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Old October 9, 2012, 12:00 AM   #1
FLChinook
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Nickel or Blue?

Can someone please share a few comments on advantages/disadvantages of a nickel-plated S&W27 vs. one with a good blued finish. I assume the nickel-plated gun cost more initially. Aside from the cosmetics (some people may like a shiny gun and some not), is nickel-plating more durable; have greater resale value? Thanks
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Old October 9, 2012, 01:22 AM   #2
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To me, the main and nearly-sole advantage is maintenance. Little need to wipe it down after handling and even then a dry t-shirt will work just fine. Makes for a nightstand gun that isn't likely to get any oil on whatever it touches and isn't going to rust on you. A minor second advantage might be less wear visible from holstering a lot.

I have a 40-yr-old nickeled snub and there is some clouding on the grip frame but that is all.

If I were going to buy a non-blued gun and could find it in satin stainless, that is what I'd buy. Just my personal preference.

Last edited by FloridaVeteran; October 9, 2012 at 07:31 AM. Reason: typo - satin vs stain
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Old October 9, 2012, 08:56 AM   #3
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Nickel was valued for it's corrosion resistance back in the day. It kept better with less maintenance. Today, I suspect it's more valued for it's looks.

I've owned a couple of nickel guns, but I didn't keep them long. I've just never warmed up to them. Nothing wrong with them, I just like blue better.

A nickel gun will bring a higher price, but on the other side, it might be a little harder to find the buyer who wants a nickel gun.
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:35 AM   #4
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For everyday carry, I prefer blue as its less conspicuous. And field guns don't need that shine.

Between nickel and stainless, I'd choose nickel. Nickel "ages" or develops a brassy color denoting age, and character. A stainless gun always looks the same regardless of age.

The "brassy" look of old nickel coincides with the patina of a blued gun.

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Old October 10, 2012, 01:47 PM   #5
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Yes, Nickel is a little more durable than blued guns of the same model ....model 19's, 27's or 29's ....and will show less holster wear as an example....and while I have both blued and Nickel models in the model 19's, 27's and 29's ...my Nickel guns in all 3 models are some of my finest revolvers.

In my area - Nickel demands at least $ 100 premium on model 19's, 27's or 29's....which are models I collect and shoot so I'm more familiar with them ...but its probably the same on other S&W models as well.

In a model 27 blued ....that deep blue finish is certainly striking...but the Nickel model 27, to me, is just a little better ....maybe because I do use them for tactical drills at my local range - in and out of a good holster/it means I get virtually no wear on the muzzle, cyclinder on a Nickel gun - even after many thousands of times in and out of a good horsehide Kramer Leather holster...even though I rarely carry any of them ( I'm a 1911 guy when it comes to carry guns ) - and in those, I like an all stainless as well ...but I will occasionally carry one of my model 19's in 4" Nickel in a K frame Kramer holster.
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:03 PM   #6
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Nickel is prone to flaking and discoloration. Blued guns are prone to rusting. I like blued over nickel. Nickel plating is also used to gloss over metal imperfections.
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:13 PM   #7
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It is more durable and, in collector guns, can sometimes demand a premium, but I absolutely dislike nickel. However, YMMV. I sold a nickel Colt Cobra and a nickel S&W m19, both in the box, this year just becuase of the finish. I just don't care for shiny guns.
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:19 PM   #8
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If its a shooter, and you are using it on a bright day, the nickel will have a glare as you are looking down the sights. A minor point, but worth noting.

-George
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:27 PM   #9
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Is nickel sometimes added to a gun after market or is it always a factory application?
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:38 PM   #10
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it can be added after the fact. It also is common on guns where the metal rusted thus somewhat hiding the damage.
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:40 PM   #11
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Is there a way to tell if nickel is after market?
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Old October 10, 2012, 03:54 PM   #12
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I had a nickel 44Mag S&W bought from a guy at a cheap price. Never cared much for the looks of that type of finish. Sold it making a modest profit to a guy that was all excited about it.
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Old October 10, 2012, 04:13 PM   #13
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I guess nickel would make a better looking Bar-B-Q gun, though.
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Old October 10, 2012, 04:51 PM   #14
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usually if the markings on the gun are soft or faint that could be an indecation of refinishing, also there needs to be another metal to alloy in between the nickel and the steel i believe copper is one such metal.

Not sure if I remember correctly but factory nickel jobs didn't use copper but most aftermarket ones did?

Or something like that.
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Old October 10, 2012, 05:46 PM   #15
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Quote:
Is there a way to tell if nickel is after market?
The hammer and trigger finish on modern S&W revolvers should be color case or MIM. Nickel in these areas is far and away the easiest way to spot a refinish; experienced collectors will see it literally yards away.

The ejector rod and ejector star should be blued, and the timing pawls on the ejector star should be natural metal. These parts were never nickel finished at the factory. If the revolver has seen heavy use, the ejector rod finish may wear off, but it should still look different than the nickel on the rest of the gun.

