Blank Firing Antique Brass Guns - Graybeard Outdoors
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-12-2020, 03:49 AM Thread Starter
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Default Blank Firing Antique Brass Guns

The tube I'm inquiring about is a British Ordnance 6lbr field gun, made in 1853. I have read elsewhere one person's opinion that under no circumstances should antique brass guns be fired - even with blank charges. Assuming it is in sound condition, is that the general consensus here too? I would be surprised if a 200gram charge of 2F (not Swiss powder, ordinary 2F) could damage such a tube. Please let me know

Photos attached. Yes I realise the carriage is flimsy, assume the gun would be on a proper carriage before blank firing.

Nic
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-12-2020, 09:10 AM
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I would not fire the pictured gun at all.

First and foremost is the carriage. It appears from the photos to be in pretty poor condition. I would be worried it would fail, even firing a blank.

The barrel. How old is this barrel? What is the barrel's history. If this barrel has any history-fame, even provenance, I would not shoot it.

Now if this is a gun that only claim to history is that it has survived all these years and if it were on a sound carriage, I would consider firing it. I would look a cannon inpsector. In the US, start by contacting The North South Skirmish Association, Paulson Bros. or Loomis’ Battery of Michigan Light Artillery. They have or can put you in contact with some one who can inspect this barrel.

200 grams 2F powder in this barrel-Never. A long time back Matt Switlick did pressure gun testing in 3 inch ordnance rifle. He compared charges of equal weight, one of cannon grade and one of FG. The faster burning FG developed 40% higher pressure than the same size charge Cannon grade with minimal increase in velocity. This why it is recommend to never use anything but cannon grade powder in cannons of inch bore and larger. FFG is faster burning than Fg and even faster than Cannon grade.

You wrote 200 grams. My first read, I read it 200 grains. most of us here are US based and still on the inch system and not Metric. But catching the correct term grams, 200 grams equals about 7.05 ounces. The maximum safe load recommendation from the American Artillery Association 2000 chart is 2 ounces per inch of bore- 3.67" x 2 + 7.34 ounces of Fg maximum load. So in safe gun 200 grams is okay.

The gun pictured, I would not fire.

The gun pictured after inspection, on a sound carriage, with Cannon grade powder, I would fire a blank load only.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-12-2020, 07:57 PM
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Personally if that tube had no apparent defects in the bore, I’d have no problem at all firing the stated charge with nothing in front of the charge except air. The recoil transmitted to the carriage will be minimal and, again, my own opinion here, carriage would barely move and would remain intact. That tube was cast in 1857 and was made to very high standards, and proof tested with heavy charges and real shot, and survived. Don’t fire even a second round, most serious blank-firing accidents happen as a result of loading after a previous shot. I very rarely disagree with DD, but this time I had to do so. To reassure yourself and any officials that this works ok, fire it remotely (electric squib or loooong fuse) in a totally safe area, with video cameras rolling, some close up and some far away.

Last edited by cannonmn; 06-12-2020 at 08:02 PM.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-12-2020, 08:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your replies so far.

'IF' it were ever used for blank firing, it would be done with with either a proper carriage, or potentially this carriage but with proper wheels and strengthening where required. I have not inspected the carriage personally but I know it was only built as a display mount.

You are correct, I meant 200 grams by weight. I do however take your point about 2F.

The tube in question does have historical significance though. It is the only known survivor of 4x 6lbr guns used by the South Australian Volunteer Artillery in the 1860s.

Also, what do you all think of this statement I read:

"Antique brass cannon should not be fired, even with blank charges, owing to changes in the bonding of copper and tin (the metals which comprise gunmetal), a problem of crystallization which varies from one brass gun to another, gradually weakening over the centuries."

For a bit of background, I am actually a trained and experienced gunner, and own a full size replica 3" bore smoothbore field gun which I use for both blank and ball firing (see attached pictured of my own personal gun, uniform is South Australian Volunteer Artillery 1862-65 - nothing to do with the Civil War ).

So with the above points in mind, is it still a hard no?

Regards,

Nic
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-12-2020, 09:48 PM
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What is the source of that quote regarding crystallization? I haven’t encountered that before.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-12-2020, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cannonmn View Post
What is the source of that quote regarding crystallization? I haven’t encountered that before.

I found that quote near the end of this article, but unfortunately no source is given, so I’m filing it under “Old Wives’ Tales.”

https://www.pastmasters.net/the-govt-house-gun.html
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-13-2020, 01:57 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cannonmn View Post
I found that quote near the end of this article, but unfortunately no source is given, so I’m filing it under “Old Wives’ Tales.”

https://www.pastmasters.net/the-govt-house-gun.html
Hi Cannonmn, yes that is where I found that statement. I'm pleased you think it's bulls***t as I too find it hard to believe that a British 1850s Ordnance tube would become so weak after 160-odd years as to not be able to handle a modest blank charge.

Nic
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-13-2020, 09:57 AM
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Crystalization. I wonder if they are suggesting age or work hardening of the brass, such as is seen in much fired cartridge brass. If you have cartridge brass that is shoot and resized repeatedly without benefit of annealing (stress relieving) that brass will slowing start failing a few pieces at a time usually with split necks. The same theory could apply, I suppose, that a brass cannon which expands and contracts on firing could develop this work hardening effect and eventually fail. This hardening-stress even causes much fired and resized brass sitting it storage to fail.

The theory makes sense. But does it apply to brass cannons, I don't know. Smarter people than me have argued. I do know I have had cartridge brass failures attributed to this theory..

The theory also suggest annealling cartridge brass relieves this stress. How do you anneal a cannon?

Time for George to step in here, he is much more knowledgeable about these things, than I am.

I will stick with my reasons for not firing this particular gun until inspections can be made and the carriage repaired.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-13-2020, 10:43 AM
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I consulted an expert resource I have in the U.K., who says the crystallization thing is “nonsense.” I forgot to ask permission to name and quote her so the summary.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-13-2020, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by double d View Post
Crystalization. I wonder if they are suggesting age or work hardening of the brass, such as is seen in much fired cartridge brass. If you have cartridge brass that is shoot and resized repeatedly without benefit of annealing (stress relieving) that brass will slowing start failing a few pieces at a time usually with split necks. The same theory could apply, I suppose, that a brass cannon which expands and contracts on firing could develop this work hardening effect and eventually fail. This hardening-stress even causes much fired and resized brass sitting it storage to fail.

The theory makes sense. But does it apply to brass cannons, I don't know. Smarter people than me have argued. I do know I have had cartridge brass failures attributed to this theory..

The theory also suggest annealling cartridge brass relieves this stress. How do you anneal a cannon?

Time for George to step in here, he is much more knowledgeable about these things, than I am.

I will stick with my reasons for not firing this particular gun until inspections can be made and the carriage repaired.
Let’s be careful about the particular alloy we’re dealing with here, bronze, approx. 90/10 Copper/tin for gunmetal. It is very hard, strong stuff, I can tell you stories about how difficult it is to work without powerful machine tools. The Brits usually refer to gunmetal bronze as “brass” by tradition, but I guarantee you it is bronze they are discussing. Therefore any comparison with brass cartridge cases is incorrect. But in DD’s defense, where he is, it was probably still dark when he wrote that, and maybe he hadn’t had his first cup of caffeine yet.
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