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Thread: History of gun bluing

  1. #1
    Boolit Master



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    History of gun bluing

    While looking at older antique guns, I noticed that they are not blued. Is this because the bluing has worn off or was it not used before a certain date?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master

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    A lot of the early military muzzleloaders were left in the white and the soliders were expected to care for accordingly. Sporting arms were normally finished in some matter for protection and looks. Some of these the finish has been worn off of thru handling age and use. Look in the tight areas corners in stampings cuts finish may still show traces in these areas do to lack of rubbing and such. Platings, bluing, browning, Parkerizing, and now the high tech coatings have all been used or being used

  3. #3
    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    Protective coatings for steel have been around for centuries.

    Early guns were either left in the white to save time/money, cold or nitre blued, or browned (plum browning) for corrosion resistance.

    Hot bluing uses the same process as browning, with the exception of immersing the steel after carding in boiling water for bluing.

    Rust bluing to protect steel came after the earlier cold bluing processes, and was originally used by gunsmiths in the 19th century to blue firearms prior to the development of hot bluing processes.

    So, to answer your question, what we know today as "bluing" is a hot blue, and was developed about 200 years ago (+/-).

    IMO, it's Hobson's choice as to whether or not a 18th or 19th Century was coated with one of the process' or left in the white.

    The above suggestion for checking hidden areas for remaining traces of corrosion protection is the best method to determine if a firearm has ever had such a coating.



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  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    Bluing is something that evolved. Browning is a much older process. The difference is the result of the chemicals that are used, but both are the results of a rusting process. Kind of hard to believe, isn't it; but bluing is just an eye appealing form of rust or oxidation. In the category of bluing there are three basic processes. The oldest would likely be Rust Bluing which involves application of a chemical and placing the parts in a humidity cabinet, carding off the resulting red rust leaving a blue surface, and often requires several cycles to achieve a good result, but it is very durable. Another method is the application of chemicals to the surface known as Cold Bluing. It is most commonly used for small parts, and results vary greatly with the brand of chemical and technique of application, and some folks are quite adept at doing entire guns with it and getting good results. In general, though, it is the least durable. The most common method is Hot Bluing, which uses hot caustic salts for an immersion bath, and the durability falls between the other two methods. The end result has a great deal to do with the preparation of the gun before bluing, i.e. the polishing and degreasing.

    We're seeing less and less Cold and Hot bluing today as it is being replaced with coatings. Parkerizing is an early example where something is added to the surface of the metal rather than rusting. Most of the blue jobs that we see today tend to be matte finishes, in some cases intentional to reduce reflection, but often an effort to cheapen production costs due to cutting the preparation time. There are now many do-it-yourself spray coatings on the market that offer protection of the metal superior to bluing, but to me there is nothing as attractive as a properly done bluing job. But, "different strokes for different folks", as they say. Which do you prefer?
    Attachment 229488Attachment 229489Attachment 229490Attachment 229491
    Click to enlarge.
    A reblued Argie 1927, Parkerized Colt 1991, Aluma-Hyde II finished Star Mod. B, Stainless -- another option.

    The primary purpose of bluing is rust prevention, the theory being that if the surface is pre-rusted it is protected against new, unwanted rust. In actual practice bluing is the least effective protection, as lacking good maintenance rust will attach at any scratch or rub where the blued surface has been
    damaged. Parkerizing is better from a wear standpoint, but will rust with neglect. Paint is just that-- paint. Probably a better choice where high humidity is involved. I applied Aluma-Hyde II to this pistol in 2014 along with the addition of stainless grip screws, and the finish has stood up well, but it is not the most attractive pistol. I frequently carry it in a slide-type inside the waist band holster and it seemed to attract rust. No longer a problem. Lastly, something that's only been available for about 50 years, a pistol made from stainless steel. If you like the color, either shiny or matt, then it's the way to go if rust is a consideration.

