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 Post subject: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:52 pm 
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Gentlemen,
It appears that we all have heard at one time or another some tragic story of some poor nimrod losing fingers or even worse ... Death... leaving behind a widow and orphans.
So here is my question based on facts not anecdotal evidence is there any published information on a damascus barrel exploding, splitting, coming apart or becoming unuseable?
I need facts not opinions.
Thank you


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:12 pm 
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Like you, I have always just heard opinions and "I know a guy" stories.

However, on the opposite site of the discussion, there has been an indepth field trial done by a writer in Double Gun Journal over the last 3 or 4 issues.

He has tested a couple of dozen damascus barrelled guns starting at the high end and finishing with some true "trash" guns - Belgium Guilds, no name British, cheap imported American brands.

He shot greater than proof level test loads and had the same result up and down the line.

The stocks, frames, and operating parts gave out on several occassions - but none of the barrels ever split or were damaged more than when they came in the door.

Its an interesting read if you can track down the issues.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:02 pm 
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The Double Gun & Single Shot Journal "Finding Out For Myself" by Sherman Bell Vol 17: Issue 3 (Autumn 2006) p. 12, Vol 17: Issue 4 (Winter 2006) p. 28, and Vol 20: Issue 3 (Autumn 2009) p. 108

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:45 pm 
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Remember, Mr. Bell tested *REAL* damascus barrels from quality manufacturers. The laminated steel strip twist barrels are the ones that are most likely to "let go". There may be a few quality damascus guns I would consider shooting... but there's not enough money in the world to get me to shoot a gun with laminated steel barrels.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 6:39 am 
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alanb wrote:
I need facts not opinions.
Thank you


For facts, you'll have to have a gun proofed and magnafluxed just as all CIP guns are.

Metal decays. Older, crude steels (fluid steel, etc.) are not comparable to modern steels, regardless of construction. Far from proving much of anything, home proofing can initiate cracks that result in failure if the proofing isn't followed by a metallurgical examination. Merely surviving a proof load from an older gun is not representative of longer-term use.

Modern shotguns are 2-3 X as strong as vintage guns. The accepted best practice is sleeving. Other than that, you really can't "prove a negative"-- and you're on your own.

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:38 am 
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There was a thread on magnafluxing Damascus barrels and I don't believe it can be done meaningfully.

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:02 pm 
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": need facts not opinions."

Hummm... Maybe you posted in the wrong forum?


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:38 pm 
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There are forums over on http://www.doublegunshop.com. There are several folks over there that know a lot about vintage guns and damascus bbls. You might gain some useful insight over there.

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:05 pm 
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drsfmd wrote:
Remember, Mr. Bell tested *REAL* damascus barrels from quality manufacturers. The laminated steel strip twist barrels are the ones that are most likely to "let go". There may be a few quality damascus guns I would consider shooting... but there's not enough money in the world to get me to shoot a gun with laminated steel barrels.



I would suggest read the Winter 2009 article by Mr Bell, he did indeed test the twist and low quality barrels.Off face, cracker barrel guns included !
The results might surprise you-I was !, after you see what those test loads do and don't do to even those lower grade "bottom of the barrel" guns.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:21 pm 
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Dave-K wrote:
I would suggest read the Winter 2009 article by Mr Bell, he did indeed test the twist and low quality barrels.Off face, cracker barrel guns included !
The results might surprise you-I was !, after you see what those test loads do and don't do to even those lower grade "bottom of the barrel" guns.


I have the issue, I'll have to look the article up.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:57 pm 
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Does anyone know of a written, eyewitness account of a twist/damascus/laminated barrel letting go due to nothing but the pressure of the load fired? Everything I've ever read on the subject assumes that damascus barrels will let go, but never cite any actual instances.

I vaguely remember hearing or reading someone's opinion that a lot of such incidents may actually been caused by barrel obstructions.

That said, I would not fire a smokeless load in a damascus gun.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:30 pm 
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Yes, as a matter of fact it 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 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.

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:42 pm 
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Dave-K wrote:
drsfmd wrote:
Remember, Mr. Bell tested *REAL* damascus barrels from quality manufacturers. The laminated steel strip twist barrels are the ones that are most likely to "let go". There may be a few quality damascus guns I would consider shooting... but there's not enough money in the world to get me to shoot a gun with laminated steel barrels.



I would suggest read the Winter 2009 article by Mr Bell, he did indeed test the twist and low quality barrels.Off face, cracker barrel guns included !
The results might surprise you-I was !, after you see what those test loads do and don't do to even those lower grade "bottom of the barrel" guns.



There is no intrinsic difference in the two types.

Only the quality of workmanship and base material provided, is the possible short comings of the cheaper, "laminated steel strip twist" type. (With good workmanship and the best base materials, they may be even better, since there are far fewer "welds".)

It's mostly the labor and time involved, that made the "pretty pattern" damascus type more expensive. You can/would find both good or bad, quality in either.

And there are two "normal" modes of failure. One, where somewhere with all the heating and cooling, the steel became brittle, such blows out a "chunk" of barrel. Very bad, very dangerous.

