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Factory Refinish

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by highpower, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. highpower

    highpower Well-Known Member

    The thread on refinishing the Model 10 that HKGuns started has me pondering a question about the effect of factory refinishing on the value of a firearm.

    Let me start off my saying that I believe in leaving a firearm alone and avoid refinishing if at all possible. However, there are times where a guns original finish or general condition would warrant a cosmetic upgrade.

    I was wondering why there is so much stigma on having a gun redone if it is done by the factory that made it in the first place. On the Colt forum you will see now and again someone has sent their Python back to the factory due to extreme finish wear and they come back looking absolutely new. I really haven't seen any good pictures of a gun that was redone by S&W recently so I can't say how their refinishes come out now, but the ones that I have seen that were done in years gone by looked as though they hadn't been refinished at all.

    In fact the only way that it could be discerned that they had been refinished was the rework mark that Smith puts on the inside of the grip frame.

    I agree that you are always taking a chance with a non-factory refinish as I have seen some guns that were just ruined by incompetent work. I have a Colt New Service that was refinished many years ago that was apparently a fairly rusty gun as you can see very fine pitting under the "new" bluing. The good part of what was done to it is that is wasn't buffed to death and all the corners are sharp and the roll marks are still crisp. Also the screws remain un-buggered up. Of course, if it had been a perfect gun, I would have had to pay a lot more than I did for it.


    Now to my current dilemma: I recently bought a 1959 vintage Model 29 Smith and Wesson with a 4" barrel that has a ton of holster wear. Cosmetically it looks bad, but the mechanics are great with no end shake and it locks up tight. I have an original set of grips ready to install on it, but quite frankly they are in much better condition than the rest of the gun. I bought it cheap enough that if I was to send it back to the factory I believe it would still be worth more than what I have in it. Regardless of whether I refinish it or not I intend to shoot it but it really isn't intended to be a carry gun as I have others that fill that role.


    So the question is, How much does a factory refinish effect the value? I understand that certain guns are just too valuable to refinish and should at all cost be left alone (think early Colt single actions), However, if a particular gun is below a certain level of original finish would a factory refinish really kill the value of it?

    Your thoughts and comments appreciated.
  2. pendennis

    pendennis Well-Known Member

    Ultimately, it's the owner's choice, since it boils down to collecting or "amassing".

    If you want a firearm that remains a "shooter" grade, and you're aware of what refinishing does to the value, then have the firearm refinished. It's your property, and no one else needs to decide for you.

    Collectors always bemoan anything done to the firearm after it left the factory; even replacing the stocks.

    Colt, Ruger, S&W, et al, are all in the firearms manufacturing business. As such, they produce tools, and very little in collectibles.

    As long as you're aware of what happens to the value, don't sweat it.

    The Colt New Service, to most anyone who knows about revolvers, is obviously a shooter grade revolver. But, look at it this way; someone saved it from the scrap heap some years ago, and now you're getting the benefit of a well-built revolver with cosmetic issues. Enjoy it and shoot it to your heart's content.

    As to the Model 29 you show, it probably will never be a collectible. The stocks you have on it are replacements. The originals would have been "Cokes". The finish is not all that bad. Perhaps a bit of cleaning with Mothers Mag Polish, and some good wax, will help the finish. What you've demonstrated is a gun with honest 53-year-old wear. The gun has character.

    If you send it back to S&W, the bluing they use today will not match the bluing originally applied. It will appear almost black. That's just the nature of the modern bluing process at S&W.

