Repairing a rusty gun, with pictures.


May 30, 2007, 11:06 AM
So I recently acquired a 38 special. I don't think the gun has ever been fired but the trigger, hammer, and release are rusted pretty bad. The cylinder is also rusting as well as a few other small places.

I'm relatively new to hand guns as this is my first. I got it from my Grandfather so I'd really like to get it fixed up and looking nice but I'm not sure how to begin. Can any one post some instructions or a link to a sight going over what I should do. I'd prefer to do it my self if I can, but am not above paying a professional if absolutely necessary. Attached are some pictures of the gun in it's current condition.

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May 30, 2007, 11:41 AM
Use bronze wool and automatic transmission fluid. You can find bronze wool in several grades (I use the medium and fine) at hardware stores that also sell boating supplies Our local Ace Hardware has it. Bronze is harder than rust but softer than steel. It won't remove what's left of the blueing either. The ATF helps to soften the rust and also prevents it from scratching. It is also one of the best anti-rust gun oils.

May 30, 2007, 12:51 PM
Thanks I'll give it a try. After I get the rust off with the ATF be enough to keep it from rusting (along with normal gun care)?

May 31, 2007, 02:02 AM
You could re-blue it after you are done and keep it slightly oiled with the atf, that will prevent rust.

Seriously though, check the inside of that barrel, if its rusted in there you might want to bring it to a smith and see if they can recommend anything.

May 31, 2007, 08:21 AM
That appears to be an aluminum frame. No apparent rust and the "blue" looks pretty good. If it is, don't scrub on it with anything coarse. It will remove the anodizing and leava an ugly mess. Be careful if you decide to remove the sideplate. There is a right way and a wrong way. I don't have time to tell you how right now as I'm leaving for work.

Joe Demko
May 31, 2007, 09:44 AM
I'd start off by pulling the grips off and soaking the entire gun for a few days in ATF. It's been my experience that a fair amount of rust and crud just falls off after it has been soaking for a day or two. A stiff toothbrush will remove a bunch more. You can then use the bronze wool for just the most stubborn bits. See if a magnet sticks to the frame. If it is aluminum, you want to avoid scrubbing it with anything abrasive.

May 31, 2007, 10:19 AM
0000 Steel Wool and regular gun oil like RemOil or Breakfree CLP will remove rust on the steel parts. Frankly, I like Automatic Transmission Fluid in Automatic Transmissions and gun oil on guns. In some cases ATF will react with plastic parts, though that should not be a problem with your S&W. Getting into the innards to check out possible rust on the internal parts is good advice, but as was said before, there is more to doing that than meets the eye. I think I would advise a trip to your friendly neighborhood gunsmith.


Rex B
May 31, 2007, 10:34 AM
On parts that you don't mind losing the blue on, Evaporust is pretty neat stuff. It gets rid of all rust just by soaking for a couple hours. Disassembly optional

May 31, 2007, 10:40 AM
Thanks for all the info guys. I've been able to clean most of the rust off the hammer and cylinder, but there is some rust on the base of the hammer I can't get to without taking it part. The bluing is nearly entirely gone from these parts but it sure looks better than the rust did. You guys weren't kidding it doesn't look easy to open this thing up. The frame is alloy and still looks great. If I kept the bear steel parts well oiled how hard would it be to keep the rust off?

If I did take it to a gun smith any Idea what it would cost? Also, how do I go about finding a gunsmith? Just open up the phone book?

Joe Demko
May 31, 2007, 10:51 AM
Look in the yellow pages under gunsmith.

May 31, 2007, 11:08 AM
Look in the yellow pages under gunsmith.

I've had several guns screwed up by this method. Where do you live,Torghn?
Surely someone on this board is close enough to you to be able to recommend someone competent on a local level. Just because someone puts an ad in the phone book doesnt mean they know what the crap they're doing. (EXPERIENCE TALKING HERE!) Also make sure whomever you decide on has S&W revolver experience, and is not just a rifle guy or a 1911 guy. Just my $.02.

May 31, 2007, 12:19 PM
I live in Roy Utah, about 35 miles North of Salt Lake City.

Joe Demko
May 31, 2007, 12:53 PM
After you check the yellowpages to see who might actually be in your area, you can actually ask questions of them and about them.

May 31, 2007, 01:10 PM
Actually that revolver doesn't look too terrible bad.
You can get the action to index, that is a good thing.

Take the grips off and soak the gun in plain, new, non-synthetic, motor oil for 24 to 48 hours.
Almost all of the surface rust can then be removed with a light going over with 0000 steel wool applied lightly, gentle touch, and heed the advice about not trying to polish the aluminum frame.

You can probably apply a fairly decent cold blue surface finish yourself and I heartily recommend OxPho Blue from Brownells.

The real problem may come when you try to remove the screws for the sideplate and cylinder release, these may be frozen.
If you can't get them to break free with hand pressure and a properly fitting screwdriver then take the gun to someone who knows about Smith and Wessons, don't try to do it yourself unless you want to risk scratching up the frame or buggering or breaking the screwheads off.
I use a 3/8" Jacobs chuck in a drill press and bits made to specifically fit the screw heads with the gun properly and well fixtured to the press table.
I apply moderate pressure on the chuck and hand turn the screws out.
If this doesn't make any sense to you, please take the gun to somebody who understands this procedure.
Oh yeah, if you do get the screws to come free, take them out, open the cylinder and pull stright forward on the crane assembly, the cylinder assembly will come free from the frame.
Turn the revolver so the right sideplate is cradled in your right hand,
Use the plastic handle of a medium screwdriver or the wood handle of a hammer to rap against the back of the grip frame.
A few raps and the sideplate will pop off into your hand along with the safety transfer bar.
Get a book such as Gun Digest Book of Firearms Assembly/Diassembly: Revolvers or Jerry Kuhnhausens book on Smith and Wesson revolvers before you go any further. Both of these are also available from Brownells and you should get one with that OxPho Blue order.HTH

Jim Watson
May 31, 2007, 01:30 PM
I'd find disassembly instructions, take it apart, being gentle with screws into the aluminum and taking care on the sideplate removal, burnish all the rust off the steel parts, and just keep it oiled. An experienced revolversmith would charge a good deal for even that little work.

Joe the Redneck
May 31, 2007, 07:10 PM
I say this as a man with more ambition than skill...

Simple rule or guns and cameras: If you have to ask, don't do it. I think you have gone as far as you should. You got the rust cleanded up, leave it at that.

Please do not open the gun up. Nothing, and I mean nothing good ever comes from opening anything up if you don't know what you're doing.

Cold blue looks like crap. It rubs right off again in a few weeks.

Take it to a smith. You will get better results and a job you can be proud of.

Best Wishes

May 31, 2007, 11:37 PM
Cold blue looks like crap. It rubs right off again in a few weeks.
I don't wanna argue with you but,
If Oxpho-Blue is done correctly with care it can and will last for years.

June 1, 2007, 12:51 PM (


June 1, 2007, 01:08 PM
I am a gunsmith.
If I recommend a product I have a very good reason for doing so.

June 1, 2007, 03:55 PM
...You can probably apply a fairly decent cold blue surface finish yourself and I heartily recommend OxPho Blue from Brownells.

I am a gunsmith.
If I recommend a product I have a very good reason for doing so.

+1 I've used several of the cold blues for touch ups over the years and Oxpho is my preferred choice.

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