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Defarbing

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by AlexanderA, Nov 13, 2016.

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  1. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    I have to vent about the process of "defarbing" reproduction black powder weapons.

    "Farb" is a word that describes someone or something as unauthentic or anachronistic. This is considered an insult among hardcore historical reenactors. Depending on whom you ask, the word comes either from the German "farben" ("colors") or the phrase "far be it from me" (to criticize someone's impression). The height of farbism was during the Civil War centennial in the 1960's, when Sears work clothes in blue or gray would suffice for uniforms, and Trapdoor Springfields were considered more acceptable than Garands (which were sometimes also used). Finally, the first reproduction percussion rifles appeared on the scene -- but these were Remington Zouaves, weapons that were produced, but never issued, during the Civil War.

    Today, we have a plethora of reproductions of Civil War (and other historical) weapons. Not content with this, hardcore reenactors and history buffs are paying good money to have their reproductions "defarbed," that is, having the modern Italian markings removed and other, supposedly more "authentic," markings stamped in their place.

    As a collector, this practice bothers me greatly. First, the whole idea is silly. No spectator at a reenactment is going to see the Italian markings unless he comes within a foot of the weapon. And the reenactor himself already knows it's a reproduction. What's the point?

    Second, this opens the door to faking. Some reproduction guns are going to be passed off as originals, if not now, then maybe years from now. But to be honest, this one doesn't worry me too much. A collector familiar with the originals is unlikely to be fooled, since the reproductions tend to diverge from the originals in their details. (Beginning collectors might be fooled.)

    The third objection worries me the most. Reproduction guns are going to become collectible in themselves. Already the prices of some of these guns, new, rival the prices of originals. Some reproductions are already rare, having been discontinued years ago. Examples are the Civil War muskets made by the Japanese firm Miroku, which are considered to be the most authentic of the Civil War reproductions, and command a premium when found.

    Defarbing destroys valuable information. Knowing the specific maker is important. The best of the 1841 Mississippi rifles repros are considered to have been made by Antonio Zoli. If his name is ground off in the process of defarbing, how is an owner or purchaser to know that Zoli made the gun? It would take an unusual level of expertise.

    I have one or two reproductions that were defarbed by gunsmith John Zimmerman of Harpers Ferry, WV, who is considered to be one of the best in the business. It drives me crazy not to know who the actual maker was!

    So, if you are considering having your reproduction "defarbed," I beg you to reconsider! Doing this to guns will be considered, years in the future, to be equivalent to the butchering of military surplus guns in the 1950's and 60's, to turn them into sporters. (It seemed a good idea at the time.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2016
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  2. expat_alaska

    expat_alaska Member

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    @AlexanderA :

    I totally agree with your entire post. I am but a speck in the BP universe, and I know others highly disagree with this.

    As to your comment about repro guns are going to become collectible in themselves, they already are recently, not to mention any or all of the previous Italian manufacturers/importers since Val Forgett pretty much started it all in the late 50's.

    To wit, Pietta has eliminated the "tail" gripframe (I have only one) profile from all of their 1851 Navy frame configuration pistols commencing with the 2015 [CN] model year and on.

    Since Pietta has used CNC production since ~2000, how is one to authenticate a factory model from a non-model such as I have done? The parts are very interchangeable, to a large degree. I have done so without using any tools:

    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/pietta-1851-navy-36-and-confederate-cousins.812119/

    Dr. Jim L. Davis started this many years ago, and as he is reported to be in poor health, I hope someone else will be able to take the reins if he is not able to continue.

    http://rprca.tripod.com/

    I feel you are going to hear it from the "defarb" advocates.

    Jim
     
  3. Ephraim Kibbey

    Ephraim Kibbey Member

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    As a collector, I agree with both of you.

    I recently saw two ASM revolvers (1851 & 1860) with Colt barrel addresses on GB and my heart leapt for joy only to read in the descriptions that they were both Zimmerman defarbs.

    I contacted the seller and tried to discover if Zimmerman had started with already addressed ASM's or had added the addresses on his own.

