Generic/basic bluing/rebluing question


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Brian88
September 14, 2009, 03:28 AM
First off, what is bluing?
I asked my coworker, and he told me (in essence) that it is a semi protective coating which is not actually blue, but black. Which in the description of my gun; makes sense.

What is the purpose of bluing? To sum up what I have read on some sites (via wikipedia and google) it is geared towards cosmetics rather than rust protection. Then again, that is only what I have read.

I have a M24/47 that i am refinishing the stock on, and i am also thinking of taking the bluing off of, and redoing it later (or not). The main reason for this is because the bluing is splotchy at some parts, and I believe with a little research and a bit more time and work I can do better. I also visually prefer the non blued variations of the m24/48's.

I am interested in what people who have first hand experience with it have to say, whether it is dealing with aesthetics or actual function of bluing.

Thank you for the patience of reading this post, and any commentary is welcome.

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BillyBothHands
September 14, 2009, 09:25 PM
I'm no expert but here is my explanation :)

The idea here is "controlled rust". Originally most firearms were "Browned". This was just basically allowing the outer surface to rust before smoothing the oxidation up and applying a good coat of oil. According to the old Dulap book of gunsmithing, Bluing was sort of discovered by accident along the way.

They found that taking the rust on a Browned gun more often resulted in a blue tint and thus methods developed more around the idea of bluing a gun. I suspect that bluing caught on and browning died away because of aesthetics and you also have a better indication of how much rust you have. A browned gun just looks like a rusty one in a lot of cases.

"Blacking" processes came along that created very dark oxidation on the metal, but most people still call this bluing (like people calling all soda Coke).

The really shiny deep pretty blues that you find on old well maintained guns and new high end customs is more than likely a slow rust blue. You don't see this as much since it is very time intensive. The parts bascially sit for days or weeks in a humidity controlled box as opposed to the modern quick ( generally hot caustics involved) ways of doing it.


I hope this helps and anyone out there feel free to correct me. I'm sure I've mistated some things. I've done very little work myself, but I've read a lot over the years.

Thanks for the question! it always excites me to get to pull out the Dunlap book!

SSN Vet
September 15, 2009, 04:43 PM
Bluing is a passivation process in which steel is partially protected against rust, and is named after the blue-black appearance of the resulting protective finish. True gun bluing is an electrochemical conversion coating resulting from an oxidizing chemical reaction with iron on the surface selectively forming magnetite (Fe3O4), the black oxide of iron, which occupies the same volume as metallic iron. Black oxide provides minimal protection against corrosion, unless also treated with a water-displacing oil to reduce wetting and galvanic action.

In contrast, rust, the red oxide of iron (Fe2O3), does not occupy the same volume as iron, thereby causing the typical reddish rusting away of iron. Both "cold" and "hot" oxidizing processes are called bluing, but only the "hot" process provides any significant rust and corrosion resistance, and then only when also treated with an oiled coating.


Bluing is most commonly used by gun manufacturers, gunsmiths and gun owners to improve the cosmetic appearance, provide limited resistance against rust of the firearm, improve surface durability to tangential scratching, and reduce glare to the eyes of the shooter when looking down the barrel of the gun. All blued parts still need to be properly oiled to prevent rust. Bluing, being a chemical conversion coating, is not as robust against wear and corrosion resistance as plated coatings, and is typically no thicker than 2.5 micrometres (0.0001 inches). For this reason, it is considered not to add any appreciable thickness to precisely-machined gun parts. Gun manufacturers subject the barrel of their guns to bluing to improve the accuracy of the shooter. The treated barrel reflects less light than an untreated barrel, minimizing glare in the sights.

New guns are typically available in blued finish options offered as the least-expensive finish, and this finish is also the least effective at providing rust resistance, relative to other finishes such as Parkerizing or hard chrome plating.

Bluing is also used for providing coloring for steel parts of fine clocks and other fine metalwork.

Bluing is often a hobbyist endeavor, and there are many methods of bluing, and continuing debates about the relative efficacy of each method.


Bluing may be applied, for example, by immersing the steel parts of the gun to be blued in a solution of potassium nitrate, sodium hydroxide, and water heated to the boiling point. Similarly, stainless steel parts of the gun to be blued are immersed in a mixture of nitrates and chromates, similarly heated. Either of these two methods is called hot bluing. There are many other methods of hot bluing. Hot bluing is among the most effective forms of bluing, providing the most permanent degree of rust-resistance and cosmetic protection of exposed gun metal.

Rust bluing was developed between hot and cold bluing processes. It was originally used by gunsmiths in the 19th century to blue firearms prior to the development of hot bluing processes. The process was to coat the gun parts in an acid solution, let the parts rust uniformly, then immerse the parts in boiling water to stabilize the rusting process by removing any remaining residue from the applied acid solution. Then the rust was karded (scrubbed) off, leaving a deep blue finish. This process was later abandoned by major firearm manufacturers as it often took parts days to finish completely, and was very labor intensive. It is still sometimes used by gunsmiths to obtain an authentic finish for a period gun of the time that rust bluing was in vogue, analogous to the use of browning on earlier representative firearm replicas. Rust bluing is also used on shotgun barrels that are soldered to the rib between the barrels, as hot bluing solutions would dissolve the solder during the bluing process.

There are also methods of cold bluing, which do not require heated solutions. Commercial products are widely sold in small bottles for cold bluing firearms, and these products are primarily used by individual gun owners for implementing small touch-ups to a gun's finish, to prevent a small scratch from becoming a major source of rust on a gun over time. At least one of the cold bluing solutions contains selenium dioxide, to accomplish the bluing. Cold bluing is not particularly resistant to holster wear, nor does it provide a large degree of rust resistance. It does, however, often provide a very good cosmetic touch-up of a gun's finish when applied and additionally oiled on a regular basis.

Large scale industrial hot bluing is often performed using a bluing furnace. This is an alternative method for creating the black oxide coating. In place of using a hot bath (although at a lower temperature) chemically-induced method, it is possible through controlling the temperature to heat steel precisely such as to cause the formation of black oxide selectively over the red oxide. It, too, must be oiled to provide any significant rust resistance.

Brian88
September 15, 2009, 07:45 PM
Cool, thanks for all the info.

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