Proofing advantages.


September 5, 2013, 01:21 PM
Hi just joined THR,thought I would show you something that could have caused me some discomfort to say the least.I have been making guns for many years and have never had a mishap .this was just another Flintlock Gun I sent the Barrel ( proofing here in the UK.
The material was obviously wrong for the application.

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September 5, 2013, 01:25 PM
I sent the Barrel to the Birmingham Gunbarrel Proof House routinely .The test obviously showed up the fact that the material I used was of the wrong grade.My first failure since I have been submitting barrels since 1975.A lesson well learned.
Regards all.

September 5, 2013, 01:40 PM
Is that Burmingham, Alabama or Burmingham, England?

September 5, 2013, 01:51 PM
Remember in the late 90's all the Spanish barrels that blew up? Not proofed and fake proof marks.

September 5, 2013, 02:04 PM
Birmingham England

September 5, 2013, 02:07 PM
Birmingham England,We have the London Gunbarrel Proof House and the Birmingham Gunbarrel Proof house.

September 5, 2013, 02:10 PM
Welcome to THR!!!

September 5, 2013, 02:13 PM (
This is the gun when finished prior to Proofing the barrel.This winter I will make another barrel to higher specifications.

September 5, 2013, 02:15 PM
Randy Ray ,thanks for the welcome.

September 5, 2013, 02:18 PM (
Another view of the Flintlock Shotgun.

September 5, 2013, 02:23 PM
Nice looking flint shotgun. Do you build as a hobby or do you sale your finished products?

September 5, 2013, 02:29 PM
Just as a hobby now,at one time I used to do some work for money but now being of advanced years I make my own stuff.

September 5, 2013, 08:21 PM
Beautiful shotgun. To bad about the barrel though.

September 6, 2013, 02:36 AM
Yes,I must confess that I was annoyed but the alternative could have been a disaster.I had shot the Gun a few times with light loads,2.5 Drams black Powder and 1oz of shot and she was quite responsive and came up good.On reflection and in the light of World events,a minor problem and a project for the winter.

September 6, 2013, 02:41 PM
blackpowder barrels made of modern steels seldom fail so totally in proof firing.
Do you know of what material the barrel was made (did you make it yourself?)
Was the material heattreated and tempered, and, if so, to what specification?
It is always possible that there was a flaw in the steel to begin with: as a barrel maker, I have seen barrel-spec barstock, both chrome-moly and stainless, with seams and/or pipes running the fill length of the bar. Sometimes these conditions are not detected before the barrel is completely finished internally, and, when found, there is no remedy except to discard the flawed barrel blank, though the steel supplier may sometimes make the defective material good.
PRD1 - mhb - Mike

September 6, 2013, 04:43 PM
Yes I agree it is unusual for a Black Powder Barrel to blow so badly.At the breach the thickness is .250" at the Flats and slightly more to the peaks of the Octagon.I usualy have made B P Barrels of mild steel that have stood the massive proofing Charges.In this case although the Steel machined and filed easily I think it is brittle,according to the cristalised edges at the Burst.The Steel was a piece of what I thought was High Pressure Solid Drawn Tube.If you can see that a strip has split from the barrel.A crack extends all the way to the muzzle through the sight hole.Thanks for your advice on this critical subject.
On close inspection I can see a dark patch at one point in the Split,this could be the starting point of the burst.

September 6, 2013, 04:49 PM
Is that Burmingham, Alabama or Burmingham, England?
It's Buminham, Ala. ;)
I lived there for many years.

Nice work, Col.

September 6, 2013, 05:04 PM (

September 6, 2013, 05:05 PM (

September 6, 2013, 05:08 PM (
Some of the work during the build.

September 6, 2013, 07:00 PM
Good thing it blew during proofing! Probably saved someone's eyesight and your hands.

September 6, 2013, 10:29 PM
you may have mis-stated the thickness of the barrel walls at the breech:
.250" seems (and looks, in your photo) more likely.
High-pressure solid-drawn tube of the wall thickness you apparently used should be strong enough for a muzzle-loading barrel - but isn't intended for such use. This type of tubing is intended for high static pressures, but not for the shock incident to peak pressures in firearms - it may be too hard for best tensile and yield strengths.
If you acquire your tubing from a steel supplier, he should be able to furnish you with the chemistry and physicals of the particular tubing, and, if I were going to use such tubing for barrel making, I'd be certain that the specifications were within the proper range for that use.
It is also possible that there was an inclusion in the material, forming a 'stress riser' which caused the failure at that point in proof firing.
If you are unsure about the actual nature of the material... the lesson is in the result.
I do want to compliment you on your workmanship, though.

