Anyone ever seen a rifle with a "brown" barrel


June 9, 2003, 10:47 AM
This weekend I stopped by a friend's gun store and he was selling a single shot, bolt action, .22 rifle by Marlin. It had a brown finish on the barrel. It was absolutely stunning. My friend said it was more of a collector's item but would make a great shooter. Has anyone seen a rifle like this? Are they rare? I'm toying with the idea of buying it. I don't remember the price but I'm confident he will give me a good deal.

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June 9, 2003, 11:06 AM
I believe the brown color is known as a Patina finish although I could be wrong. I've got an English 10gauge shotgun built in 1885 that has such a finish. I thought it was a severe case of surface rust the first time I saw it until I was set straight.

June 9, 2003, 11:24 AM
Well, theres a lyman great plains rifle sitting right next to me with a brown barrel. I did it myself.
Its an older style finish that is done cold. Using different techniques you can get a pretty good range of color from a red/brown to having it almost look blued. Its much more durable than most cold bluing. I don't know how it compares to hot salt bluing, most folks don't have the tanks to do that on their own.

Chances are the marlin is really old, I've heard of guns that were originally blued developing a patina on their own over time. The browning is basically surface oxidation, you start it rusting with chemicals and keep carding off the loose rust to prevent pitting and polish it down. Handling over many years could do the same thing without going through the period of aggressive rusting that you have when you do it intentially.

Mike Irwin
June 9, 2003, 11:51 AM
Could have been browned originally (unlikely, but possible) or it could have developed a patina.

A lot depends on the age of the gun.

June 10, 2003, 02:03 AM
I have a Hawken with a browned barrel.. neat looking but i'm not sure its tougher than bluing.

Birchwood-Casey makes home bluing and browning solutions.

June 10, 2003, 05:49 AM
Both bluing and browning have been around for hundreds of years. Browning is in essence controlled rusting and can be done without special chemicals.

June 10, 2003, 06:17 AM
Browning, bluing, they're both rust.

Bluing's done hot, however, hence the name "Hot Oxide Finish" when applied to machine tools, f'rinstance. If you cook nice russet-colored rusty steel with a torch, it'll turn black. I've done it.

Not to say that this is definitive, but as I recall, a "slow-rust" bluing process done without the benefit of boiling tanks gets you a nice brown finish.

Get it wet, let it rust, card it off w/steel wool, degrease, repeat until tender. Just don't leave it around until you get pitting. When desired color is reached, oil well and apply paste wax. Not much to it, really, just lots of time and coats.

Al Thompson
June 10, 2003, 08:47 AM
I have an olld Remington .22 SS that has a brown barrel. It's from wear as opposed to an applied finish. I strongly suspect the same is true on the Marlin.

I like the finish, gives the rifle character.

June 10, 2003, 08:55 AM
The way I understood the original browning technique was that the metal parts are coated with beef tallow and baked in an oven for about thirty minutes @ 350F. After removing and cooling the part is carded w/ 000 steel wool and the process is repeated until the desired thickness and color is achieved. The steel wool treatment smoothens and polishes the surface. The process is similar to seasoning cast iron cookware without the scaly surface.

June 10, 2003, 09:38 AM
Thanks for all the information. I will probably be purchasing it over the next month or so. I have to pay some bills first. When I get it I will post some pictures.

Mike Irwin
June 10, 2003, 11:53 AM
I have a book at home, published by Samworth, that gives DOZENS of recipes for bluing and browning solutions, hot, cold, slow, fast, etc.

Reads like a primer on how to poison yourself with heavy metals and acids.

June 10, 2003, 06:27 PM
I've wanted this particular rifle to be plum browned instead of blued, especially if I go with a vintage brass reproduction telescope. My dad did the browning ritual to his Hawken rifle kit years ago, I remember him carding it over and over again after each treatment. The gun still looks gorgeous. What is the title, if I may ask, I'd like to do a search for it.

June 10, 2003, 06:35 PM
Many (maybe all...I don't know) Parker shotguns were finished in Plum Brown.

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June 10, 2003, 11:30 PM
I bought the solution for my plains rifle from the the log cabin shop. They had some stuff, thats some guys own home mix. I can't think of the name right now, he put his address and stuff on the directions.
It took about 10 coats for me to get a deep glossy brown, almost blued color. It was like $3 for 4 ounces. I'd recommend it.

One thing I did to speed up the process- it said to hang the barrel in a warm humid place.
I took a peice of 4 inch PVC and jammed the bottom into a metal coffee can, tightest fit I could get . Then I poured about 3" of water in the bottom. Hanging the barrel from the middle of a dowel rod by the breech plug, I slipped it down so it was hanging in the pipe and put a folded up towel over the top. Then I had a little ceramic space heater blowing on the can from about 3 ft back. Worked very well, never had to go more than 10 hours between rounds. I also used a brass wire brush (the size of a toothbrush, with fine bristles) to card, brushing stiffly from breech to muzzle.

I shot some oil down the bore before cleaning and preparing the metal and doing everything to keep it from rusting. You can do the same thing to screw holes and stuff.

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