The Fowling Piece – Part I

THE FOWLING PIECE, from the Shooter’s Guide by B. Thomas – 1811.

I AM perfectly aware that a large volume might be written on this subject; but, as my intention is to give only such information and instruction as is necessary for the sportsman, I shall forbear introducing any extraneous matter; at the same time, being careful to omit nothing which can be useful even in the remotest degree. That the fowling-piece is an object of the first consideration, will be readily allowed; hence the necessity of being able to form an opinion of its merits prior to laying out a considerable sum of money on this article, as Well as to prevent those dreadful accidents which too frequently occur from causes which at first sight are by no means obvious.

The first thing that presents itself for notice under this head, is the barrel: which, from its nature is liable to the following imperfections, ‘viz’. the chink,’the crack, and the flaw. The chink is a solution of continuity, running lengthwise of the barrel. The crack is a solution of continuity, more irregular in its form than the chink, and running in a transverse direction, or across the barrel. The flaw differs from both : it is a small plate or scale which adheres to the barrel by a narrow base, from which it spreads out as the head of a nail does from its shank; and, when separated, leaves a pit or hollow in the metal.

The crack and flaw are to be regarded as much more dangerous than the chink; as the efforts of the powder are exerted upon the circumference, and not upon the length, of the barrel. The flaw is much more frequent than the crack; but the latter will frequently occur, where the iron is of an inferior quality. All these defects, however, when only external and superficial, are of no material consequence, except in point of neatness; but when situated within the barrel, they become a very serious and even dangerous disadvantage, by affording a lodgment to moisture and filth that corrode the iron, and thus continually enlarge the excavation till the barrel bursts.

A common gun barrel is formed in the following manner :—The workmen begin by heating and hammering out a bar of iron into the form of a flat ruler, thinner at the end intended for the muzzle, and thicker at that for the breech; the length, breadth, and thickness of the whole plate, being regulated by the intended length, diameter, and weight, of the barrel. This oblong plate of iron is then, by repeated heating and hammering, turned round a cylindrical rod of tempered iron, called a mandril, whose diameter is considerably less than the intended bore of the barrel. The edges of the plate are made to overlap each other about half an inch, and are welded together by heating the tube in lengths of two or three inches at a time, and hammering it upon an anvil that has a number of semi-circular furrows in it, adapted to the various sizes of barrels; and, by this means, the whole of the barrel is rendered as perfectly continuous as if it had been bored out of a solid piece.

The barrel, when forged, is either finished in: the common way, or made, to undergo the operation of twisting; which is a process employed on those barrels which are intended to be of a superior quality and price to others, This operation consists in heating the barrel in portions of a few inches at at time to a high degree of red heat; when one end of it is screwed into a vice, and into the other is introduced a square piece of iron, with a handle similar to that of an augur; and by means of these, the fibres of the heated portion are twisted in a spiral direction, which has been found to resist the efforts of the powder better than a longitudinal one.

The next operation is that of giving the barrel its proper calibre, which is called boring. The boring bit is a rod of iron, somewhat longer than the barrel; one end being made to fit the socket of the crank, and the other being furnished with a cylindrical plug of tempered steel, about an inch and a half in length, and having its surface cut in the manner of a perpetual screw; the threads being flat, about a quarter of an inch in breadth, and running with very little obliquity. The form gives the bit a very strong hold of the metal ; and the threads being sharp at the edges, scoop out and remove every roughness and inequality from the inside of the barrel, and render the cavity smooth and equal throughout. A number of bits, each a little larger than the preceding one, are after wards successively passed through the barrel, in the same way, until it has acquired the intended calibre, It is hardly necessary to observe, that the equality of the bore is so essential to the excellence of the piece, that the utmost perfection in every other respect will by no means compensate for the want of it; and the merits of a barrel, in this particular, may be ascertained with tolerable accuracy by means of a plug of lead, cast on a rod of iron or wood; or even by a musket ball, filed so as to exactly fit the bore, and pushed through the barrel by the ramrod; care being taken not to use an iron ramrod, or too much force, lest the ball be flattened, and an artificial difficulty created. Thus, if the bullet move regularly through, there is every reason to be satisfied with the equality of the bore; but if, in passing it through, it move irregularly, that is, in some places quicker than in others, the bore is not true, and the barrel is consequently to be regarded as a bad one.

