You may have a firearm that’s become part of the family either for sentimental or performance reasons. Some folks have an old 12-gauge that’s been handed down for generations, while others treasure that special 30-06 used to bag a trophy buck. No matter the reason, many of us have a gun that we would rather restore than replace.
Often, it’s the barrel bluing that requires restoration first. Bluing is good protection from basic rust and light scratching, but it’s not the most durable finish and often has to be redone after years of use.
The question many people ask is, “Can I restore the bluing myself?” Well, the answer is yes…but with a caveat…not all bluing techniques are created equal. Using a store purchased bluing kit is an option, but only if it meets your needs and expectations.
Let’s go into a little more detail…
The barrel bluing is a result of a chemical reaction that coverts the iron in the gun barrel to black iron oxide. The resulting layer of controlled rust is what gives the barrel that nice black finish. The blue appearance is the shine of the metal showing through the black. This is why a highly finished part will tend to look more blue than a rougher finished part. As with most things in life though, the process of getting there makes a big difference.
‘Hot Bluing’ is the most common method used today and frequently the choice of gunsmiths. Hot Bluing involves immersing the gun part(s) in a boiling bath of potassium nitrate, sodium hydroxide, and water. This soluition is the opposite of acid, a base. The solution is so strong that it will burn with the same intensity of acid. To give a little prospective, 7 gallons of water will contain almost 50 pounds of dissolved salt boiling at about 290 F. The resulting reaction of the barrel iron with the chemical solution brings on the desired finish.
‘Cold Bluing’ is a bluing process that doesn’t involve any heat, but rather repeated application of an oxidizing solution. Many outdoor stores sell cold bluing kits that you can readily purchase. The cold bluing process is used most often to touch-up barrel scratches and dings. It is less expensive and less laborious than hot bluing.
While cold bluing is an effective process, the finish and corrosion resistance are often inferior to hot bluing. Also, some folks experience ‘streaking’ or ‘patching’ with cold bluing that results in an uneven bluing appearance.
What’s the right choice?…well…that depends. A do-it-yourself cold bluing kit could be the right choice if you’re looking for a quick, less expensive method of repairing a scratch or providing basic corrosion protection. Hot bluing is probably the better choice if you’re looking to do a more detailed restoration and want the best finish and protection that is the closest to the factory job that was originally done on most firearms.
At the end of the day… I’d want my family heirloom hot blued and preserved for generations of grandkids to enjoy.
Contact us if you have any general bluing questions or if you’re interested in having a firearm hot blued by us at Colorado Gun Restorations.