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Old October 13, 2017, 09:50 PM   #1
Art Eatman
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Colt SAA: Restore?

I have a 1903-vintage Colt SAA, Frontier .44-40. Mechanically excellent. Finish down to maybe 15% and minor pitting on one side of the barrel. IOW, handled a lot, shot very little and stored for a long time.

My gunsmith's wife loves to shoot it. I have it stored at his shop.

He'd do a complete refinish on it as a freebie.

Should I go for it? I'm not interested in it from a collectible $$$ standpoint. It's just a neat old cowboy gun that reminds me of "the way it used to be".
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Old October 13, 2017, 10:20 PM   #2
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He'd do a complete refinish on it as a freebie
Assuming he does not buff out all the lettering, round all the edges, what do you have to lose? A no finish gun is worth about the same as a refinished gun.

I don't really know if bluing or blackening is more effective as a rust finish than just bare metal. Bluing is not very good at preventing rust, if it were not traditional, it would not be used today. There are finishes that are better at rust prevention, but they are not as pretty as the original Colt charcoal blue finish. Still, if any finish will protect the gun better than no finish, then, get the finish.

A nicely refinished pistol is a wonderful thing.
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Old October 13, 2017, 10:59 PM   #3
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I prefer the worn look. Keep in mind that no matter how worn and pitted it is, it will lose value if it is refinished, unless perhaps, if you have Turnbull do the work. As it is right now, it's probably worth North of $3,000. You can buy a brand new one for half, or less, than yours is worth right now.
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Old October 14, 2017, 05:59 AM   #4
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Leave it alone!!!

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Old October 14, 2017, 06:18 AM   #5
Jim Watson
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I wonder about a "freebie refinish." Even a good refinish does not constitute a restoration, and what he is willing to do for free might not amount to even that much.

Have you seen his work on somebody else's gun to know what you would be getting into?
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Old October 14, 2017, 06:26 AM   #6
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After thought:
Why is his shop and what the hell is his wife doing shooting YOUR gun?

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Old October 14, 2017, 11:56 AM   #7
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A run of the mill gunsmith refinish is going to ruin the value of that old Colt.


Quote:
I don't really know if bluing or blackening is more effective as a rust finish than just bare metal. Bluing is not very good at preventing rust, if it were not traditional, it would not be used today.
I'm sorry but this is just all wrong.
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Old October 14, 2017, 02:30 PM   #8
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Post some photos of it in it's current condition. Sometimes a little "ugly" is what makes those old Colts look so good.
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Old October 14, 2017, 03:20 PM   #9
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Howdy

This 38-40 Bisley Colt was made in 1909. Hardly any finish left on it at all. I wouldn't dream of having it refinished, I like it just fine the way it is.



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Old October 14, 2017, 04:21 PM   #10
vba
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I would NOT have it refinished! Just my opinion.
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Old October 15, 2017, 12:13 PM   #11
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Sometime thing are more beautiful to the mind untouched,i'd leave it like it is for time in service.Everything age some better than others. i'm just sayin!
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Old October 15, 2017, 12:34 PM   #12
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If it's being shot and has 15% of its finished left, it has no collector value. Might as well refinish it if your guy knows what he's doing. That means he's an SAA specialist and no modern finishes or cold bluing-like finishes.
There ain't no fixing pitting either.
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Old October 15, 2017, 08:07 PM   #13
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BS. If it has 15% of its original finish remaining, it definitely has collector value. A customary polish and reblue will absolutely destroy that value. A Turnbull/Lanara/Harton restoration is a different story.
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Old October 15, 2017, 09:48 PM   #14
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If it's being shot and has 15% of its finished left, it has no collector value.
Not true. Of course, in such condition it will not have value to a collector who only collects primo, pristine examples of firearms. But there are plenty of guys, myself included, who consider themselves collectors who regularly buy firearms that are in less than pristine condition.

Just about any Colt SAA will bring more than $1000, even in the worst condition. As condition goes up, so does value. The same is true of any antique firearm. I have bought many old antiques, Colts, Smith and Wessons, Winchesters, Marlins, and a few other brands. They are almost always worth more no matter what the condition of the finish then refinished.

