Firearms History, Technology & Development: Testing Firearms: Proof Test
The specification lays down shot size and hardness, the number of proof rounds to be fired through each barrel and the pressure to be generated at 25mm and mm. A special "Steel Shot" proof mark will be stamped on each barrel of such weapons that have successfully been proved.
Reproof, or the further test of a gun after its original proof, may be necessary for a variety of reasons, of which the main ones are:. If mishandled or neglected, a gun may be damaged or weakened, even in a short period of service. In such circumstances work necessary to return it to serviceable condition, may render invalid the original proof marks.
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Indications of weakness may only be apparent to those trained to recognise them. For that reason, inspection of guns by a gunmaker, at regular intervals, is recommended, and advice to submit for reproof should be followed without delay to avoid undue risk of personal injury.
Hits and Misses
Guns are submitted to reproof at the owner's risk and the gunmaker is entitled to payment for his work, regardless of the result of proof. Guns will not be accepted for reproof, if it is the decision of the gunmaker that they are not in a fit condition to be proved. Any individual may submit arms for proof or reproof direct to either of the two Proof Houses, but it is more usual, and generally more satisfactory for all concerned, that arms be submitted through a gun dealer.
Primarily this is because the majority of old guns require attention prior to proof. Proof Regulations require that shotgun barrels shall be "struck up" and smooth and that insides shall be clean. Pitting should be removed so far as is practicable, bulges knocked down and dents raised. Actions should be in good safe working order and tight on the face to resist the increased strain of proof pressure.
Since stocks, and particularly those with unusual "bend" or "cast", are not designed to withstand the heavy recoil of proof, it is customary for the wood to be removed. Indeed, the Proof Houses do not accept responsibility for damage to stocks resulting from proof. It will be apparent that to fulfil these requirements, the preparation necessary will best be undertaken by a gunmaker who is accustomed to submitting to proof.
In the event of a proof rejection, or failure to withstand the proof test, guns may be repaired and resubmitted. It is unlawful for a weapon to be sold with defaced proof marks, except where later reproof marks have been impressed. It is recommended that such guns be deactivated, so as to ensure that it can never be used by some person unaware of its unproved condition. Up to there was provision only for the proof of guns for black powder; but by that time the use of smokeless or nitro powders was commonplace.
In that year a proof to cover their use, supplementary to definitive proof, was introduced. The service load of the powder intended for use, i. Under the Rules, proof to cover the use of nitro powders was still supplementary to the ordinary proof for black powder, but the words "Nitro Proof" were introduced as a proof mark.
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The NP marks were introduced in but the nitro proof test remained optional until , when new Rules of Proof made it obligatory. By that time most gunmakers had been voluntarily submitting their guns to nitro proof for many years. Except on guns proved since February the NP marks were always used in conjunction with the words "Nitro Proof". The black powder proof marks remain valid, and a gun bearing them may still legally be used with black powder cartridges, provided it has not undergone any alteration taking it out of the category and state in which it was originally proved.
Such alterations include conversion to ejector, rebrazing the lumps, increasing the depth of the chambers to take a longer cartridge or the enlargement of barrels beyond certain defined limits. A gun, through neglect or misuse, may become unsafe even in a short time, and a gun made over fifty years ago may be extremely dangerous.
Shooters are therefore urged most strongly to buy only guns bearing the marks of nitro proof and not to permit the use of nitro or smokeless cartridges in any black powder gun already in their possession, until it has passed the nitro proof. If owners wish to use such guns with nitro powders, they should send them to their makers, other gun firm or gunmaker for advice, estimate for preparation in accordance with the Rules of Proof, the carrying out of such work, and submission for nitro proof.
The charges involved must of course be paid whether or not a gun passes the proof test, but it is better that any weakness be revealed at the Proof House rather than in the field. Muzzle-loading and black powder proved guns may be reproved for black powder. It will hardly be necessary to point out to members of the gun trade that neither their own interests nor those of their customers can be served by the sale of black powder guns which may have become dangerous.
For many years some firms have not sold black powder guns and, in addition, will not do any work to such weapons except preparation for and submission to proof. Such a policy may not be possible in all cases, but apart from any question of legal liability for repairs carried out, it is urged that there is a heavy moral responsibility to point out the age and condition of any of these veteran guns before accepting them for repair.
Care should be taken in accepting small arms for sale, because under the Gun Barrel Proof Acts of to , it is an offence to sell or offer for sale by auction or otherwise, any small arm, i. Caveat emptor does not apply if the arm is unproved. It must be emphasised that the sale of unproved arms between auctioneers and registered gunsmiths or dealers, is as much an offence under the Act as is the more obvious offence of selling an unsafe and unproved gun to a member of the public.
