Proof Marks
Proof marks are stamps applied to various parts of a weapon during and after manufacture to show that the weapon is safe for use with the ammunition for which it was designed.
In England, the London and Birmingham proof houses were established (in 1637 and 1813, respectively) by Royal Charter to protect the public from the sale of unsafe weapons. A number of other countries have also established their own proof houses and by agreement at consular level, reciprocal arrangements have been made for their proof marks to be mutually accepted. At present, these include Austria, Belgium, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom.
A number of other countries have their own forms of proof, either inhouse or centrally run. For various reasons, these have not been acceptable to the European commercial proof houses, and the weapons have to be fully proofed before they are legally saleable in those countries.
There are also a number of countries which have a separate military proofing system for service weapons. These, once again, are not accepted by the
European commercial proof houses. Weapons bearing military proof marks have thus to be commercially proofed before they can be legally sold in those countries.
There are basically three types of proof: provisional proof, definitive proof and reproof.
• Provisional proof is only for shotgun barrels in the early stages of manufacture. This type of proof is designed to prevent the manufacturer from continuing work on barrel blanks which may have hidden defects.
• Definitive proof applies to all weapons and shows that the weapon has been tested with an overcharge of propellant and missile. Generally, this calls for between 30 and 50% increase in pressure over the standard round of ammunition.
• Reproof is an additional test which may be applied after a weapon has been repaired or altered in some way.
1.3.1 Proof marks and the examiner
Proof marks can be a very valuable aid to the forensic firearms investigator as they can give information as to the age, history and country of origin of a weapon.
Many countries have specific exemption from their firearms legislation for weapons which are ' antique'. At one time, the situation was simple, with an antique being considered to be anything over 100 years old. This, however, no longer holds true as many weapons, for example, the Colt Single Action Army Model of 1873, are well over this age and can fire modern centre fire ammunition.
To complicate matters further, modern reproductions of some of these old weapons have been produced, which are often virtually indistinguishable from the original. In these cases, the proof mark could prove to be the only method of accurately dating a weapon.
This is, however, a very complex subject and requires much research and experience in the interpretation of the marks before accurate information can be obtained.
Many papers and books have been written on this subject, but probably the most authoritative is 'The Standard Directory of Proof Marks' by Wirnsberger, distributed by Blacksmith Co., Southport, Connecticut 06490 (Figures 1.231.36).
Provisional proof
Definitive proof on action
Definitive proof on barrel
Definitive proof black powder arms
London
Birmingham
Not nitro
Special definitive proof
Reproof *5F
Reproof where removable chokes have been fitted Year of proof
For certain blank cartridge operated tools
Magazine restriction mark for shotguns
Deactivation mark
Mark for weapons rejected by proof
Barrel proofed for steel shot
Black powder a
London est
LX 06
Steel shot
Definitive proof
View
Birmingham
Do not fire
Steel shot
London ?
Nitro proof
Nitro proof
Company proof
Company proof
London
Birmingham
Nitro proof
View mark
Birmingham *
Figure 1.23 British proof marks. (a) Under 1954 rules of proof; (b) under 1925 rules of proof; (c) Birmingham proof marks  18131904; (d) proof marks used between 1887 and 1925; (e) under 1988 rules of proof.
Figure 1.24 British military proof marks.
Disposal
Figure 1.24 British military proof marks.
Provisional shotguns
Definitive shotguns
Definitive rifles and pistols
Figure 1.27 Czechoslovakian proof marks.
1955; (b) West German proof 945; (d) other German proof
Figure 1.29 Republic of Ireland proof mark.
Figure 1.30 American military proof mark.
Figure 1.31 French proof marks post 1960.
Voluntary proof: barrels in the finished state : ordinary proof
Voluntary proof: barrels in their finished state : double proof
Voluntary proof: barrels in their finished state triple proof
Compulsory proof: sample or model proof
Compulsory proof: guns in their finished state, ordinary black powder proof
Compulsory proof: proofed arm ready for sale (supplementary mark)
Compulsory proof: ordinary nitro proof of finished guns
Compulsory proof: superior nitro proof
Compulsory proof: longbarrelled firearms Reproof of long barrelled firearms
Ordinary black powder reproof Ordinary nitro reproof Superior nitro reproof
Proof of shortbarrelled firearms
Reproof of shotbarrelled firearms Steel shot proof for smooth bored guns. Note: This mark is now used on all EU proofed firearms
Figure 1.31 French proof marks post 1960.
Voluntary provisional proof
Definitive proof of arms in 'white' condition
Reproof
Superior proof
Suitable for steel shot
Figure 1.32 Hungarian proof marks.
Distinctive proof mark of the Gardone V.T. Proof house impressed on all firearms
Definitive black powder proof
Definitive smokeless powder proof
Voluntary superior smokeless powder proof
Supplementary mark for arms delivery condition
Suitable for steel shot
Figure 1.33 Italian proof marks.
Figure 1.33 Italian proof marks.
Symbol Arsenal/subcontractor
Koishikawa arsenal (Tokyo) on rifles
Kokura arsenal on rifles
Nagoya arsenal on rifles
Jinsen arsenal (Korea) on rifles
Mukden arsenal (Manchuria) on rifles
Toyo Kogyo on rifles Tokyo Juki Kogyo on rifles Tokyo Juki Kogyo on rifles Howa Jyuko on rifles
Period of operation
18701935 19351945 19231945 19231945 19311945
19391945
19401945 19401945 19401945
Izawa Jyuko on rifles 19401945
19401945
Toyokawa arsenal on handguns
Sasebo arsenal on handguns 19401945
Yokosura arsenal on handguns
19401945
Kure arsenal on handguns 19401945 Maisuru arsenal on handguns 194045
Current proof mark
Figure 1.34 Japanese arsenal/proof marks.
Figure 1.35 Russian proof marks.
Tula proof mark prior to 1917
Tula proof mark prior to 1971
Tula and Izhevsk arsenal provisional black powder proof marks after 1950
Tula and Izhevsk arsenal final black powder proof after 1950
Final proof
Tula proof house marks Izhevsk proof house marks
Quality control marks
Proof mark of Izmash on AK(S)47, AKM(S) and AK(S)74
Proof mark for Vyatskie Polyany Arsenal (Molot) MachineBuilding Plant OAO on RPK and RPK74
Proof mark for Tula Arms Plant (Tulsky oruzheiny zavod) on AKS and AK74
Figure 1.35 Russian proof marks.
Izhevsk Proof House
Arms proof and inspection for ammunition
Klimovsk Proof House
Arms proof and inspection for ammunition
Krasnozavodsk Proof House
Arms proof and inspection for ammunition
Steel shot proof for shotguns
Figure 1.36 Russian federation proof marks.
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