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Thread: The Story of Bobby Tyler and What Makes His Casehardening so Special

  1. #1
    Boolit Grand Master

    M-Tecs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008

    The Story of Bobby Tyler and What Makes His Casehardening so Special

    In just four short years, Tyler Gun Works has left an indelible mark on the firearms industry. Best known for its remarkable color casehardening and exquisite nitre bluing, the metal refinishing company is now working with 17 different firearms manufacturers to offer customers factory-new guns boasting these colorful finishes. For founder Bobby Tyler, the road hasnít always been an easy one. A failed business and accompanying debt were but speed bumps for the man who believes that hard work and strong faith can solve nearly any problem.

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    Running his business from a small shop on his rural property in Friona, Texas, the 38-year-old father of three was determined to start Tyler Gun Works debt free. Initially, he ran the company from a small tornado-damaged building until he accumulated enough business to construct the larger shop he now operates out of. The recent Shootists Holiday, held at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico, provided the opportunity for me to interview the young entrepreneur.

    What is color casehardening?
    Well, there is casehardening and then there is color casehardening. Casehardening dates back to the late 1700s, and it was a functional process done to harden metal. The beautiful colors were a by-product of that process. But color casehardening for the most part is cosmetic, and thatís what Iím doing. Modern guns with heat-treated steel are hard enough, and re-hardening it will make the parts brittle. So, what weíve done is develop different processes to get the cosmetic look without heat-treating it.Ē

    Is it a chemical interaction?
    Itís all done in a furnace and there are different compounds and chemicals involved. But itís not a spray-on or paint-on finish. So, it is true color casehardening. But itís not a chemical finish.

    Can you control the colors?
    It varies day to day. Youíll see different color casehardening from one day to the next. One day weíll have beautiful blues, and the next day Iíll have bronze and green that clash with each other. Itís an everyday chemistry project keeping the compounds in line. Most of the patterns and designs come from the quench, which is somewhat controllable.

    So quenching parts isnít just a matter of dumping them into a bucket?
    Oh no, thatís where the swirls come from. Thereís actually a lot of strategy involved, and Iíve developed a feel for it over time. Different metals respond differently. For example, a 6-inch-long receiver will quench differently than a 3.5-inch-long
    single-action receiver. You canít even put them in the same way. It has a lot to do with the grain in the steel. But every piece will yield different results. If I have two identical pieces in each hand and quench them at the same time, they will still look different.

    How do you prep the parts beforehand?
    We have some nice polishing machines, but mostly we use marble blocks with sandpaper
    duct-taped to them. We do a lot of hand polishing. The end result just isnít comparable. The optimal roughness for color casehardening is 320 grit. Thatís a shocker to most people, because everybody thinks that everything has to be 600 grit. But 320 takes it the best ó the colors and the penetration are optimal.

    Weíve all seen antique guns with faded casehardening. How do your finishes stand the test of time?
    Thatís a great question! The main things that tear down a color-casehardened finish is UV light (sunlight) and acidity, as in sweat. So what weíve done is weíve gone out and found a product that was designed for a totally different use in another industry. Itís a nano product that penetrates into the pores of the steel and seals them. Itís not the thick, waxy, yellow lacquer that looks like Vaseline that you see on some of our competitorsí color casehardening. Ours is always smooth, and our sealer offers a 650-hour salt-spray rating and UV protection. Besides offering protection from corrosion and UV light, the nano sealer also enhances the wearability of the parts, so much so that we also put it on the internals of all the guns we rebuild or finish.

    [Bobby removes a custom 1911 from his leather belt holster and presents it as evidence.]

    Iíve been carrying this gun for two years without retouching the finish. And the wearability of our product has a great deal of success due to the sealer. We also use this sealer on our nitre bluing. Just look at the thumb safety, slide stop, magazine release and pins.

    If you know anything about nitre bluing, you know itís very fragile. This nitre bluing is two years old, and it looks like I did it yesterday! If someone has a gun they think enough of and goes to the expense to send it to us for nitre bluing or color casehardening, I want it to last for generations. They may have saved up for six months for one of these projects, and ďhere today, gone tomorrowĒ isnít going to work for my customers.

    Iíve always heard that stainless steel canít be casehardened, but you found a way.
    Thatís what they always told me, too. I just felt like it could be done. So, I researched it and talked to manufacturers and people in the industry, and everybody assured me it absolutely couldnít be done. Looking outside the box just a little bit, there was a simple solution: I can color caseharden the stainless with the near-same process and use the same furnace. I can do them on the same day with just one minor procedure modification, but it can be done consistently and reliably.

    That gives us an alternative finish that we all want on a stainless gun to be able to knock that glare off without having the gun bead blasted, and we still have the durability of the stainless steel. The colors arenít quite as vibrant or bright as on carbon steel, but Iíve been told by many people that they actually prefer the subdued look of color-casehardened stainless steel to carbon steel.