    The seller did not know what had been removed nor did they know what had been added.

    I don't know whether to grieve the loss of two rare Colt addressed ASM's or not!
     
  4. jeepnik

    jeepnik Member

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    I can understand wanting authenticity if one is a collector of died in the wool reenactor. But I suspect most, like me, that own BP firearms fall into the, I use them for fun, category. I don't really care about absolute period correctness. Heck, my favorite BP revolver is a Pietta 3" 1860 Colt Army. I'm pretty sure those weren't ever made by Colt. Still with a butt stock attached it's more fun than should be legal.:)

    HANDGUNS12-31-07-0003.jpg
     
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  5. expat_alaska

    expat_alaska Member

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    I agree, and I don't think anyone is going to think (hopefully) that your pistol was an original. A bit of study is all it will take, if the observer has any brains. I like the shoulder stock (wish I had one for my 1851 variations: maybe some day).

    @ek

    "I recently saw two ASM revolvers (1851 & 1860) with Colt barrel addresses on GB and my heart leapt for joy only to read in the descriptions that they were both Zimmerman defarbs."

    AFAIK, ASM did not do correct barrel addresses.

    @ek

    "The seller did not know what had been removed nor did they know what had been added."

    This my problem with refarbs. There are not enough sellers/buyers educated enough like the great old folks on this forum (or others) to know the difference between originals and fakes. Therein lies the problem with the uneducated newbies, and they may be taken for an expensive ride, for nought.

    They need to peruse these forums for knowledge (not from me) from many other folks who have been there and done that.

    Jim
     
  6. jmar

    jmar Member

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    People are paying big money for defarbs? I could only get $150 for my few month old Remington NMA... Asking someone why they defarb is like asking someone why they case harden, or re-blue, puts grips on, engrave etc. Because they want the gun to look nice. Piettas markings are horrendous.
     
  7. Panzerschwein

    Panzerschwein member

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    Defarbing gets one closer to history when you can't afford the real deal, or don't want to harm a 150 year old musket by plinking or hunting with it.
     
  8. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    I guess my biggest problem is with the removal of the manufacturer's information in the process of defarbing. IMO, that information should never be removed. Zimmerman's standard procedure in defarbing muskets is to restamp the serial number on the bottom of the barrel, where it is not visible, but he eradicates the maker's marks and the proof marks completely. Unless you know the quirks of the individual factories, you have no idea where it was made. For example, I have a Brown Bess repro with the lock marked "Grice 1762." That's a dead giveaway that the gun was made by Pedersoli, in Italy, although the gun doesn't have the name "Pedersoli," or "Italy," anywhere on it. (I suppose it was defarbed, at some point.)

    The guns of the same factory tend to evolve over the years, and that it itself makes an interesting subject for collection. The proof marks can tell you the year in which the gun was made.

    I'm perfectly OK with things such as replacing ramrods with more authentic ones, etc. I recently did just that with a Euroarms Harpers Ferry rifle. I even went so far as to replace the locks in two Pedersoli percussion Harpers Ferry pistols with flint locks by the same maker. In all these cases, however, the provenance was preserved.
     
  9. Crawdad1

    Crawdad1 Member

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    I see your point but both Zimmerman and Gary do a beautiful job on those defarbed guns especially the revolvers.

    You can always buy a Second or Third Generation Colt.
     
  10. Malachi Leviticus Blue

    Malachi Leviticus Blue Member

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    Defarbing obviously does add value for some folks, otherwise they wouldn't pay to have it done or put in the effort to do it themselves. I don't begrudge anyone the right to modify, correct, fit, embellish, etc however they see fit that makes them happy. I for one, am not worried about how enjoying my guns (or anything else for that matter) will affect the resale value. I'm most concerned with its value to me. So if I wanted a defarbed revolver for example, I would consider enjoying it for years to be more valuable than whatever resale value may or may not be lost.

    Theoretically, shooting them reduces their resale value as well, but I don't think there are too many folks here that are going to lobby too hard against that.

    Enjoy them, even if that means shooting, chopping, Defarbing, converting, antiquing, whatever. Even if you just want to wipe it down and look at it.
     