    Were it my revolver, I wouldn't do anything to it, except clean it up, and try to find a set of "Cokes" for it. Barring location of them, I'd put a set of Ahrends Retros on it, and blast away. My smallish hands can't abide the large S&W targets.
  3. mmitch

    mmitch Well-Known Member


    I collect no-longer-made Smiths and Colts, and I always buy the highest condition gun I can find/afford. Generally, I opine any refinish diminishes collector value, but have learned that a factory refinish with appropriate stamping, somewhat mitigates any diminished value to collectors.
    I have yet to encounter a Registered Magnum that is within my budget, but, should I do so, it would be a situation where I would never consider a refinish. First, I would not pay large money for an RM (or any gun) that was cosmetically challenged to-the-point where it would "affect my delicate sensibilities." And, second, in the case of buying an historically significant gun, I consider any finish wear as part of the weapon's character and history.
    Specifically, in the case of your 29, were it my gun, and I felt the need to refinish, I would let the folks in Springfield do the work. If I was going to carry this gun, I would leave it "in situ."

  4. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Well-Known Member

    I am all for a factory refinish on well worn guns if it makes the owner happy. They just need to realize the money they spent usually doesn't increase the value much, if any at all.
  5. highpower

    highpower Well-Known Member

    I have a set of the original stocks. Years ago I bought a Smith 1917 that had them on it. Took them off to install a correct set for '17 and they have been sitting in my grip drawer for twenty years. I think they may be worth more than the 29.
  6. bluethunder1962

    bluethunder1962 Well-Known Member

    Most of it is are you going to keep the gun. If you are then who cares about the value of it. That is a cool gun. I would love to have it. Does it shoot good with that short barrel? I have a 44 mag s&w alloy. I can't shoot mags in it it just ripps my skin open. If yours is fun to shoot I might look for one like it.
  7. highpower

    highpower Well-Known Member

    The recoil is stout with 240grn factory .44mag ammo and the muzzle blast is fierce. It is not a gun to shoot full house loads in all day. However, it is quite manageable and accurate with .44 special level ammo and in fact, that is what I primarily shoot through it.

    If you want to shoot heavy loads, a longer barrel/heavier gun would be much more pleasant.
  8. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Firstly, I do not understand the obsession with resale value, at all. Firearms are the only consumer product that we buy that we expect to use for 50yrs and not lose any money on. In some cases it's true but it should not dictate our lives. Using something should cost money. Spending a little money for a lifetime of enjoyment should not be such a terrible thing. So I do not understand or agree with the idea that resale and/or collector value should dictate how we treat our guns or influence what we do with them.

    That said, I the affect refinishing has on a firearm's value is ONLY dependent upon how well it was done. Not who it was that performed it. To say that a S&W refinish is better than one done by Doug Turnbull, simply because S&W is the original manufacturer, is foolish to the highest degree. There are just too many variables for there to be very many hard & fast rules on the subject.

    IMHO, if you have a firearm that you would be more satisfied with were it professionally refinished and you are comfortable with spending the money, go for it. Personally, I would use Ford's or Accurate Plating before sending one to S&W. Yes, they are the original manufacturer but they don't produce any more sixguns finished like those of 30yrs ago so why would we assume they know how to refinish one??? Would you send a blackpowder era Colt, Winchester or Marlin to the manufacturer for restoration or would you be better off sending it to a shop like Turnbull's?
  9. bluethunder1962

    bluethunder1962 Well-Known Member

    Thanks highpower. That is what I thought. I don't have anything against the long barrel guns but I only buy guns I can carry. That gun looks so cool also. It WOULD be beautiful re finished. If you do it post some pictures.
  10. just for fun

    just for fun Well-Known Member

    When I saw that jewel my very first thoghts were, "Man I sure would love to put some of my 44 Special Loads through that!" 240 LSWC and some VV340. My 629 LOVE's em. You found what the rest of us is looking for!
  11. Jaymo

    Jaymo Well-Known Member

    I don't like an ugly scratched up finish on a gun any more than I like it on a car.
    I like for my guns to look good. I like my cars to look good.
    I don't have any reservations about getting my guns or my cars professionally refinished.
    Original finish is important for collector value, but not for shooter value.

    I may even send my new .44 special blackhawk out for a high polish blue. The factory matte blue is ugly and cheap. Shame on Ruger for putting that crap on a gun and charging that much for it.
  12. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    $450 is a bargain for a new Ruger .44Spl. I don't like the brushed finish bluing either and would pay extra for a bright polish but can't argue with the price. Of course, this comes from spending three times that much to have one built. ;)
  13. oldbear

    oldbear Well-Known Member

    Any refinish will lower the collectors value on any quality firearm. A factory refinish will not lower the value as much.

