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Old March 28, 2011, 02:11 PM   #1
Join Date: January 3, 2010
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Refinishing / Restoring guidance needed!

Handed down two old handguns of my great granfathers. We would like to refinish them, by which I mean make them shinier. I realize this could affect value but the value is in that thye were my great grandfathers, and they are fairly common anyway. See images below.

Gunsmith has inspected them. 38 ready with just a little cleanup, but 32 needed new barell and a little fitting for that barrel. The 32 does have a patch of russt on top near sight.

Looked at a lot of Youtube videos and Google searches but a lot of the info is different and not very detailed for these types of guns. Love some step by step instructions. Most likely paths will be in this manner:

Some say 800-1200 girit papar, others use a series of 120-180 in steps, etc. Some say just steel wool. I did learn no dremel! I plan to use a polishing wheel possibly, and have no access to a bead blaster. Want to do it myself as well.

Any insights appreciated!

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Old March 28, 2011, 03:06 PM   #2
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Nothing wrong with a dremel and a brass wheel to get to hard to reach rust spots and to clean in the grooves of the slide. The biggest issue with going at it with sand paper is that you will lose the markings and soften the corners, both very undesirable. I would not use anything but 0000 or finer steel wool on a handgun to preserve the features.
But the real question is, how are you going to get the gun reblued? Whatever they tell you in the adds, cold blue will not give you back that factory shine, and hot blueing yourself is not for the novice. And if you have it redone professionally the gunsmith will have access to a bead blaster.
I used to love being able to hit hard at 1000 yards. As I get older I find hitting a mini ram at 200 yards with the 22 oddly more satisfying.
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Old March 28, 2011, 03:37 PM   #3
Bill DeShivs
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Other than cleaning them up, there is nothing you can do at home.
The comments about cold bluing are absolutely correct.
The only finish that would look good is rust bluing, but it's a long, tedious process. The chemicals are available from
I wouldn't touch the S&W-condition is too nice.
The .32 is another matter. You can have it properly refinished, or customized.
If you are going to refinish it, why not upgrade the finish to nickel, or hard chrome? Both hold up much better than bluing, and they cost about the same.
Refinishing a gun is not like refinishing furniture. There is much damage that you could do-so i implore you to have a professional do your gun(s.) They are quality firearms, that will be basically junk, if you start sanding and polishing them. It's really a job for an expert. After looking at the videos, I wouldn't suggest Larry Potterfield!
Bill DeShivs, Master Cutler
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Old March 28, 2011, 03:44 PM   #4
Join Date: January 3, 2010
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Thanks gentlemen. No funds for any professional services if its expensive (at thispoint). Anything done will need to be DYI or just skip (just shoot it and clean it). Sound like much of the stuff Im considering I should just Down the road I can maybe look into professional servieces.

Is there a preferred, simple, and safe way to bring back some of the shine superficially, wihtout doing any damage per se? Mothers polish and a polishing wheel? Or again, just leave them be?

Thanks again!
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Old March 28, 2011, 03:56 PM   #5
Jim Watson
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I would leave them alone with just a thorough cleaning.

They are in an awkward position. They are worth a few hundred bucks as is. An expensive professional reblue would not add to their resale value and might hurt it. A DIY attempted from a few internet posts and advertising videos probably would detract from their value.
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Old March 28, 2011, 04:03 PM   #6
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Im not really interested in the resale value. Prisitine versions of these guns seem all over the place for 3-500$. The colt just has huge sentimental/family vlaue as it is said to be the personal side arm my great granfather loved and carried into WWI. I just want to get it firing again for my kids and to honor him. And I would like to clean it up if possible.

So I will re-phrase my question in light of all this great info. Can a polishing wheel with just some mothers polish cause damame and, if so, are there any simple ways to restore some of her early charm? Again, not fworrie about resale value.

thanks again gentlemen, really appreciate it.
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Old March 28, 2011, 04:17 PM   #7
Jim Watson
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Yes, a buffing wheel and polish can cause damage.
A lot of people think it would be nice if their stainless steel guns were as shiny as nickel plate so they slap them on a buffing wheel freehand without training. They get some smeared markings, rounded corners, dished pin holes, and wavy flats.
A buffing wheel will remove the remaining blue from your guns in a hurry.
I have read that hand polishing with something mild like Flitz will not cut through the blue if not overdone. But I have not tried it.

I would go over them with a coarse cloth and oil to get the dirt and loose rust off. If that did not help the looks, I would think about a light rubdown with oil and 0000 steel wool or better yet, bronze wool.

Caution: The Colt .32 auto is a great pain in the neck to reassemble if you take it completely apart.

Reproduction grips are available. One place is:

Last edited by Jim Watson; March 28, 2011 at 04:22 PM.
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Old April 2, 2011, 09:47 PM   #8
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Gentle hand buffing w/ Flitz

I just cleaned up a used matte Nickel slide from a P226-bitone.

Just bought the gun, and it was pretty filthy.

Did standard cleanup several times. Then started looking up ways to improve the slide finish, and rid of holster wear.