Another hallmark is lettering and/or S&W logos with rounded rather than sharp edges, and screw holes with a "dished" or slightly counterbored look around the screws. On some older models with visible exterior pivot pin ends for the lockwork, the ends of the pins should be rounded rather than flattened, but most models made after ~1915 do not have visible external pins. These signs are caused by heavy-handed polishing prior to applying the new nickel.

Most post-WWII nickel guns have a small capital letter "N" stamped on the cylinder face and a larger "N" under the grips, normally at the LH front corner, but this varies. The absence of the cylinder "N" may indicate a refinish on an original-nickel gun because the marking is very shallow and correspondingly easy to obliterate while polishing. However, the factory was not 100% consistent about applying the "N" markings.

A star on the butt and/or the inner grip frame usually indicates a factory refinish. In my experience, S&W factory nickel refinish jobs are usually outstanding, and are not readily distinguishable from original finish using the signs summarized above. Most collectors will pay more for factory refinished guns than other refinished guns, but they will still command lower values than original finish in equal condition, and should never command a LNIB price no matter how nice they look.

FWIW if you are paying top dollar for a collector-grade gun, most S&W collectors do not consider it unreasonable to remove the grips, since rust may be hidden here and a buyer may want to verify the grip frame markings. However, some sellers may not want to do this unless they believe the buyer is really serious, and original older-style hard rubber or gutta percha grips may disintegrate during removal, so it is inadvisable to remove these grips in most cases. OTOH if a seller absolutely refuses to remove wood stocks after seeing a legit cash offer, IMHO it is not unreasonable to negotiate a lower price.

On some guns that are very rare with original nickel- early Model 17s and commercial M1917 variants spring to mind- many serious collectors will not pay collector-grade prices without a factory letter proving original nickel finish.

[EDIT] This is my 4,000th post! Go me!
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Old October 10, 2012, 07:18 PM   #16
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Venom 1956 said:
Quote:
Not sure if I remember correctly but factory nickel jobs didn't use copper but most aftermarket ones did?
Nickel cannot be applied directly to steel but must have an intermediate layer of brass or copper, sometimes both.

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Old October 10, 2012, 08:23 PM   #17
Bill DeShivs
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There is a lot of misinformation about nickel here.

It CAN be applied directly to steel-most factories do it this way. Bumper plating shops use a copper underplate.

A nickel finish won't hide imperfections in the metal, it amplifies them. Nickel can be used to hide a silver-soldered joint, but pitting is much more obvious with nickel.

Properly applied nickel is not prone to flaking. If the nickel surface is compromised and the gun is not cared for, rust can form in the unplated area and spread under the surrounding nickel, causing it to flake.
Nickel is much more durable than bluing, and protects much better.

And-before someone says it- Hoppe's and other solvents won't affect properly applied nickel.

Take this for what it's worth. I do nickel plating.
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Old October 11, 2012, 12:32 PM   #18
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Apologies Bill, Nickel doesn't interest me so I was going off memory of what little I know.

I just remember old worn rusted blued guns were often buffed and polished to remove rust and pitting then nickel and resold same can be said about 'engraving'

Most 'nickel' guns I've seen are poor jobs that are flaking badly or someone that has polished a SS gun and claimed it to be nickel.

LOL I was like sir this isn't a nickeled Model 19... its clearly a polished Model 66... see the 66 on stamped to the frame?
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Old October 11, 2012, 01:53 PM   #19
Bob Wright
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Bill DeShivs wrote:

Quote:
There is a lot of misinformation about nickel here.

It CAN be applied directly to steel-most factories do it this way.
Well, gee whiz! Learned something new today! I'd always heard nickel required a non-ferrous base. Elmer Keith wrote about a Colt Single Action someone was having plated. The owner saw the gun in its copper coating and halted the process right there, preferring the copper coating. The gun ultimately turned the color of dark oxidized copper except where it was polished by holster wear.

The rest of the story was that the owner "traded it for a red-headed woman."

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Old October 11, 2012, 01:56 PM   #20
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Quote:
Bumper plating shops use a copper underplate.
Bumper plating shops still use nickel? Would have thought chrome.

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Old October 11, 2012, 02:10 PM   #21
carguychris
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Quote:
Bumper plating shops still use nickel? Would have thought chrome.
What's a bumper plating shop? How would one apply nickel OR chrome plating to flexible plastic?
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Last edited by carguychris; October 11, 2012 at 02:10 PM. Reason: Minor reword...
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Old October 11, 2012, 02:13 PM   #22
Bill DeShivs
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Bumpers are plastic now, Bob!
The old bumper plating shops used copper under nickel under chrome.
Copper underplating CAN be used on guns, but it's not necessary. It's a common misconception, often repeated.
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Old October 11, 2012, 02:15 PM   #23
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BTW- plastic CAN be plated. It's not a good idea to plate flexible plastic, though!
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Old October 14, 2012, 05:33 PM   #24
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When S&W does a factory renickle job, their practice is to stamp R-N and a date under the grip panel. My model 27 was built in 1969, renickled in 1975. Under the grip panel is stamped R-N 12/75.
They did a beautiful job, looks like it wasbuilt last week.
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