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Old 30th December 2017, 03:49 AM   #23
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 492
Default damascus barrels not an Eastern monopoly

Originally Posted by rickystl
Hi Philip.

Barrels on Ottoman shoulder guns: Now that you mention it, yes, the similarities in barrel design do mimic the early jaegar barrels. Good observation. The only difference in the Ottoman barrels being the more frequent use of damascus, which would be the norm.


Before damascus and fancy twists became the rage in 19th cent. Britain (shotguns) and France (pistols), it was also practiced by some European barrelsmiths as early as the 17th cent. Last year, Czernys sold a ca. 1700 Italian sporting gun with a rifled damascus barrel signed by Johann Schifter (Wiener Neustadt, Austria, fl 1694-1730, Stöckel 8210, 8211). In my collection is a miquelet carbine with a rifled damascus barrel of a style normally seen on early-mid 17th cent. wheellocks, that happens to have the same rifling pattern as that of the Johann Schifter example. (It, too, is deeply fluted at the breech).

Damascus barrels were also made at the Royal Arsenal at Naples for especially fine guns. The 18th cent. Neapolitan master Michele Battista is known to have made a few, there are examples in the Windsor Castle collection and in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Munich).

Truth be told, improvements in European barrel-forging techniques beginning in the 17th cent. began to give twist-forged and damascus barrels a run for the money, especially in the realm of shotguns and pistols. The legendary Cominazzo and Franzino families produced tubes of superb strength and lightness, thin-walled at the muzzle allowing for far better balance yet standing up to healthy powder charges that could give mid-caliber projectiles good muzzle velocity. Ditto for the horseshoe-nail-forged shotgun barrels devised by the Hispano-German master smith Nicolás Bis and taken up by virtually all of Spain's finest smiths thereafter. Of course, none of these superior products had a surface pattern in the steel that gave the swirling patterns of damascus its immense aesthetic appeal and for some applications, such as mid-to-large caliber rifles, captured Turkish barrels rebored and remounted in Western style made very respectable sporting weapons even into the early 19th cent.

Were damascus barrels "the norm" for Ottoman shoulder weapons as a whole? I would suspect that they were actually the minority back in their working lives, since their cost made them unaffordable for the back-country hunters or the masses of rank and file troops alike. We see so many of them now because they were the ones that were saved rather than scrapped because of their outstanding appearance.
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