Only in the case of a truly terrible condition, no original finish left, deeply pitted, full of rust, will a refinish job enhance the value.

I have also seen plenty of old guns that have been poorly refinished. Usually do to over polishing. Hard edges softened, markings nearly erased, etc. Having no idea what the skill level is of the refinisher in question, and unless I had seen some examples of his work, I would not refinish it.

But that's just me.
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Old October 16, 2017, 06:01 AM   #15
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That gun is 114 years old, it's supposed to look that way. Leave it alone and buy a Ruger single action if you want a pretty looking gun.
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Old October 16, 2017, 07:01 AM   #16
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I will join the group that voted to leave it alone and not refinish it. The gun will only have its orginal finish once and like it was already mentioned, most of the time a refinish will diminish the value of the gun.
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Old October 16, 2017, 12:49 PM   #17
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If it's complete, original, and everything works, leave it alone!
I have an 1897 Frontier Six Shooter that was restored by Colt in the '60s, with a new frame, hammer, trigger, so there really is zero collectability, but it wasn't a working gun beforehand.
Unless you are going all-in, such as having Turnbull do the work, leave it alone.
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Old October 16, 2017, 04:34 PM   #18
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I am surprised that so many disagree with me!

Let me state, that I consider firearms to be tools. I don’t hold many romantic feelings about the things, or their past. Maybe a little bit, but I was heavily influenced by a Civilian Service Rifle Champ. Quin Moore was unconcerned about the appearance of his M1a, and as he said “you want to shoot your rifle or do you want to make love to it?” I decided I wanted to shoot the things. As such, I probably have lost lots of money on some of my vintage firearms by making them shootable.

I had this rare (less than 500 5.5” M46’s made) S&W target pistol made into something I could shoot by having it drilled and tapped for a sight base. Pistols this old were used with irons only. I am too old to use irons in competition shooting. While this has lost much of its “collector” value, I really don’t give a flip as I want to shoot it. And I have been shooting it regularly in Bullseye pistol competition and it is a great, accurate, rimfire. Let the collectors moan and groan in the estate auction where this will surely be sold. I don’t care. I got to shoot it.



Now I don’t plan to dork with this M37 Remington, a pre war model. I have the original irons, the front sight is dime sized, tiny compared to current practice. The Lyman super scope likely 1950’s or 1960’s, has a narrow field of view, but, it works. And that is what is important, I don’t want a gun I can’t shoot, and shoot well. Worn out or inaccurate firearms are of no use to me as all they are is pieces of machinery. I am the thing that makes them work.



I take the thing out at least once a year and shoot it in competition. I am proud to say I did win a 100 yard match with the thing, shooting a 400-32X’s against Nationally ranked shooters who were using the absolute latest and greatest. I did not win the aggregate. The guys I was shooting against are consistently good shooters, I am an occasional good shooter, and in the long run, consistency beats luck.



But, I am shooting the thing, not making love to it.

So in that regard, if someone wants an old piece of iron that looks old, because of the romantic associations they have with age, will, fine with them. It is a lot cheaper to go down to the scrap yard and acquire old rusted iron. I think the stuff is a dollar a pound. Fill your yard with a ton of the stuff, for a lot less cost than a couple of rusted Colts.
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Old October 16, 2017, 10:07 PM   #19
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Refinish it! After all everyone should have the ability to turn a $2500+- Pistol into a $1000 one. There is a 0 finish .32 WCF on GB right now with a asking price over three grand, I have one just like it and would be hard pressed to sell it for a measely three grand.
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Old October 16, 2017, 11:01 PM   #20
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If you refinish it it will slightly raise the value if you Re selling it to losers like me or of it is a low value gun in the first place. If the thing is rare or has historical value, let the guy who buys that unaltered handgun make the decision about whether or not to RUIN IT FOREVER.
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Old October 17, 2017, 09:52 AM   #21
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Quote:
I am surprised that so many disagree with me!
That's because you don't get it. Regardless of what you think of romantic appeal, everything with regards to a firearm's value is based on condition above all else. I have no problem with people doing whatever they want with their own property but if they are about to do something irreversible to a firearm that will have a huge impact on its value, they should do so with full disclosure. The world is already littered with polished out and reblued Colt single actions so this is a well worn trail. I'm surprised that anyone would be so clueless about it.

