What is a "Big Iron" and what is this finish called?
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Old 08-05-2014, 05:49 AM   #1
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Default What is a "Big Iron" and what is this finish called?

I was listening to Big iron by Marty Robbins and got to wondering, what is a "big iron"? So, through the research I did I figured it was a buntline special. I picture the "big iron" he sings about being something like this http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=432832273

That being said. What kind of finish is on it, whats the process called and how much does it cost? I attached a picture of another gun with a similar finish.

File Type: jpg 1407214147379.jpg (29.3 KB, 94 views)
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Old 08-05-2014, 07:51 AM   #2
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This is the "Wikipedia" version of the Big Iron.
The Ranger's "Big Iron" actually existed. It was a one off custom handgun chambered in .45 Colt and featured a Great Western copy of the Colt Single Action Army frame, Colt 1860 Army backstrap, grip frame and grips and a cut down 9 1/2" Marlin rifle barrel. Marty Robbins saw it in Andy Anderson's famed North Hollywood gun shop in the late 1950s and wrote the song around it. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

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Old 08-05-2014, 08:45 AM   #3
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The finish seems to be done with different heating techniques that make the metal react differently. Possibly acid as well, if that technology was available back then?

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Old 08-05-2014, 12:01 PM   #4
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The mottled color in the photo is an example of "color case hardening". There were several ways to produce it. You were making steel harder- and it had the pleasant side effect of giving really neat colors to the metal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_hardening

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Old 08-05-2014, 12:30 PM   #5
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in olden times before modern methods of working with metal, gun smiths would work with the metal in a softer state because of the tools they were limited to at the time. so after they got it to where they needed it to be after shaping, they would case harden the metal. the results are very much like what you see, and now has been termed "color case hardened". since we have much better metal alloys to build guns out of and better tooling, "color case hardening" is more cosmetic than anything. on older styles of guns it give an appearance of a style used many years ago and is very attractive finishing procedure and very unique. no two will look exactly alike and you never know what it's going to look like until it's finished.

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Old 08-05-2014, 12:53 PM   #6
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A friend of mine has a nice Matched set of colts he bought quite a few years ago (consecutive serial numbers) In that strange bluing or what ever it is called style. Really a beautiful pair of guns! I mentioned them to him a few weeks ago, and while talking about them he said they should be worth somewhere in the $3500 dollar range now. He has never fired them. They came in a nice presentation box also.

I think he said that when he bought them he paid in the neighborhood of $750 to $850
when he bought them.

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Old 08-05-2014, 01:44 PM   #7
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They call it color case hardening . I like it alot but its expensive and I truly dont think it makes the value of the gun worth what you put into it to have it done . No 2 are ever the same so when you get one done its a one of a kind piece
Heres 2 of the Turnbull TAR-10s one has some gold inlay, which really sets it off



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Old 08-05-2014, 03:15 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone! Can you case harden any gun? And I read the wikipedia on the big iron, I dont know how reliable that is though because I didnt read that anywhere else. I did however read that it could have been a buntline special several places though.

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Old 08-05-2014, 07:26 PM   #9
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Here is my version of "Big Iron":



It's a Ruger Three Screw Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum with the frame color casehardened by Doug Turnbull and walnut grips by Lett.

As to case hardening, any steel or iron can be case hardened or color case hardened. Case hardening put a hard surface on steel, such as the hammers and triggers or older S&W revolvers, this to give the bearing surfaces a hard wearing surface. The old Colt revolvers were case hardened to provide a hard wearing surface while retaining the flexibility of the softer core. Most modern steels don't benefit from case hardening as they are through-handened by heat treatment. These are "color cased" finishes, which are a heat treatment. There are also acid washes and photo films which have been used.

The mottled colors have become prized among some shooters as a sign of custom touches. Not all case hardening produces vivid colors, look at a typical file or rasp at the hardware store, pretty plain blue-gray purplish colors, yet very hard cutting surface.

During the quick draw craze of the 'Fifties some shooters case hardened the cylinders of their guns to minimize wear of the locking notches. These guns should never be used with live ammunition as the hardened surface is brittle and likely to rupture from the pressure. Trouble is, they have been blued and cannot be identiifed from other blued cylinders.

TMI, I know.


And..........spme Colt New Frontiers with case hardened frames:



Bob Wright

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Old 08-06-2014, 03:14 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artbrownsr View Post
This is the "Wikipedia" version of the Big Iron.
The Ranger's "Big Iron" actually existed. It was a one off custom handgun chambered in .45 Colt and featured a Great Western copy of the Colt Single Action Army frame, Colt 1860 Army backstrap, grip frame and grips and a cut down 9 1/2" Marlin rifle barrel. Marty Robbins saw it in Andy Anderson's famed North Hollywood gun shop in the late 1950s and wrote the song around it. Its current whereabouts are unknown.
A gent known as "jayhawker" over on the Great Western forum claims ownership of the gun. Also it is a .44, not a .45 Colt, and the barrel is a cut down Winchester Model 92 barrel.

Bob Wright
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