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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Before everyone starts screaming, Never, Never: I haven't done this. However, I do have some questions as to wether it would be possible!

Backgound: I have a 12 gauge SXS hammer gun with damascus barrels. I have had it checked out by a professional gunsmith and he found it safe to shoot. I have also measured the chambers myself as well and found them to be 2 3/4". I have also "proofed" it with a load slightly more than that which I typically shoot in it. My load is 60.5 grains of FFFg under 7/8 oz. of shot. I have used this gun on a dove shoot before and really enjoyed it.

Can a smokeless load be created that would be safe in this shotgun?

Correct me if I am wrong; There are 2 major reasons for not using smokeless in a good damascus barrel. The concern about barrel strength and small imperfections in the laminations causing a blow-up and the fact that smokeless loads usually operate at much higer pressures than the old black powder loads.

The smokeless loads I had been thinking about were as low as 3,400 psi and had been used supposedly in some CAS events with some damascus guns. I am aware of the pressure concerns of smokeless versus black but I think a smokeless load in the 3,400 psi range would have been safe in my gun. Unless I am mistaken 3,400 psi is even lower pressure than many, if not most vintage black powder loads. The loads were listed in the Accurate data.

The biggest concern I had (beside maintaining all current appendeges) was that the pressure curve of the smokeless load was much more compressed in time and therefore would cause a sharper peak pressure spike in the breech than that of black. I don't see how that would be possible with such a mild smokeless load.

My main objective in exploring smokeless for that shotgun was to REDUCE wear and tear from recoil and extensive cleaning as well as the potential of any barrel rupture by using a LIGHTER load. Also it would be nice to have a load that could be made on standard reloading equipment. I have really enjoyed bringing this fine old gun out of forced retirement and would like to shoot it more. Preferably with a SAFE and mild smokeless load but I will stick with black if I have too.

Thanks for any input!

Reb
 

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Back in the 1950s I was given a fine L.C.Smith hammer gun with "Stub Twist" bbls. I wouldn't try it these days, but, back then it was regularly shot using low base field load shells. I liked the Federal "Monark" paper shells, because they were available in larger shot sizes. That old gun accounted for many pheasants,ducks, and even a few geese. I am sure that more than a few high base shells were fired in that gun, too. It is still around, in good shape, but unfired for the last 30 or so years. I have no experience loading shotshells because they still inexpensive. Hope someone can give you some good advise on this one.
Regards, Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Mike,

That is useful information! The "Smith" I had look at it stated that he wouldn't be afraid to use it himself with light AA skeet or target loads. I thought him crazy at the time (right at 20 years ago) and never fired it with ANY smokeless load, factory or other. Good to have proof that such barrels don't instantly explode when subjected to smokeless, like so many would have us beleive. I also think our legal climate over the years has contributed to this opinion due to a fear of lawsuits.

I would really like to hear from Mr. Gates on this one too.

Reb
 

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Hello "Reb":)

James C. Gates is my hunting partner, and I will be with him this Sunday (12-15-02), I will be happy to pose any question to him that you desire. However, he does not hunt with Damascus, and I do. I have Damascus "muzzle-stuffers" that have been of service to my family for over 150 years, and breach-loaders such as American Gun Company, Knickerbockers, Meridens, Davenports and a bunch of others that most people have never even heard of much less seen.

Will a Damascus Knickerbocker, Meriden, Davenport, Remington, Parker, Ithaca or Winchester blow up in your face with a "smokeless" load????? NO!!!!, they were too well made for that, but it over stresses the heck out of the shotgun and will rapidly shorten it's useful life. Anyone who tells you that you can use "low-brass" shotshells in a Damascus barreled shotgun does NOT know what they are talking about. The pressure curves for blackpowder and modern smokeless powder shotshells are COMPLETELY different. Sooner or later about 1/3 of the way down the barrel from the bolt face you are going to start to see problems. My gunsmith has fiber-optic equipment that allows us to inspect the barrel from the inside --- 90 degress to the long axis of the bore. My Damascus barreled "ladies" are inspected annually and ANY evidence of delamination and they IMMEDIATELY become "wall-hangers".

If you "must" use ""smokeless" loads, then I suggest that you use (1) Pyrodex CTG if you can find it --- no longer made but the best for "blackpowder" shotshell reloading that I have found. (2) Clean Shot in FFg granulation. In both cases, be aware that you are going to have to set the overpowder wads on the propellant to at least 60 pounds of pressure. Without compression, neither of these propellents will work well.

Yes, you still have to clean the barrels after every hunting/shooting session, but "Simple-Green" and hot water will do the job in short order.

If you will post any question that you would like me to pose to J.C., I will be happy to do so this Sunday afternoon and get back to you with his answer.

Best Regards:)
AdamsQuailHunter
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks Adams for your response and your offer! I think I could keep you and Mr. Gates ears so full of questions that you would turn your guns on me just to get some quiet! We might have to start a new series of post just to talk about your "ladies".

I think the real question I would like answered is: Is it possible to produce a smokeless powder load of any kind that would be safe to fire in a sound damascus barreled breechloading shotgun? If so, what would it be?

The load I am currently considering as a candidate was published by Accurate as one of their cowboy loads. It is a 12 ga. AA hull with a Winchester 209 primer, 17 grains of Accurate Solo 1000 powder, a Winchester WAA12SL wad and 3/4 oz. of shot. According to Accurate it produces only 3,400 psi for 1,160 fps. I think that the pressure listed would be LESS than that generated by a moderate black powder load of around 3 to 3 1/4 drams under 1 oz. to 1 1/8 oz. of shot. But again I am still concerned with the pressure curve and "spike" that may occur using smokeless.

