View Full Version : Case hardening

November 15, 2005, 06:18 AM
Not sure if this is feesable or not. I was wondering if a 1911 would be able to be case hardened. I really like the look of it. I would love to find someone that has have it done and or does case hardening.

thank you
Aim straight and have fun

November 15, 2005, 06:27 AM
There are guns that are case hardened and some of the processes are combination hardness and corrosion resistance .HK P7, USP, and Glock for example are case hardened. I don't know if anyone does the 1911.When you say you like the look of it are you referring to "color case hardening" ? Otherwise you won't see a difference.

November 15, 2005, 06:48 AM
My bad yes I mean color case hardened.


November 15, 2005, 07:45 AM
I believe it was Olmypic that made the Western Marshal a case hardened 1911.

Eventually I want to do one in the original 1873 style with case hardened reciever and royal blue slide

Harry Bonar
November 15, 2005, 09:20 AM
Dear Shooter:
I do not approve of trying to case-harden alloy steels; the reason for case-hardening or pack hardening to begin with was to make a hard surface on low to medium carbon steel which didn't have enough "points" of carbon in it to harden, thus case-hardening, to make the surface hard to resist wear or set-back!
I know that it is done but, it must be done by a man who is expert in metallurgy! To begin with, "color" case-hardening was never done by experts - the best case hardening is a beautiful grey.
Harry B.

November 15, 2005, 12:06 PM
I have a beautiful color case hardening job on a repro rolling block. The steel is 8620. But a single shot or lever action has a large flat surface that really shows off the case hardening. I don't think a 1911 would benefit. The colors are from bits of leather and other organic materials that are added to the carburizing material.It's certainly not a job for amateurs.

November 15, 2005, 01:16 PM
Your best option is to contact THE expert, Doug Turnbull.

Turnbull Restoration's are possibly the most knowledgeable people on color case hardening, and they'd be the one's to talk to.

November 15, 2005, 02:05 PM
About 15 years ago I bought a bottle of what I thought was cold bluing.
It turned out to be some kind of acid that gave a case hardened look which at the time I did not want.

I would love to find a bottle now to use on a Norinco 1911 just to see how it would look

If I did not prep the surface to recieve the bluing it would be easy enough to remove and I would have to do some buffing on a Norinco anyway

November 16, 2005, 05:38 AM
I read somewhere that there is a bottle preparation to give the effect of color hardening and Birchwood Casey comes to mind, but I'm not sure. I too would like to ginger up an old shotgun I have so if you find it please post on here. Good Luck

November 16, 2005, 06:59 AM
I have never seen a bottle of any kind of acid that will give the look of color case hardening. It is an artform that is fast falling tho the wayside now that really good steel is being used and is so much cheaper these days. You can do your own color case hardening if you take the time to learn how, but I simply haven't found a way of wiping on an acid that will impart the coloring of color case hardening. There are still some folks that do it, but even those that still do rarely get the colors like what was so prevalent in single action revolvers and shotguns for years. good luck in your search for it.

November 18, 2005, 12:33 PM
Well I'm really going back sometime on this and further recollection was a smith doing it as a full job and getting the right effect. But you are very right about it being a dying artform and as Harry Bonar has said fooling around with old steels can lead to disaster. The shotgun is a 1892 "Gold Name" boxlock ejector which was made when they were in Pall Mall, London, England for about 20yrs so it is a bit of a collectors item, maybe. I got in touch with Westley Richards and they sent me copies of the original sales leger entry and its history up to 1964. the original owner had it for 50 yrs then a good friend of mine had it until 1995 when he gave it to me, he died about 3yrs after. I have had the stock replaced as it was worn out ( recut about 4 times) and have made new ejector springs for it, I can shoot good with it ( partly why he gave it me! ) and it has great sentimental value. He had it serviced back in the 80s and the bonehead who did it, polished out the color hardening saying it was old fashioned and shiney was nicer!!!!!! ?for th reasons above there is no way I would attempt to re-harden it as it would most likely scrap the action body and even though WRs would make a new one for around 5k $ it would spoil the originality apart from being a lot of money. So the color in a bottle sounded good!!

November 18, 2005, 02:43 PM
I would think you could have it color case hardened again if you find someone that specializes in the process, but I would be very careful with it. You say the original colors were polished out, must have been an idiot that did that huh.

I would suggest leaving be and not doing anything to it unless it is a full restoration. Now you mentioned soemthing that puzzles me. You said you can shoot it well, what kind of shells did you shoot through it?

