Would you refinish this Colt 1903?


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ryan3465
February 18, 2013, 08:09 PM
Hello all,

Found a Colt 1903 after some more searching, a good price at 240 cash from a local shop. My question is, would you go to the trouble of refinishing it or would you leave it as is? I can already tell that some previous owner already reblued it, judging by the splotchy patches on the front grip strap, and by the way some of the lettering and Colt Logo are worn. Would you do it yourself with one of the available cold blue products or would you send it away, and if so, where would you send it?

Thanks everyone!
Ryan179991179992179993179994

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Creature
February 18, 2013, 08:10 PM
If it were mine, I'de leave it just the way it is...

ryan3465
February 18, 2013, 08:10 PM
More pictures...
179995179996

Robbins290
February 18, 2013, 08:13 PM
I agre creature. Leave it as it is. I've been looking for a 1908 that has no collector value. And duracoat it for a new carry peice. But no luck soo far. Blueing looks good in that pistol

bannockburn
February 18, 2013, 08:18 PM
ryan3465

Sure looks like that's one pistol that has seen better days. I mean the one side doesn't look too bad but the other side and the front grip frame are pretty rough in their appearance. If it were mine I might be inclined to see about getting it sandblasted and then refinished in a nice matte blue.

Fremmer
February 18, 2013, 08:35 PM
Oh I'd probably just leave her as is and use heavy oil on the outside.

SharpsDressedMan
February 18, 2013, 08:37 PM
It has enough exterior pitting that you would get less than optimum results from LOTS of work on a refinish. I might even be inclined to get some naval jelly, or something else to remove ALL the blueing, and just oil it and let it look REALLY old, rough and worn. Then you can pack it, shoot it, carry it, etc, and never worry about marring the finish like you would on a really nice, new gun.

ryan3465
February 18, 2013, 08:37 PM
Bannock,

Where would you typically find someone That would sandblast and do general metal prep? Like what kind of shops should I look for locally? Or is this something I could do myself? (Forgive my ignorance on the subject, I'm great with wood prep but know almost nothing about metal prep)

Thanks,
Ryan

ryan3465
February 18, 2013, 08:51 PM
Thank you everyone for the responses. If I were to leave the gun as it is currently, what steps could I take to prevent that pitting on the left side from getting worse? The main driver behind my thinking about getting it refinished stemmed more from a desire to prevent any further damage from rust, etc. Would I be safe to take a few preventative steps and leave it as is, allowing it to remain a shooter?

Thanks!

bannockburn
February 18, 2013, 09:27 PM
ryan3465

One place that I know of that does quality work is Mahovskys Metalife (mahovskysmetalife.com). They can bead blast the old finish off and replace it with a hard chrome, electroless nickel, or blued finish. I think their prices are still very reasonable and I can readily attest to the longevity and durability of their hard chrome treatment.

This is a Beretta Model 70S which Mahovsly's refinished with hard chrome over 20 years ago. Still looks as new as the day I got it back from them.
http://i1184.photobucket.com/albums/z334/TailoAltera/gunpix1033.jpg

280shooter
February 18, 2013, 11:57 PM
no let it go.... leave it as it is...if it anit broke dont break it...

CZguy
February 19, 2013, 12:20 AM
It has enough exterior pitting that you would get less than optimum results from LOTS of work on a refinish. I might even be inclined to get some naval jelly, or something else to remove ALL the blueing, and just oil it and let it look REALLY old, rough and worn. Then you can pack it, shoot it, carry it, etc, and never worry about marring the finish like you would on a really nice, new gun.

You know, there is a lot to said for old trucks and guns.

wow6599
February 19, 2013, 12:36 AM
I would, but only if I sent it to Colt for a rebirth.

Onmilo
February 19, 2013, 04:47 PM
Nope, I would leave it as is.

ryan3465
February 19, 2013, 04:54 PM
Do I run the risk of more rust forming on some of the worn areas? Or would a light coat of oil prevent that?

Vern Humphrey
February 19, 2013, 05:01 PM
No way would I refinish this gun.

A few years back I found a beautiful Colt New Service in .45 Colt. Before it was refinished, that gun would have been worth $800 or more (as prices were then.) It had been buffed aggressively, so the markings were blurred and nearly invisible. I bought it for $300.

kBob
February 19, 2013, 05:08 PM
Looks like it has been refinished a time or two as it is. I owuld not worry about collector value if it were mine and would do whatever blew my skirts up.

Me, I would strip it,clean it to make sure there was no active rust anywhere, degrease it and refinish it with either multiple coats of cold blue, chemical plum brown, or something like MG coat baked on and be happy with it.