N. B. Of late, there have been some improvements made, by which barrels are bored with greater expedition; but as these improvements throw no further light on the nature of gun barrels, I shall forbear enumerating them.

In this state the barrel comes into the hands of the gunsmiths, who polish the inside, and file the outside quite round; though sometimes the lower part is formed into eight sides. This octagonal form may appear more handsome, for aught I know, but it serves to make the barrel heavier, without adding in the least to its strength; since the effect of the powder will always be sustained by the thinnest part of the circumference, without any regard to those places that are thicker than the rest. Great pains are always taken to render the circumference of the barrel very even throughout, which is indispensibly necessary, in order to render it perfectly sound and secure.

The last operation is that of colouring the barrel ; previous to which it is polished with fine emery and oil, until it is rendered perfectly smooth and equal. It was formerly the custom to colour barrels, by exposing them to a degree of heat, which produced an elegant blue tinge; but as this effect arises from a degree of calcination taking place upon the surface of the metal, the in side of the barrel consequently sustained considerable injury; and this practice, therefore, has been disused for many years. It is now the custom to brown barrels ; which is done by rubbing the barrel over with aqua-fortis, or spirit of salt, diluted with water, and laying it by until a complete coat of rust is formed upon it; a little oil is then applied, and the surface, being rubbed dry, is polished with a hard brush and bees-wax. This is not the only method to render barrels of a fine brown; it may be done (by the sportsman him-self, if he thinks proper) by first rubbing the barrel bright with sand-paper, to take off all greasiness; and afterwards fit a stick into the muzzle to hold it by. Bruise half an ounce of stone brimstone, and sprinkle it over a gentle fire; hold the barrel over the smoke, at the same time moving it about, until all parts become equally tinged; then place it in a damp situation until the next day, when you will find a fine rust thrown out, over which you may draw your finger, to spread it even over the barrel ; let it remain another day, after which it should be polished, above described.

When barrels are intended for a double gun, they are dressed to their proper thickness, which  is generally less than for single barrels ; and each of them is filed flat on the side where it is to join the other, so that they may fit closely together. Two corresponding notches are then made at the muzzle and breech of each barrel ; and into these are fitted two small pieces of iron to hold them more strongly together. The barrels being united by tinning the parts where they touch, the ribs are fitted in, and made fast by the same means. These ribs are the pieces of iron which are placed between the barrels, running on their upper and under sides the whole length, and serving to hold them more firmly together. When the barrels are thus joined, they are polished and coloured in the manner already described.

Twisted barrels are deservedly celebrated for their superior elegance and strength. The iron employed in them is formed of old horse-shoe nails, which are originally made of the softest and toughest iron that can be produced; and this is still further purified by the numerous heatings and hammerings it has undergone, in being reduced from a bar into the size and form of nails. Twenty-eight pounds of these stubs are required to make a single barrel of the ordinary size. These barrels are twisted into a spiral form, by means of the anvil and hammers alone, which is  not the case with the common barrels; the method of twisting which has been before described. These barrels are finished in the same way as the common ones. Stub iron is also wrought into plain barrels, which, as they require much less labour, are only half the price of the twisted ones.

The French canons a rubans, or ribbon barrels, very much resemble the twisted barrels of the English; and the acknowledged superiority of twisted and ribbon barrels over plain ones, has induced many persons to counterfeit them, by colouring plain barrels, so as to shew a spiral line running from one end to the other. This is produced by wetting a thread with diluted aquafortis, or spirit of salt, and winding it in a spiral direction round a plain barrel, so that a coat of rust may be formed where the thread touches. When the acid is employed the second time over the whole barrel, the part over which the thread has passed, by being more rusted than the rest, shews a dark line winding, round the barrel; arid renders it,  when well finished, scarcely distinguishable from the twisted or ribbon barrel. Other barrels are, by similar means, clouded in an irregular manner, so as to resemble those made of stub-iron. To prove, therefore, whether a barrel is what it appears to be, it will be necessary to fix upon any part of the under side that is covered by the stock; and having cleared a small space with a fine file, apply a feather dipped in aquafortis, which, in a little time, will render the fibres of the metal distinctly visible, when, consequently, it will be easy to ascertain in what direction they run.