PRD1 - mhb - Mike

Jim K
September 6, 2013, 10:33 PM
Hi, Col4570,

Is "PROOF REJECT" an example of British understatement? It seems just a bit obvious.

I am sure you have made more of those guns than I have, since I have never made any, but it seems to me that steel tubing is not a good material for a barrel, even for black powder. Making "seamless" or drawn tubing can draw an occlusion out for a considerable distance, leading to what amounts to a long flaw in the resulting barrel. That may have been what happened here. Welded tubing does not have that problem, but it has a welded seam that can also conceal a flaw in the barrel. For that reason, tubing is not usually recommended for the high pressures found in firearms, even black powder firearms. AFAIK, quality barrel makers start with bar stock and drill the hole, rather than trying to use tubing. More expensive, but the barrels are much less likely to have flaws.


September 6, 2013, 10:58 PM
I'm curious about the Spanish barrels that blew up.Does anyone have more information on them?Thank you.

September 7, 2013, 01:45 AM
Yes .250".The Tubing had been in my workshop for many years and had a polished internal surface.On reflection I anticipated that it was of the same Specifications as the previous barrels I have made.As always I use the Proof Houses to test my work and in this case it proved to be worth the exercise.
I have straightened out the Under Rib which had twisted and curved,The Breach Plug with its stainless steel Touch Hole Cone has survived and the Barrel Wedge is OK. (

September 7, 2013, 01:48 AM
The above Gun is a 10 Bore I made in the 1970s that has stood the tests of time

September 7, 2013, 05:26 AM
CVA sold ML guns with Spanish barrels and went as far as saying they were safe with three pellets of Pyrodex or 777 (150gr of bp sub). Spanish company that made the barrels did not proof them ( well they did four every six months to a year ).Barrels were all proof-marked and shipped to USA for CVA and sold on US market.
Many shooters were injured. And CVA changed hands.
Traditions also bought barrels from same Spanish manufacturer. They were lucky that not as many blew up. Both companies still buy barrels from same manufacturer to this day. US law does not require that barrels be proofed as ML Guns are not firearms per BATF.
Makers of BP subs (Pyrodex and 777) Data Sheets state the max load of 2 pellets 100gr. No exceptions.
Links for more information

September 7, 2013, 11:29 AM
This is really interesting, thanks for posting your experience.

I am not a gun builder, so I had never thought about the proofing process before. I did not know that a private builder could have a barrel proofed (proven??) this way.

Are you using a proof house in England because you live there? Are there companies in the United States that provide this service? Just curious why you chose a company in England.

September 7, 2013, 11:50 AM
US Law doesn't require centerfires to be proofed either.

4v50 Gary
September 7, 2013, 12:24 PM
I may have missed it, but from whom did you acquire the barrel blank?

September 7, 2013, 02:19 PM
J Bar,I live in England,the two Proof Houses are there to Proof Guns and Rifles plus other ordnance to both the public and the trade.It is illegal to sell or make a gift of an unproved firearm here.I have always submitted my Projects for my own safety and that of others who might use my Guns.I believe that in the USA most manufacturers have in house proving.

September 7, 2013, 02:26 PM
4v50 Gary,I made the Barrel as I have made others.34 inches,octagonal to round,Nocks Breach with stainless Steel coned touch hole,under Rib with Ramrod Thimbles.Unfortunately the Barrel Tube proved to be of the wrong material.

September 7, 2013, 05:04 PM
Colt4570, You are correct. Manufactures of quality guns do their own in-house proofing in this country (US). Would be much safer for shooters here if there were a requirement proofing.

September 7, 2013, 05:18 PM
BullSlinger,yes some imported firearms have to be submitted for proof here in order for retailers to sell them.Some foreign Proof marks are accepted if there has been a prior agreement that satisfies our proof Houses.

September 7, 2013, 06:21 PM
Col4570 I have been amazed at how they built barrels back in the 17 and 1800,s since you seem to have knowledge in this area do you know how
or have any pictures of a barrel borer?

I understand the twisted weld forged barrels on shotguns of the era was something similar done on/with rifles?

