Question, When did nickle, stainless guns come about


January 21, 2003, 12:43 AM
I was watching Tomestone and keep seeing the cowboys with shiny nickle 6-guns. I didn't think they had them at that time. So my question when did they really come about. I know one of you history buffs will know. Thanks

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Mike Irwin
January 21, 2003, 01:29 AM
S&W has been nickel-plating handguns since the 1860s; other manufacturers may have been doing it even longer.

S&W was the first, I believe, to offer an all-stainless gun, in 1965, the Chief's Special Stainless.

Stainless had been used for components earlier than that -- I believe the M1 had stainless components.

January 21, 2003, 12:22 PM
I own a couple turn of the Century handguns that were Nickle. On is a S&W 38DA (Model 3 chnge 4) while the other is a Colt 1917. The Colt was nickle plated after delivery but still sometime around 1919 or so.

As Mike said, stainless was much later. There were quite a few guns that used internal stainless parts but the technology for making a stainless handgun that worked is fairly recent.

January 21, 2003, 02:09 PM
The M60 did come out in the mid 1960s. I remember reading he stories on it in the gun rags. Some were torture tests, they buried the gun, left it in buckets of water overnight, and may even have frozen it. It came through with flying colors.

These guns have never been plentiful where I live. In the '60s it was supposed to be because people heading for SE Asia were snapping them up for personal carry in Viet Nam. I think Charles Askin's son killed a VC infiltrator he found crawling past his tent with one, but it might have been another snubby.

Ala Dan
January 21, 2003, 03:00 PM
Around 1973, I was able to obtain 2X Smith & Wesson
model 60's NIB for $185.00 cash dollars each. A short
time later, I sold both of them for a "moderate" profit.
My current Smith & Wesson (old model) 60 "Chief's
Special" with a 2" barrel and "R" serial prefix was
manufactuered between 1979-1980. I replaced the
J-frame walnut grip's with Hogue's "Bantam" grip's,
and it's even better!

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

Mike Irwin
January 21, 2003, 05:13 PM
I thought had thought the Model 60 came out in 1960-61, but Supica and Nahaus say 1965.

Wil Terry
January 21, 2003, 05:39 PM
Stainless steel was invented for the gun industry right after the turn of the last century, 1902 if memory serves.
Nickle plated Colt's were extremely popular on the frontier due to their rust resistent qualities.
Nickle plating is more rust resistent than stainless steel, by the way.

January 21, 2003, 06:24 PM
I was watching Tomestone(sic) and keep seeing the cowboys with shiny nickle 6-guns. I didn't think they had them at that time.

Two things that were in every day use during the period the movies take place, but are never seen, used or mentioned in the movies (Tombstone and Wyatt Earp) were the telephone and the ice cream parlor. The directors didn't think they were "authentic.":rolleyes:

Lone Star
January 22, 2003, 07:33 AM
Stainless steel dates from about 1917. Victorinox was among the first to make stainless knife blades of good quality, in the early 1920's, when they incorporated "inox", the abb. for "stainless" in French and German into the Victoria name of their company.

I recall very well when S&W introduced the first all stainless gun in 1965, this being, as stated, a version of the Chief Special.

I'm amazed that no one brought up the famous letter from Bat Masterson to Colt in the 1880's, wherein Bat asked for a SAA with the bbl. cut about even with the extractor rod housing, the 4.75 inch bbl. perhaps not yet being a normal option. He specified a nickel finish.

Nickel may be theoretically more rust-resistant than stainless steel, but it flakes off. It also looks more garish. I've always put nickel plated guns in the same class that George Patton did pearl grips. The context isn't flattering to either. But I like stainless very well. For those of us who carry a handgun daily, the maintenance advantages are enormous.

Lone Star

January 22, 2003, 11:11 AM
Stainless handguns did no see wide use or acceptance untill the later part of the 1960's and early 70's. Nickle goes way back to at least the 1800's.

