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George,

You're clearly not a dumb guy. And I can appreciate your approaching the subject from as scientific an angle as one can. You are not wrong about the obvious number of ways in which Damascus "process" can fail due to fissures.

BUT...and it's a big "but"...in the only real pseudo-scientific tests which were published the failure rate of the best quality Damascus was essentially right where the best fluid steel was. And those pressures were way beyond any standard load of today...and way WAY beyond the types of loads most guys shoot through their Damascus barreled guns (myself included).

What I'm referring to is a series of articles done years ago in the DoubleGun Journal by Sherman Bell and Tom Armbrust. It was NOT diffinitive, but was the best attempt yet documented which sought to really explore the truth.

Not only have a ton of Damascus guns been around since the introduction of smokeless powder, but some were even blued over decades ago by people who thought they couldn't sell a gun with Damascus barrels. Meaning, more than a few people out there have shot guns for years before realizing their gun had 'blued-over' Damascus barrels.

So...purely anecdotally...if the danger was that real, wouldn't there be a slew of news articles going back 120 years by now documenting all the deaths to unwitting gun owners? There should be THOUSANDS of published stories of Damascus guns blowing up like grenades.

Try to do a Lexus/Nexus search for stories on this and you won't get much. And LOTS of guys way older than me, who have been on ranges for decades and may have even actually seen failure incidents will attest that they've never seen one that wasn't most likely the result of some other factor...typically a barrel obstruction. I will bet that MOST have never seen one...in all their years of shooting.

If the danger were THAT acute, the stories would be legion by now. Instead, only the warnings are legion. And I'm not saying this to deny that some barrels shouldn't be shot, or don't have fissures upon inspection. (I once owned a gun with Twist barrels that I judged suspect, and never would fire.) But on the basis of both Bell's tests, and anecdotally, the lack of any REAL preponderance of Damascus failures widespread enough that we can know that the danger is both INHERENT and PERVASIVE in the very Damascus process...I just can't buy it.

Again, I can appreciate your wanting to look at the matter purely on the merits of what science suggests. But I can attest, as can many others, that as a practical matter, Damascus barrels continue to shoot on.

- Nudge

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Interesting looking at loads I, J & K, all 2 3/4" service loads with 1¼ oz of shot, that the J load of 28 grains Ballistite showed a lower pressure than either the Oval or DuPont Bulk smokeless. The Ballistite load would have been approximately a 3½ dram equivalent load & & it gave a pressure of 10K . Not positive if this should be considered actual psi, but likely from that era was LUP.
Ballistite was a relatively fast powder but not likely much more so than the DuPont Bulk. Oval was a "Progressive" powder (Slow) & it showed the highest pressure (13K), though the actual load was not listed, perhaps a higher velocity load than the other two.

All the proof loads were with Hercules 3FG Black with pressures ranging from 14K up to 17K.

In a test run by DuPont a few years earlier, using 1¼ oz of shot but with velocities all held to the same level (3¼ DE) Ballistite did show a higher pressure than Oval. In that one tests were done with Oval, Ballistite, Infallible, DuPont Bulk & 3FG Black.

The load with Oval had the lowest pressure of all in that test & it was stated that was an Under Load for that powder. All other pressures as I recall exceeded 9K in that test. These did have a slightly lower powder charge than the Hunter Arms test as 3¼ DE versus 3½ DE for the Hunter tests, with the Oval likely being at least a 3 3/4 DE or perhaps even 4 DE which would account for its higher pressure.

Amazing consistency between the two actually. Note that in the Hunter tests all loads hit their peak pressure in less than 2", which is also quite similar to the DuPont tests. The Gunmakers knew what they were doing when they Beefed up the chamber area of a shotgun barrel with the adoption of Smokeless powders.

Note also on the 4 service loads H, I, J & K that while they start at 3K apart, by 4 inches the gap had dropped to about 2K, @ 5 inches to about 1K & closer from there to the muzzle.

As I have said so many times here on this forum those who insist on using those very low (Peak) pressure loads because they are concerned with a low minimum wall thickness half way down the barrel are simply NOT doing the gun a favor. While admittedly the gap at that point is small, but, if the same ballistics are kept the pressure down the barrel will actually be higher the lower the peak pressure is. A careful study of these graphs show it all.



Miller/TN
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if you want to shoot Damascus barrels that is fine.....and you most likely will be O K ….….as far as pressure....lets just say they are like the old Chevy Corvair ...unsafe at any speed........consider yourself forewarned..