November 18, 2005, 10:19 PM
It's people like you that Doug Turnbull is in business for.

Turnbull is America's premier firearms restorer.

He's studied the finishing processes used by all the old American gun companies, and has managed to duplicate them.

He not only does bluing and color case hardening, he has the ability to match the colors used by different companies.

Turnbull does custom finishing work for a number of gun companies, including Colt.

He's FULLY capable of restoring your gun, safely, to factory new condition.

Take a look at his web site, but prepare for sticker shock.


November 18, 2005, 11:04 PM
Check out Olympic Arms 1911 - the ol' Safari Arms Westerner series (http://www.olyarms.com/?page=m2_westerner#westerner). Yep - color case hardened...

Might be my next factory 1911? :cool:

November 19, 2005, 04:51 AM
I believe that Turnbull is the one who does the Lone Star rifles like my rolling block - the job is fantastic .I don't know how to post so no picture.....Looking at the 1911 photos I think color case hardening doesn't do anything for it !

November 19, 2005, 07:35 AM
Looking at the 1911 photos I think color case hardening doesn't do anything for it !Oly overdid the case hardening.
A case hardened frame with a royal blue slide would not be so overwhelming and would more closely match the original Colt color scheme

November 19, 2005, 08:16 AM
O.K. guys, thank you for all the input. I agree the Oly is a bit much. I would have to change out a few things as I would only want the frame and slide done while all controls blued. I did contact Turnbul to inquire about color case hardeneing my 1911. The fallowing is the reply I recieved.


Thank you for the inquiry but we do not color case harden 1911's. The frame and slide alignment on 1911's needs to be kept fairly straight and tight. The color case hardening process is a little to hot, and the risk of distorting the frame or the slide or both, is just to great. We can color case some of the small parts such as the hammer, slide stop and the slide safety.

So, that is it from the accepted modern masters of the process.

Thank you for all of your input again. I am still going to have to think about this a lot. Perhaps buying the Oly and using it as a platform for a couple new pistols??? HHHHMMMMM. Anyone happen to know about fit and quality of oly arms? I have none with them in any platform.

Aim straight and have fun

P.S. If anyone does find out about the color in a bottle please post it. I might go with that option.

November 19, 2005, 05:05 PM
See the latest Wilson Combat catalog. They are offering a color case hardened 1911 (EXPENSIVE!!) so someone knows how to accomplish it.

November 20, 2005, 04:33 PM
Well, thanks for all the info, it really is a great help. I contacted the makers and they wanted to make a new action body, megabucks!!! They still make this model but want $17000 + for it!!! won't be doing that anytime now! But the Turnbull refurbish sounds real good.
The shells I use are English company Eley's IMPAX one ounce no 6 shot as the handmade shotguns used to have the barrels regulated to your favourite shells and my friend had this done to them. I buy them a 1000 at a time in the original wax paper shell cases and they are a bit pricey but not too bad. I have tried the Federal 1.1 ounce iron /tungsten loads and it shoots great with them, but I still have a slight worry about the risk, it is only quarter and half choke but I think they are a bit less forgiving than straight lead shot and I can't get a straight answer on this from either local smiths or Federal.

November 21, 2005, 01:22 PM
Well happy days. I contacted Turnbulls and they can do it no problem and the price is good too. So right after Christmas it is getting stripped and sent to them.

January 14, 2006, 08:18 PM
I was going to mention that distortion could and probably would be a problem on the frame and slide as the gentleman mentioned.We used to color case harden in cyanide and use a time quench technique in brine.However on some of the recievers and parts that had heavey and thin material or sharp corners ,we ran into distortion problems.Even if the parts are packed you still run the risk of distortion.We had great sucess with older double barrel shotgun recievers ie: parker,fox etc

January 15, 2006, 12:00 PM
Your best option is to contact THE expert, Doug Turnbull.

Turnbull Restoration's are possibly the most knowledgeable people on color case hardening, and they'd be the one's to talk to.

+100 to that...He's only about 1/2 an hour away from me...My buddy has had numerous guns restored/refinished, and the work they do is nothing short of incredible....Tuesday we're taking him an 1898 L.C. Smith shotgun (A-1 grade, 739 made!) for an estimate on restoration. It belonged to another friends father, who recently passed away. Note that their work is not inexpensive, and they often have a LONG backlog of work...But if you want the best it's well worth it.

January 15, 2006, 12:02 PM
Any of you Turnbull customers or fans have a ballpark idea of what it would cost to do a 1911 in the white
with a color case hardened frame and a royal blue slide