I would have paid $250 for it or traded for that much value in a heart beat. Local Gunshow table guy has one with some sort of grey, silver coating which I think is MG coat for the last two years and he wants more for his and is not getting it from me.

-kBob

Hurryin' Hoosier
February 19, 2013, 06:36 PM
If you decide to go with a re-blue (which I believe I would do), I'd highly recommend this fellow: http://www.foglesgunsmithing.com/

Roadking Rider
February 19, 2013, 07:34 PM
I'd let it be.

Walt Sherrill
February 19, 2013, 08:00 PM
(I kept going back an looking at the two sets of photos, and each time, I wanted to say something different!!)

The gun I saw in the first four photos looked to be in pretty good shape, and I thought it was a potential "collector" gun if you didn't abuse it. But then I looked at the second set of photos in message #3...

That gun look likes it's been rode hard and put away wet. Obviously refinished after it had been pretty badly rusted; a good bit of the frame metal gone before the refinisher got hold of it.

Having COLT do the work wouldn't help -- they can do wonders if the gun is basically sound, but they can't really replace missing metal.

I'd maybe just touch it up with a good cold blue like Brownell's Oxypho Blue. Not real expensive, and if done right (many coats applied to very warm metal) that cold blue can sometimes look pretty good. (Note: most cold blue treatments will wear through pretty quickly with routine handling.)

Do what you've got to do to keep yourself happy, and shoot it. But I don't think you have a gun that will ever be of great interest to a collector -- so you're free to do what you want with it.

ryan3465
February 19, 2013, 10:00 PM
Thank you everyone for the responses. I think I will probably leave it as is, and just keep an eye out for any future rust forming so I can take care of it right away. The gun shoots great and that's what matters. Thanks a lot everyone!

-ryan

wow6599
February 19, 2013, 11:28 PM
Having COLT do the work wouldn't help -- they can do wonders if the gun is basically sound, but they can't really replace missing metal.

It's not that I don't believe you, but are you sure? Colt's custom shop can do many things. I know they can't do magic and make metal appear from thin air, but what about smoothing it out and finishing?

CZguy
February 19, 2013, 11:34 PM
It's not that I don't believe you, but are you sure? Colt's custom shop can do many things....

Sorry, it's physics. Colt's custom shop does excellent work, but you just can't replace metal that's been buffed off.

mgmorden
February 20, 2013, 11:46 PM
Leave it as is. Truth be told I was expecting to see a gun in much worse condition when I opened the thread. For a gun of that age is just looks like well earned wear on it.

willypete
February 21, 2013, 01:08 AM
Sorry, it's physics. Colt's custom shop does excellent work, but you just can't replace metal that's been buffed off.

TIG welders everywhere disagree with you.

Auto426
February 21, 2013, 03:37 AM
With the extent of the pitting on the frame and slide in its current state, there isn't any real collector value left to destroy with a refinish. If your willing to spend the money, I'd say get it refinished to protect it from further corrosion. Also send it to a reputable shop that knows what they are doing with a 1903 and knows how to properly refinish the flats of the gun without dishing pin holes or removing the roll marks.

ApacheCoTodd
February 21, 2013, 12:53 PM
Yup, I'd parkerize it and carry it just like the one I did 20 years ago in .32.

SharpsDressedMan
February 21, 2013, 02:44 PM
It CAN be refinshed, even by a reputable shop, but the issue remains that such costs will outweight the result, and the resulting value: the surface pitting, etc, is so bad, it won't all be removed, or the rollmarks will go with it. It is serviceable as-is, and won't cost any more, as-is. You can put makup on an ugly woman, but she will still be ugly. She might be "servicable", but she is never going to be un-ugly.

CZguy
February 21, 2013, 03:21 PM
You can put makup on an ugly woman, but she will still be ugly. She might be "servicable", but she is never going to be un-ugly.

Good analogy.

And I guess the bottom line is, it's a personal choice. Personally I would shoot it and oil it. But it's up to the OP.

You see a friend of mine has a very ugly wife, who spends a lot on money on clothes and make up, and I keep my thoughts to myself.

SharpsDressedMan
February 21, 2013, 03:43 PM
Ugly is also in the eyes of the beholder. We might even differ on the appearance of a friend's wife, but the issue of a lot of money for makeup might remain. That was all I wanted to point out; one could spend a lot, but not get much for our money as a result.

TonyT
February 21, 2013, 04:14 PM
I would leave it alone and use it in it's current condition. It shows normal wear not abuse.

Walt Sherrill
February 21, 2013, 10:13 PM
It shows normal wear not abuse.

