Polishing nickel plating


Billy Shears
December 12, 2012, 05:02 PM
I recently acquired a retired Norfolk police officer's Smith & Wesson Military & Police .38 from my father (made between '46 & '48 by the SN). It wasn't his issue weapon, though he was also an NPD officer, as am I. It belonged to a fellow officer who was friend of his (Dad didn't retire, so he didn't get to keep his old gun), who had it nickel plated some time after retiring, so the finish isn't factory (and for some reason, liked two-tone I guess --had the hammer, trigger, and ejector rod blued).

The gun was wearing a pair of ugly, aftermarket, laminated wooden grips, of rather large size. Not only did they look bad on an old pencil-barrel S&W .38, they were too large for my hands as well. I replaced them with an old, pre-WWII set of service grips (the low ones, pre-magna style) which I picked up fairly cheap, and which I like best on these guns. Only problem is the gun wore those oversized stocks for so long, the nickel plate has acquired a dull patina, but those parts of the frame and side plate that the old grips covered are still mirror bright. Anyone know of a good way to polish the nickel plating without damaging the finish? The nickel's not factory anyway, so I'm not concerned this would hurt the value like polishing off a gun's patina normally would. Sorry I don't have photos -- no way to host them.

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December 12, 2012, 05:37 PM
This sounds like a perfect job for some Flitz polish along with a little elbow grease.

December 12, 2012, 05:40 PM
Or Mothers Wheel polish.

December 12, 2012, 07:20 PM
I like Blue Magic metal polish ...or Flitz...depends on what you can get locally ...but you want something that is not abrasive ...for mag wheels, chrome bumpers etc....

I have several Nickel plated S&W revolvers...and I've used both products on them with very good results.

December 12, 2012, 07:32 PM
This is a plated finish and ALL metal polishes are abrasive.
Polish just a little too hard or do it too often and you can break through the plating.
Some nickel plated guns are under-coated with copper. After polishing a little too much you might notice that the gun is getting a coppery color. This means you went a little too far and ruined the finish.

Remember, the only way to "remove" a scratch from a nickel plated finish is to abrade the finish thinner until you bottom out the scratch.
This is like sanding a scratch out of wood. The difference is, nickel plating is only so thick and you're polishing it off every time you use a polish.

Billy Shears
December 12, 2012, 07:50 PM
Thanks for the warning. That's why I wanted advice on the least abrasive method for polishing. The good news is, I don't have any scratches to polish out, just a general dullness where the old grips didn't cover the finish, and even it didn't look all that dull to me until I had the part of the finish that had been protected under the old grips to compare it to. I'm hoping the lightest of polishes will be enough to restore the luster.

Flint Ridge
December 12, 2012, 09:21 PM
Flitz as noted. I would use a clean microfiber cloth as well vs. cotton etc.

This Smith 13-2 looked nothing like this when I got it.:what:


December 13, 2012, 12:10 AM
I have used Flitz, very gently, on my nickel plated guns for many years now. Works great at removing dirt, powder residue, and tarnish without harming the finish. But the key word here is gently; this is not something you want to do using a heavy hand and a lot of effort. Follow the directions on the tube and you'll be good to go.

December 13, 2012, 08:21 PM
I would use Flitz or Semichrome and remember to rub lightly,

December 13, 2012, 08:58 PM
.... and once it's nice and shiney clean it with regular solvents rather than using the the polishes.

As the guys have pointed out you don't want to be using these abrasive polishes on a frequent basis. Try to stick with non abrasive solvents or cleaners as much as possible.

December 13, 2012, 09:13 PM
I would advocate regular cleaning with a really mild abrasive like the Remington bore cleaner stuff (can't remember the name & too lazy for a trip to the man cave at the moment). As dfariswheel pointed out, part of nickel plating typically involves a copper under-layer. Think about what regular bore solvents are intended to remove...

It's fine until that solvent finds ANY exposed copper...downhill from there.


December 13, 2012, 09:30 PM
Mothers mag has worked well for me. I am sure fitz would be the same

December 14, 2012, 01:55 AM
I think I'd look at using something without a copper solvent in it. Like the easy and cheap to make Ed's Red mixture. Then if I did feel the need to look for cleaning copper out of the bore I'd use a bore cleaner separately.

Most forms of decorative plating are rather pourous due to how the metal is deposited from the solution. Even a layer of nickel in GOOD condition could allow a copper cleaning solvent to leach through the inevitable pores and attack any base copper plating under the nickel.

December 14, 2012, 02:18 AM
+3 on Mothers mag and chrome polish

December 15, 2012, 04:32 PM
I've used micro-fiber cloths and they work EXTREMELY well. I would try that before any abrasives.

December 15, 2012, 10:26 PM
Mothers Billet Polish is the least abrasive polish I have found. With a microfiber rag, the effect is superb, no hairline scratches even under a 10 power loupe.

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