The other way is for the "softer" barrel to come "unwound", sort of like a soft spring. Not as dangerous, but certainly not a good thing, either. Don't think that the "damascus" one wouldn't do so, since the last operation is exactly the same as the "laminated strip" one.

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:49 pm 
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Jugchoke obviously knows more about damascus barrels than I do, but from what I do know I will have to agree with him. I know Sherman Bell & hunted geese & pheasant with him in N. Dakota. I would not have a problem shooting the damascus guns I saw him shooting with the loads he was using. We were both shooting nearly identical 10 ga. Berettas at geese on one or two occasions (not damascus barrels). Keith Merrington is the best source of information on damascus barrels that I know about, except for the Birmingham proof house. It is a fact, in my humble opinion, that it is unwise to shoot any damascus gun of unknown quality or condition without having it checked out by someone like Kirk first. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for 3.5" mag. damascus 10 ga. guns to pass reproof.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:54 pm 
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Randy Wakeman,

Can you cite the name of the case? I don't mean to call your veracity into question, but your post "There was a lawsuit......" is a lot like "I know a guy who said..."

And the names of the parties to a civil suit are a matter of public record, if naming names is what's bothering you.

I would hope the guy had lost.


What bothers me about these types of discussions is that reasonable caution about the danger of firing modern ammunition in a gun not designed for it, and which may be in dubious condition, gets transformed into statements that all damascus guns are dangerous even when in good condition and fired with suitable ammunition.

I understand the principle of erring on the side of caution, but I personally am willing to risk firing reasonable blackpowder loads, loaded in shells of the correct length, through a damascus gun with "excellent" bores.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:07 pm 
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People are free to do as they wish. No ammunition manufacturer I know likes to inform the uninitiated that their ammo blew off an arm, even if it was 100% user negligence.

Consider the comments of Clark Towle:

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 seperate 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.


#The reason I ask is because I have the opportunity to buy an old
#double, and I believe it has Damascus barrels. I don't think I'd
#want it if I couldn't shoot it.

Unless you are looking for a wall hanger I'd pass it up. Shooting it could well be dangerous to your health.

Corrosion is an issue and the lack of warning signs before failure aren't much of a help. It's all your noodles, so do what you really think is smart.

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:42 pm 
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I understand why you are looking for documented facts. That surely is the intelligent way to approach most problems. Documenting that damascus barrels have blown up will only give you part of the answer. The biggest piece of the puzzle is why it blew up! All types of shotgun barrels have blown up, that is a given. A expert gunsmith with extensive experience with damascus guns knows what to look for & can tell you what loads are safe in your gun. He will also probably be able to tell you about a number of first hand experiences with guns that have blown up. You really have only three choices. You can trust your own judgement (not recommended). Your gun is PROBABLY perfectly safe to shoot with the ammo. it was designed to fire. You can trust an expert gunsmith or you can send it to the proof house. If it were my gun, I would send it to Kirk Merrington. The proof house is obviously the best choice if you can afford it. There are many damascus guns that are still in proof.


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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:57 pm 
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Shotguns generally only fail once. No facts directly apply to a specific, individual gun. It is such an overly broad, vague, non-specific question that we might as well be asking if some old car will start in the morning. You tell me.

There are well-known issues, warnings, and cautions about old barrels of unknown use, care, service history, and parentage. Believe it or not, all of the warnings from SAAMI, the CIP, and various proof houses are not just typos. Because one barrel failed and another didn't is meaningless. Barrel A and B have nothing directly to do with unknown barrel C and D.

The British are far better at this than the U.S., for proofing carries the force of law. We wouldn't like it here, it isn't convenient. Even forcing cone work on a modern barrel means it must be re-proved in the U.K.

No one in their right mind would take responsibility suggesting that an old shotgun that they have never so much as seen before, much less inspected, is somehow "safe."

If it isn't "in proof" it is out of proof. One can assume that an out of proof old barrel might be able to survive a re-proof, but the assuming stuff means it is solely your problem.

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:02 pm 
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Please gentlemen...look around here. The volume of misinformation that continues to be posted as fact is discouraging, especially when good information is readily available.

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfg2hmx7_186fpmvhzsb
Especially
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfg2hmx7_22ddqshmdq
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfg2hmx7_220dpc9nsck

This has all been discussed here previously
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=184155

And BTW English machine-forged 3 rod Laminated steel was determined to be the strongest barrel material in the Birmingham Proof House Test of 1891
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfg2hmx7_242cxhh9hfq
The problem is that low quality (mostly Belgian) Twist barrels were also marked "Laminated Steel"

Please note that Greener recently offered new guns with old damascus barrels, which were of course subject to the British Proof House

These damascus barrels passed 3" 1 1/2 oz. Nitro Proof

Image

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 Post subject: Re: failure of Damascus steel barrels
PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:24 pm 
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revdocdrew wrote:
And BTW English machine-forged 3 rod Laminated steel was determined to be the strongest barrel material in the Birmingham Proof House Test of 1891


Are you joking? What relevance does a proof test from 119 years ago have to today? What was the strongest automobile or airplane in 1891?

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