I think the owner is content to just keep it as is, and and shoot it -- and it's probably a good shooter. But, I'd argue that the photos of the left side of the gun, seen in message #3 do not show "normal wear, not abuse."

Look again: http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=179996&d=1361232641

What you see in message #3, in the area around the safety and grips, is evidence of severe rust that was heavily buffed and then reblued. Even the marks on the slide are softened, and the serial number is almost worn away by buffing. The rust (pitting) on the frame was so deep that the surface couldn't be kept even.

Rust is not "wear." Rust is evidence of neglect. I've seen this a number of times in guns that were put away in drawers for years (decades, even), wrapped in cloth (meant to protect them, but which somehow got damp -- humidity, a spill, etc.) One side would look pretty good, but the side would be badly rusted. That looks to be the case, here.

None of this keeps it from being a good shooter... If it were mine, I'd probably go over it with "cold blue" to give it a more uniform appearance, and then go to the range. <grin>

Walt Sherrill
February 22, 2013, 10:55 AM
Sorry, it's physics. Colt's custom shop does excellent work, but you just can't replace metal that's been buffed off.
TIG welders everywhere disagree with you.

I suspect your comment was offered tongue-in-cheek... Almost any form of welding can add (or replace lost) metal. But the point was that a badly rusted gun frame's surface can't be made to look right once major damage is done. While metal can be added back to the frame, that large redone surface (for the gun in question) would then have to be machined to restore the desired flatness and, in turn, refinished. To make matters worse, areas like where the serial number and slide markings are almost buffed away, would have to be either be left alone, or redone -- either way, it wouldn't look right. The trademark Colt on the rear of the slide is almost buffed away. This is NOT normal wear.

http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=179996&d=1361232641

It would also be very unlikely that the new added metal, when refinished, would match the older (original) metal, and you'd end up with a finish that look mottled or strange. You might even find it necessary to have the frame re-hardened, as welding would would probably disrupt anything previously done.

The best gun RESTORERS can and sometimes will do all of this, but then the owner would end up with a gun that cost him $thousands...

Unless you can show us pictures of a gun once badly rusted over a large area of it's frame that has been restored by TIG or other forms of welding, I think CZGuy's response is, practically speaking, valid.

A careful Duracoat job might cover much of the roughness -- but probably cover a lot of the important marks, like serial number, and rollmarks.

SharpsDressedMan
February 22, 2013, 07:20 PM
There you go. Bondo the crap out of it filling all the pits, then sand it smooth, and Duracoat it. Much like a fine auto paint job!

willypete
February 23, 2013, 01:27 AM
I suspect your comment was offered tongue-in-cheek...

A little bit, yes. Most of what you described as part of the restoration process did occur to me (not sure if heat-treating the slide would be necessary), but I didn't feel like bringing all that up when a simple reply would do. However, you do bring up a good point: the more extensive the restoration, the more $$$$ it will be! Especially if you have to re-roll or re-stamp marks, refinish metal, temper, etc. etc. That would be more of a labor of love to me. My inclination for most beater guns is to refinish it to utilitarian status and shoot it for fun. However, sometimes it's worth it for whatever reason to do an original, extensive restoration. You'll end up with a beautiful gun and lighter pockets :D

stevekozak
February 23, 2013, 02:14 PM
I would just keep it oiled really well and shoot it. That pitting on the left side is aweful, and I don't think you are going to make it much better. Shoot it for what it is a pretty cool $240 gun and leave it at that.

Rinspeed
February 24, 2013, 12:32 AM
Either way it's your gun so do what you want but one thing I would say is it's going to cost a lot to get it looking good, much more than it's worth.

rgwalt
February 25, 2013, 09:40 AM
It sounds like the OP has his mind made up about the refinish. The question I would ask is... what would the refinish cost, and would it improve the value of the gun? If you spent $500 on a refinish, but only had a $300 shooter after the work was done, then what is the point?

Walt Sherrill
February 25, 2013, 10:28 AM
I suggested that he do it himself with one of the Brownells products. That won't be very costly, won't hurt the value of a non-collectible gun, and will look better than it does, now.

Sending it away to be reblued would give him a more robust, durable finish (than cold blue), but it really won't look that much different. He won't have to touch up worns spots as frequently is the main difference, and it'll cost a good bit more than a do-it-yourself effort, if he has it hot-blued by a gunsmith or refinisher. The surface is too degraded to do much else, as remaining marks will be lost if it's buffed much.

ryan3465
March 15, 2013, 06:09 PM
Hello all!

