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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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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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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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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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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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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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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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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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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."

Quotations from M.L. Brown's, FIREARMS IN COLONIAL AMERICA
 

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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.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FP-45_Liberator

Most MP40's were also stamped.
 

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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."

Quotations from M.L. Brown's, FIREARMS IN COLONIAL AMERICA
Funny how they waited that long to introduce it into the U.S. Maybe they started to realize that they could have the advantage if they had more accurate firearms in the arsenal.
 

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Yes, and commercial firearms stamping was post WW2.
Yes this is true. I always thought stamping was for mass production in war time. I am not sure which companies use stamping today. Very effective way to produce though.
 

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the way guns were made was by a series of machine tool operations and operators. one machinist would make the cuts for hollowing out the reciever, another machinist cut a couple other operations and so on. the part would stay with a given mill or lathe or press operator unless a tool head change was needed then it was passed to a different station.

there are also special jigs that make the use of drill presses and mills so easy to use its kinda unskilled and anyone can do it with little training. setting up the station is the skilled part not running the machine. there is nothing really new about cnc machines they just compress the roles of a master machinist jigs and opertors into one machine.

i worked in a machine shop in high school that did it the old way churning out masses of parts by hand. i could make a part that needed 5 different cuts and turn out a thousand in a day.

so several machinists could turn out all the pieces needed in large batches before retooling for a different gun design production run. and so it would go retooling when production quotas were met and new runs needed.

machined parts would go to the gunsmiths for hand fitting.
 

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Re: rifled vs smoothbores during the American Revolution- the speed of reloading favored the smoothbore for the average rank and file soldier. Rifled arms were reserved for special troops.

Re: Gun manufacture in the 1800s- y'all DO realize that this spans 100 yrs, and runs the gamut from making barrels by hand, by damascus steel, to the other end of the century, where bolt action, semi-auto and full auto cartridge arms were the norm? One end of the century is flintlock, the other end is a belt fed machine gun (1883).

Without defining the time period MUCH more closely than "the 1800s", there is no single simple answer that can be given.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
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.
Never said they were primitive back then, they just did things differenly, and I'm interested in how they did it.

the way guns were made was by a series of machine tool operations and operators. one machinist would make the cuts for hollowing out the reciever, another machinist cut a couple other operations and so on. the part would stay with a given mill or lathe or press operator unless a tool head change was needed then it was passed to a different station.

there are also special jigs that make the use of drill presses and mills so easy to use its kinda unskilled and anyone can do it with little training. setting up the station is the skilled part not running the machine. there is nothing really new about cnc machines they just compress the roles of a master machinist jigs and opertors into one machine.

i worked in a machine shop in high school that did it the old way churning out masses of parts by hand. i could make a part that needed 5 different cuts and turn out a thousand in a day.

so several machinists could turn out all the pieces needed in large batches before retooling for a different gun design production run. and so it would go retooling when production quotas were met and new runs needed.

machined parts would go to the gunsmiths for hand fitting.
Is that probably how John Browning created his first gun?

Re: rifled vs smoothbores during the American Revolution- the speed of reloading favored the smoothbore for the average rank and file soldier. Rifled arms were reserved for special troops.

Re: Gun manufacture in the 1800s- y'all DO realize that this spans 100 yrs, and runs the gamut from making barrels by hand, by damascus steel, to the other end of the century, where bolt action, semi-auto and full auto cartridge arms were the norm? One end of the century is flintlock, the other end is a belt fed machine gun (1883).

Without defining the time period MUCH more closely than "the 1800s", there is no single simple answer that can be given.
More interested in the late 1870s-1900. In other words, I want to know how JMB took is designs and made them a reality.
 

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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?
Heres one for you, how did the jungle people drill holes thru iron wood to make blow guns........
 

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1870s-1900, you would feel very much at home in a machine shop- with lathes and mills. Those are NOT new inventions by any means. The tools might be turned by water power or steam power rather than electricity, but a modern day machinist would be comfortable with them.
 
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