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    Blueing and bright were the earliest forms of metal finish for firearms. In this country, early firearms were generally rust blued or left in the bright, both of which eventually go brown through use. Browning didn't become popular until the Golden Age. Believe it or not, the Indians were the biggest customers for firearms in our early years. They demanded bright blue barrels, which I suspect was niter blued. Not durable, but attractive to the eye.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master



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    I just bought an old cap and ball pistol. It has quite a bit of rust on it and don’t know if it can even be fired. It was kind of a pig on a poke deal. I don’t have it yet, but if nothing else it will look good over the fireplace.

    There are no names or numbers on it, but since it is not a flintlock, I don’t think it can be that old. I’ve considered that cleaning it up (restoring it) might reduce it’s value, but in this case, I believe it will only increase it.

    So my question is how to approach it and what final finish I would put on it. Is there any harm in starting with something like Naval jelly. Would that have any effect on the final finish? Also what finish would be best, if I can’t remove all of the pitting? I would prefer to blue it, but maybe a browning type would be better.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    When you get the pistol please post some detailed photos, and it will be much easier to give sound advice on how best to proceed.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master



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    OK, I will but it will be at least a week before I get it.

    Thanks

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    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregLaROCHE View Post

    I just bought an old cap and ball pistol.

    There are no names or numbers on it, but since it is not a flintlock, I don’t think it can be that old.

    C&B pistols were first made commercially available in 1836, then went out of favor when centerfire metallic cartridges became available about 1873.

    C&B replica pistols were made commercially available from the mid-1950's to the present.

    Most of the 1836-1873 C&B revolvers were proudly marked with their maker's name and/or address - some US Civil War revolvers were not marked, as well as many early replica C&B revolvers.

    The proper finish IMO would be a blued barrel & cylinder, a CCH or blued cylinder frame, and a brass or blued gripframe.

    If it were mine, I would strip the finish (naval jelly, vinegar, etc) and age/patina/distress (google the process) the gun, especially for a display piece.

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  10. #10
    Boolit Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by pietro View Post
    C&B pistols were first made commercially available in 1836, then went out of favor when centerfire metallic cartridges became available about 1873.

    C&B replica pistols were made commercially available from the mid-1950's to the present.

    Most of the 1836-1873 C&B revolvers were proudly marked with their maker's name and/or address - some US Civil War revolvers were not marked, as well as many early replica C&B revolvers.

    The proper finish IMO would be a blued barrel & cylinder, a CCH or blued cylinder frame, and a brass or blued gripframe.

    If it were mine, I would strip the finish (naval jelly, vinegar, etc) and age/patina/distress (google the process) the gun, especially for a display piece.

    .
    Thanks for the the info on the dates when they were manufactured. I hope I described it correctly, calling it a cap and ball pistol. It’s not a revolver, but a muzzle loader with a cap to ignite the powder. Don’t know if that makes a difference. Also it was probably manufactured in Europe.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregLaROCHE View Post

    I hope I described it correctly, calling it a cap and ball pistol.

    It’s not a revolver, but a muzzle loader with a cap to ignite the powder. Don’t know if that makes a difference.

    Also it was probably manufactured in Europe.


    It makes all the difference in the world.


    "Cap & Ball" (pistol) is the commonly used reference for black powder revolvers that load the chambers from the cylinder's front via a pivoting loading lever and capping the nipples at the rear of the cylinder.

    Single-shot muzzleloading pistols have side-mounted gun locks (aka: sidelock) that can be ignited via either a percussion cap on a nipple like the C&B revolvers have, or a flint (lock).

    Most single-shot muzzleloading pistols have a moniker to be able to describe them better than just "muzzleloading pistol".

    The proper finishes for a single-shot muzzleloading pistol's lock & barrel would be either plum browning or left "in-the-white" - some few locks were color case-hardened (aka: CCH/ case colors)

    Wooden stocks were generally finished non-glossy with boiled linseed oil (BLO).

    The metal stock furniture (buttcap, ramrod ferrule, forend nosecap, barrel wedge escutcheon plates, etc) can be made of either browned/white iron/steel or brass.



    FWIW:

    Europe has long had laws that applied to ALL firearms, including muzzleloaders, which require that each firearm be "proved" (as safe to fire) in a government proof house, and duly stamped to that effect.

