Purpose & Brief History

Proof is the compulsory and statutory testing of every new shotgun or other small arm before sale, to ensure so far as is practicable, its safety in the hands of the user.

Reproof is the similar testing of a small arm which has previously been proved. Both necessarily involve the firing through the barrel of a considerably heavier load than is customary in the shooting field, thereby setting up pressure and stress on barrel and action much in excess of the pressure generated by standard load cartridges. Such pressure should, and is intended, to disclose weakness in guns, whether new or used. For it is preferable that weakness be found at a Proof House rather than in the field, where personal injury may result.

8 Proof in Great Britain dates back to 1637, when the Gunmakers Company of London was granted its Royal Charter. Proof was necessary to protect the public against the many unsound arms then being made and sold, which not only endangered the public but, indirectly brought discredit upon reputable gunmakers.

The Gunmakers Company secured its Ordinances in 1670 and from that time was enabled to enforce proof in and around London. The original proof marks are still in use today.

The Birmingham Proof House was established for public security in 1813 by Act of Parliament, requested and obtained by the Birmingham Gun Trade at its own expense. At a considerably earlier date private Proof Houses were in use in Birmingham. Marks similar to those used at one of them controlled by the gunmaker "Ketland", became the first proof mark of the officially established Birmingham Proof House.

Since 1813 it has been an offence to sell or offer for sale an unproved arm anywhere in the United Kingdom.

These pages are intended to give the information most likely to be required by those owning or interested in the purchase or sale of shotguns and other small arms. They do not claim to be, neither are they intended to be a complete encyclopaedia on the proof of guns or of all the proof marks available.