Spanish barrels have always been held in great esteem, as well on account of the quality of the iron, which has generally been considered as the best in Europe, as because they possess the reputation of being forged and bored with greater accuracy than any others. It will here be necessary to observe, that of the Spanish barrels, those alone are accounted truly valuable, which are made at Madrid; and in consequence of this predilection, numbers have been manufactured in other parts of Spain (particularly at Catalonia,in Biscay, with the names and marks of the Madrid gun-makers). They have also been counterfeited at Liege, Prague, Munich, &c. and with that nicety too, that a person must be a very good judge, not to be deceived by them.

The barrels which bear the highest price, and are the most sought after by the curious in this way, are those made by artists which have been dead many years; though, I am inclined to think, this preference has no better foundation than the common prejudice in favour of things that are the production of remote ages or distant countries.

Madrid barrels are composed of the old shoes of horses and mules collected for the purpose; and an idea may be formed of the great purity to which the iron is brought in the course of the operation, when it is known, that, to make a barrel, which, rough from the forge, weighs only six or seven pounds, they employ a mass of mule shoe iron, weighing from forty to forty-five pounds; so that from thirty-four to thirty-eight pounds are exhausted in the beatings and hammerings it is made to undergo, before it is forged into a barrel.

The avidity with which Spanish barrels were sought after has, however, in a great degree, subsided ; and I am of opinion, that our stubs twisted barrels are fully equal to the Spanish, and that the preference given to the latter, by some few whimsical persons, proceeds more from a fancied, than any real, superiority. The vanity of possessing something that is singularly curious, the false idea that whatever is expensive must necessarily be excellent, and occasionally the laudable desire of improvements have all, in their turns, been the causes of a variety of experiments being made in the manufacture of barrels ; and twisted are allowed to be superior to any other.

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Nov. 5. 1898 Forest and Stream Pg. 371-372

The Black Grouper or Jewfish.

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Jul. 30, 1898 Forest and Stream Pg. 87

Indian Mode of Hunting.

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Vitruvius Ten Books on Architecture

VITRUVIUS

The Ten Books on Architecture

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A General Process for Making Wine.

Gathering the Fruit Picking the Fruit Bruising the Fruit Vatting the Fruit Vinous Fermentation Drawing the Must Pressing the Must Casking the Must Spirituous Fermentation Racking the Wine Bottling and Corking the Wine Drinking the Wine

GATHERING THE FRUIT.

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How to Distinguish Fishes

 

Sept. 3, 1898. Forest and Stream Pg. 188-189

How to Distinguish Fishes.

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Sir Joshua Reynolds – Notes from Rome

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Mudlarks of London

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Proper Book Handling and Cleaning

Book Conservators, Mitchell Building, State Library of New South Wales, 29.10.1943, Pix Magazine

The following is taken verbatim from a document that appeared several years ago in the Maine State Archives. It seems to have been removed from their website. I happened to have made a physical copy of it at the [...] Read more →

The Fowling Piece – Part I

THE FOWLING PIECE, from the Shooter’s Guide by B. Thomas – 1811.

I AM perfectly aware that a large volume might be written on this subject; but, as my intention is to give only such information and instruction as is necessary for the sportsman, I shall forbear introducing any extraneous [...] Read more →

Something about Caius College, Cambridge

Gate of Honour, Caius Court, Gonville & Caius

Gonville & Caius College, known as Caius and pronounced keys was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gonville, the Rector of Terrington St Clement in Norfolk. The first name was thus Goville Hall and it was dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. [...] Read more →

Indian Modes of Hunting – Setting Fox Traps

Aug. 13, 1898 Forest and Stream, Pg. 125

Game Bag and Gun.

Indian Modes of Hunting. III.—Foxes.

