How can you tell if a gun has been re blued?


October 16, 2009, 11:53 AM
So I have read several times that it usually lowers the value of a gun if it's been re blued. Now here is my question. How would you know if a gun you are thinking or purchasing or a gun you have purchased used and are thinking of selling has been re blued or not? I just have always wondered how they know if it's been re blued so that they offer less. Or is it just if the seller of the gun tells the buyer?

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October 16, 2009, 12:21 PM
Far from an expert here but I will throw my thoughts in to see if I'm anywhere close as others chime in.
I think the easiest way to tell is if you are really familar with how that particular firearm looks when it is factory new. Usually there is lots of polishing and buffing involved when something gets reblued so hard edges tend to get softend up quite a bit. Corners that were nice a defined prior are now rounded over, holes for screws and pins tend to get a slight divot look to them. Stampings and other markings may seem a bit "blurred" or just no longer have that crisp look they did before. Also if there are obvious signs of wear points but yet the finish looks too good, know what I mean?

October 16, 2009, 12:30 PM
The only way you can really tell from the above information is if the refinisher did a half-ass job. If a polish and blue job on a modern gun is done well, you shouldn't be able to tell.

That being said, it is often difficult to match the chemical color that some older gun companies used. Colt for instance has a guarded recipe that is difficult to match exactly (although several companies, Turnbull, for instance, are very close). Colt Pythons have a cool looking "royal" blue. Older S&W have a very deep, rich blue. Holding a suspect gun next to a known factory original gun would be a decent test. Often a gun that looks too good to be true for its age often is.

If the refinisher was not qualified or careful at least, often times even if they do not soften hard corners or dish screw holes, they will not get the direction of polishing correct. Very small things. Unfortunately people who fake collectible guns are getting damn near as good at refinishing as the original manufacturers were.

October 16, 2009, 07:42 PM
To check for a cold bluing job take a soft cotton swab and some rubbing alchohol. Swipe the area you suspect as having cold bluing. if the white cotton turns up black then cold blue has been applied. Ask first before you conduct this one.

October 16, 2009, 07:45 PM
Even a guns that are "hand polished" (which is a very tedious and time consuming process) have tell-tale signs of rebluing, including very slight reductions of "upset" metal, i.e. the metal that is upset or pushed up from the stamping of letters or numbers. Overall, it just takes practice and exposure to a lot of guns to be able to tell if a gun has been refinished or not, but, as mentioned in some of the previous posts, if you can compare the specific gun in question to an example that is known NOT to have been refinished, that will be the best indicator.

Jim K
October 16, 2009, 11:20 PM
It takes a lot of looking at guns and, I admit, a bit of instinct. And, yes, MountainBear is right; if a reblue job is done well, especially by the factory, it is pretty hard to tell. I have a K-22 that I bought in 1957 and sent back to S&W in 1985 to have the firing pin (frame mounted) replaced. They wrote the dealer asking if I wanted the gun reblued for $17. Of course I did!

So what did they do? Well, they stripped the frame, then rebuilt the gun using all new parts. What I got back of the original gun was the frame and the grips; everything else was brand new. Anyway, they reblued the frame and blued the new parts; there is no way anyone could tell that reblue job from the original finish except by the S&W refinish mark.

That was the extreme. Most reblue jobs are just not that good, and I dare say I can spot at least 98% of them, though not always from a photo. As an example, even when a polisher is careful to polish the sideplate and crane with the frame, the wheel will drag enough to make the lines more visible than in a factory finish. One area that is hard to polish without some evidence is the S&W or Colt trademark on the side of a revolver or slide of an auto pistol. Those markings are finely stamped and even the lightest polish will remove the displaced metal the factories (deliberately) leave in place.

Just FYI, big factories do not polish guns on the usual wheels. They have hard wheels specially shaped to the gun. For example, S&W has a hard wheel for each frame size that is shaped to polish the bottom front of the frame, the trigger guard, the inner curve of the grip and the front of the grip all in one pass. No gunsmith or restorer has that kind of equipment.


October 17, 2009, 01:53 PM
And cold blue often has a funny smell to it.

October 17, 2009, 02:45 PM
if its a good reblue other than a collecter does it matter.?

October 18, 2009, 11:08 AM
if its a good reblue other than a collecter does it matter.?

Exactly! But if you are interested in museum pieces, you need to know how to tell!


October 19, 2009, 11:28 AM
If done correctly than it will be hard or impossible to tell. If it is done poorly than:

1) Markings in steel washed out
2) Polish waves when looking down the length of a bbl.
3) Sharp corners rounded.
4) Screw/pin holes rippled looking.
5) Parts that are normally factory polished are matte and visa versa.
6) White powdery looking bluing salts creeping out of crevices and screw/pin holes.
7) Parts that are normally blue are red or purple.
8) The color is off from what one would expect from a factory finish. Modern blueing is a black oxide process which leaves a black color. On some older fireams a different process was used leaving a more blue looking color.

October 20, 2009, 11:19 PM
Well I guess that about freakin covers it.

October 21, 2009, 08:34 AM
Once again, does it matter? I have been pondering this very topic, and wondered why it matters. I'm not talking collectibles here, just older guns that have been wore. So, what I am getting here is it is better if a gun is wore, say 60% to 80%, then to be re-blued or refinished?

October 21, 2009, 11:51 AM
If the guy doing it really knows what he's doing, you may not be able to tell. Because he'll take the time to avoid all the things you'd look for. If he doesn't know how/bother to reproduce the bluing and preparation exactly, it will look slightly different from original. But if you don't know what the original looks like it won't help you. Moral: Do your homework.

It's like spotting a counterfeit anything. You have to handle a lot of the originals to know what's different.

October 21, 2009, 04:39 PM
If you're honest about it, it's fine. No problem with refinishing a shooter as long as you're not trying to misrepresent anything.
That said, there are some rare guns that will be worth more left at their 60% finish than if you had redone them.

October 21, 2009, 04:48 PM

Absolutely right.

October 21, 2009, 08:36 PM
You guys are right. It doesn't bother me unless it's some rare collectible. One thing I've thought about though is if I buy one not knowing it's been refinished and then sell it of course not saying anything about it as I didn't know. Would I be thought of as a bad seller since I really didn't know it was re blued? Should it be my responsibility to have found out? Or is that something I shouldn't worry about?

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