the lower leg which usually retains it.

Very few features of shotguns, though, are conclusive evidence of who made them. Patents last fourteen years, and after that anyone can use an invention freely. Almost all side by side doubles, for example, use the Purdey double-bite sliding underbolt. Yours also has the Westley Richards doll's head extension, but it is neither a Westley Richards nor a Purdey, and least of all is it both at once.

Clearly the Army and Navy didn't buy their guns in from anonymous hacks. I would guess that this contractor very likely had retail premises in Birmingham, and sold guns under his own name.

I believe I will drive my car today, and almost certainly get away with it, although I have known a couple of people who got killed that way. That is more than anyone, except perhaps the coroner for a very large rural area, is likely to say of shotgun bursts. Sir Gerald Burrard investigated something over 600 shotgun bursts, including only one which had caused serious injury. He also found that bursts through weakness or overpressure lacked the appearance of violence characterising those caused by obstructions. The place where a burst is most likely to cause harm is where the metal is thinned by the conjunction of tapering outside and front end of the chamber on the inside, and that is somewhere both a dent and the raising of a dent are unlikely.
 

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Until someone finds a way of effectively non-destructive testing Damascus steel barrels I will NOT be shooting any. Dye penetrant from the outside doesn't test the most likely source of problems. As far as shooting thousands of rounds successfully, reminds me of one of those skydivers who perished, and had over 1,200 jumps to their credit before the unsuccessful one. If you enjoy it, more power to you.
 

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I've arrived home and consulted my Army and Navy catalogue, which is actually 1907, and a quite fascinating 4in. thick book. Any Imperial civil servant told to annexe the Upper Niger at once would have been fully equipped after a pleasant walk from Whitehall.

As you would expect at that date, it shows no damascus barrelled shotguns, and I would think Sus's gun comes from the 1890s or perhaps even 80s. A range of inexpensive shotguns from 16 bore downwards may show The Screw, since the illustrations are unclear. The only one that certainly does, though, is a 6lb. 12 bore "youths' gun", priced at £12 - 10/- (twelve pounds ten shillings, or £12.50 in this degenerate age.) Personally I doubt whether a gun so light, for the standard cartridge rather than the 2in. for which light 12 bores were sometimes chambered, would be the best choice to give a boy, for reasons of recoil.) For comparison their best sidelock cost 45 guineas, itself a useful saving on the celebrated West End gunmakers, and my Army and Navy .250 single rook rifle cost £8 or £10 according to finish.

As there is a range of boxlocks almost identical except for that screw, I would guess that youths' gun to be an end of line. All of them are very similar in style to yours, except that they have the drop point woodword, at the rear of the flats which duplicate those of a sidelock. I've never liked that, as it serves no purpose and shows wear badly when the gun has been handled for its first century.

I feel entirely safe from the blandishments of teenaged nymphettes who would lure me to my fall. For one thing they hardly ever do. I think many a person's aversion to damascus barrels would fade if a good one offered itself.

Just about any shotgun, damascus included, is built with much more thickness in the forward part of the barrels than is necessary to withstand the intended pressure. Barrels you could cut up with a pair of scissors would do that job. The extra thickness, when such light weight would be priceless, is to resist denting, and raised dents, possibly cracking welds and admitting rust into the barrel, are the principle weakness of damascus.

But it isn't as much weakness as all that. WW Greener, writing in the smokeless age, describes how he cut a transverse slot in a shotgun barrel, more than 17in. forward from the breech, big enough to admit a sixpence, which in those days was about as small and thin as coins get. It wasn't at all widened by the passage of shot and gases. You can't get weaker metal than no metal. The real danger in bursting barrels (of any material) lies at the front of the chamber, where the barrel is virtually undentable.

How often do we hear of users of old steel-barrelled shotguns testing for leaks in the soldering of the ribs? You immerse it in water, heat it gently until any trapped water must boil, and watch for the emergence of steam. If any does appear, you have a far greater risk of rust eating deeply into the barrel, than you would with a damascus barrel which has had a dent raised where you can see it. But few people ever think of this.

For the other sort of burst, the obstruction burst, smokeless powder may actually reduce the strain on barrels. Even the great General Journee, never translated from the French, gets this wrong, although he was for decades the greatest authority on shotgun ballistics. He says striking an obstruction causes the shot charge to expand, ring-bulging the barrel - but you can do it with a solid brass "bullet", which doesn't expand. Or the air trapped between charge and obstruction is compressed beyond the barrel's elastic limit - but you can do it with a tubular obstruction, which can't trap air. He should have known, since the truth was determined experimentally by his countryman Paul Vieille, the inventor of smokeless rifle powder.

Remember, the gaseous and solid powder products in the chamber have no velocity. Those immediately behind the charge have the same velocity as the charge, and the rest every velocity between. If something reduces the acceleration of the charge, the onrushing gases pile up behind it, building up to an extremely local high pressure zone which produces a ring bulge or even amputates the barrel. All this takes a little time, during which the charge moves on. This is why the bulge is around 3/4in, in front of where the obstruction had been, and we don't bulge barrels with the obstruction most of us have, namely the choke. If an insurance company or a sued gun or cartridge maker employs a good consultant, the outward flaring at the burst will tell him for sure that an obstruction did it.

There is even the very occasional phenomenon of a double ring bulge. A gas is perfectly elastic, and having created the ring bulge, the pressure wave bounces back in the opposite direction. It then bounces again, from the rear of the cartridge case, although the thickness of the barrel makes it unlikely that any bulge will result there. Finally it renews its acquaintance with the still moving charge, and makes another ring bulge, some way muzzlewards from the first.

The point here is that a black powder charge is considerably heavier than most smokless charges, and so, therefore, are its gases and solid residues. (That is why it produces more recoil.) It has more tendency than smokeless to produce a ring bulge or the resulting burst, not less. A gun which has probably fired many thousands of cartridges of all kinds, without being destroyed, has undergone some pretty exhaustive non-destructive testing.
 

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I think your dating is about correct John. My shotgun was as said, originally black powder, which in itself puts it at the turn of the century and I believe it may have been made pre 1900. It is still tight and shoots like a dream. I sometimes watch my shooting colleagues hauling monster raving loony over and under magnum cannons to their pegs and not bragging, I often have to clean up behind them with my 11/16 oz of #6s :) The old girl did get left in the cabinet this last season when I purchased the little cheapy Turkish 410, which handles extremely well. and shoots like a dream but I suppose for £400($650) you cannot expect miracles and the metal used in the interior is not the best, but it will probably last me a few years. I will probably use that on damp days and the Army & Navy 16 gauge on nice dry crisp days. Many thanks for the additional information.
 

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Winchester Field Classic 12 ga pump

Just bouht a used Winchester Field Classic 12ga pump other then a little light rust here and there it looks pretty good. Have not cleaned anything yet or shot it. 2 3/4 Chamber Hight Standard, Hamden Conn. Can anyone tell me a little about it?
 
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