All gun finishes have their drawbacks but I will take nickle over stainless anyday and here is why.

Stainless will rust and faster than nickle does.

Properly applied nickle seldom flakes off. I have some factory finished nickle guns that are over 30 years old and none have suffered peeled finishes. Nickle is not indestructable and I have seen guns over 100 years old that had fine cracks in the nickle finish but unless you plan on going into combat at age 100, I would not worry about the durablitly of nickle finishes.

Stainless guns in automatics often must have exotic lubes to prevent galling between the slide and frame if both are made out of stainless. True , manufactures generally try to make the stainless composition different between the slide and frame but most have found it was better just to make the frame out of aluminum and the slide stainless to avoid the galling condition that often contributes to an unreliable weapon especially if no exotic lubricants are used.

Most people are unaware that the interal parts of most guns are not stainless because it was found that stainless internal parts did not have as long a service life as carbon or plated carbon steel parts.

Springs cannot be made of stainless if long life is expected.

Early rifles like the Mini 14 that had stainless receivers suffered from cracking problems, wether this was evetaully remedied I have never heard.

I have also seen 1911 slides that were made of stainless suffer cracking problems.

I am not a connessouir of revolvers but I have seen that people who are, post on the net that they do not seem to hold up as long as the carbon steel revolvers.

Just my preference but Stainless guns aesthetically take a back seat to nickle plated guns. Stainless guns have no finish applied to them and it certainly looks it aesthetically. Although bright polished stainless does not look bad the dull stainless guns certainly appear as if unfinished.

Unfortuately you will not be able to find many factory guns today in nickle finish. Like all good things in life they are more expensive to produce and gun factories make what is cheapest not best. They know that stainless guns are very popular because of the myth that they are rust proof and maintenance free. They know most people do not know the avantages of nickle and that the market is just not there anymore for nickle plated guns.

Master Blaster
January 23, 2003, 02:56 PM
I was watching tombstone and saw the nickle plated revolver carried by Val Kilmer in his role as doc holiday, was it just me or did I see that he fired it double action? Were there double actions available then?

I must also think that a nickle plated gun would be very desirable if all the parts were plated, and you were firing corrosive ammo, or black powder, because it would give you more time to clean the gun before it started to rust.

I have one nickle plated gun, its a 1978 nickle plated 70 series govt model bought used with 2 colt nickle plated magazines, it appears to have been carried alot in a holster,
due to the packmeyer grips having a very worn left side, but the nickle finish is not flaking at all, just a little wear around the muzzle, and some scratches over the gun (none through the nickle) I like the Colt guard matt nickle finish, it has a goldish tinge and does not make the gun look like a pimp gun.

January 23, 2003, 09:10 PM
The first double actions debuted during the Civil War, I believe. They didn't become popularized until the end of the 19th century, though. Single actions were much simpler to maintain, had fewer parts to break, and cost less for the individual to buy.

January 24, 2003, 07:15 AM
There are two types of nickel plating , electrolytic and electroless. Electroless requires no electricity to plate and is nickel plus some phosphorous , thiis plating is grey rather than silver and is harder, about Rc 50. Browning HPs had this type. The early guns have electrolytic.

January 24, 2003, 01:18 PM
Maintained properly electrolitic nickle is a very good and durable finish. It's is also one of the most difficult and toxic, which is why it is rare to find on a handgun after 1980.

I have a Colt revolver that is just about 100 years old that looks factory new in nickle. And yes, it still works. (I love to shoot the old ones).

Mike Irwin
January 24, 2003, 01:24 PM
The first truly successful single-barrel double actions (as opposed to Pepperboxes) were probably the Adams and Tranter revolvers in Britain, before the Civil War.

I believe the Adams action predates the Tranter one by about 10 years, or the late 1840s/early 1850s.

The first commercially successful American double action was probably the Colt Lightning/Thunderer revolver.

Other American double action revolvers were around, such as the Starr percussion, but never reached any great commercial success.

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