    As all of my revolvers are working tools I kinda like them to show a LITTLE ware, not so much they look beat. yet enough to show they are working guns not just show girls.
  14. harvester

    harvester Well-Known Member

    As strange as it may at first sound collectors place a high value on the percent of original finish remaining on a handgun. When refinished the percentage remaining is zero so the value hits rock bottom. For a shooter handgun like that New Service it is hard to tell but it looked like it was pretty bad and may be better now. As far as value you almost always loose money on a refinish of a handgun. I like shooters too and that New Service looks like a dandy, I would leave the Smith and Wesson alone since as a shooter it is fine and will not gain in value if refinished.
  15. SGW42

    SGW42 Well-Known Member

    I sent my gun back to S&W for a refinish, and glad I did. The wear on my example was not honest, it was not a collectable, I didn't want to sell it, and I wanted to shoot it. After the refinish, I have much more pride in it. They did a terrific job. The roll marks were dulled a little (or worn off and replaced), but otherwise, looks like a new gun.
  16. highpower

    highpower Well-Known Member

    It is something of a dilemma for me as I like my guns to be nice, but they do not have to be pristine. The New Service is perfect as a woods carry gun as it shoots a fairly powerful round and I know that short of throwing it off a cliff, I really can't hurt it cosmetically.

    The model 29 is definitely not going to be a safe queen and while I am going to shoot it, I do not intend for it to be a carry gun. I am not going to ever sell it, so the argument that it will not be worth as much as the refinish will cost is a moot point for me. Besides I bought it so reasonably, I don't think I would be upside down even if I did pay top dollar for a refinish. Also, if value alone is being considered, most collectors would turn their nose up at it anyway due the the amount of finish wear it currently has.

    My question still remains: If the same factory/company that made the firearm does the refinish to the same standards that it came with originally, why does that hurt the value?
    And as a corollary to that question: Just how much does it lesson the value over, say an 85% gun?

    I realize that the answer to that question is due to the very subjective nature of the whole value of a particular gun thing. I would think that in the case of a badly deteriorated, but otherwise valuable, firearm that a quality restoration would be a good thing.
  17. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Well-Known Member


    Where can I find some factory refinished Pythons priced at the lowest blue book value? I would like a dozen.
  18. BSA1

    BSA1 Well-Known Member

    Based on the comments I have read on various forums;

    1. All old guns are collectable.

    2. Refinishing a old gun destroys it's use and any value it has if you try to resale it.

    3. All old guns are worth more regardless of how poor of condition they are in.

    4. Leaving your old as described in #3 shows "character" whatever the heck that means. I have seen it commonly used with describing well used pocket knives that have little value.

    5. No matter how much or how little you have invested in your gun there is ALWAYS a better deal out there and you are foolish to spend any money on your gun.

    6. Ask all of the naysayers how much more they will give you for not refinishing your roscoe.

    7. All of that said I agree that you should be very careful who you pick to reblue/refinish your gun. Overbuffing will ruin the appearance of it. This is one area where the lowest price is probably the worse choice.
  19. HKGuns

    HKGuns Well-Known Member

    I'm firmly in the camp of it is YOUR pistol, do what YOU want to it and ignore advice from any and all well intentioned passers by.......

    Folks don't bat an eye sending their auto's to have them NP3'd, hard chromed or any of the other available finishes applied. Those finishes don't appear to affect their value a whole heck of a lot. In fact, in some cases the sellers actually get more for them than they would with the original finish.

    Hard for me to understand why revolvers would be "that" different. But I'm very new to the revolver world, so what do I know.....

    But I don't ask for or take advice very often and spend my money how I want.
  20. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    That's what's important and 'should' trump "collector value". A term which is often thrown around without so much as a clue as to what it really means.

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