Making Damascus Shotgun Barrels
Making Damascus Shotgun Barrels
The manufacture of shotgun barrels differs in many respects from that of rifle barrels. They must be light, therefore thin, and yet sufficiently strong — conditions which can only be obtained by an extraordinary tenacity of the material. In these combinations this tenacity is secured by mixing and blending the iron and steel so intimately together that the peculiar proportions of each, toughness and elasticity, are imparted to every portion of the mass, and the barrel thus receives the degree of hardness and softness required. The barrels of the Parker gun are manufactured in the following manner: The iron and steel are placed in layers, according to the figure that may be desired, which operation is called piling.
These layers are securely welded together into a compact bar, which must be absolutely sound and perfect in every weld, as the slightest spot left unwelded or unsound in this operation will be sure to cause a total loss of the barrel. The process now consists in reducing this bar to such a sized rod as may be required for a certain weight of barrel. This rod is twisted similar to a rope, care being taken to have the twist uniform and even. Several of these twisted rods are placed side by side, being careful to have the inclination of the twist arranged in opposite directions. These several rods are welded together with the same care and precision as in the previous operation, to insure perfectly sound barrels. This is now termed a ribbon and is coiled spirally around a mandrel. This spiral ribbon is raised to a welding heat and jumped by striking the end against the anvil, thereby welding the edges firmly together. They are then placed upon a welding-mandrel, reheated, and welded from end to end. Much skill and care are required in this operation to reduce this outside diameter to correct size and at the same time preserve the caliber, and also maintain the proper taper, the barrel being much larger at the breech than at the muzzle. The figure that appears in the figured barrel is dependent upon the correctness of this and the previous welding operations, for if hammered unevenly, the figure itself will be correspondingly uneven. Then follows the process of hammering in nearly a cold state, whereby the texture of the metal is condensed, closing its pores and making it harder. This finishes the operation of barrel-forging, and the barrel is ready to be bored. The curly figure that appears in the Damascus, Bernard, and laminated barrels is obtained by twisting the rods before referred to; the variation of figure being obtained by varying the piling. The white marks that appear in the finished barrel are iron*, and the dark ones steel. The fine figure that is on the barrels of the high-priced guns is obtained by an increased number of pieces in the operation of piling.
This large number of pieces necessarily renders the operation of securing perfect welding much more difficult, and the liability of loss is greater. Some imagine that the curly figures of the barrel are simply etched on the outside, when they are, in fact, the visible proof of a superior strength both desirable and important to every shooter who cares for his personal safety; for if an iron barrel, no matter how strong and thick, is defective and does not stand the test, the defective part will splinter into more or less small pieces, while the Damascus, Bernard, and laminated barrels will tear like a woven fabric. This proves clearly the extraordinary tenacity of the material. These fine barrels are not, therefore, worked and twisted so neatly and nicely that they may look beautiful alone, but rather for the reason that greatest lightness, combined with greatest durability, may be produced.
Farrow, Edward S. American Small Arms; a Veritable Encyclopedia of Knowledge for Sportsmen and Military Men. New York: Bradford, 1904. Print.
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