Smith & Wesson Bluing Old vs NEW

I think the best bluing I've seen on handguns was that applied to Colt revolvers made from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Some of the Winchester 1897 shotguns (especially later production models) had spectacular bluing, which is amazing, taking into account that they were thought of as utilitarian guns.

Unfortunately I don't have examples of either to show here.
Colt Government Models from between the Wars have a nice soft glow, not the hard bright mirror polish of Royal Blue.
That's what I like about carbona bluing. Due to the nature of the process, it will only have a soft brushed luster. On some guns it just looks right.



Where I think the bright polished hot salt blue of the Colt SAA looks out of place, along with the white-sided hammer.

a bit off topic There's a company out there called Standard Manufacturing that sells a 1911 in a blue that's the equal of my 70s colt royal. (in fact I think it's a little nicer) Just bought one and I'm blown away by the blue.


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S&W hasn't done the same bluing they once did about 25 years ago, but they're still not bad. I haven't owned any later than 1986 as the old blued guns just appeal to me more. Those beautiful deep, dark, high finish blued S&W are just gorgeous!
But even back in their glory years not all were that high gloss finish. My .38/44 Outdoorsman is like new in the box from around 1950, and isn't the high polish that my 1982 S&W Model 25 is.



Model 25
I agree with CraigC that a finish is only as good as the finish of what it is applied to and that doesn't mean just guns. Polishing metal is a skilled job and takes time, something lots of companies aren't going to spend money on. Most buyers seem interested in either stainless or nitrided guns now. Get it assembled, stuck in a box, and out the door seems to the business process today.

My LGS had a new Smith 357 in his counter and it may still be there as I haven't gone to the effort it would take to go there for some time. The blue looked very good but was lower quality than that on my 50 year old Model 19, the only Smith revolver I still own.
I can testify that the bluing on recent S&W guns is definitely weaker than on older guns. I've had a couple of modern blued Smiths -- a 29-8 and a "Smith & Walther" PPK. Full disclosure, my hands seem to be somewhat acidic and this can affect metal finishes. Within a month, the backstrap on that 29-8 and the frontstrap on the PPK were turned an ugly mottled gray, with all trace of pre-existing finish gone. I have several older blued Smiths (as well as blued firearms from other makers) and none of them exhibit the kind of finish wear those two handguns showed, even with similar handling.
I suspect I am one of the few that sort of likes my blueing with a dull flat finish and hopefully thin in spots from use.
See post 21, both have honest wear. But both are still nice revolvers.

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The 1905 1st change made in '06 has some of the nicest bluing on any gun I own. The 25-5 is also extremely nice in my opinion. The 25 was made in 1979 and is the newest Smith revolver that I own. Anything newer I can't comment on. They don't interest me anyway. 1000013483.jpg 1000013484.jpg 1000013485.jpg 1000013486.jpg 1000013487.jpg
Indeed. It is all about the polish.
The most highly polished bluing I've ever seen was on a $4k Henry anniversary rifle built in 2023. It looked like charcoal chrome.
The best bluing I have on a gun isn't any of my old Colts or S&W's, its on a revolver made by an obscure company in the 1970's that went out of business trying to compete by delivering Ruger priced guns with Colt Royal Blue quality finish.

Uberti does a very good job on their guns for what they cost. However, if you look closely, you can see the fine lines in the finish of this Flat-top Target. That is the difference between a good bluing job and a fabulous bluing job, as seen on the USFA below.

The USFA is simply taken to a much higher level of polish. If it was the process that was lacking, it wouldn't shine like a black mirror.

Or this Standard, which I don't think is as well done as the USFA but it's better than any of the other guns currently on the market.
I think Uberti and Pieta do a really nice finish for what the guns cost, and it's a better finish than what was on the originals they copy. Most people who buy a reproduction don't expect a collector-grade finish, they're going to beat them up in Cowboy Action or using them for range toys and gopher shooting. I plan to take good care of my Uberti 1873 and Taylor's 1875, but I could probably buy three of either one for what one of the USFA or Standard guns cost. You generally get what you pay for, which is another reason old S&W's in good condition cost more than the new versions.

You sink into these finishes like diving into the ocean.
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You generally get what you pay for, which is another reason old S&W's in good condition cost more than the new versions.

You sink into these finishes like diving into the ocean.
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Yes, very pretty. But those finishes don't make those guns shoot one dang bit better
than a modern S&W stainless model. As "heirlooms," fine. As tools, no better and
perhaps a bit worse than the newest iterations.

I'm a big fan of the Combat Masterpiece, the Model 15, and have collected them for
years. But I wouldn't dare claim they'll outshoot a modern Model 66 or Model 686.
But they sure are pretty.
A few from my rather motley collection of Smith and Wesson revolvers. They've never had the same finish apparently.

A pair from the post war years, early 50's. I have one older, but it's been refinished.


From the middle 60's.




2014 Newest one I have.


They're all nice looking I think, but none of them look the same. Over 50? 60? 70? years, things change. People change, methoids change, chemicals change. I made Kevlar for 32 years. We didn't make Kevlar the same way in 2008 when I left as we did in 1976 when I started.