Just wanted to share with you the results of some touch up work on my Colt 1903:
181415
181416

I just used some ultra fine steel wool lightly to take off some surface rust and grime and then completely degreaser it, put some gloves on and touched up the worn spots with oxpho blue liquid cold blue and lightly buffed to a pretty decent shine. Oiled it and took it to the range. Thank you everyone for your input!

SharpsDressedMan
March 15, 2013, 06:44 PM
Looks quiite good!

toiville2feathers
March 15, 2013, 06:58 PM
No matter how bad a curio or relic maybe, no amount of restoration is going to positively increase the value of the gun. In fact its going to take away from the value of the gun.
Kind of like old women who dye there hair and wear tight fitting pants. They still don't get asked to the senior prom.

ryan3465
March 15, 2013, 07:48 PM
No matter how bad a curio or relic maybe, no amount of restoration is going to positively increase the value of the gun. In fact its going to take away from the value of the gun.
Kind of like old women who dye there hair and wear tight fitting pants. They still don't get asked to the senior prom.

While I don't disagree with you, this piece is strictly a shooter that was just a little beat up and needed some touch up work, that's all.

Walt Sherrill
March 15, 2013, 08:29 PM
You got such good results with the slide and the top of the frame, you should consider spendind a little time on the front- and backstrap.

It turned out looking pretty nice!!

ryan3465
March 15, 2013, 08:35 PM
Thanks Walt! It took a little time but ultimately was worth it. I'm planning on doing some more work on the backstrap and front strap, I'm thinking ill need to put a bit more time into those, since they are the areas that will see the most contact. Is there any way to make the oxpho blue more resistant in these areas, I.E. doing the touch up in several different layers or applying some sort of protectant after I'm finished?

Walt Sherrill
March 15, 2013, 09:14 PM
I don't know if ANYTHING will work with cold blue, but it's very easy to just touch it up, periodically, with a dampened (with bluing liquid) pad. G96 Bluing Creme added to the Ox-Pho Blue (each done in alternating layers) seemed to darken better, and held up well. (But that may have been wishful thinking on my part...)

jim243
March 15, 2013, 09:18 PM
Very nice job on that pistol.

Jim

ryan3465
March 15, 2013, 10:56 PM
I don't know if ANYTHING will work with cold blue, but it's very easy to just touch it up, periodically, with a dampened (with bluing liquid) pad. G96 Bluing Creme added to the Ox-Pho Blue (each done in alternating layers) seemed to darken better, and held up well. (But that may have been wishful thinking on my part...)

Thanks for the advice Walt, I will try the alternating method as you described. I am under the impression that oxpho blue doesn't require me to neutralize the bluing action with water after application, is that your understanding as well? The only reason i ask is because I had a Birchwood Casey bluing kit in the past which require me to stop the bluing action when I was finished applying the bluing solution. I just don't want to cause any damage to the gun, that's all.

Walt Sherrill
March 16, 2013, 10:36 AM
I don't remember, and the bottle of chemicals is a good distance from this keyboard. But I did multiple applications without applying water between applications.

I do know, however, that if you don't use water to stop the chemical action when you're through for the day, you may be surprised with what you find the next time you look at the gun -- especially if you wait a day or two. <grin>

dhcustomwork
March 16, 2013, 11:00 AM
Nice job on the clean up. Looks quite a bit better.

Like Walt, I usually do a few coats before using water. Also try to do several coats before blending with steel wool. The one issue I run into with blending is it removing way more of the new color than you think it should. Just part of the process I guess, but its a bit irritating when you see all that nice blue come right off. It's actually leaving good dark metal underneath and just needs to be built up again.

ryan3465
March 16, 2013, 01:04 PM
Thank you so much Walt and DH custom for your kind words and advice, it has really been a great help. I'm gonna go get to work on the front and backstrap.

Thanks again!

Ryan

CZguy
March 16, 2013, 10:32 PM
Thank you so much Walt and DH custom for your kind words and advice, it has really been a great help. I'm gonna go get to work on the front and backstrap.

I look forward to seeing the photos when you're done. You do nice work.

ryan3465
March 17, 2013, 04:38 PM
Hello again!

Here is the backstrap fully degreased and cleaned prior to bluing
181506
And after multiple oxpho blue applications and polishing:
181507
And the front strap
181508
181509
Again, thank you all for your kind words of encouragement & advice!

-Ryan

Walt Sherrill
March 17, 2013, 05:06 PM
Nicely done.

CZguy
March 18, 2013, 01:11 AM
If it were mine I wouldn't do anything else. I'd just shoot it, and enjoy it. Good job.

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