English Civil War Carbine and its x-ray that reveals extensive repair to woodworm damage.

English Civil War carbine

The question

Prior to being despatched on loan to another museum, all artefacts undergo thorough examination, conservation and recording in the conservation lab. Frequently, scientific investigation is requested during this process.

In this instance the conservator was concerned that heavy restoration of the stock of this firearm had been carried out and that the treatment had been deliberately hidden.

This contrasts with contemporary conservation ethics whereby any intervention is made clearly identifiable. X-radiography was used to examine the object to find out what had been done to it.

Results of analysis

The appearance of the X-radiograph led to this object being nicknamed the spotty gun. This carbine has suffered from extensive woodworm attack. The flight holes have been filled with high density filler which show as white on the X-radiograph.


Objects in the Museum’s collection may have undergone heavy restoration, for which no record survives. X-radiography may enable this to be identified and remedial care applied.


The immediate result of this study was to find another similar gun, but in sounder condition, for the loan. The study has featured in several presentations on the use of X-radiography and remains a favourite with groups of young people being taught about conservation.

Did you know?

World's biggest bore!

The largest bore gun ever built fired a cast iron ball weighing around 1 tonne, measured 3 ft in diameter, contained 215kg of gunpowder, and fired to a range of 2.4 km (1.5 miles). It is on display at Fort Nelson.