View Full Version : Can I get rid of this oxide – how?

August 30, 2010, 09:29 PM

A friend of mine wants to buy my S&W 36-1. I told him that it was in very good to excellent condition, but when he inspected the barrel under a strong light I couldn’t believe what we saw.
Under normal light you can barely see some oxide, if any ( less than what shows first pic below), but with strong light .. it is a disaster!

Is there a way I can fix this without having to refinish the gun ?

Thanks for your help.




August 30, 2010, 09:46 PM
Try 0000 bronze wool and Kroil. There is enough there that when the orange is gone, the blue will be also.


August 30, 2010, 10:09 PM
Just out of curiosity. Did you make the mistake of keeping it in a leather holster?

If it were my pistol I'd do a few things ....

1) Completely disassemble the pistol.

2) Use some Birchwood Casey Blue & Rust Remover all over the blued areas.

3) Clean and degrease a MINIMUM of 4 times to make sure you get all traces of oil and B&R Remover off.

4) Spray with Birchwood Casey Perma-Fin kit. It's a Satin Black finish.

I have seen several older S&W revolvers with the Perma-Fin finish on them. All you need is the kit and a small can of propellant for the airbrush. You can get the propellant at most craft and hobby stores. I think the Perma-Fin is better than most bake on finishes because it allows you to control the mist and there's no heat involved.

Route two would be to Cold Blue or Duracoate it.

August 31, 2010, 06:25 AM
Just out of curiosity. Did you make the mistake of keeping it in a leather holster?

Not me. Maybe previous owner.

I am really surprised - the rust is not visible under daylight. Even with a strong light you can not see what the pics show. It seems that the flash and the digital pictures magnify the details.

Old Grump
August 31, 2010, 10:06 AM
I was getting that on my 1911. I hadn't fired in a year so I hadn't been cleaning it. Dropped it in my cleaning mixture, basically 1 qt of fuel oil and 1/2 qt. of ATF and let it sit a few days. Wiped it off with a piece of denim cloth inside and out and not a speck of rust to be found. Put gun back together and shot it, no lube needed :D

August 31, 2010, 11:10 AM
I wouldn't call it rust but patina. You lost some blue and got brown on a clearly used gun (the loss of blue is consistent with frequent holstering). Unless you plan on refinishing the gun, I would just rub it with Kroil to remove any lose material and call it good.

August 31, 2010, 12:06 PM
I would disassemble it, submerge it in mineral spirits for a few days to degrease it, rub it off with cloth rags, then let all the mineral spirits dry off. When they are gone, submerge it in boiling distilled water. That is how rust bluing converts red oxide to blue oxide. It works to varying degrees on older or hard rust, but is worth a try. Rub it off again after drying and look under the light. If it's better, then just oil it up.

August 31, 2010, 04:48 PM
Thanks for all your advices and help.

I will first try Old Grump's cleaning mixture. It is simple and I can get the components everywhere, while most of the other products mentioned are not available in my country, or at least are very difficult to get.

(By the way, just to make sure: denim cloth is the fabric jeans are made of, right?)


August 31, 2010, 05:17 PM
Yes jeans are made of denim.

FWIW I agree w/ the idea of working with the oxidation rather than trying to remove it. The affected areas will actually be more conspicuous if you remove the patina. Try a spot test to see what I'm referring to.

September 1, 2010, 02:33 AM
This gun appears to have been scratched, then the bare metal rusted. You can remove the rust by gently rubbing with 0000 steel wool and lots of oil. Once the rust is gone, the metal will still be bare, so a touchup with cold blue is called for.

Cold blue tips:
It works better if the metal is warm.
The metal has to be clean. Use Gunscrubber or equivalent.
Blend the cold blue in with 0000 steel wool.
Wash the area well to remove all traces of the cold blue once it's gotten as dark as it's going to.

Keep it oiled after that.

James K
September 1, 2010, 11:46 AM
That is the kind of thing they make cold blue for. Submerge the end of the barrel in boiling water to kill the active rust, then use bronze/brass wool to remove the oxide. Degrease and use some good cold blue (I like G96 paste blue). The gun won't look perfect, but it will look a lot better.


September 1, 2010, 07:44 PM
That is the kind of thing they make cold blue for. ..... The gun won't look perfect, but it will look a lot better.

Well Jim, the fact is that it looks fine under "normal" light, as you can see in the following pics. Would you say it is the same gun?

(hope I am not posting too many pics...)






James K
September 1, 2010, 07:57 PM
Then what is your problem? That light diffraction is different depending on the reflecting surface? Hardly headline news. You were the one talking about the getting rid of the oxide and whether to refinish the gun.

Rust blue does that all the time; many a collector has opened his safe and used a maglite to check his collection, only to find what looks like a mass of rust where a fine Luger used to be. He removes the rusty relic from the safe and the reach of the maglite and it turns into a nice gun again, by magic.


September 1, 2010, 08:56 PM
there is a company called iosso. They make a polish gun brite just for stuff like this. It will remove the rust, and not harm the blueing.

September 1, 2010, 09:51 PM
I don`t have any problem Jim - just wondering if cold blue would make it look better than it looks now under normal light. Hence the last pics, to show how it looks now.

September 1, 2010, 10:27 PM
I doubt it.

Is there any pitting or active rust?

Some people can get very good results with cold blue, but usually it stands out.

September 1, 2010, 10:38 PM
No pitting nor active rust, as far as I can tell.

