,32 Colt rehab and an endorsement

Discussion in 'DIY Projects' started by superc, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. superc

    superc Member

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    As some may know, one of my recent projects is the rehabilitation of a poor condition Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless I picked up on gunbroker for a ridiculously low price. About what you would pay for two or three boxes of ammo at Walmart. Seems to be a transitional type III as it has the screw safety of the type I and II, the circled horse stamp on the slide, but also has no barrel bushing, and a patent date that only says Patented, vs. Browning or Colt Patent. I therefore make it to be around 1908 - 1909 manufacture.

    When acquired the pistol had both broken leaf springs and compressed coil springs. The firing pin tunnel (and everything in it) was full of rust. Pins were corroded into place. The previous, perhaps the original(?) owner had clearly stored it loaded and cocked in a damp leather holster for decades as the entire slide was heavily pitted with visible rusting in spots. Oh yes, the gun was also dirty. After removing the grips I cleaned the gun in Hoppes 9 with an (outdoor) ultrasonic tank. Lots of sandy stuff was found on the tank bottom afterwards. I decided the bluing was beyond saving because of the extensive pitting and threw it all into a pail of Jasco to freeze any crevice rusting, then when that dried disassembled the pistol after a manual cleaning (cleaning the firing pin tunnel required some creativity) I replaced all of the springs and put it all back together. Mechanically, everything, including the safety mechanism was now fine and works perfectly.

    A test firing showed the gun now worked just fine in both slow and quick firing sequences. Amazingly enough, although unmarked, the magazine appears to be an original Colt .32 magazine as the spring ends had the characteristic bend Colt put on their early springs. Further research showed that Colt did indeed make some magazines without the Colt .32 floorplate stamp in the earliest years of the 1903. Perhaps this was one? Whatever, replaced the rusty spring with a Wolff .32 spring and it works flawlessly.

    In all honesty I considered the gun's exterior finish to be an almost total loss. As noted elsewhere I considered Parkerizing or Dura Coat to be the only options. While the frame had almost no pitting, the slide was very heavily pitted (which is why I suspect storage in a leather holster as the culprit) to the extent that some of the stamps were virtually gone. The pitting was such a shame though as the original stamps were so unique and historic to the gun. Then I remembered long, long, ago, on another website, seeing a post about someone buying a 'kept in the fishing tackle box' .45 and having the slide shaved and the stamps replaced.

    Google research led me to several shops that specialize in such work. I picked one and after some correspondence with the proprietor sent off the slide to him. His prices were as posted on his website.

    Before and after pictures follow. It really looks even better 'in the flesh' than the pictures show. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. I feel like I somehow stepped back in time and am holding a spanking new 1903 slide ready for the bluing tanks at Colt. I am so stunned by the difference I am totally paused in my plans to Dura Coat the pistol and I am again reconsidering simply having it all blued to a near original finish.

    This work is by Dale Woody of gun fancy com.
     

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    Last edited: Apr 19, 2010
  2. superc

    superc Member

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    one more view..
     

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  3. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    That is OUTSTANDING! I reblued a 1903 a few years back- the right side was excellent- but the pistol had been kept on its left side in a drawer for years- sliding each time drawer opened/closed- and the left side bluing was only a memory. Those a great shooting little pistols- flat as a book, and points very naturally.
     
  4. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Congratulations! You have done a great service for that old Colt and yourself.

    As a gun lover, I salute you, as I'm sure old Samuel does too.
     
  5. superc

    superc Member

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    Well, as you will see the left side wasn't too bad, but it is a lot better now anyway. :)
    Two more before and after views..
     

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  6. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Sweet! Please keep us up to date on the project.
     
  7. 50of4064

    50of4064 Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    You have done yourself proud! What a sweet restoration.
    What did it take for the metal work? ( besides blood, sweat and tears)
    Well done!!! and thanks for the pix.
     
  8. GeauxTigersGuy

    GeauxTigersGuy New Member

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    Super cool. Can't wait for range report w/ porn. :D
     
  9. superc

    superc Member

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    Just wanted to keep everyone abreast of where the project is going. I looked at a lot of finishes. Gave a lot of consideration to different types. Looked at samples of different ones too. Finally decided that the new finish would not be yellow or lime green (as incredibly tempting though that was to me). I haven't sent it off to Novak for the new sights yet, but as you can see we are progressing. The pins and safety are a glossy black and I will get more pics to you when the project moves forward a little more.
     

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  10. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    What finish did you finally use? It looks good.
     
  11. superc

    superc Member

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    Dura Coat white, with an overcoating of 'bicycle blue' metal paint from Home Depot. :)

    I did experimentation on some bar steel flats and looked at different colors and mixes. Also looked at the different blue formulations being used by gunsmiths today. Visited some local smiths (and or their customers) and looked at how their blue jobs turned out. None of the commonly available finishes these days give the old Colt Blue I sometimes see traces of on older pistols. Instead they are all shades of black. Since that old Colt Blue was a fired blue with a gas or wood flame under a mix of crushed bone and charcoal before the pieces were tempered, or confined to just small parts. I have occasionally duplicated that tint by coating steel bolts with oil and powdered bone and lighting it with a torch. However re-tempering heated steel for a gun is not a do-it-yourself project, so doing that to an already existent pistol was too problematic. Besides, the fire blue evaporates or changes to a blackish gray as it oxidizes over the decades. [The belgium version seen on old pistols and shotguns from the mid 1800s was a similar process.] Colt switched to a mostly chemical only blue sometime around 1904 to 1913 or so. [Some debate exists as to the date depending on which gun, or whose book you read. A big fire helped push the change.] Still, as I looked at the original Colt blue found under the ejection rod housing of one of my generation 1 Colt SAAs, and some photos of some of the earlier Colts in which the blue color is still visible, I decided the Colt 1903 should have that color all over (except for the pins and safety as a contrast). Experimentations on steel strips with different paint and dura-coat sprays and mixes of soon followed. The metal was prepped with Jasco then the duracoat was applied a day later. I am pleased with the blue that was selected. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
  12. Monster118

    Monster118 New Member

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  13. superc

    superc Member

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