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Thread: Buying an old firearm, word of caution

  1. #1

    Buying an old firearm, word of caution

    I bought a shotgun made in 1909 just over 4 years ago. I should never really have bought it as it was such a poor fit for me, I just couldn't get on with it. I had put about 30 cartridges through it in 3 walked-up outings then decided to sell it. Imagine my surprise when I was told by a gunsmith who was assessing it for a potential buyer that, and I quote 'whoever refurbished the barrels has done a mind numbingly and unbelievably bad job' and 'it's a beautiful gun but the barrels are scrap'. Gunsmiths had also stated that it was 'unsafe to shoot' due to the minimum barrel thickness despite having passed proof after its refurbishment.

    After a long drawn out process which has seen the gun and barrels travel up and down the country to various gunsmiths to argue over the barrel thickness, the dealer I bought it from finally agreed to take it back with a refund. It was ticketed as 'mint' when I bought it.

    So a word of warning to anyone who is tempted to buy an old gun, irrespective of whether it has passed proof, have the barrel thickness measured and check the gun out thoroughly. Particularly if the gun has been refurbished.

    I've been lucky that it did not split the barrels when using it and received a refund.

    Caveat Emptor!!!!

  2. #2
    Glad to hear you got a resolution. It's a total shame that an otherwise lovely old gun was trashed.
    Brian.

    Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you......

  3. #3
    Is it possible to measure barrel thickness with a digital caliber, or is this something best left to the experts?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by nicowilson View Post
    Is it possible to measure barrel thickness with a digital caliber, or is this something best left to the experts?
    When I bought an old H&H, I asked a gunsmith for a reasoned valuation and took the owner with me. We agreed a sale for less than he hoped and more than I expected and I still have the gun for odd days.
    It had new barrels in the 1930's, no pitting and was made in 1904. Doesnt fit perfectly but its shooting history.

  5. #5
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    There's a lot of BS about wall thickness. In truth many "best" guns were made that way. Indeed even today some well known makers, from new, make guns only 27 thou thick at the relevant section.

    Part of the problem, also, is our two "idiot" Proof Houses and proof laws that are in part nonsensical.

    Remove metal inside...gun goes out of proof. Remove metal outside...such as a strike off and re-black gun stays in proof..even though the end effect on the wall thickness is reduced just the same!

    On the continent, at proof, the finished barrels were weighed and the weight stamped on them. No need for gauges beyond the price of the "punter". You just weigh the things. If they've lost weight the buyer knows something has been done to them.

    Problem is if you dent the thing. Then it becomes an issue. That aside we've all bought guns that don't fit, won't fit, and never will fit. Just because we take a fancy. Been there and done it. Too often too!
    Last edited by enfieldspares; 03-10-2016 at 18:44.

  6. #6
    Very pleased you got your refund.
    Although not straight forward and has taken up your time and expense I'm sure.
    Pleased also the Gunsmith did the right thing in the end.
    It's a tricky one. When selling the guns are always mint, but when buying, what you have to sell in valueless?....Somethings never change on that front?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by nicowilson View Post
    Is it possible to measure barrel thickness with a digital caliber, or is this something best left to the experts?
    A local gunsmith measured the wall thickness with a very long-armed caliper with a DTI, so at any point along the length of the barrel that was thin, the DTI dropped, thus showing the thinnest sections - down to 15 thou at some points. Other gunsmiths may measure with a bore caliper, then measure the O/D and subtract the 2 - problem here is that you don't get the true thickness 180 degrees from the rib so it can give a false reading. Best left to an expert with correctly calibrated equipment, and new technology includes ultrasonic measurement which is a highly specialised piece of equipment.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by enfieldspares View Post
    even today some well known makers, from new, make guns only 27 thou thick at the relevant section.
    Minimum wall thickness on mine was 'only' 15 thou.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Virbius View Post
    A local gunsmith measured the wall thickness with a very long-armed caliper with a DTI, so at any point along the length of the barrel that was thin, the DTI dropped, thus showing the thinnest sections - down to 15 thou at some points. Other gunsmiths may measure with a bore caliper, then measure the O/D and subtract the 2 - problem here is that you don't get the true thickness 180 degrees from the rib so it can give a false reading. Best left to an expert with correctly calibrated equipment, and new technology includes ultrasonic measurement which is a highly specialised piece of equipment.
    Thanks Virbius

  10. #10
    Key signs to look for:

    1) An old gun should have a nice Patina to it. Blueing will almost have a plum colour to it.

    2) Engraving should mostly be nice and sharp - may well be gummed with dried oil etc but the metal cuttings should be nice and crisp. If the engraving is not sharp it has been buffed with a wire brush etc. Engraving on barrels should be sharp as well - or its been re-blued - polished up etc.

    3) Wood should stand proud of the metal work - was generally finished slighty proud of the action - if the wood surface is flush or slightly sunken - its been refinished.

    4) look along the barrels towards the corner / edge of a window - you may be able to see rippling etc - again refinished.

    5) Is it tight on the action - its probably been rejointed.

    6) Hang the barrels by the lugs - and with your finger nails - they should ring nice and bright. If they sound dull, solder has crystalised, ribs need rebedding etc.

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