A new subscriber who is new to Black Powder bought a used TC Hawken rifle made by Thompson Center. He commented on the fact that he found three wide spots when running a patched jag down the bore. A barrel with three rings in the bore is not a circus, its probably a very inaccurate rifle.
I thought I would write something about what to look for when considering buying a used rifle. You're at a Gun Show with goodies everywhere.
You see a particularly handsome rifle so you pick it up. Admire the heft and general feel of the rifle, probably sight in a light bulb across the room. Then you, be the careful purchaser you are will work the lock to see if it will cock, and if its a flintlock, you may dry fire it a few times to see how it sparks. Bravo, a regular Fourth of July; sparks everywhere but mostly in the pan where they should be. So you begin to dicker.
Not so fast Bubbie, there's one more thing you should look at. Ask the dealer if you can run a patch or two down the barrel. If he says "No" just walk on by. If he says "Yes" put two wiping patches on the jag and slowly push it down the barrel. If it goes smoothly down all the way then you can consider dickering on price what with it being a "Piece of junk" you are lusting after and being broke what with the wife leaving you with the kids and losing your job and all the other postures involved in the dicker and him telling you it was used only once by quadriplegic little old lady.
On the other hand, if in pushing the tight patch and jag combination down the barrel, you notice that the rod drops a half inch or so and then continues slowly down the barrel you are looking at a ringed, or bulged barrel. You do not want that rifle. The usual place to find that ring is about six inches down where the short started usually places the ball. The rifle was short started but the ball wasn't seated down on the powder. Firing the rifle with the ball only part way down will give you a ring like that and the barrel is probably ruined.
The gentleman who purchased the good looking .50 caliber TC Hawken found a ring very close to the muzzle, about 6 inches down and then again down where the rear sight is attached. The only solution is to have the barrel re-rifled to .54 caliber, or securing a new drop in barrel. Neither of these are cheap to do. This practice of checking out the inside of the barrel is of particular value when you find a rifle for sale at a pretty reasonable price. The dealer either knows about the rings or he's selling it because it never shoots well. In the first case he’s guilty of a sort of fraud, in the second case he's innocent of evil intent but doesn't squat about Black Powder rifles.