The fox as a rule is a most wily animal, and numerous are the stories of his cunning toward the Indian hunter with his steel traps.

The Character of a Happy Life

How happy is he born and taught. That serveth not another’s will; Whose armour is his honest thought, And simple truth his utmost skill

Whose passions not his masters are; Whose soul is still prepared for death, Untied unto the world by care Of public fame or private breath;

Who envies none that chance [...] Read more →

Slaughter in Bombay

From Allen’s Indian Mail, December 3rd, 1851

BOMBAY. MUSULMAN FANATICISM.

On the evening of November 15th, the little village of Mahim was the scene of a murder, perhaps the most determined which has ever stained the annals of Bombay. Three men were massacred in cold blood, in a house used [...] Read more →

The Legacy of Felix de Weldon

Felix Weihs de Weldon, age 96, died broke in the year 2003 after successive bankruptcies and accumulating $4 million dollars worth of debt. Most of the debt was related to the high cost of love for a wife living with Alzheimer’s. Health care costs to maintain his first wife, Margot, ran $500 per [...] Read more →

Shooting in Wet Weather

 

Reprint from The Sportsman’s Cabinet and Town and Country Magazine, Vol I. Dec. 1832, Pg. 94-95

To the Editor of the Cabinet.

SIR,

Possessing that anxious feeling so common among shooters on the near approach of the 12th of August, I honestly confess I was not able [...] Read more →

Method of Restoration for Ancient Bronzes and other Alloys

Cannone nel castello di Haut-Koenigsbourg, photo by Gita Colmar

Without any preliminary cleaning the bronze object to be treated is hung as cathode into the 2 per cent. caustic soda solution and a low amperage direct current is applied. The object is suspended with soft copper wires and is completely immersed into [...] Read more →

Christmas Pudding with Dickens

Traditional British Christmas Pudding Recipe by Pen Vogler from the Charles Dickens Museum

Ingredients

85 grams all purpose flour pinch of salt 170 grams Beef Suet 140 grams brown sugar tsp. mixed spice, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, &c 170 grams bread crumbs 170 grams raisins 170 grams currants 55 grams cut mixed peel Gram to [...] Read more →

Books Condemned to be Burnt

BOOKS CONDEMNED TO BE BURNT.

By

JAMES ANSON FARRER,

LONDON

ELLIOT STOCK, 62, PATERNOSTER ROW

1892

———-

WHEN did books first come to be burnt in England by the common hangman, and what was [...] Read more →

A Creative Approach to Saving Ye Olde Cassette Tapes

Quite possibly, the most agonizing decision being made by Baby Boomers across the nation these days is what to do with all that vintage Hi-fi equipment and boxes full of classic rock and roll cassettes and 8-Tracks.

I faced this dilemma head-on this past summer as I definitely wanted in [...] Read more →

Rendering Amber Clear for Use in Lens-Making for Magnifying Glass

by John Partridge,drawing,1825

From the work of Sir Charles Lock Eastlake entitled Materials for a history of oil painting, (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1846), we learn the following:

The effect of oil at certain temperatures, in penetrating “the minute pores of the amber” (as Hoffman elsewhere writes), is still more [...] Read more →

Indian Modes of Hunting – Musquash

Hudson Bay: Trappers, 1892. N’Talking Musquash.’ Fur Trappers Of The Hudson’S Bay Company Talking By A Fire. Engraving After A Drawing By Frederic Remington, 1892.

Indian Modes of Hunting.

IV.—Musquash.

In Canada and the United States, the killing of the little animal known under the several names of [...] Read more →

Modern Slow Cookers, A Critical Design Flaw

Modern slow cookers come in all sizes and colors with various bells and whistles, including timers and shut off mechanisms. They also come with a serious design flaw, that being the lack of a proper domed lid.