  11. TheSquire

    TheSquire Member

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    My only worry is that by de-farbing there is the potential for some fraudulent dealing down the line. Personally I can't see the point.
    I have lots of mates who like the whole western re-enactment scene and even in that grouping there are the extremes, one such group are often mockingly referred to as 'stitch counters' as they don't like any machine made clothing, only the hand made variety is acceptable.

    Each to their own ...
     
  12. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    I'm probably in the camp that says it's your gun do whatever you want to it. But at the same time I have concerns that down the road somewhere that defarbed gun gets foisted on some unsuspecting collector as the real thing.
     
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  13. LonesomePigeon

    LonesomePigeon Member

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    I am not against defarbing but if I ever did it I am the type of person that would want to make a record of the original markings. Either with a letter or photos. Or what would be really cool would be a metal badge, the font would not have to be the same as long as it contained the original information: Maker/Importer, Datecode and Serial Number.
     
  14. TheSquire

    TheSquire Member

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    I am fairly certain that this action would be illegal over here. All guns need to have proof marks and serial numbers at least.
     
  15. LoneGoose

    LoneGoose Member

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    Well, as far as I know, it is illegal to remove or deface the manufacturer's name, importer's name, model name, logo, and caliber. Someone had a BATFE quote posted a while back.
     
  16. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I don't think marking regulations apply to muzzleloaders.

    But I have seen one case of fraud for sure and another that was either fraud or ignorance. Too fine a line.

    On the other hand, I would want to refinish in something more authentic than hot blue for reenactments, even though I would not remove markings.
     
  17. Malachi Leviticus Blue

    Malachi Leviticus Blue Member

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    You are correct Sir, there is an exception that I can't quote right now since I'm out in the woods with limited resources
     
  18. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    The problem, in my opinion, is not so much fraud by people, as ignorance that a gun was "defarbed" especially a generation or two removed.
     
  19. 44 Dave

    44 Dave Member

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    Defarbed, what about all of those metric threads !!
     
  20. Woodlander

    Woodlander Member

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    Over here, they also have to have the maker's mark and year of making.
     
  21. Crawdad1

    Crawdad1 Member

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    According to § 478.34 Removed, obliterated, or altered serial number.

    No person shall knowingly transport, ship, or receive in interstate or foreign commerce any firearm which has had the importer's or manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, or altered, or possess or receive any firearm which has had the importer's or manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, or altered and has, at any time, been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

    The term 'Firearm' is also defined under ATF rules that does not apply to primitive weapons plus the above only applies to the serial number.
     
  22. Crawdad1

    Crawdad1 Member

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    But all in all I like defarbing as they take those hideous looking markings off the barrel. You just have to be careful when someone is offering a gun for sale that isn't what it appears to be.
     
  23. shunka

    shunka Member

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    Removing ugliness ( such as the Ruger Legal Contract) is a good thing, and not necessarily defarbing.

    But It is my opinion, that an honest "defarber" will mark the piece permanently so as to make the effort
    absolutely clear , in an unobtrusive place, such as under the grips, or loading lever, or under the stock, etc.

    To do otherwise is to create a forgery (even if unintentionally), no matter what the stated intent may be.
    If not passed off as "original" initially, it is inevitable that it will be passed off as "original" somewhere down the road
    by a less honest owner. I for one, modify stuff all the time , but am not willing to facilitate a later con artist.

    I will go even further and state that I feel that the sale of the original "cartouche" stamps some years ago was a major mistake.
    If the desire was to preserve history, they should have been placed in a bona-fide museum; instead all that was done
    was to facilitate the forgery racket.

    yhs
    shunka
     
  24. Crawdad1

    Crawdad1 Member

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    An 'honest defarber ' will state in the description of the firearm at the time of sell, only at sell would it matter if it was defarbed or not, that this firearm was originally made by so and so and was defarbed of all markings.
     
  25. Ephraim Kibbey

    Ephraim Kibbey Member

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    Shunka - I somehow missed the original cartouche sale - can you elaborate?
     
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