View Full Version : Has anyone tumbled a pistol?

January 2, 2011, 03:25 PM
Has anybody ever disassembled a pistol and tossed it in their tumbler for a few hours to polish and smooth it up? I have a Systema Colt that looks like hell and I'm giving some thought to tossing it in the tumbler, degreasing it well and then giving it a rubdown with cold blue.

I know it sounds dumb, but if you saw the gun you would understand I really have nothing to lose.

January 2, 2011, 03:47 PM
No, I have not tumbled a gun. I have disassembled my Colt 1911 and put all the parts in an ultrasonic cleaner. It works.

Shane Tuttle
January 2, 2011, 04:35 PM
The question I have is if it looks so bad and you're trying to smooth it up, why cold blue it? IMO, it's not going to turn out very well.

What media are you planning on using in the tumbler? How far do you have the gun stripped down?

January 2, 2011, 05:33 PM
Cold blue is cheap and easy, and it will undoubtedly look better than the mostly bare metal it's showing now.

i don't have it stripped yet, but I would completely disassemble it and only tumble the parts that are visible. No need to do the sear, springs, etc. I would just use the same walnut media that I use for brass, but I would use a fresh clean batch and charge it with the stuff Lyman sells to rejuvenate tired media.

James K
January 3, 2011, 12:35 AM
They tumbled pistols and rifle receivers in abrasive in WWII, and probably still do in military production. That is why those guns can be taken apart without a supply of Band-Aids handy.


January 3, 2011, 06:47 AM
Jewelers tumble metal parts and finished pieces in rotary tumblers so as to polish them. The tumblers use steel shot, water, and a detergent. I'm wondering whether that procedure would be of use in this case.

January 3, 2011, 09:36 AM
I think you'll find that steel is much harder than brass and the medium in your tumbler will just get dull from impacting the steel. It would be great if polishing a gun was this easy but I don't think you're going to accomplish anything besides wearing out your walnut hulls.

January 3, 2011, 10:57 AM
I have asked the same on here with no results . But i have a old 38 iver hammerless model that too looked like something Indiana Jones found . I took a leap of faith and tossed it in my blast cabinet ' bad idea ' . but i was using 80grit , if i ever do that again it will be a much less harsh grit . I was down at the local gun shop just a few days ago going over the refinishing deal and he made a good point . If you look carefully you will see the grain in the steel and try to sand or polish in the same direction . that was the mistake i made on the iver . ONCE I got the 80 grit out of the steel 'many manymany hrs of wet sanding' it was soo polished and smooth that when i blued it , it turned out a extreamly shiny blue , even with 5-6 coats of blue paste , dont get me wrong it looks a 100xs better than before but tis definitly a different finish . My original question on here was would a tumbler polish any areas that did not need to be polished ' loosen up the gun '. I did a spanish revolver also but it was wet sanded lightly with 1500 and it looks fantastic . metal prep is the main key to getting ti right . but if it looks like som eof mine did then you dont have anything to loose .

January 3, 2011, 01:44 PM
I saw a TV show that showed S&W's production line. They tumble all their pistols in a media of marble sized rocks. This is done sometime between casting and final polishing.

January 3, 2011, 02:05 PM
Maybe toss in a handful of sand with the walnut hulls? :)

Another question just occurred to me: why doesn't abrasive tumbling media eventually wear through the tumbler bowl? Surely the brass cartridge case is harder than the ABS or whatever plastic they make tumbler bowls out of.

January 3, 2011, 02:15 PM
Most manufacturers tumble in ceramic media to polish.
I saw a TV show that showed S&W's production line. They tumble all their pistols in a media of marble sized rocks. This is done sometime between casting and final polishing.

I might try the tumbler with an old magazine I have and see how it turns out.

January 3, 2011, 08:53 PM
A lot of industry use a rotating flat pan or drum device with various types of ceramic shapes to de-burr rough, unfinished parts.
This is sometimes known as "Vibrahoning". As example, Remington uses this process on shotgun receivers that will be used to build Police guns.
This process is used ONLY on unfinished, raw parts.

This is NOT suitable for a finished part, and neither is a rock or case polisher.
Unless you use an aggressive polishing media you'll see little effect.
If you use an aggressive media, the sharp edges and working surfaces will be damaged by the uncontrolled abrasion and parts will be ruined.

All of this was thought of long ago and tried to either no effect or ruined guns.
The way finished gun parts are smoothed up is by hand, using a magnifying visor and some smooth cut stones, along with the knowledge of what to smooth and what not too.

Ideal Tool
January 5, 2011, 12:17 AM
Sorry guys, but I really thought there was a glitch with my cable reception...thought the RED GREEN show had somehow got posted here!