View Full Version : Stripping history from an old rifle

May 26, 2007, 03:51 PM
I have a Winchester Model 1907 bought new by my great grandfather in 1909 and passed to me last year when my grandfather passed away.

Here's the dilemma. These are blowback style guns with a very fragile fore end. The fore end was cracked beyond repair and I have just about finished a new one for it. The gun has lost almost all of its blueing and the stock has numerous stains, nicks, gouges. The gun shoots well.

I originally did not want to remove the history by refinishing, but now will have a brand new shiny walnut fore-end.

Any opinions on whether I should refinish the stock, reblue or both or neither?

May 26, 2007, 04:03 PM
Wil probably decrease value unless it is redone professionally. If it were mine and sentimental value meant it would never be sold I would restore it very carefully. The memories won't change.

May 26, 2007, 05:50 PM
My .02...there's a couple ways you can go, depending on what you'd ultimately want: 1. as a shooter, perform a rehab on it (new stock, reblue, replace worn parts, etc); 2. for sentimental value and as a shooter, do the bare minimum for a safe shooter (replace any worn / broken parts but keep them, do no metal refinishing); 3. for pure sentimental value, do no refinishing of any kind and don't fire it.

It'd be a tough call for me. On the one hand, guns're meant to be fired, but if I was given one that'd been in the family for close to a century, I'd be real tempted to simply preserve it. A piece like that has family value.

May 26, 2007, 06:37 PM
My opinion (and just my opinion):
If it were mine, and sentimental reasons were in play, I would repair it and put it into good shooting condition, then go and enjoy it every now and again by running a few rounds through it and think of good old Grampa. Over the years, I have seen as many old rifles ruined by refinishers who don't know what they are doing as I have seen restored to like-new finishes (as a gunsmith, I restored and rebuilt guns for several years).

May 27, 2007, 12:31 AM
Personally, I would not refinish it. The gun got that way through honest wear and you would be eliminating almost 100 years of history. Sure the gun may look funny, but who cares, it has history and a story behind it.

/My $.02

May 27, 2007, 12:55 AM
Are both the new fore-end and the old buttstock walnut? If so, I'd look to make them match reasonably well - you won't be able to do it perfectly, but if you use a chemical stripper on the buttstock, that can take off whatever sealant is on it and also pull out a lot of whatever stain they used. Then if you want to be tricky, you can try to put some similar marks in the fore-end as are in the buttstock - scratches, dents, burnishing etc.

Then either rub in a dark tinted oil finish (they make tinted tung/linseed oil blends) which will just have a soft satin sheen, but need to be replenished now and then, or if you want it to be low maintenance, you can first rub in a dark oil stain, then give it 2 coats of gloss oil-based poly for clarity, and then topcoat with a dull satin oil-based poly for an antique look.

May 27, 2007, 04:50 AM
Definitely do not fool with the original finish, I would try to "age" the new wood.

May 27, 2007, 06:42 AM
Good detail cleaning and rust/corrosion prevention. Save the old parts no matter what they look like now. Pretty much arrest any deterioration and prevent any further decline. I don't suppose that does not mean don't shoot it ever, if it is safe to shoot. Just clean thoroughly. If you preserve it, you have plenty of time then to contemplate any further action as to whether or not you improve things or leave alone. Won't hurt anything to put on a new stock part if that is all it lacks for shootability. Go ahead and try to match it to the rest of the stock as far as finish but fake "ageing" is pointless and can be seen as an effort to deceive. Won't matter for shooting and you can put the original back on as far as you can, for display if you retire it from shooting. Maybe fix the old stock part to the point it will not fall apart from just hanging on the wall.

May 27, 2007, 11:43 AM
I don't know the value of the gun and understood it to be of great sentimental value - most old items are actually not worth any great sum, even if they are a century or more old. If this is actually a very rare and sought after collector's piece like one might see on The Antiques Road Show, then no, you shouldn't refinish the buttstock. Refinishing an object like that will always decrease value.

Smokey Joe
May 27, 2007, 12:18 PM
Kingudaroad--IIUC, gun is in good condition except the forend, which you propose to replace. Here's your answer in yr own words:The gun shoots well.Guns were made to be shot. Put your replacement forend on it and take it out and shoot it. You could "age" the new forend if you want to make it look less out-of-place. Keep the rifle in XLNT mechanical condition. Put the original, repaired forend back on for display. And don't go "restoring" meaning re-blueing, re-varnishing, etc, anything.

Be sure to tell the kids, and the nieces & nephews, about the rifle's history while they are enjoying shooting it. You'll need someone who appreciates it to whom to pass it on and keep it in the family. (And BTW, you must pass it to ONE of them, not 2 or more--nothing causes more family fights than joint inheritances.)

If you want it restored to "like new," send it to a professional restorer. But I for one would never do that to a family heirloom.

Joe the Redneck
May 27, 2007, 04:27 PM
I'd hang it on the wall. Why mess with it. Keep it for the memories.


May 28, 2007, 12:01 PM
Thanks for all the input!

I think I will take the stock back down to the walnut leaving all the appropriate dents and dings intact and resealing and finishing with a clear tung oil. I will leave the metal alone.

This should make it a good shooter and help strengthen the stock.

Though I still have some sanding and shaping to do on the fore-end, I took some pics to share. I wet down the fore-end a little to simulate what it may look like after completion.




May 28, 2007, 12:31 PM
Very nice, better condition than what I expected from your post! Just do the bare minimum until you're happy with it.

Trapper L
May 28, 2007, 12:39 PM
Okay, so why not buy another buttstock and put the old away for the "if you ever sell it"? That way the they both are the same (new) for when you want to shoot it but still have the collectable buttstock.