The first photo below depict a popular model Crock-Pot® sold far and wide [...] Read more →

The English Tradition of Woodworking

THE sense of a consecutive tradition has so completely faded out of English art that it has become difficult to realise the meaning of tradition, or the possibility of its ever again reviving; and this state of things is not improved by the fact that it is due to uncertainty of purpose, [...] Read more →

King William III on Horseback by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Reprint from The Royal Collection Trust website:

Kneller was born in Lubeck, studied with Rembrandt in Amsterdam and by 1676 was working in England as a fashionable portrait painter. He painted seven British monarchs (Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II, Anne, George I and George II), though his [...] Read more →

British Craftsmanship is Alive and Well

The Queen Elizabeth Trust, or QEST, is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of British craftsmanship through the funding of scholarships and educational endeavours to include apprenticeships, trade schools, and traditional university classwork. The work of QEST is instrumental in keeping alive age old arts and crafts such as masonry, glassblowing, shoemaking, [...] Read more →

Harry Houdini Investigates the Spirit World

The magician delighted in exposing spiritualists as con men and frauds.

By EDMUND WILSON June 24, 1925

Houdini is a short strong stocky man with small feet and a very large head. Seen from the stage, his figure, with its short legs and its pugilist’s proportions, is less impressive than at close [...] Read more →

Texas Tarpon

Early Texas photo of Tarpon catch – Not necessarily the one mentioned below…

July 2, 1898. Forest and Stream Pg.10

Texas Tarpon.

Tarpon, Texas.—Mr. W. B. Leach, of Palestine, Texas, caught at Aransas Pass Islet, on June 14, the largest tarpon on record here taken with rod and reel. The [...] Read more →

Popular Mechanics Archive

Click here to access the Internet Archive of old Popular Mechanics Magazines – 1902-2016

Click here to view old Popular Mechanics Magazine Covers

Home Top of Pg. Read more →

Tuna and Tarpon

July, 16, l898 Forest and Stream Pg. 48

Tuna and Tarpon.

New York, July 1.—Editor Forest and Stream: If any angler still denies the justice of my claim, as made in my article in your issue of July 2, that “the tuna is the grandest game [...] Read more →

Preserving Iron and Steel Surfaces with Paint

Painting the Brooklyn Bridge, Photo by Eugene de Salignac , 1914

 

Excerpt from: The Preservation of Iron and Steel Structures by F. Cosby-Jones, The Mechanical Engineer January 30, 1914

Painting.

This is the method of protection against corrosion that has the most extensive use, owing to the fact that [...] Read more →

JP Morgan’s Digital Currency Patent Application

J.P. Morgan Patent #8,452,703

Method and system for processing internet payments using the electronic funds transfer network.

Abstract

Embodiments of the invention include a method and system for conducting financial transactions over a payment network. The method may include associating a payment address of an account [...] Read more →

Country House Christmas Pudding

Country House Christmas Pudding

Ingredients

1 cup Christian Bros Brandy ½ cup Myer’s Dark Rum ½ cup Jim Beam Whiskey 1 cup currants 1 cup sultana raisins 1 cup pitted prunes finely chopped 1 med. apple peeled and grated ½ cup chopped dried apricots ½ cup candied orange peel finely chopped 1 ¼ cup [...] Read more →

Valentine Poetry from the Cotswold Explorer

 

There is nothing more delightful than a great poetry reading to warm ones heart on a cold winter night fireside. Today is one of the coldest Valentine’s days on record, thus, nothing could be better than listening to the resonant voice of Robin Shuckbrugh, The Cotswold [...] Read more →

Fed Policy Success Equals Tax Payers Job Insecurity

The low level of work stoppages of recent years also attests to concern about job security.

Testimony of Chairman Alan Greenspan The Federal Reserve’s semiannual monetary policy report Before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate February 26, 1997

Iappreciate the opportunity to appear before this Committee [...] Read more →

Thomas Jefferson Correspondence – On Seed Saving and Sharing

The following are transcripts of two letters written by the Founding Father Thomas Jefferson on the subject of seed saving.

“November 27, 1818. Monticello. Thomas Jefferson to Henry E. Watkins, transmitting succory seed and outlining the culture of succory.” [Transcript] Thomas Jefferson Correspondence Collection Collection 89

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Officers and men of the 13th Light Dragoons, British Army, Crimea. Rostrum photograph of photographer’s original print, uncropped and without color correction. Survivors of the Charge.

Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the [...] Read more →