I just cant see how a barrel could be bored so long and straight before the advent of modern machining.

any help or imformation you could provide would be apreciated

September 7, 2013, 06:54 PM
Originally, barrels were forge-welded from strips ('skelps') of iron around a mandrel slightly under the desired bore size.
Most such barrels were made-up of a number of short skelps butt-welded together and wrap-welded around the mandrel, though some barrel makers made a long, flat skelp and 'folded' it around the mandrel which resulted in a finished tube with one longitudinal seam
The barrel forger took some care to keep the tube as straight as possible, and of as near the final outside shape and dimension as could be done.
Because the mandrel tended to stick in the bore if too long a weld was attempted, it had to be driven out and re-inserted about every inch of the welded length.
When the tube was completely welded, the bore was reamed-up to final diameter and finish using the short bit (a twisted, square reamer on a long shank), followed by the long bit (a square, steel cutting bit several inches long, attached to a rod long enough to completely pass through the tube) - the bit was arranged to be raised for successive passes by inserting shims between the bit and the rod until the final desired bore diameter and finish was achieved. The long bit actually can produce a very good bore, both for consistency of diameter and finish, but is very labor intensive. It is also true that the bores of many antique barrels are not truly straight, and never were.
Finish-reamed blanks were usually straightened before finishing the exterior of the barrel, or rifling it - this was done by eye, looking through the bore at a straight line or edge, rotating the barrel, noting where and how the shadow cast down the bore appeared to deviate from a straight line, and bending the barrel with a press or hammer and anvil until it was visibly straight. There were other methods, too, but this is the best, and is still used, though most modern barrel makers do not need to straighten their barrels, and it is better not to do so, if not necessary.
There are still practitioners of traditional arms making who forge-weld barrels, ream and rifle them with traditional tools - there is a very good video of the entire process of making an American longrifle at Colonial Williamsburg in Wallace Gusler's shop, later operated by his apprentice, Herschel House - the video is 'Gunsmith of Williamsburg', and can probably be viewed on-line.
Also, there is an excellent article on the processes and tools in the 'Foxfire 5' book, one of a series on traditional arts and crafts.
Hope this helps.

PRD1 - mhb - Mike

September 7, 2013, 09:15 PM
PRD1 thanks that makes a lot of sense to me. Im a bit of an amature blacksmith and have been wanting to try making a barrel with crude tools
the way it may have been one.

September 7, 2013, 09:54 PM
if you intend to forge-weld a barrel, you should know that the originals were made of wrought iron, and the barrel makers preferred the 'softest' and most easily worked iron they could get - some barrels could actually be 'pared' with a pocketknife.
Gusler found in his experimental days that mild steel, the only material available to him at the time, was more difficult to work with, because at forging temperature, it was easily overheated, burning-out the carbon and rendering it useless for barrel making. It was possible to use mild steel, but much more difficult, he said.
There are modern traditional weaponsmiths who actually smelt their own iron from high-grade ore, working-up a bloom that they can forge into blades, etc.
If you can find some old muzzleloading barrels in poor condition (past restoration), they could also serve as a source of good wrought iron, though later ML barrels (post 1850, say) were also made from steel, usually drilled-out from the solid bar or rolled from a pre-perforated tube - you'll have to identify the material properly.
In any case, good luck!

PRD1 - mhb - Mike

September 7, 2013, 09:58 PM
some barrels could actually be 'pared' with a pocketknife.

Some old time gunsmiths actually cut the barrel flats with a draw knife.

Jim K
September 7, 2013, 10:08 PM
In countries requiring proof, the proof is part of gun control. A gun cannot be sold without being proved*, and once proved, the gun is registered and subsequent sale must be approved by the authorities. Some folks think government proof testing in the U.S. would be a good idea for safety, but proof testing is (AFAIK) never a standalone; it is always combined with registration and licensing.

*Even where barrels can be proved in the unfinished state, final proof of the gun in the finished (and serial numbered) state is required.


September 7, 2013, 10:25 PM
I had never thought about keeping track of guns via proofing but after reading your post it really is quite simple for the powers that be to know who has what. Thanks for the info.

September 8, 2013, 01:52 AM
Jim K,Here in the UK the Proof House never require any certification from those who submit guns for Proof.

September 10, 2013, 09:11 PM

But they know who sent it, and they know who theyreturned it to.

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