All arms made in Great Britain are proved and marked at either the London or Birmingham Proof Houses prior to sale to the public. Valid proof marks of certain other countries with which reciprocal agreements are in force, also legalise sale in this country. All ex-military arms proofed by the Government Arsenals must pass the civil proof tests, prior to sale to the public. Following privatisation of small arms manufacturers in , all small arms were subject to proof by the British Proof Authorities and do not require reproof.
There is no provision in Proof Regulations to permit the sale of unproved arms as ornaments, nor is there any exemption for antiques. Used small arms, particularly shotguns, may appear properly proved and marked, but may have been weakened and the proof marks rendered invalid, by enlargement of the bore to remove rust or pitting or by other material alterations. This is not uncommon. Special equipment and knowledge of the subject are necessary to determine whether proof marks are valid or otherwise.
The advice of the Proof Authorities as to the disposal of guns bearing proof marks, where barrels are beyond repair, and it is understood that this is already the practice in many auction sales specialising in arms , is that the stock, action and fore-end may be sold, but the barrels may not. A certificate is available, on payment, from either Proof House for guns which are not to be used, as for example antiques or collectors items, which cannot be proved, as where no ammunition is available.
An increasing number of complaints is being received, of the unlawful sale of small arms at auction - at times in condition dangerous to the user. Recommendation is made that auctioneers take expert advice before offering small arms for sale. The Proof House will give every reasonable assistance but must warn that they will institute proceedings where offences are considered to justify such action. The auctioneer, the owner of the arm and the person submitting the arm to auction bear equal responsibility at law.
The purchase of a second hand shotgun involves somewhat similar risks to those incurred in the buying of a second hand motor-car, or an expensive second hand watch. To suggest that one should go to a reputable gunsmith or dealer and buy the best gun one can afford may be sound advice, but it is cold comfort to those who really cannot afford a good second hand gun or to those who may be tempted to purchase a second hand gun from an acquaintance, in the market place, at auction or sale room or even at the local tavern. When contemplating the purchase or sale of a used gun, check must be made that the proof marks remain valid.
Proof marks indicate the soundness of the gun when it was last proved , but the gun may have been so altered that it is unproved in its present state, although the proof marks remain. The incidence of VAT on new guns added to their already high cost. This has placed a premium on the better class of second hand guns so that there are many cheaper, old guns being offered for sale, which in more normal times, would have been considered past further service. Where purchase is contemplated from sources other than reputable gunmakers, gunsmiths or dealers, it is suggested that the gun be submitted to a reputable gunmaker for report on its condition prior to completion of the transaction.
However, the Proof House should not be expected to advise as to mechanical condition, quality or value. Section 1 3 of the Firearms Act , as amended by Section 2 of the Firearms Amendment Act , defines the types of smooth bore guns which may be held on a shotgun certificate. It includes a smooth bore gun which has been adapted to have a non detachable magazine, incapable of holding more than two cartridges.
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In such a case the magazine must bear a mark approved by the Secretary of State, and the adaptation must be certified in writing, by the London or Birmingham Proof House, as having been carried out in a manner approved by him. This adaptation is carried out on pump-action and semi-automatic, large magazine shotguns which, prior to the above Act, could have been legally held on a shotgun certificate. Unless the required adaptation is carried out, these weapons can now only be held on a firearms certificate. The following show those proof marks, approved by the Secretary of State under Section 1 3A of the Act, for denoting that guns have been so adapted.
The figures "89" relate to the calendar year and changes as appropriate.
Section 8 of the Firearms Amendment Act provides that a firearm which has been certified by one of the Proof Houses as having been deactivated in a manner approved by the Secretary of State, and marked to that effect, shall no longer be regarded as a firearm. Firearms so deactivated and proof marked, are no longer subject to any of the conditions or controls contained in any of the Firearms Acts or Rules. The following show those proof marks, approved by the Secretary of State under Section 8 of the Firearms Amendment Act , for denoting that guns have been so deactivated. The information within these pages form a small extract of the services available from the two Proof Houses.
Advice on the following matters is also available:. A comprehensive booklet is also available, at a small charge, on the "Proof of shotguns and other small arms". Your First Vintage Gun.
Why have proof laws? Proof marks from a pin-fire showing marks; the first time the bore was stamped at proof. This gun shows proof marks only used between and Proof marks will sometimes be found on the tubes like this, but more commonly on the flats. These marks show proof marks. Birmingham nitro proof under rules. London nitro proof under rules Post proof Birmingham proof under rules.
This is a re-proof to an s William Powell.