    While there are probably some BP firearms that aren't stamped with proofmarks, many that have them are stamped in hidden areas - like on the bottom of the barrel of single-shot pistols, where they will be covered by the stock, or on the side of the gripframe of revolvers where the grips will cover them.

    The proofmarks can determine who made the firearm & where/when it was made.


    It can be profitable to remember that a picture can be worth a thousand words.



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    Last edited by pietro; 10-29-2018 at 03:20 PM.
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by pietro View Post
    It makes all the difference in the world.


    "Cap & Ball" (pistol) is the commonly used reference for black powder revolvers that load the chambers from the cylinder's front via a pivoting loading lever and capping the nipples at the rear of the cylinder.

    Single-shot muzzleloading pistols have side-mounted gun locks (aka: sidelock) that can be ignited via either a percussion cap on a nipple like the C&B revolvers have, or a flint (lock).

    Most single-shot muzzleloading pistols have a moniker to be able to describe them better than just "muzzleloading pistol".

    The proper finishes for a single-shot muzzleloading pistol's lock & barrel would be either plum browning or left "in-the-white" - some few locks were color case-hardened (aka: CCH/ case colors)

    Wooden stocks were generally finished non-glossy with boiled linseed oil (BLO).

    The metal stock furniture (buttcap, ramrod ferrule, forend nosecap, barrel wedge escutcheon plates, etc) can be made of either browned/white iron/steel or brass.



    FWIW:

    Europe has long had laws that applied to ALL firearms, including muzzleloaders, which require that each firearm be "proved" (as safe to fire) in a government proof house, and duly stamped to that effect.

    While there are probably some BP firearms that aren't stamped with proofmarks, many that have them are stamped in hidden areas - like on the bottom of the barrel of single-shot pistols, where they will be covered by the stock, or on the side of the gripframe of revolvers where the grips will cover them.

    The proofmarks can determine who made the firearm & where/when it was made.


    It can be profitable to remember that a picture can be worth a thousand words.
    .
    Thanks for correcting me on the terminology. This is the first handgun I’ve owned that isn’t a modern revolver. In researching today, I saw it referred to as a cap lock pistol . I just bought it online, so I won’t have it for a week or so. When it arrives, I will look for the proof mark(s). I hope I will be able to disassemble it right away. It may have to sit awhile with penetrating on it, before I can loosen the screws. I will be sure to post some pictures when I get it.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    AFAIK, the only time most screws need to come out is if/when removing the TG and/or lockplate.

    Most caplock pistols take down quickly via removing the upper tang screw and then tapping out the forend's barrel wedge/key to release the barrel for removal by rotating it upwards at the muzzle.

    If it happens to have a patent breech, then only the barrel wedge/key needs to be removed.

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    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pietro View Post
    .

    Hot bluing uses the same process as browning, with the exception of immersing the steel after carding in boiling water for bluing.

    Rust bluing to protect steel came after the earlier cold bluing processes, and was originally used by gunsmiths in the 19th century to blue firearms prior to the development of hot bluing processes.
    Not quite correct. Hot bluing is not the same as browning. Hot bluing requires the solution to be heated to a temperature of around 250-300 degrees, and the parts are immersed into the solution for a short period of time.
    Rust bluing is the same process as browning, except rust bluing is boiled and carded once color is achieved.

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    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    My bad - thanks, Vall.

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  16. #16
    Boolit Master



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    Well I promised to post pictures as soon as I got the pistol. Well just an update, because I haven’t gotten it yet! It was supposed to be here today, but didn’t show up. I hope it hasn’t gone astray. I’ll get on the phone tomorrow and try to get to the bottom of things.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master



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    I got the pistol and now have been trying to figure out how to post the pictures.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Roy Dunlap's Gunsmithing (1950) has an excellent chapter on finishes of all types, giving formulas and application specs.

  19. #19
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    Many of the old muzzleloaders military and civilian were "in the white" and aged with handling, use, and age to a rust brown or grey.

  20. #20
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Most of the time the pictures are too big to post. Need to resize them to post.
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