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Damascus Barrel Making

A craft art in an industrial era.

The beautiful Damascus barrels that grace many of our Victorian and some of our Edwardian shotguns were made by a process that goes back to the early days of barrel making. Tubes were originally folded sheets of metal, but the seam was always a weak spot. Only by twisting the ribbon around a mandrel and hammer welding different strengths of iron and steel to form a barrel with no weak spot and sufficient balance between hardness and flexibility, did the ideal gun barrel emerge.

Well made Damascus was the best material available. Fluid pressed steel only replaced it because it was an industrial process with better scales of economy in production, fewer skilled men required and better quality control assurance. To see the process of making Damascus barrels, this film from Belgium, circa 1930 is very informative. The English stopped Damascus production in 1905, when Greener shut their barrel making factory. Firms like Purdey had been using Belgian Damascus since the 1880s. English Damascus was considered the best quality but regularity of supply and quality control issues plagued the best gunmakers and Belgium provided an easy alternative. Click thisĀ LINK to watch the film.