Baby Browning question (from a newbie)


March 19, 2009, 11:19 PM
I just inherited a Baby Browning, the fifth and probably last gun I'll receive from my father-in-law's estate. DOB is 1965; it's pretty beat up. In addition to scratches and wear, there appears to be rust and pitting. I've only seen the outside of the gun; I don't know the condition of its innards. The problem for me is, I don't know how much rust and pitting it takes to turn a gun into scrap metal.

Please pardon the stupid newbie questions but... How do I go about finding out if this gun is salvageable? I assume I'd take it to a gunsmith, but what do I ask? All I really want to know is if it's safe to shoot, and if not, can it be made safe or is it too far gone? Will a gunsmith take it apart and check the various parts for me? How do I know a gunsmith knows what he's doing? Or that he's ethical?

To be honest, I "fear" gunsmiths in the same way that I "fear" auto mechanics. I "fear" being talked down to, or treated like an idiot, or taken advantage of. I don't have a lifetime of experience behind me, so whatever the gunsmith says, I'll have to take on faith (and I've read some gunsmith horror stories on THR). This makes me very nervous.

To top it off, I don't even know if a Baby Browning is worth the effort. I've done some research, and most of the comments I've read about them have been positive. But would it be worth spending several hundred dollars on? I don't plan on selling it, because of the sentimental value. And it's not a gun I'd use for defensive purposes. But I would like to keep it, and shoot it if I can.

I've seen PSA versions on line and in a gunstore and they are running about $525. Would it be better just to buy one of those new? Are they any better or worse that the actual Baby Browning? I guess what I'm asking is, if it costs $500 to repair the browning, should I just buy a new PSA version instead?

I just re-read what I typed and realize I've asked a lot of questions. So I'll narrow it down to one.

"Any advice?"

Here are a couple of pictures that show its external condition.

94716 94715

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Old Fuff
March 20, 2009, 01:43 AM
The exterior doesn't look all that bad, but I can't say about the interior.

The little Browning has an excellent reputation for pistols of this kind, based on superior steel used in its construction, and unexcelled workmanship. You don't need it refinished, you need it restored - and there is a difference. I would estimate the cost would be in the $150 to $250 ballpark, but that's for the restorer to say. You didn't say if it would continue to be passed down through present or future generations, but if so that might make a difference in what you decide. As for who could do the work, consider the following link.

March 20, 2009, 02:47 AM
+1 to Old Fuff's comment. The exterior doesn't look all that bad to me either. From the looks of the exterior, I'd guess the interior to be in about the same condition, and be shootable as-is. But it would be good to get an "expert", hands-on, opinion on this.

If it were mine, and I would like to add one to the collection some day, I would leave it as-is. And not refinish or restore it. If it needs any mechanical work done, make it functional, but I wouldn't change the exterior. Older BBs are becoming collectibles, at 1965 I'm not sure about. But as they're not being made anymore, they will continue to be collectible, and only go up in value.

Another argument against restoring. You mentioned sentimental value, all that wear on the exterior tells the story of that guns life. My guess is that it rode a lot of miles in a front pocket or holster for someone (maybe your FIL). Just on that fact, I'd leave it as-is, and enjoy the memories/history behind it.

As far as the gunsmith question, there is a website (that I've never visited) for locating gunsmiths. I think but I'm not positive. The add I saw for it mentioned that it had a feature to locate by region and/or by specialty. I'd give that a try first, before taking it to the local, self proclaimed but untrained, "gunsmith". I think if you take it to a reputible, trained, gunsmith, you'll find your fear is unfounded. It'll usually be the ones that call themself gunsmiths that give the bad experiences. (Just like any other field really.)

Hope this helped a little. Enjoy the "new" gun...


March 20, 2009, 07:57 AM
Looks to me as though that li'l Baby Browning got toted a bit. I suspect the rust on the esterior resulted from perspiration while it rode in a pocket. I dunno if I'd have it restored, or clean off the rust with very fine, oil-soaked steel wool, wiped down with an oiled rag, and kept as-is, "scars" and all.

March 20, 2009, 08:26 AM
I think the Baby Browning is a fantastic little gun. I had one that I will forever regret selling though I didn't have much choice at the time. Given what the outside looks like I'd be really surprised if it's not in operable condition. They are exceptionally well made. I would keep it well oiled and have someone knowledgeable (not necessarily a gunsmith) show you how to field strip it and look for obvious damage or internal rust. You'll love the way they come apart, pure genius! :) I would not restore or refinish it. Just stop the rust. Think of it this way: People say things like, "Man, if that _____ could talk, think of the stories it could tell!" Well this little Browning is telling all of us stories right now, as we look at it's pictures. All the places it must have gone, the things it was witness to, and the feeling of safety and security that it gave. And it ain't done yet! I think it's a beautiful piece just the way it is. :D

March 20, 2009, 08:54 AM
Thank you, everyone! I've read every post twice :)

Based on what you all say, i WON'T have it restored - just cleaned up and checked out to see if it's safe to operate. I'll go to that gunsmith website and find someone local who can check it for me. Maybe he can even show me how to field strip it.

The gun did indeed ride in a shirt pocket for years. My father-in-law was a truck driver for most of his adult life, and I understand he kept it there because it was handy in the event of trouble. [After he retired from truck driving in his early 60s, he went back to college, got a degree in computer science and began a second career as a computer programmer. Worked until he was 75. After retirement, he went back to college again, and got a second degree, just for fun. He was working on a master's degree in English when he died. Amazing guy, with a brilliant mind.]

My father-in-law had quite a collection of guns, which I didn't know until after he died. I knew he had one gun - an S&W 642 for CCW. And the only "charity" he ever gave to was the NRA - he was a life member, and donated regularly. It wasn't until after he died and we were cleaning out the house that I discovered just how many guns he had. I got 5 of his old guns: the 642 (but my son and I swapped - he took his grandfather's 642 and gave me my late husband's 10-5); colt huntsman; walther p38; the baby browning and, oops, a burgo .22lr revolver. My son and nephew got a bunch of guns too, I don't know how many - mostly rifles and shotguns.

Thanks again for all your help.

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