Thanks to you as well Jack! Neat website, & I would love to find some of those old reloading tools. I have already popped it into my favorites list. Any new source of data on black powder shotshells is definitly welcome! Most of the data I am using to load my current black powder loads was gleaned from the October-November 1997 issue of Handloader Magazine. It featured an article entitled "Handloading Black Powder Shotshells" by Gil Sengel that was very helpful in developing my loads. I would recommend it to anyone considering loading black into a modern plastic shell! There was not any real pressure data in it though.

Anyway, thanks again to you both! I look forward to hearing from AdamsQH and Mr. Gates soon!

Reb
 

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Hi, Reb:
I should take a look for Ross Seyfried's smokeless damascus load. IIRC, the key ingredients were Federal paper shells and IMR 7625. I was at a gun collector's estate sale once. Figured I'd buy one of those old Lyman crimpers, but one old boy wanted all 3 BAD!

Bye
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hey Jack,

I would love to hear about Ross's load! If nothing else perhaps I could figure out a pressure comparison. Don't know where I would get Federal paper shells now, though.

I have had my eye our for some of the old tools but never seem to see them when out antique-ing.

Thanks

Reb
 

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James sent me a note on the subject, which I have asked his permission to reprint. Further updates as events warrant....
 

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In the new issue of Rifle, Ross Seyfried reiterates his long-standing challenge to anyone who can show him a Damascus barrelled shotgun that has been blow-up by a factory-loaded shell of proper length and shot type. Of course steel and tungsten need not apply, but that still leaves an awful lot of potential shooting.
 

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From Mr. James Gates, re: smokeless in Damascus barrels:

Friends All......My dear friend and brother, Steve Adams, called me and
said someone was looking for me on the Beartooth Forum concerning
Damascus barrels. It appears the question was whether the so-called low
power field loads were safe in Damascus barrels.
The answer to that question is absolutely No! Now....let me explain
why! The early blackpowder shells (all gauges) had a maximum chamber
pressure of 7000/8000 psi. Yes, I know some of the 12 ga. 1 oz. listed
in the present loading manuals list loads in that pressure range. The
problem is where in the barrel that pressure occurs! With blackpowder
the peak pressure occurs within the first 6 inches, whereas with
smokeless powder it occurs about where your hand is on the forearm.
Careful examination of blackpowder shotguns (unlike smokeless guns) show
that the barrels taper very quickly ahead of the chamber and are very
thin in the forearm area. This is where the peak pressure of smokeless

occurs. Therefore....I advise that only blackpowder be used in these
guns. Some question does occur as whether the substitute blackpowders
(Pyrodex, Clean Shot, etc.) can be safely used. At present I have not be
informed as to the relationship of location of peak pressure between
these subs and blackpowder. They may or may not have the same peak
pressure location. Until I have seen the pressure curves of these subs,
I will not make recommendations.
It takes a great deal of experience to even determine whether a set of
Damascus barrels are still safe even with blackpowder. "Fools jump in,
were the Wise fear to thread" Enough said.
Best Regards to All, James C.
 

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And still more (guess he and Ross Seyfried are going to have to arm-wrestle to settle this one):

You may want to add this .jpg.....Note that it went with
low power skeet loads. When one barrel went, it blew the adjoining load.
This was a barrel that had been checked by an "expert" gunsmith. Silly
waste of a fine firearm! Best Regards, James C. Gates
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Thanks all,

"A picture is worth a thousand words!" If the advice didn't convince that sure would!

Guess its black powder for me, or have it tubed by Briley to 20 gauge.

"A wise man learns from other peoples mistakes."

Reb

P. S. AdamsQH, would you be so kind as to post some of your black powder shotshell loads?
 

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Pity; that looks like a nice old Parker Bros. with damascus tubes gone south. Would have been a sweet piece to use for birds with the correct load.
 

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Well Now.....I dont plan to arm wrestle with anyone over this or any other answer. The final analysis is shoot whatever you want to shoot in whatever you what to shoot it in! After all it is your hands and eyes!I have fullfilled my responsiblity. Best Regards, James C. Gates
 

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Hi, Gents:
Glad to hear from you again, Mr. Gates. Those low power skeet loads aren't always low pressure loads. There's several in the IMR manual that are over 11,000 psi. Their pressure peak is probably past by the time the wad clears the hull. That would explain why the barrels blew right at the breech.

I've got a Damascus double here. It's Belgian, but triple locked, with double underlug bites and a Greener crossbolt and is tight. It was fired with smokeless loads in the `30s and `40s. Never the less, I removed the firing pins, just in case.

Bye
Jack
 

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James, good to see you posting again. Let us know of the progress in your eternal battle against the wild pigs.

I'm with James, I really do appreciate Ross Seyfried's writing over the years (heck he got me started on the .45 Colt and cast LBT bullets) but I value my fingers, eye, ect., too much to shoot something that has been known to have problems as above.
 

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James,

Glad to hear from you my friend! I hope this little discussion finds you well. And I do appreciate you input. I thought Seyfried's comment was , shall we say, a bit rash, but hey! He's surely shot many more BP smoothbores than I've handled. I figured he must know something. But hearing from you with your experiences both in the industry and outside as a shooter really makes me wonder where Seyfried is coming from. Could there be some Damascus barrels significantly stronger than others?
 

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Hi, Bill:
From what I understand, most damascus barrels were strong enough when they were made. After all, British proof for a 12 gauge was a vicious 12 3/4 Drams of powder and 1 1/4 oz. shot. The problem is that corrosion can get in between the laminations and make a hole where you can't see it. Considering what the old corrosive chlorate primers did to fluid steel rifle barrels, it's easy to see how a damascus barrel could be fatally weakened over a hundred years time.

Bye
Jack
 
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