September 1, 2010, 10:57 PM
Ignacio, are you by any chance using motor oil to coat your guns? If so, quit. Motor oil has a chemical compound in it called ZDDP (zinc dithiophosphate) It's an anti-wear agent as well as other beneficial characteristics for a motor oil. It also brings sulfur with it that turns into acid over time when exposed to oxygen. You'll get etching like you have one your pistol from using motor oil. Your country uses a much larger amount of ZDDP than the US oils so the situation is more grievous if you're using a non API motor oil. Still, any motor oil is a poor protectant for any firearm. It's formulated for engines and not guns.

September 2, 2010, 06:24 AM
I do not use motor oil, but I do not know what the previous owner used.

And thanks for the info about motor oils.
I`ve read about using ATF as a lub, and I guess it could be the same situation as with motor oil, because of additives. Do you have any info to confirm this?

September 2, 2010, 08:09 AM
First, nice J-frame, a 36-1, 3 inch heavy barrel I believe. They point great, best friend has a nickel I have wanted since I saw it.

ATF, as I am sure everyone knows is automatic transmission fluid and is used widely in the firearms world, even in the classic recipe for Ed's Red.
It is a man made substitute for whale sperm oil, which is one of the finest lube oils known, thank fine watches. WW2 created a demand for auto transmission fluid that could not be filled from the whales as a source.
I have used it for years as both cleaning and lube oil.
I know of no negatives about it as a gun fluid.
What say the rest of you esteemed gentlemen?

Pray and Shoot Daily.
Lee Jones(Celtgun)

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. ~ Benjamin Franklin

September 2, 2010, 09:15 AM
ATFs today are made from Gp III and Gp IV basestocks and are loaded with ZDDP as a friction modifier. It's again, made for a specific application- an automatic transmission, not guns. Using ATF is worse than using motor oil.

I've never heard of any lube used in any auto application that has sperm whale oil as an ingredient...especially since there is a world wide ban on killing whales. And just because ATF is in ED's Red doesn't mean Ed has a clue about tribology.

Old Grump
September 2, 2010, 02:26 PM
Cut to the chase! What should I use?
Let's start with oil. Most people use oils that are way too heavy; thicker is not better! Use a relatively thin oil with the correct properties, and use it very sparingly - most "oil failures" I've seen have been from too much, rather than too little, oil.

Frankly, in terms of mechanical performance, most oils "work"; some are better than others, but everything will make parts move for a while. The weakest area of most oils is in corrosion resistance - and on a gun, corrosion is a bad thing! There have been lots of claims, but those people who have actually taken the time to run experiments to test corrosion on steel have found that the products with the greatest hype are often the worst at corrosion resistance. Not surprisingly, plain mineral oils, such as Rem Oil, score at the very bottom of the list.

One product that scores pretty well in corrosion testing is also the readily available and dirt cheap. It also has good migration, a good boundary lubrication package, is the right weight (thickness) for general firearms use, doesn't oxidize over long periods of storage, and is compatible with a wide range of metals and plastics. In addition, it is recommended by at least one real degreed firearms engineer! Just what is this miracle elixir??

Dexron-type Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF). That's right, plain ol' ATF. The kind you get at every gas station, auto parts store, and even most convenience stores. Synthetic or regular, either will work just fine. (ATF does have a slight odor to it. If you find that objectionable, a decent alternative that is still readily available is "NyOil." Check your local auto parts store, in the aisle where they keep the miscellaneous lubricants and additives.)

I have been using this mix since 1971 When I bought this 45 and I use it on all my guns. Unless the gun sits for a long period and picks up a little surface rust from ambient humidity I have never had a problem. We can agree to disagree. The fact is few if any ATF's formulated after 1980 contain any zinc dithiophosphate at all and they stopped using it for the reason you pointed out earlier. Active sulfur compounds are not used in ATF because they attack copper surfaces and weaken seals, The Boron sulfur or other sulfur compounds are less active and used as an oxygen inhibitor.

September 2, 2010, 05:05 PM
The Wikipedia entry for automatic transmission fluid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_transmission_fluid) has a History section near the bottom that shows whale oil as a friction modifier was phased out with whaling bans in the 1970's. I would have thought it would have been earlier, but I guess not.

Ed's Red is formulated to copy Frankford Arsenal #18 cleaner, in Hatcher's notebook, which calls for sperm whale oil. The ATF is the substitute. It does an excellent job of preserving guns. I've never heard of any corrosive properties associated with it. They would certainly be counterproductive. One former Aberdeen proving grounds employee told me he has left it in barrels for over a year to find them still wet with it after that period and in excellent condition and ready to shoot after running a dry patch through.

September 2, 2010, 05:54 PM
I may not be an expert on much, but when I open my mouth or post something I make sure I am correct or say nothing. Ed's Red is widely used by "gun folks", novice and expert. The Grant Cunningham quote bears this out. Plain ATF has served me well for years for all the reasons stated.

Tribology: The science of friction, lubrication, and wear of interacting surfaces that are in relative motion.
Sperm Oil: An oil extracted from a gland in the skull of the sperm whale. A high quality lubricant that does not harden at low tempertures or dry over time.

Pray and Shoot Daily.
Lee Jones(Celtgun)

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. ~ Benjamin Franklin

September 2, 2010, 06:39 PM
Celtgun, yes, a 36-1, 3 inch heavy barrel it is. Very nice revolver.