Opinions aside, what you posted originally is flat out wrong.

"A no finish gun is worth about the same as a refinished gun."

Because this is 100% true.

"After all everyone should have the ability to turn a $2500+- Pistol into a $1000 one."
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Old October 17, 2017, 11:24 AM   #22
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Slamfire, I have a point that I'd like to make. You own it now, but won't own it forever, and since it has historical value that will last forever, you have a responsibility to preserve that object for coming generations.

For example, don't paint over the beautiful mahogany mouldings in your century old house with pink spots. Don't take a century old Japanese blade and engrave your name on it with a moto tool. Don't paint a beard and mustache on the Mona Lisa. Don't cut down the century old shade tree in the back yard just because you don't want to rake the leaves. In short, don't do irreversible damage to something that has value beyond the ordinary object itself. People buy homes intending to live there for fifteen years, sometimes magnificent old homes, and don't like what they see. Then they trash it to make it fashionable.

In my home, some things were done that way. It has a beautiful, comfortable sitting room that must have once been used as a breakfast room. Some pinhead who owned the house in the past covered the beautiful oak floors with industrial linoleum tiles, in.salmon pink and sea green checkerboard. He put the stuff down with tar. That section of floor was irreversibly destroyed.

You own it for now, and have the right to do what you want, but deliberately ruining something for temporary reasons isn't right. Drilling it wasn't like putting a hood scoop in a vintage Cadillac but I would probably have bought a new pistol and left the other one alone.
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Old October 17, 2017, 11:48 AM   #23
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I have an 1897 Frontier Six Shooter that was restored by Colt in the '60s, with a new frame, hammer, trigger, so there really is zero collectability
Again, one has to define 'collectability'. Collectability simply means how much is an old gun worth. Nothing more, nothing less. It does not matter if the potential customer is a legitimate collector, whatever that is, or an average guy off the street.

The value of a firearm, whether to a 'collector' or the general public is based on it's condition, it's rarity, and if it can be proven that it belonged to a person or an event with historical significance.

The rarer the gun, the more valuable it is. That's why Walker Colts command a huge price, there were only ever 1100 of them made, and a lot less exist today.

If a historical connection to a famous person in history can be established, that enhances the value too. I saw an antique S&W revolver that had belonged to Teddy Roosevelt go for a huge price, because a factory letter showed it had been shipped directly to TR from the factory.

And then condition also affects value. A gun that has not been refinished and is in pristine condition will always command more value than one in less than pristine condition. The lower the condition, the lower the value.



Finally, regarding a firearm that has been restored at the factory having no collector value, that is simply not true.

A firearm that can be proven to have been restored at the factory will always have more value than one done by an unknown craftsman. I attend a lot of auctions and I see that all the time.

Case in point. This S&W New Model Number Three was manufactured in 1882. The accompanying factory letter states when it was manufactured, what features it had, and where it shipped. The letter also states the gun was refinished at the factory in 1965. This gun is immaculate and looks like it just left the factory yesterday.






The New Model Number Three on the left in this photo shipped in 1896. The finish has a lot of wear, but mechanically the gun is perfect, as is the refinished one. The one that was refinished at the factory cost almost twice as much as the un-refinished one.






Here is an other example. A first model S&W Schofield revolver. It shipped in 1875 and was refinished at the factory in 1957. Over the years the refinish has worn a little bit, but it still commands a good value. Not as valuable as one with the original blue in the same condition, that would cost a huge amount. But proven to have been refinished at the factory it commands more value than one refinished anonymously.





And in parting, yes I do shoot them. Not a whole lot, but they do get shot. With Black Powder loads only, of course.
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Old October 17, 2017, 11:52 AM   #24
otasan
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I'd leave it be.
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Old October 17, 2017, 12:29 PM   #25
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Quote:
Should I go for it? I'm not interested in it from a collectible $$$ standpoint. It's just a neat old cowboy gun that reminds me of "the way it used to be".
Why would you even think of destroying over a century of character that has been built up in "a neat old cowboy gun"?
Even worse, why is it in the possession of someone else? Especially someone who does not in the least understand, and respect that character!
Not only don't do it, but get it back, and find somewhere else to shoot!
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