Last month I bought a wall hanger. Looked good for my purposes, but then they always change, maybe. Its an old Damascus double barrel, with the striping clearly standing out. I don't even know how to measure the chamber, and realize it could be 2 5/8 or 2 3/4. So do I just drop in a known 2 3/4 to see if it bottoms? No intention to fire it, just to see the chamber length. Is the weakness in the barrel/barrels? What can I fire in it? I'm pretty sure the shorty shells they're selling at gun shows will fit, but maybe/probably won't be safe. Any one know the pressures of those things?
Tie the gun to a tree and yank a cord? Proof loads of light shot loads? I do have a bunch of 1940s vintage low brass. Or should I just hang it over the fireplace and be happy?
Unhappy ammo seeker
If it's damascus or 'fluid steel' barrels, those are basically black powder only. I'd simply never throw a random shell in there, as it really wouldn't tell you much of anything anyhow, other than perhaps that the gauge correct. The 2 1/2", 2 3/4", 3" etc. length refers to the un-circumcised length, i.e. a fired shell (with the crimp pushed out).
If you really want to know the length of a chamber, consult a competent gunsmith or buy a set of chamber length gauges like https://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-tools-supplies/measuring-tools/shotgun-chamber-gauges/shotgun-chamber-gauge-prod593.aspx]
The gunsmith should also be able to gauge for headspace, which is another factor in determining whether it's safe to shoot.
As far as the mini shells, I imagine they're roughly the same pressure as any full power modern load. They are after all trying to get the most bang they can in a small package.
Whatever you do, I certianly wouldn't tie it to a tree and give 'er a go. It actually might work once or twice without any external visible indications that it's about to blow, giving you a false sense of safety. Then you pick it up and catch a face full of shrapnel on the next shot. Not worth it.
Ever since I first heard of Damascus barrels, the reported danger with them is that corrosion can develop between the original strips of steel that were formed together to make the barrel. The barrel can therefore lose strength and become unsafe to fire over time even though it would have been safe originally and without any visible problems. The common advice has always been to relegate such shotguns to being wall hangers.
Those warnings were common 60+ years ago, and none of the barrels have gotten stronger since then.
But just to show that I pay attention to such things, not too long ago I believe there was another thread about the subject and I decided to do some actual research. It seems that there are a few, but significant number of shooters who consciously reject the idea that all shotguns with Damascus barrels are unsafe. They reportedly shoot them with no ill effects and scoff at the supposed dangers of doing so.
The problem with such practice is that it’s based on illogical thinking: Simply because some old shotguns like that don’t blow up (today) doesn’t mean that all such shotguns are safe to fire or that one that didn’t blow up today won’t blow up tomorrow. As I recall, there are verified reports (i.e., supported by photos) of Damascus barrels that have failed spectacularly when fired in recent times. The thinking that says, “Oh, don’t believe those old stories; I’ve been shooting one for years,” is no different than, “Oh, the danger of poisonous mushrooms is scaremongering. I just pick and eat whatever looks good and I’ve never gotten so much as sick,” or, “Smoking causes cancer? Nonsense. My grandma smoked four packs of unfiltered Camels a day and lived to 106 before being run over by a Prius.”
And although I’m not a metallurgist, it seems to me that because of how they were manufactured, a Damascus barrel could become stressed by repeated firing over a short time and suddenly let go even if it held up for a time.
“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
— Bertrand Russell
rburg, didn't you ask the very same question last year? The answer is the same; no, you should not fire that shotgun.
Don't make us tie you to a tree and yank your cord.
Nope, it t'wasn't me. I just bought this thing last month (Sept).
Unhappy ammo seeker
|Frangas non Flectes|
You sure about that?
I believe in the 25th amendment.
I myself would never shoot a Damascus gun as is, and use to see some shooters at cowboy matches shoot them, and i cringed every time they touched one off. Not only is it a hazard to the shooter but these can let go and send metal in all directions being equally unsafe to bystanders.
The ONLY way I would shoot one that is otherwise in good shape is with sub caliber sleeves inserted, which I think Briley or some other companies make to turn a 12 into a 20.
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