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Barrel/Rifleing Condition
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February 8, 2017 - 2:11 pm
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 Ok guys what do you look for when checking out the inside of the barrel condition on the older rifles like the 1892’s? I have always been able to judge a barrel in newer guns, but there seams to be less to the eye to look for in these rifles. Most of them I see are dark. Do they ever appear to be bright from those days. Most I am interested in all seam to be dark, but I can see lands and groves. So how or what is the best way to judge them? I know to look for pitting. I guess my question is do they ever look really good in the old guns.

Steve

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February 8, 2017 - 3:27 pm
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Steve,

Yes, they most certainly can and do look almost like new in an older Winchester. I own a substantial number of Model 1885 Single Shots that have exceptionally fine bores in them, and many of them predate the advent of smokeless powder. Now, with that stated, it is much more difficult to find a pre-1900 Model 1873 or Model 1892 with a pristine bore, but they are out there.

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February 8, 2017 - 4:37 pm
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I wish that I lived close to someone who had various examples of the 1892’s ( or any other antique rifle) that I could look at and learn exactly what to look for. I do know that if a bore is in great shape it will surely make an impression in your brain. I have an 1892 in 32-20 that has a very dark bore but you can see rifling, lands and groves and it is most definitely a tack driver. I have seen better examples than mine though.

I was reading in Ned Schwings book that in those old days the best way to clean out all the corrosive material was to use hot water and soap. That running a patch with oil did not help all that much. I am going to assume that when the insides get dark it is there for good. I know on my table saws with the cast tops if they get any rust on them for any length of time it will be stained for ever, even though they are still smooth.

 

Steve

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February 8, 2017 - 7:34 pm
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Not familiar with Ned Schwings but I’ve only heard of using hot water and soap on the old coal burners, not on smokeless era barrels.

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February 8, 2017 - 11:33 pm
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Bert H. said
I own a substantial number of Model 1885 Single Shots that have exceptionally fine bores in them, and many of them predate the advent of smokeless powder…
Bert  

Predating smokeless may have something to do with the preservation of their bores–because BP shooters were accustomed to using water as a bore cleaner.  But the change to early smokeless led many shooters to replace water-based cleaners with the newly developed “nitro-solvents,” which did a better job of removing smokeless residue, but nothing at all to remove salts left by the chlorate primers then in use.  Many bores were ruined during this early smokeless period (I have 3 early 1900s ’85s showing extreme pitting), because it took about a decade for shooters to figure out what was causing pitting in bores meticulously cleaned with nitro-solvent.  Before non-corrosive primers were developed, the only remedy was to go back to using water, or a water-based cleaner like GI bore-cleaner.

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February 9, 2017 - 3:56 am
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I’ve had some 1892’s and an 1873 with pretty discouraging bores. Seems it comes with the territory with the corrosive primer era. I finally gave up on two 1892’s in 32WCF; one I traded off and the other is being relined. The one I traded off would shoot jacketed bullets OK but I lost interest in it. The one being relined had little collector value but is the slickest 92 I’ve handled. Another 92 bore in 38WCF looks rough but shoots quite well. An unusual 1873 in 38WCF with an ugly sewer pipe of a bore actually shoots fairly well, good enough for informal plinking anyway. I’ve studied dozens of bores with a Lyman bore scope and my theory is that a bore with uninterrupted rifling will generally shoot pretty well with a proper bullet. A rougher bore with occasionally interrupted rifling will generally shoot a paper patched or jacketed bullet over smokeless better than cast over BP. My “marginal” 1873 likes a cast bullet over Unique but fouls quickly with the same bullet over BP. Minor pitting doesn’t seem to affect accuracy much but will require more frequent cleaning.

The above is generalization, rifles are often individuals. I suspect most dark bores can be made to shoot if you work at it long enough. For various reasons I won’t always pass on a dark bore. Some clean up just fine, others shoot quite well in spite of a dark bore. I once took my bore scope to my local Cabelas to check out a group of rifles, it was quite useful and the Library folks enjoyed the show. A bore scope sometimes indicates a “dark” bore is simply a badly fouled barrel, only problem is you won’t know until the fouling is gone.

After reading the Red Book and talking with Bert I’ve resolved to move up to 80% or better guns but I still like my 70% (shooter) guns and more than a few have dark bores.

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February 9, 2017 - 4:16 am
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TXGunNut said
The one I traded off would shoot jacketed bullets OK but I lost interest in it…

Pretty badly pitted bores which retain strong rifling often perform surprisingly well with jacketed bullets. I have no prejudice against using them! Have an early smokeless HW in .32 WS with one of the most horrible bores I’ve seen (just about shreds a cleaning patch) but still shot so-so with jacketed bullets. Then I loaded some 8mm bullets I had, and the thing shot under 2 MOA.  Doesn’t sound very impressive–but if you saw that sewer-pipe bore you’d think otherwise! 

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February 10, 2017 - 4:52 am
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I agree, Clarence. It’s difficult to say how a given bore will perform until you clean it up and work up a load. The rifle I gave up on was to replace the slick one with terrible bore. I was unable to get the action as slick as the older gun and the on target performance was not much better than the older gun. The newer gun was in better shape externally so it became trade bait and the older rifle went to be relined.

With custom moulds and sizers I can generally make most rifles work, issue here was how much time did I want to invest in ammo for a fun plinker? I wanted a rifle that I could easily load a few hundred rounds of quality plinking ammo.

I’m also a fan of the 32WS and have a few bullet designs you may be interested in but won’t discuss them further in this thread.

Back on topic I’m amazed by the performance of some dark bores, the club I’m a member of is the venue where the most recent benchrest record was set so we have some pretty salty rifle shooters. I’ve seen their cleaning regimens and the performance levels they expect so I chuckle to think of what they would say if they could see the bores of my favorite leverguns. Bottom line, I’m pretty happy with anything much under 2 MOA. They’re generally disappointed by anything over .2 MOA.

OTOH I’ve seen some very good bores in 100+ yr old rifles and they are a joy to shoot! Loads work up easily, bores don’t foul quickly and the groups are very impressive.

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February 10, 2017 - 4:19 pm
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I can relate to what Clarence and TXGunNut have to say about pitted bores.  One of my 1900 era 1890s in .22 WRF had a dark rough bore when I bought it a long time ago.  About a year ago, I got to thinking very seriously about having the barrel relined and putting a Winchester A5 Scope on it in order to make a really neat hunting gun.  I then filled the barrel and soaked it time and again with kroil, which got it pretty clean, but not clean enough to my liking, so I had a gunsmith do it for me, and he did a great job.  (The bore is no longer dark, but naturally it does not show the brilliance that it once did.)  I had asked him to shoot it for me as well since I wanted to know how well it would group.  He fired five shots at 50 feet from the offhand position and shot a respectable 1 inch group with 1 flying low.  He then had his assistant fire the same number of rounds, same position, same distance, and he fired a 3/4 inch group.  That’s respectable shooting for a rifle that is pitted from one end of the bore to the other, but when the bore is clean and jacketed bullets are used that’s what it did.  I was truly surprised and, now, as much as I would like to have it relined and scoped…I probably won’t do it since it looks nice and will still make a good gun for hunting small game.

James

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