May 2, 2011, 12:42 PM
I was wondering if anyone is familiar with the history of proof marks on older guns (both handguns or longguns). I see them particularly on older belgian guns. I am interested in the process involved in applying the proof marks. Was each gun individually proof tested, or was it like cars today where you would test a demo model to destruction, and then apply the rating to each production model? Was proofing done in house, with or without oversight of a governing body, or at an entirely seperate location by an independant organization?
I dont really see any proof marks on new guns. Is there a reason the process was stopped, and roughly when did it stop?
Hoping to get some interesting information, and thank you for your help!
May 2, 2011, 04:11 PM
It didn't stop.
Most all foreign made guns still have proof-marks on them, if you know where to look.
There was never any law requiring proof testing in the USA.
Some of the better companies did, and still do proof-test every gun.
Winchesters WP in an oval proof mark for instance, or Remington's R.E.P., or Colts VP.
Other U.S. companies do proof-test every gun, but do not so mark the guns.
In Europe, England, France, Germany, Italy, etc. it has long been a requirement by law, and in most cases, is done by the government proof-house.
Tower of London comes to mind, as does the Italian National Proof House in Gardone Italy.
Each gun maker is required to send every gun it makes to be proof-tested, and pay the government for the privilege.
And yes, every single gun is proof tested with a high-pressure load or over-charge before receiving the unofficial (USA) or official, (rest of the world) proof stamp.
From a historical standpoint, I suppose it started shortly after the invention of black powder firearms.
At the time, barrels were made by blacksmiths out of wrought iron, or cast iron, or cast bronze, or Damascus steel.
Explosions killed or maimed lots of people.
Finally, the governments stepped in and made it law that all firearms had to be proof tested by the crown to see if they were going to blow up and maim a subject the first shot or not.
Today, fine steel and modern manufacturing methods make defective barrels almost unheard of.
But old habits, and old laws die hard, especially when it generates revenue for the government.
May 2, 2011, 10:50 PM
Thanks for the well written response. Always interesting to get a little historical perspective on things.