Many the us have actually an old side-by-side shotgun at home. Possibly it’s a family members heirloom, an unanticipated attic find, or given to girlfriend by a friend or neighbor. This post is pointed at shotguns made in between the 1880s and 1920s era, many of which have actually Damascus or “twist-steel” barrels. Few of these barrels feature very striking patterns, and the workmanship in many of the firearms is an extremely good. Such efforts are expensive because that gunmakers come recreate today due to the time and skill required. Regardless of their artistic quality, countless of us have heard worn down comments like, “That’d do a an excellent wall hanger,” or, “That Damascus barrel will blow increase in her face!” but are those statements yes, really true? have the right to these old shotguns it is in safely put back into service and also used efficiently in the field? The answer to the last is “Yes,” however with caveats.

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For many of this guns, a cautious inspection, some an essential measurements, and a diet the the appropriate ammunition will have actually them all set for activity on your following bird or squirrel hunt.


Artistic Metal

To begin, let’s talk around Damascus and twist-steel barrels, and how they are made. The origins of Damascus steel room not clear, yet it is believed to have come native India before Christ. Its breakthrough seems to have actually been perfected and used to develop high-quality blades in and also around Damascus, Syria, during the third and fourth centuries, AD. Damascus was popular since it to be harder than the typical iron chisels of the era, and also it organized an edge better. However, the original procedure for creating Damascus steel appears to have actually been shed sometime in the 1700s.


In the so late 18th century, Damascus-barreled weapons were brought to Europe native the middle East, and European gunmakers began working with and making their very own Damascus-steel barrels. A substantial amount that research, experimentation and reverse engineering has to be done in current times to shot and give birth Damascus stole of the past, but the procedure has never ever really been nailed down. Modern-era Damascus stole (1800 and also later) is made by layering iron and steel, heating it to high temperatures and also hammer forging lock together. Countless patterns can be completed in the finished stole by twisting the layers of metal during forging or presenting charcoal if forging come produce tiny spots that carbide in the matrix. The product is then attracted to create a long rod that metal and also then machined right into a barrel.

Another an approach for developing shotgun barrels brought about what are commonly called “twist” barrels. The process involved pieces of iron and steel being drawn out into long rectangular bars or “threads.” these threads were then heated and alternately wound about a mandrel and hammer forged together. That took around seven feet of steel threads to type one foot the barrel. Damascus and twist steels carry out not have the stamin of contemporary fluid Bessemer-process steels, but they space not weak if effectively manufactured.

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Cautions for Old Damascus-Barreled Shotguns

One of the very first things that must be checked on one old shotgun is exactly how tightly the activity locks up. If girlfriend close the action and the barrels show up to have actually some wiggle family member to the receiver, the pistol is not a candidate for shooting. A gunsmith might have the ability to tighten the up, but don’t shoot a shotgun that has actually a loose lockup. You should additionally have a gunsmith examine the headspace the the gun to make sure it is in specification. If the is not, don’t effort to shooting it.


Any old shotgun you space contemplating shooting should be thoroughly inspected by a gunsmith that is acquainted with this type of firearm. There are number of points that have to be looked for when inspecting a Damascus-barreled shotgun. The first is the problem of the barrels. Room the barrels bright and shiny inside, or are they heavily rust pitted? If the barrels are heavily pitted, that is no a candidate because that shooting. Heavy pitting reasons surface roughness, which rises friction through the wad and can rise pressure. Rust can additionally decrease the wall surface thickness that the barrel and also compromise that is strength. Remember, shotgun barrels are much thinner 보다 rifle barrels and also don’t have the exact same margin the safety. Several of the old weapons have also been reamed out to remove pitting. Your gunsmith can measure the wall thickness the the barrels and also determine if they have actually been reamed out. If this is the case, the barrel’s wall thickness has actually been decreased and also the total is no safe to shoot.

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The second aspect to check is whether or no the barrels have actually been dented, or if lock have had actually dents removed. The is relatively easy to remove a dent native a fluid-steel barrel, however not so through a Damascus barrel. Removed a dent native a Damascus barrel will produce a weak point out on it. A total in this condition is a wall surface hanger.

Barrel constrictions, or choke, in most of this side-­by-­side shotguns were improved Cylinder, modification or Modified/Full. If you have a gun the is choked Cylinder/Skeet, chances are nice high that the gun has actually been modified. The is simple to look increase the diameter of different chokes and use a collection of calipers to measure up the muzzle diameters. A pistol that has actually obviously had the chokes reamed should instantly be inspected to determine if the entire barrel to be reamed.

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RST provides classic, standard-velocity “Lite” shotshells in a variety of options. These are often safe in older barrels including 2-, 21/2- and 23⁄4-inch loads from #4 to #9 shot, with document or plastic hulls.

The last area to check is the length of the room to validate the chambering that the gun. Plenty of of these old shotguns were chambered because that 2½-inch, 25⁄8-inch and, that course, 2¾-inch shotshells. The issue here is that a 2¾-inch shell might chamber in a 2½-inch shotgun, however this combination would cause excessive pressure once fired, and also likely damage the firearm.

Ammunition because that Old ShotgunsI can’t emphasize enough that creating the chambering because that an old shotgun is critical. Just due to the fact that a covering fits in the room does not mean it is the best ammunition. If the covering is too lengthy for the room the hull will be required into the forcing cone once it is fired, bring about a constricted bore and also significantly enhanced pressure. You can get away through this for a tiny while, however sooner or later you will damages the gun. Damascus barrel steel, as I said, is no weak, yet it is much more brittle and doesn’t have actually the margin of safety uncovered in modern-day gun metals. Plenty of Damascus barrels were mainly designed for blackpowder shotshell loads. The nearby graph mirrors comparative pressure-versus-time curves for the same shot load and also muzzle velocity loaded v blackpowder and modern-day progressive smokeless propellant. What jumps out immediately from the comparison is the truth that blackpowder to produce about fifty percent the press of smokeless powder, and it stretches out the pressure curve a lot more than smokeless. So, while the Damascus barrels space plenty solid for blackpowder charges, the much higher pressures produced by smokeless flour exceed their security margin. Although several of these older Damascus barreled weapons were advertised at the moment as being designed because that smokeless loads, the powders accessible back then don’t compare to the propellants used today.

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Pressure vs. Time because that Blackpowder & Smokeless

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The following question is do you need to shoot blackpowder loads in your old shotgun? The prize to the is “no.” However, let me be clear: carry out not shooting standard modern-day loads in an old Damascus-barreled shotgun! Several carriers make lines of shotshells that usage smokeless propellant, but are tuned for low wad compression and use slow-moving propellants in order come limit height pressure and also spread the curve the end (much like blackpowder loads). These service providers offer present of low-pressure 2-inch, 2½-inch and also 2¾-inch shells. My personal preference is to usage 2½-inch shells every the time, also in a 2¾-inch chambered gun, just to play it safe. RST (rstshells.com) and Polywad (polywad.com) both sell lines that shotshells suitable for Damascus-barreled shotguns. Nearly the whole RST heat is invited to low press with the exemption of your Pigeon line. Polywad supplies their Vintager and double Wide lines invited to low push for old shotguns. Together I claimed before, I just shoot 2½-inch shells in my Damascus-barreled 1894 Remington, even though it has actually 2¾-inch chambers. Despite its age, v 7⁄8-­ounce and 1-­ounce loads, that gun may be an ext effective than my Beretta 686 in 28 gauge, which has accounted for countless birds over the years, albeit with just ¾ ounce of shot.