How were guns made in the 1800s?
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:16 PM   #1
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Default How were guns made in the 1800s?

I'm kind of interested in how things were made long before computer controlled machinery made production automatic for the most part. So here's a question for you all, how were guns made in the 1800s? How did gunsmiths like John Browning create guns from scratch way back then?

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Old 02-21-2013, 09:25 PM   #2
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My guess would be that they were either themselves, or employed exceptional machinists. I believe you summed it up in saying that the modern process is somewhat automatic as well as much faster. It's amazing what a talented machinist can do with a lathe, mill and a set of calipers. I've always wondered how they produced the first modern machining equipment without the availability of modern machining equipment. Chicken • Egg

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Old 02-21-2013, 09:31 PM   #3
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I think they used interchangeable parts and machined steel. They were still able to mass produce firearms but had to use stamped metal for faster production. Please correct me if I am wrong, not trying to be a historian here.

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Old 02-21-2013, 09:34 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by sc00ts View Post
My guess would be that they were either themselves, or employed exceptional machinists. I believe you summed it up in saying that the modern process is somewhat automatic as well as much faster. It's amazing what a talented machinist can do with a lathe, mill and a set of calipers. I've always wondered how they produced the first modern machining equipment without the availability of modern machining equipment. Chicken • Egg
They were definetly talented. What I'm really wanting to know is exactly how they did it (more interested in the gunsmits who made guns from scratch than I am the major companies). What tools did they use, how did they make each individual part, and how did they determine how stong a firearms was without blowing one up.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:41 PM   #5
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I would imagine all the early handguns were cast, followed by countless hours of file work by hand. And polishing by hand. The trickiest part had to be getting the tempering right so the dam thing didn't blow up in your hand. Then you'd have nothing to file with.

I also imagine a lot of low paid volunteers for test firing.

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Old 02-21-2013, 09:43 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by texaswoodworker View Post
They were definetly talented. What I'm really wanting to know is exactly how they did it (more interested in the gunsmits who made guns from scratch than I am the major companies). What tools did they use, how did they make each individual part, and how did they determine how stong a firearms was without blowing one up.
I assume they did tests with previous weapon designs. Much craftsmanship was put in. Ammo was deadly back then but they soon figured out how to carefully distribute it/produce it. Of course they did not have modern primers and such. Rifling was invented in the 1860's which gave us an advantage. The modern bullet was also born. I ma assuming they forged a rifled twist from solid metal tubes before attaching them to a hand treated wood stock. The screws were hand made, a big way to tell if a firearm is genuine from the old days.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:47 PM   #7
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Henry rifles also shaped the course of the civil war with their repeating rifles which fired .44 caliber rimfire. I also believe they were hand twisted and always made by hand.

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Old 02-21-2013, 10:24 PM   #8
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Rifling has always been cut with broaches-a tool that is pushed down the barrel.
Talented machinists built purpose-built machinery to manufacture guns. Talented gunsmiths built guns from scratch.
I find it humorous that you young guys think people were "primitive" in the 1800s.
BTW- casting was used for some gun frames, but none were stamped from sheet metal. Stamping is a post WW2 process.

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Old 02-21-2013, 10:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by molonlabexx View Post
I assume they did tests with previous weapon designs. Much craftsmanship was put in. Ammo was deadly back then but they soon figured out how to carefully distribute it/produce it. Of course they did not have modern primers and such. Rifling was invented in the 1860's which gave us an advantage. The modern bullet was also born. I ma assuming they forged a rifled twist from solid metal tubes before attaching them to a hand treated wood stock. The screws were hand made, a big way to tell if a firearm is genuine from the old days.
The 1st example of a rifled barrel came from Germany, year was 1520.
The Kentucky long rifle was produced in south western Pa by German gunsmiths during the French and Indian wars, they started in the 1680's. W/ a patched roundball good marksmen could hit a head sized target at 200 yards.
This is from the Revolution:
Col George Hanger, a British officer, became very interested in the American rifle after he witnessed his bugler's horse shot out from under him at a distance, which he measured several times himself, of "full 400 yards", and he learned all he could of the weapon. Hewrites:
"I have many times asked the American backwoodsman what was the most their best marksmen could do; they have constantly told me that an expert marksman, provided he can draw good & true sight, can hit the head of a man at 200 yards."

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Old 02-21-2013, 10:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillDeShivs View Post
Rifling has always been cut with broaches-a tool that is pushed down the barrel.
Talented machinists built purpose-built machinery to manufacture guns. Talented gunsmiths built guns from scratch.
I find it humorous that you young guys think people were "primitive" in the 1800s.
BTW- casting was used for some gun frames, but none were stamped from sheet metal. Stamping is a post WW2 process.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FP-45_Liberator

Most MP40's were also stamped.
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