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gunut,

I'm not looking for a heated argument, just to understand the meaning of your comment. Referring your Ralph Nader analogy..."Unsafe At Any Speed."

Does this mean Damascus are unsafe at ANY pressure?

The DIS-PROOF of this notion is shown above. Shot within spec, they last for generations. And when tested, they survived WELL beyond proof loads, and WAAAAY beyond the types of +-7,000 pressure loads most guys shoot.

If, as you suggest, one would "most likely be O.K."...then how are Damascus guns as unsafe as a Corvair, which was taken off the market?

- Nudge

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As noted above "IF" one does not consider the shear stupidity of those who loaded dense smokeless with a bulk/black powder dipper etc which gave from a double to triple load then as noted more steel barrels have been recorded as bursting from internal flaws than have Damascus, thus if Damascus is "Unsafe at Any Sped" (pressure) then steel is more so. Best stick to Tiddlywinks or such, You have been Forewarned.
Personally I will stay with the shotgun & shoot either type barrel with appropriate ammunition.


Miller/TN
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Yes - that's kind of where I was coming from. Damascus barrels built with forethought of their being used with smokeless powder rounds, and so marked, are a better bet than very old barrels whose provenance and maintenance is uncertain - which, in fact, was the case with the Barlow, about which I have been unable to uncover any information whatsoever - not gunsmith, not date of construction, zilch. When that happened, I felt it necessary to consult the electrochemist I mentioned, since he was on a metallugy gig at the time.

I embarrassedly confess that I never even consulted the NRA as to their position on the issue. I did send in a request for info to Guns and Ammo to see if they had any information on Barlow, but nothing came of it. Interestingly, I just checked the NRA site about 5 minutes ago, and they have a similar slant on the safety issue, (at https://www.nrafamily.org/articles/2016/11/14/gun-safety-damascus-barreled-shotguns/) although I suspect that they would always err well on the side of caution for the reasons they cite - barrel quality varies widely, and it takes an expert to know what's safe.

Interesting that it's easier to find reports of failure for early steel barrels than of Damascus. Could it be that people were more inclined to the "Here, hold my beer and watch this!" kind of experimentation with a cheap gun than with a prime example of the barrel-maker's art? Sometimes cause and effect are reversed from what they seem.

And my reliance on Magnaflux and x-ray stems from the years when I raced cars, and it was routine to do so on flywheels, cranks and con rods when I'd rebuild an engine, to make sure nothing came apart in the heat of battle and took your foot with it. I still have both feet, so it must have worked.

Interesting discussion; no offense taken on the name issue - it's a tease of long standing in my life.

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Very valid point; one of the reasons I joined the forum was in the hope that there would be good information here and sources that would allow more relevant research to be done. The old saw that "In theory, theory and practice are the same; but in practice, theory and practice are very different." We have the "what should be the case" and then we have the anecdotal, empirical data. My caution stemmed from readings that indicated that the process was not uniformly practiced, so damascening was not necessarily a guarantee of high quality, but rather that quality was a function of the particular practitioner. And since I could not find a whit of information about the Barlow I had bought, I felt it important to go back to first principles and experience in other areas, as well as what other cautionary tales I came across. And I bought the Barlow before the Internet, so those tales were few and far between. The feedback of the collective wisdom of this community is welcome.

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And you are very welcome, too, Mr. Steele.

Don't be a stranger.

All my best, SRH


"With one foot in the grave ..........and one foot on the pedal, I was born a Rebel" T.P.
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George Steel,

I should have began by saying "welcome" anyway. Anyone who is trying to think for themselves is already a fine individual in my book. And rather rare, these days.

On the barrel testing thing again, I wish I could find the Birmingham proof house data that I think was posted by Drew Hause way back. As I recall, it was from 1892 or so, and in their testing it was actually laminated steel that came out in top at that time, followed by higher grade fluid steels like Whitworth, and closely behind by the better Damascus types. The cheapest Stub Twist types did the worst, but even at that, they ALL withstood proof pressures well in excess of the kind of lite loads guys use in these guns.

Drew please insert that page of Birmingham Proof House data if it was indeed you, and you have it handy.

I think all these guns need to to scutinized before shooting. But if visual and hand feel show no fissures...and the bores aren't either badly pitted or [perhaps even worse] aggressively honed...then I say fire away with lite loads.

BTW, for my one 2-3/4 chamber Damascus Lefever I dont even use RST's...I use Fiocchi "trainer loads." Cheaper and nearly as lite. (As tested by the aforementioned Tom Armbrust).

- Nudge

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