Here is what I learned:
1. The slide's finish can be somewhat delicate. So avoid ammonia based gun cleaners (CLP and M-Pro 7 are OK, Hoppes 9 is not).
2. You can degrease with 91% isopropanol, then apply Flitz Polish, rub it on slide. Don't let it dry, wipe it off with microfiber rag or paper towel.
3. Keep wiping it to the point that you are buffing once the flitz is removed, you'll see the dirt (metal oxide/rust) coming off on the towel. The wiping should be gentle, keep in mind that Flitz is a chemical de-oxidizer and doesn't need you to rub it too hard.
4. Observe your finish, and if desired repeat Flitz application and buffing.
5. When done wipe your gun slide/frame with clean paper towel, treat with gun oil, or silicone rag.

***Too much buffing or too many of these Flitz treatments can wear off the finish, like my matte nickel so 1-2 cleanings per year max. (probably doesn't apply to stainless steel or chrome)

That's a gentle clean-up that makes use of de-oxidizer with little risk of harming the finish. Gave me great results after 3 application of Flitz + buffing. Hope that helps.
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Sig Sauer P229 Dark Elite 40 S&W
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Old April 3, 2011, 09:42 AM   #9
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Thanks Dan. Those kind of strps and detail are very helpful.
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Old April 10, 2011, 09:16 PM   #10
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Beyond just a good cleanup,I would leave the S+W alone.No Mother's,Flitz,etc.Look at it as a bronze statue with a patina.You really cannot make it any better,and it looks good.
The 32,I am not an expert on the collectability of that piece.If it has value,just finding a grip,or a pair,and leaving it original is never wrong.
It looks fairly rough,and rather common,to me,but I may be wrong.
If you decide you must work one over,it may be worth an education.
The shinier you go with a finish,the more imperfections jump out at you.
Forget the low spots,Dings,pits,etc,you have to take a lot of steel off to get to the bottom.You will not maintain the flatness,etc.Then the light and highlights will make it look like a hack messed it up.
So,I still don't recomend refinishing,but it may be your choice.OK.Use some fine polishing stones,available from MSC.You might go 320 or 400 grit.Or you could use a sand block,like a rubber eraser and some 500 grit wet/dry,but the sandpaper route is a poor substitute.
Also,a pad of maroon scotchbrite.
Just knock the high spots off from around the dents,and create a uniform surface finish.Less is more!Do not round or wash anything out.
Now,for a finish,read Brownell's catalogue,you can do a slow rust blue on a small scale.Follow the directions.If you go that route,a good uniform 400 finish will be OK.Leave any major imperfections.
Another route,heresy,but,this can actually be good.Strip it,get a can of Brownell's guncoat.Black,probably.After a light sandblast for adhesion,and a thourough degrease,it is a spraypaint job.Then it gets baked in the oven at about 300 deg.I have a 1911 slide that my brother used for 3 gun,has over 10,000 rds through it.That finish was on it.I put a Lilja stainless bbl on a rifle,and I wanted the bbl black.I used guncoat.It looks really good,and has held up.
Another good,practical finish that can be done at home,and will not showcase the flaws,is parkerizing.Seems like Scorch wrote something a while back on a home parkerizing process.
That will make a practical finish,and gain you some experience,and I would not think it an inappropriate finish on a generic pocket gun.

Last edited by HiBC; April 11, 2011 at 03:49 AM.
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Old April 10, 2011, 09:36 PM   #11
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I'd go with Jim's recommendation on the steel or bronze wool first, and see where it gets you. That will give you a better idea of how much polishing is really needed.
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Old April 11, 2011, 08:15 AM   #12
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First I'd like to say that they don't look too bad and I would not refinish them.
If you do want to refinish the guns you've got to make some choices.
You have four ways to go:
Phosphate finish, this gives a dull grey finish and looks very "military".
Black oxide, this gives a deep black finish and looks very good. Not to hard to get a good finish.
Blued finish, this give a deep blue finish but is difficult to do.
Gun-Kote teflon paint, hides a lot of flaws, looks good. Easy
No matter what finish you want you will have to strip the guns down to individual peices. That means taking the barrel off the revolver.
Next you will have to clean the parts. Hot water and a good degreaser will do the job.
Now it's time to remove all of the old blueing. An acid dip in Muratic acid does very well. be sure not to get any inside the barrels.
Now it's time to seperate the parts. Those to be blued, those to be fire blued and those to be left white.
Get out the 800/1600 grit emery and the polishing wheel. DO NOT use steel wool or bronze wool. This will embed into the steel and makes for a poor finish. You can use Scotch brite pads instead. Work like a slave until all the parts look like new. Be sure not to over work the parts or you will have a wavy finish. It takes some skill.
At this point you should have collection of parts that all look like new. Bright, shinny, smooth and perfect.
From here on to the end you must wear gloves. Any oils, salts, wax or grease will ruin the finish. Clean all of the parts again. Use a solvent to get every thing off. Buff up the peices with clean cotten rags.
Put on the finish you have chosen. Follow the instructions to the letter. Time and temperature are critical.
If you've done everything right, you should now have a nicely blued pair of guns. Not all metels take finish the same way. There can be differences in the depth of color from peice to peice. Slides on auto pistols do not always take the color evenly because of heat treating.
It usually takes me two to three weeks to do this at home in my spare time to refinish one gun.

A note on S&W old factory finish-
You can not duplicate the deep blue factory finish on old S&W guns. They used a process that used heat, bone chips and time to get the deep blue. In the 1980's the EPA made them stop this practice because of green house gas release. Too bad, this was a great looking finish.

Last edited by dlb435; April 11, 2011 at 08:51 AM.
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