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    Tell us about your facility.
    We started off in a 16-by-12-foot wooden shed that had been hit by a tornado. A friend gave it to me, and we built the sides on it and worked out of it for a year. That was my shop and my shipping and processing center. It was everything, and it was all I had. I caught it on fire 13 times before I could afford to build my current building. I paid for the big building by working out of that little shed.

    In 2016, the new facility was built. Itís a 30-by-40-foot building. I have a separate outbuilding for bluing thatís attached, and I have a separate outbuilding for the color casehardening because of the high temperatures. No air conditioning system in the world that will cool that. I wear a full body suit and a respirator, and I have to wear core packs to keep my body from overheating. Running a furnace in a room at 1,000-plus degrees is tough. Iíve busted the light bulbs and melted the wiring in the building. One time I went to flip the light switch off and it was like a Twizzler!

    What do you attribute your success to?
    I just went out and pursued and pushed, and I called on companies, and I made free samples for anybody who wanted them. I just told them, ďIf you send me a sample, Iíll color-case it and send it back to you, and if you like it, call me. If you donít like it, I wonít ever bother you again.Ē If I can get a piece in their hands, I can get their business. Iím still reaching and scratching and talking to more companies. I canít quit. Iím in negotiations with two or three different companies right now about some extremely big production projects. It should be life-changing!

    We realize that you have confidentiality agreements with some manufacturers, but who can you tell us about?
    I do all of color casehardening for Henry Repeating Arms, which didnít offer that option until they started working with us. We do all of the color casehardening for Republic Forge 1911s, too. For the Kahr Firearms Group, we do the Magnum Research Desert Eagle pistols, and weíll be doing an Auto-Ordnance Tommy Gun and matching 1911.

    Life hasnít always been so easy. How did you get to where you are now?
    We ran a small retail gun store and tried to make a living fixing and repairing grandpaís old shotgun. You know, the one that was worth $300, but you couldnít get parts for it, and it cost $500 of my time to build the parts for it, but I could only charge $60. From 2000 to 2007, we struggled, and that put us back at zero. Below zero, actually.

    I went to work for a farmer just to pay my way out of debt from my previous mistakes. We had a paper route. My wife worked full-time, and I did gunsmithing at night. We paid off our debt, but it wasnít easy. We had two slow cookers ó one had rice in it and the other had beans ó and my kidsí Christmas gifts came from Goodwill for at least two years. But weíve been very blessed, and itís been an unbelievable journey.

    When we started over, we decided we were going to do it debt free and build a family- owned business that puts out good work for people who work for a living. Tyler Gun Works started in 2014.

    You showed me a Colt Peacemaker that you had restored. Did you actually make the gunís cylinder?
    A guy gave me what was basically a bag of parts last year at the Shootists Holiday, and it was in really rough shape. I found another cylinder for it at a big Tulsa gun show, but the guy wanted $400 for it, which was a little steep for a cylinder that needed fitting and other work. I thanked the gentleman for his time and was walking away when he said, ďYouíll buy it from me because Iím the only person here who has one.Ē That rubbed me the wrong way, so when I got home, I went out to the shop, took a piece of round stock and made one for myself.

    How much time do you think you put into that one cylinder?
    Way more than $400 worth. I reverse engineered it, and it actually fits the frame a hair better than the old cylinder. Where you put your heart and where you apply yourself, youíll be successful. All you have to do is try.

    Editorís Note: If you enjoyed reading about and looking at Tylerís amazing work, you probably have a substantial gun collection at home. Does your home insurance policy cover it? Tyler Gun Works also does professional firearm appraisals to help you protect your investments. For more, visit
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, thereís absolutely no point."

    Ė Amber Veal

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    MrWolf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    NE West Virginia
    Good article. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Casa Grande, AZ
    That was quite interesting thanks for sharing it.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
    contender1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Lake Lure NC
    Having the pleasure of spending time at different places with Bobby,, I can attest to the sincerity of the information above. Bobby is a hard working,, "can do" attitude type of gentleman.
    And his work is truly excellent. In such a short time,, he has garnered the praise from many folks whom are well known in the firearm industry. THAT alone say volumes.
    But if you meet him,, and get to talk to him,, you will quickly learn he's just a regular guy,, with a passion for what he's doing. Both in his work, AND in his family!

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Jedman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    NW OH Oak Openings Area
    Henry must want more subdued colors if this man is doing all their work for them. I have yet to see a case colored Henry that looks nice. But that's just my opinion.


  6. #6
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    I think I'll stick with Turnbull. I've had two guns done by him (an 1886 and an 1885) and they're truly outstanding. I have yet to see anything that matches his work. If you're going to spend the money, get the best.

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