View Full Version : Looking for a good gunsmith to check out an old shotgun

01-31-2012, 12:23 PM
I recently got an "Imperial Arms" (Belgium made) SxS, Percussion Cap, Damascus barrel shotgun. I was told that it was made in the 1890s but from the barrel markings it looks like it might have been in the 1920s. I'm still researching the age, but I'm more concerned with finding a gunsmith who can confirm if the gun is safe to fire (with either modern or BP loads) as I know that Damascus barrels can have integrity issues. Can anyone recommend a gunsmith in LA or Orange County qualified to look at this old (potentially older) shotgun and maybe help with determining its age?

01-31-2012, 2:06 PM

01-31-2012, 2:28 PM
My default would be that if it has damascus barrels, don't shoot it. Its a calculated risk and what's the payoff?

For a gunsmith, I'd be inclined to look for someone that does a fair amount of double gun work in their normal course of business. Its a whole different world than tactical guns, modern steels and machining. These guys http://www.ivorybeads.com deal in vintage shotguns. I'd call them and get a referral or maybe they have someone on site.

01-31-2012, 6:04 PM
Percussion cap? I take it you mean external hammers?

Either way, there were tons on "no name" SXS shotguns imported back then. It's not like it's a Parker-Hale or an A.H. Fox.

You can easily spend far more than it's worth just for a gunsmith to tell you it's a wallhanger. Which is by far the most likely outcome with one of these obscure name side-by-sides. And that's not just from the fact that it has Damascus barrels. It was an inexpensive gun to begin with, so they tend to build up slop in the actions, etc.

If you really want an old side-by-side to shoot, start by doing the research (before you buy). Learn the good names. Learn how to spot a worn-out gun. And then be ready to pay the price a high-quality vintage SXS commands. There is no free lunch.

You miight be able to pick up an older Savage or Stevens SXS in good shape for a reasonable price.

Or buy yourself a used Remington 870 or Winchester Model 12 or Ithaca Model 37.


01-31-2012, 8:31 PM
They may not be damascus barrels. They may be standard steel tubes. Since Damascus barrels were considered top quality lots of cheap guns had "simulated" damascus barrels.
On the underside of the barrel under the forearm, use a bit of sandpaper to see if the "damacus" finish will come off.
That will eliminate one problem --

02-01-2012, 8:44 AM
The top of the barrel does say "Laminated Steel" which may indicate a Damascus overlay as from my understanding (and recent research), Damascus or twist-steel barrels are made by layering alternate strips of steel and iron then welding them together. The strips are then twisted until they resembled a screw, three of these wound strips are then welded together, wound around a steel mandrel, then welded and hammered into a barrel tube.

Laminated steel barrels are a bit different. They start with a ball of steel and iron that is then hammered into long strips and twisted, then, like their Damascus cousin, wound around a mandrel, welded and hammered into a barrel tube. Inherently, these barrels are quite strong, and many can pass nitro proof.

When I broke down the shotgun to examine the markings I did notice that underside of the barrels seemed to lack the Damascus finish that the rest of the gun had. Don't mind spending a few bucks (reasonable few) to get it checked out as I got this gun dirt cheap (and I do mean dirt cheap) and on a whim (last ten lots at an auction and thought to check it out to see if I could fire it), if its not usable there is a great space for it on the wall. That is once I get the cosmoline off of it.

Still thanks for all the suggestions I'll check out those sites and maybe look in to a Stevens, Savage or such if I get serious about a SxS that's good for shooting.

02-01-2012, 9:22 AM
For a very good read on twist steel, aka "Damascus", barrels look in any copy of a Flaydermans Guide to Antique Guns.
One way to tell if it is a twist steel barrel is to polish a section with 320 or 400 grit and then hit it with anything with phosphoric acid (driveway cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, Jasco Metal Etch, maybe even cold blue). If it is layered, it will show.
Chances are, any Belgian rabbit-eared double gun with a trade name like yours from that era, not from a famous maker, is at best a wall hanger.