View Full Version : How to (re)harden a part??

February 9, 2002, 08:33 PM
I recently picked up a beater Browning Baby. Looked like hades, rusted, cracked handle, generally a mess.

Brought it home, took it apart and totally cleaned it up. Used oil and steel wool to get the rust off. Bought some new grips.

Took it out today and fired about fourty rounds of Fiocci hard ball through it.

Worked very well until the last clip or so. Trigger started to get a bit sticky then the trigger quit releasing the striker.

Brought it home, took it apart and discovered that the mag safety was causing the problem. (there is a bar, hinged at the base of the handle and spring loaded that pivots about a 1/16th at the top and prevents the striker release from rotating down).

So I just took a pair of pliers and gently bent the piece of this bar that engages the magazine (which in turn pivots the bar backwards and opens the striker release to a deeper slot in the bar).

But I know that under the hammering of firing the gun that this little ear will eventually bend back again.

So I am wondering if there is a way for me to heat this bar up and dip it in somthing to harden the metal and prevent this from happening.

The little Browning is an excellent pocket gun, but making it reliable will be very important if I am going to ever carry it.

Any suggestions on a product, name, source or procedure that can be used to accomplish this???

Thanks in advance for your help.

Brian Williams
February 9, 2002, 09:26 PM
use a propane torch or a MAPP gas torch to heat the part to a nice bright orange and drop it in a small can of 30 weight motor oil. I think that bright orange or maybe a nice cherry red is the color needed to get a nice hardness and the motoer oil does a nice job of giving a good color vs. water that will tend to give a burnt look... If you want the tip harder than the body heat from the tip towards the body of the part, if you want the body of the part harder, point the flame on the body

February 10, 2002, 09:00 AM
From what I remember that sounds like the old timers spring tempering. Heat to red then cover with oil and leave to slowly cool.

Mike Irwin
February 10, 2002, 03:54 PM
Personally I'd suggest simply replacing the part.

Gun Parts Corp should have all the parts you'll ever need for this particular gun.

Alex Johnson
February 12, 2002, 12:06 PM
I'd be careful, what you have had described to you is going to make the part very hard and brittle, imagine a piece of glass shaped like the part you describe. This is basically what you'll have if the steel was of a high carbon type. If it was casehardened (surface hardened) than likely this whole process would give you limited results. Hardening is the first step in the heat treatment process, but if must be followed by a suitable tempering process afterwards. Tempering involves heating the hardened part again to a specific temperature for a certain length of time, done properly this will provide an appropriate blend of hardness and strength to the steel.

I too beleive what Mikes telling you is a good idea.

February 12, 2002, 12:57 PM
Third vote for replacin the part.


February 12, 2002, 02:38 PM
If the magazine safety is a separate part that doesn't do anything else why not leave it out entirely? :D

Agree about that shade tree heat treatment. You can burn all the carbon out of steel with too much flame and cause all kinds of different troubles. If the part needs replaced, Gun Parts Corp is a good source for a new one.

Badger Arms
February 13, 2002, 01:07 AM
I have a cheap French 25 that I did this to. I heated the part up on the electric stove until it glowed red like the heating element then dunked it in water. Tempered my needle-nosed pliers as well. Part roughly matched the finish on the gun after tempering and didn't give me any more trouble.

BUT, I'd replace the part too. I only did it on this gun as the whole gun was only worth about $50.

February 14, 2002, 04:46 PM
I've made a lot of parts over the years and hardened them using a few different methods and not had any failures. That being said, I wouldn't use any of those guns as a carry piece if I were possibly going in harm's way. A hobby is one thing and your life quite another. Buy a quality replacement part from a reputable supplier.

4 Eyed Six Shooter
February 15, 2002, 07:21 AM
I agree with the others as far as buying a new part, but if you want to harden the part get a can of "Kasenite" from Brownells. Heat the part to a brite cherry red, swish it around in the granules of kasenite until they stick to the part. Heat again to cherry red with the kasenite on the part and then quench in a can of vegitable oil, moving the part in the oil in a figure 8 patern until the part has cooled. The kasenite case hardens the part by putting carbon into the metal for 2 or 3 thousandths of an inch, but leaves the core softer so that the entire part will not break easily. Good Shooting-John K

James K
February 15, 2002, 02:08 PM
Hi, 4 eyed and folks,

Kasenite works well, but note that, as 4 eyed says, it provides a surface hardening. It is great for parts like sears and hammers that need hardening to resist wear.

