Smoothbore flintlock with pattern welded barrel

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by BBayer, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. BBayer

    BBayer New Member

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    Greetings! My family has an antique smoothbore flintlock which I know nothing about. I've not seen any other guns of its form - it is quite short: only 28.5 inches from stock to muzzle. The barrel is pattern welded and was wrapped around a mandrel. I believe the ottomans were making such barrels around the 1600's, and I think it took around 100 years before European countries started producing such arms. There is what appears to be a silver crest which was pried out - the burned wood and a small part of the bottom of the insert can be seen. There are only two marks which I can find that might give some information on its history - one is the sort of "J" like mark on the strip of metal coming off the back of the barrel. The other is a crest which seems to be brass inlay in the shape of a heater shield with some squiggle symbol on it. Its quite hard to see, and I cannot get a decent picture of it.

    ANY information would be highly appreciated, as I cannot for the life of me get even a foothold on its history, much less value.

    Attached Files:

  2. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Barrels made by wrapping white hot strips of iron and/or steel around a mandrel and welding them together by hammering were made for centuries; the method was used for shotgun barrels into the early 1900's when barrels made by that method, usually called "Damascus" barrels, proved too weak for the then-new smokeless powder.

    Now as to the gun. I don't think it is oriental. It is hard to tell from the pictures, but the muzzle looks like it has a slight flare, which would indicate it was not cut down from a longer gun, but was originally made in that length.

    Now I am really going to stick out the old neck. I think it is Italian, around 1725-1750, and is likely quite valuable. Again, as best I can determine from those bad pictures, the cock is plain and possibly was replaced at some point. It is unusual to see such a plain cock on a highly decorated lockplate.

    I think you need to get an opinion from a qualified appraiser, at a museum or top auction house. You may have to pay for such an appraisal, but you always get what you pay for, and my views are worth just what they are costing you. If it is what it appears to be, it is far out of my league, though others with greater expertise may have suggestions.

    BTW, DO NOT, no matter what anyone says, clean, polish, or otherwise do anything to that gun until you are able to find out just what you have. Too many owners of antiques have found too late that in an effort to make something look good, they "cleaned off" thousands of dollars.

    Jim
  3. BBayer

    BBayer New Member

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    Jim,

    Thanks for the info! I am much more of an edged weapon enthusiast, and that is why I called it pattern welded. Actual Damascus steel is relatively uncommon, and I am not sure it would make a very good barrel, in all honesty.

    I do believe you are spot on regarding the length of the gun - I didn't get it in my terrible pictures (Only have my phone camera) but there is an inlaid band of silver delineating the muzzle.

    The crest which I cannot take a quality picture of does not seem European - it actually looks a bit like Arabic calligraphy. The note concerning the cock being plane is something I had not even noticed! Very exiting. Seeming like there is more history there than I thought!

    I have looked for antique fire arm experts in my area, but I'm fairly clueless. Trying a museum is a great idea I had not considered.
  4. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

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    Damascus barrels were made from three or more strands of different strength iron, twisted together and hammer welded around a mandrel. Like Jim said they were made that way for centuries and into the 1900's
  5. BBayer

    BBayer New Member

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    I'm saying that is not Damascus steel. That is pattern welded steel. The process for creating Damascus steel is actually lost. Further, actual Damascus steel requires use of a very particular iron source which comes from Indian and Sri Lanka (used to make "Wootz" steel). Pattern welded steel uses bars of steels with varying carbon and nickel content in order to produce a visual pattern in the metal. Such a process does not, however, create the crystal structure and carbon nano tubes which make Damascus steel special.

    Such mis-labeling is common place to the point of being acceptable; I merely am nit picking. It is similar to the use of the term "China" to describe all ceramic dinner wear. It commonly is done, but that does not make it accurate.
  6. RJay

    RJay Well-Known Member

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    A Rose by any other name!!!!!!!!
  7. rhmc24

    rhmc24 Member

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    Looks like an issue of communication vs education. Communication wants understanding in which 'damascus' to gun-folk is as described above. Education is probably for a different forum, at least a thread of its own about, maybe, 'history of steels used in gun barrels'.
  8. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Yes, a definition difference. BBayer is technically correct, undoubtedly from his experience with knife making. And the term "Damascus" steel as a general term is used just as he says. But in the narrower area of firearms, the term "Damascus" in regard to twist barrels has been so widely used for so long (well over a century, at least) that it is useless at this point to try to change that usage. Note that, in my post, I said "usually called "Damascus' " specifically to indicate that I was using the term as generally understood in that context.

    There is really no "right" or "wrong" just a matter of a technical definition vx. common usage, an old story. (Is a revolver a type of pistol or am I wrong to call an 1851 Colt a pistol, even if Colt did?)

    Jim
  9. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

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    Even the gun makers called it damascus. Stamped it right on the barrels.
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