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canvasback, dogon, graybeardtmm3, greener4me, Hammergun, John Roberts, Run With The Fox, Stanton Hillis
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Original Post (Thread Starter)
#629220 04/25/2023 4:57 PM
by Ploughjogger
I took my newly purchased vintage English 12 gauge to a gunsmith, who advertises specializing in shotguns. When I explained that I wanted to have my gun checked for safety, his response was “don’t shoot it, it has Damascus barrels.” He said that without touching the barrels from about 6 feet across the room, and my barrels have no Damascus pattern, and in fact I do not believe are Damascus. Now, the shop owner was a fine fellow, and will probably do some work on my rifles, but it seems to me as if he may be out of his depth on vintage double shotguns.
I have since made an appointment with another shop, and when asking about their safety inspection they shared with me that they do not measure wall thickness, and typically recommended lighter loads for older shotguns.

Everyone on this board recommends having your firearm examined by a competent gunsmith. What do you do when the gunsmiths aren’t providing the appropriately detailed service?
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#629279 Apr 26th a 04:14 PM
by keith
My solution is obviously not for everyone, but I just do my own gunsmithing work, repairs, and inspections. I'm probably not saving any money, because I have invested a lot in lathes, other power and hand tools, chemicals and finishes, books, and equipment. On the other hand, I don't have to deal with incompetent people who call themselves gunsmiths, and do more damage to my guns. I also don't have to pay for shipping my guns or worry that they will be lost or damaged during shipping. I don't have to wait for repairs to be completed. Wait times for gunsmiths who have good reputations can be well over a year. I don't have to worry that the gunsmith will become incapacitated or even die, and have my gun tied up by probate or sold in an estate sale.

All of those nightmare scenarios are played out here several times every year. That said, one well regarded double gunsmith not terribly far from you is Jerry Andrews in Moundsville, West Virginia. He seems to specialize in L.C. Smith shotguns, but works on many other vintage doubles. I have never heard any complaints about his work. I bought a couple Syracuse Lefever guns from him, but never had any gunsmithing work done by him.

The pictures you provided of your barrels are poor at best, and tell us next to nothing. I don't see any crolle pattern, just what looks like surface rust that may have been blued over. The second pic is too blurry to see any detail at all. It isn't terribly difficult to tell fluid steel from Damascus, even if it has been blued over. Do as the Preacher recommended, and remove the forend, and then lightly rub a small area with white vinegar and fine steel wool. The acid in the vinegar will remove blue and oxidation from the steel in Damascus faster than from the iron, making the contrast between them apparent. This is best done in bright sunlight. Removing all of the rust and finish down to bare metal will again make it all shiny and hard to see any contrast, so do it gradually. Then post some nice clear photos of the area, along with pics of the barrel flats and the water table of the action.

If I was a professional gunsmith, I personally would not tell any customer that they are safe to shoot their Damascus or Twist guns, even though I do it myself on a routine basis. I certainly wouldn't put it in writing, simply because of liability concerns. No gunsmith has any control what loads are fired through any gun once it leaves his shop, and has no way of knowing if the gun he inspected will be subsequently blown up due to a barrel obstruction or some hidden inclusion or flaw within the barrels... and this includes fluid steel tubes. That is a judgement call I make on my own, based upon my own inspection of wall thickness, pitting, corrosion, etc., along with the research I have done to satisfy myself that sound Damascus can safely contain the pressures generated by appropriate loads. You can ask for an opinion concerning wall thickness and overall condition, but don't expect any gunsmith with any brains to give you his blessing to shoot Twist or Damascus barrels.
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#629258 Apr 26th a 11:16 AM
by Stanton Hillis
Stanton Hillis
No trying to be cantankerous here, but if the purpose of taking it to him was for him to evaluate the barrels mostly, would it not have been prudent to tell him beforehand that you wanted to bring a gun with damascus barrels to him for evaluation, in order to determine if it is safe to use? It would seem that, had you told him that, he would've saved you the trip. I do understand that hindsight is 20/20, however.

I have learned in farming, messing with high performance boats, and these old double guns, to do my homework before taking the ride, or packing up the gun and sending it off. By homework I mean determining beforehand who is the best and most knowledgeable in the field of expertise needed. I once sent a brand new set of barrels to be fitted to an action of a doublegun I already had. I mean, these barrels were straight from the factory, a file or stone had never touched the hook. I quickly decided on a 'smith to do the work, based on hearsay about his abilities. He absolutely botched the job, requiring the barrels to have the hook welded before they could be properly fitted. Had I done my homework and asked him for references on people for whom he had done this specific job, I would have saved myself many dollars and much angst.

I agree with Chantry that it may well be a liability issue for some 'smiths. If they're getting all the work they need without that extra risk, I can't fault them for the stand they take, even though I shoot damascus guns myself, and feel I am well versed enough in them to make my own decisions as to their safety, or lack of.
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#629229 Apr 25th a 07:23 PM
by arrieta2
Just not their cup of tea as you might say. Lots of gunsmiths out there that are more general gunsmiths and not specialized. Also, lots of folks calling themselves gunsmiths and would be better off calling themselves shoe cobblers.

John Boyd
Quality Arms
2 members like this
#629267 Apr 26th a 01:02 PM
by ClapperZapper
I think you have to have one or two exchanges like that early on in your doubles life, to impress upon you that most retail gun shops don’t know diddly about old shotguns.

And they don’t need to.

Vintage shotguns are two or three generations of craftsmen removed from people currently making their living in gun shops.
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#629244 Apr 25th a 11:37 PM
by Chantry
Given potential liability issues, there is a good chance even a qualified gunsmith is going to be careful about what he says when it comes to shooting antique guns. I recently dropped off two antique British hammer guns to be evaluated for modern low pressure ammo. I was told the barrel thickness of both guns and the final decision was left to me.

I certainly understand where the gunsmith was coming from and I can't blame a gunsmith for not wanting to open themselves up to being sued by saying "go ahead and shoot it".
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