But it will not temper a spring or harden a part against pressure. A part that is soft inside can be case hardened and still bend or break.


Art Eatman
February 15, 2002, 09:51 PM
I'm not familiar with the Browning "Baby"; I've only messed with the HiPower.

Is this magazine safety the same thing as a magazine disconnect (can't fire a round in the chamber if the magazine is removed)? I found that the quality of the trigger-pull in a HiPower is improved if the disconnect is removed.


James K
February 15, 2002, 10:41 PM
The Baby Browning is the little .25 Auto that was made post-war, not the old 1905 model. Yes, a "magazine safety" is the same as a "magazine disconnector", but I am pretty sure the one on the Baby is different from the one on the High Power.


James K
February 16, 2002, 01:44 PM
I stated that the Baby Browning was a post war gun. That was true as far as U.S. imports go; they started in 1953. But the gun had been placed on the market in Europe in 1931. My apology for the error, and I thank the staff article in the March American Rifleman for the information.

As the picture with that article show, and my examination of a Baby Browning this morning indicates, removing or disabling the magazine safety would have no effect whatsoever on the trigger pull. It blocks the sear and is pushed out of the way when the magazine is inserted. But it is a fairly thin piece of stamped steel and might possibly be bent by a very strong pull on the trigger with the magazine removed.


February 16, 2002, 09:53 PM
The "magazine safety" does indeed only block the striker release from downward motion. It would have no effect on improving the quality of the trigger pull if it were removed. And the magazine release rides on the same pin and uses a spring that acts as both a release spring and a magazine safety spring. You have to see a picture to really appreciate the ingenuity of this little gem.

The curious thing about mine was that the forward "ear" of the magazine safety, which forms the area that is directly pushed back by an inserted magazine, simply bent backwards about 1/16th of an inch after about fourty rounds of shooting.

So, right around round forty, I could no longer pull the trigger back as the magazine safety was allowed to creep forward and the portion of the safety that blocks the striker release began doing its intended job even with the (stock FN) magazine in the pistol.

When I got it home I disassembled the gun and simply bent the "ear" forward again and the function of the trigger returned and the magazine safety returned to normal.

There is no way that this ear could be bent by the simple insertion of the magazine. The only thing I could figure out is that the part is a bit tired (the pistol is about 50 years old!) and the recoil of the gun is causing some hammering internally.

I was rapid firing the thing just to see if it would perform, it did and it did so without flaw. As fast as I could pull the trigger it would go bang. Just point shooting it I could hit a pie plate sized target from about 10 feet as quickly as I could pull the trigger.

It was really humorous to shoot it past about 20 or 25 feet. No matter how hard you tried or how well you aimed, each round would land one to three feet from the last!

Anyway, its a neat little pistol and better than nothing. Just effortless to have in your pocket and not big enough to print anything. Say what you want about .25 but seven rounds in a bad guys solar plexus (which I could get off in about three or four seconds) would be better than a two step head start.

I ordered a new part from a supplier in Canada.

My thanks to each of you who offered advice on hardening a part and on replacing versus fixing. There is a lot more to metalurgy than most of us gun shooters appreciate!

February 17, 2002, 11:38 AM
I use the Kasenite at work all of the time.

It would probably do exactly what you wanted to do if you used it.

Its true that case hardening something only leaves several thousanths of case on it, but it also makes it more rigid than a part that has not been case hardened. Case hardening is used to a couple of reasons, one is to make a part more wear resistant to abrasion, another is to make a part more rigid without getting it too hard to be brittle. The Kasenite is good stuff and great for gun parts.

But heres the kicker....

Unless you already have some, it'll cost you about 20 bucks for a pint can or 40 for a gallon paint can size.

If you want to have something to heat treat with, then buy it. At least you'll have it for other projects.

For a one shot deal, it'll probably be cheaper to buy another part.