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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A while ago I bought a cheap Berdan II- nothing special but I wanted one for my collection. After getting it home and having a look at it I concluded it had once had a hole drilled through the chamber (both sides). It looks like at some point it had plugs welded and was rather crudely ground where the work was done. Wondered if this was done by a private owner but wasn't too concerned as I wasn't planning on getting into Berdan reloading. Lo and behold I'm in a small shop last week and he happened to have 3 Berdan II's and they all appeared to have the same work done at the chamber. Picked up an 1890 with a very, very good bore. The fact that I've now seen 4 with these plugged holes suggests it was done institutionally. But, was it done by an importer to a pile of decommissioned rifles or were they trainers that were pressed back into service at some point? Anybody else run into these or have any thoughts about them? In addition to the plugged holes they have scrubbed receiver ring flats, nicely re-crowned muzzles, and all show signs of barrel removal. The photos show the '90 first, followed by the '85.

Ruprecht
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have a 91/30 refurb that had been demilled by drilling the chamber then repaired with welded plugs for emergency use in ww2. Your berdans look very similar but I'm not sure if it was done for the same reason.
Alex shows a picture of one such 91/30 in his recent book but, if I recall correctly, the hole was drilled vertically through the barrel reinforce. He mentions that the plug occasionally failed which must have been exciting.

Ruprecht
 

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Ah, Bill, you picked up the one with the intact volley sights. I looked at those three, especially with the price drop, and it was a toss-up between the one w/ volley sights or the one with the clear stock cartouche. The vice marks and shiny bits you point out were a bit offputting for me, as I'd want to work up some brass and loads for it. Congrats. Not easy rifles to find.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Howdy, Henry. The owner of that shop suggested that these were all in a recent importation from "somewhere in Europe". The other I have came from Corwin Arms who also had 2 or 3 for sale on their website at one point. Say, are you still planning on making the Victorian Riflemans Shoot? Just finished 80 Snider rounds yesterday which I'll be saving for that event. Regards.

Ruprecht
 

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Alex shows a picture of one such 91/30 in his recent book but, if I recall correctly, the hole was drilled vertically through the barrel reinforce. He mentions that the plug occasionally failed which must have been exciting.

Ruprecht
That is the 91/30 that I own. It has welded plugs in the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions in the chamber area. I will not be firing that one! A friend also has a Finn capture dragoon with a single-hole repair.
 

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Ruprecht, thank you for pointing this out - I was not aware that some Berdans have the re-welded chambers. The vice marks seem most apparent on the edges of the rear sight base. Your red arrows seem to denote the most significant vice marks on the barrel - or is it where the chamber was drilled through and re-welded? I don't have any experience spotting this so if I'm missing something otherwise obvious, please help me learn! Is there any way to spot the drilled chamber looking into the chamber from the rear of the receiver? Thanks
 

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Nice collectibles, at least.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Your red arrows seem to denote the most significant vice marks on the barrel - or is it where the chamber was drilled through and re-welded? I don't have any experience spotting this so if I'm missing something otherwise obvious, please help me learn! Is there any way to spot the drilled chamber looking into the chamber from the rear of the receiver? Thanks
The arrows point to what I believe are the welded/ground plugs. I haven't got the borecam out to have a look from the inside yet.

Ruprecht
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The ones Corwin brought in are supposedly ex-polish captures.
Thanks Claven2- reminded me I'd seen a comment about a "Polish captured" Berdan on CGN. I wonder if there are specific markings that might support this or if it is simply an inference based on the location from where they were recently purchased (or if it's just a story).

Ruprecht
 

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Perhaps with black powder such repairs might be safe? I don't plan to test them but it would be nice to know if there's any history behind it.

Ruprecht
There's no way I personally would ever fire any rifle with that kind of "repair" in the barrel, unless the barrel and chamber had been re-lined afterwards. Can you tell if this was done? Have it xrayed and/or magnafluxed and carefully examined with a professional-quality bore scope. Otherwise, strictly a wall hanger--or have one relined by a black powder gunsmith, or rebarreled. Now, if I was to re-barrel a Berdan II, since that would ruin it as a collectible, I'd do it in .45-70 or some other more available black powder cartridge, and, in fact, a very few Berdan I trapdoor rifles were produced in .45-70, iirc, but I digress.
 

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Just recently purchased a Berdan 11 rifle and haven't taken it out of the wood yet but you give me something to look for. The one I got has a nice cartouche on the stock and intact volley sights. It also has Finn sling swivels through the stock indicating it may have come in from Finland with the group that was sold as surplus here and maybe captured in the Finnish Civil War. Alsky has one that is identical to it and we plan to get them together this summer sometime so pictures will like as not be taken then. Nice to know there are a few of these around. In searching through ammo we found rounds intact with paper patches dated 1889 for the Berdan rifle. The wood on the one I have is in excellent shape and the bore is spotlessly beautiful with a tight excellent working action. Indeed I guess it could be fired safely but I have no present plans to do so for a change. This is much unlike me as I fire just about all I own but I have not planned to fire this one. Neat old gun for sure! After doing Civil War reenactment for 20+ years as a Berdan Sharpshooter I have many feelings about finding one of these and holding on to it for the duration in one piece. I will try and bring it to a Civil War event later this year and let the fellows see the thing and handle it. Berdan although a pronounced chicken on the battle filed was indeed a brilliant inventor responsible for I think maybe 22 patents in this country. They ranged from the Berdan Bowls method of separating gold ore from slag to a bread slicing machine and of course the primer system too. Amazing man for sure who I believe Joe Leiper was going to write a biography about at one time. Bill
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Zeebill:I'll look forward to seeing photos of your Berdan. I've been meaning to buy a book about Berdan, the man, as it should be an interesting read. And FGD135, I agree with everything you say. My interest in this rifle is strictly as a collectable. But if I've personally seen 4 of these types of "repair" there may be a fair number out there and owners should be wary, especially if, like RangeRover, they plan on shooting their rifle. Personally, I have enough grief attempting to load for Snider and Martini without adding more work. And back to the two Berdans of this thread- pulled both out this morning and I now suspect that there may be some sort of liner visible at the breech end of each. Going to have a closer look with my (not professional grade) borecam. As collectables, I think the first question here is was the deactivation done by a government for training purposes or a later purchaser intent on making sellable wall hangers? Further question then is- were they plugged/ lined by a government (in desperate need of rifles) or a later purchaser intent on turning wall hangers into (superficially) shootable guns.

Ruprecht
 

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Perhaps those were "reactivated" for some kind of military history or parade unit in the last country they were held in, maybe used for firing blanks, before being sold to a firearms distributor. I wouldn't know why any importer would reactivate a rifle, esp something that old. In the past, Century Arms (and Interarms and Bannermans before all) did lots of unusual firearm modifications, however, they mostly just sportered used military rifles.
You folks in The Great White North have different laws, would a Canadian importer have any reason to do this?
 

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I think the Brits deactivated huge numbers of rifles in their mad quest for gun control, letting collectors keep them if drilled out like that and registered.

Could these be such work, later repaired by some importer?

I have seen museum deactivation and once sadly bought a lovely Remington M91 only to find the chamber welded shut.

You could try shooting them with "hillbilly proof method:" Tie the rifle to an old tire tightly pointed downrange, load with a light load, cock it with a long string attached to the trigger, get down low and pull. If it doesn't blow up, try it with a heavier load a few times. That is how old shotguns used to be tested back when I was a kid.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The Berdan II is legally an antique, in Canada, which means no license required to buy or sell. Would they be more marketable as a superficially shootable or intact rifle than as a deactivated gun- hard to believe that any company could justify the cost of the work. I've attached two closeups showing what does appear to be a sleeve in the chamber of each. With the borecam I can also see a sharp line in each just short of the rifling which may be the end of the sleeve. No sign of anything on the inside in the vicinity of the external plugs. The surface inside this probable sleeve is very rough with deep milling grooves- doesn't look like any chamber finish I've ever seen.

Ruprecht
 

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Definitely appears to be some kind of liner--I still suspect these are parade rifles for blank firing, etc.
 
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