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Painted Ordnance, Pt 1

In the beginning, there was blueing…

Wait, no, back up.

In the REAL beginning there was nothing. Literally. The first steel weapons were kept free from rust by the constant attention of their users. Constant scrubbing with campfire ashes was the preferred method until after the American Civil War. Any Civil War era weapon you see with a shabby, rusty “original” patina is nothing of the sort. In use, it was polished and scrubbed until it gleamed like a jewel.

Then there was blueing, which sucked. It provided slightly more corrosion resistance than bare metal, but it also required constant attention of the user to keep the crusties at bay. If applied to polished metal it was reflective and glossy, it required harsh caustic chemicals to apply, and wasn’t any use on aluminum or soldered parts. (Yes, yes, I know you can cold blue or slow rust blue soft soldered parts, but that’s not my point here). In blueing’s favor, it looks pretty. If that’s what’s important to you.

About the same time, you could get your guns color case hardened. This looks pretty, like blueing, but also sucks at protection.

Parkerizing was introduced in its current process shortly before WWII opened. A phosphate plating process, it produced an even, nonreflective surface that provided good protection against rust if it was treated with oil or grease after application. Parkerizing was also amenable to industrial level production of arms, and millions of American arms were treated. Also like blueing, aluminum, stainless and solder need not apply, but while the phosphate solution will wipe off stainless and solder, it will attack aluminum alloys.

The British, probably egged on by cheapskate Scots, went with stoving. This was a flat enamel paint applied to the bare metal then baked to harden it. As long as it remained intact, it provided excellent protection and was cheap to apply. Unfortunately, as the metal was used, heated up and cooled, it would crack, flake, and chip off, leaving the steel exposed.

Which brings us to my first gunskool victim project, my long suffering Norinco 1911. I took my time and did my best to fit the metal around the new grip safety, blending the safety into the frame. It doesn’t look perfect, especially on the tang where I dremeled too much metal off. But it feels a lot better in the hand and sits low. Then it was sandblasted, Parkerized in zinc phosphate (manganese phosphate is usually favored for painting over, but the solution in the tanks had been swapped out for the last two days), then airbrushed in Brownell’s Moly Resin. Like stoving, the Brownells paint needed to be baked on to cure, but it produces a thinner, more flexible coat that is much more resistant to heat and abuse.

The Parkerizing was applied not for any protection value, since it wasn’t oiled before painting, but to give the paint a toothier surface to adhere to. The result is a finely textured but grippy surface that preserves the markings.

All internal parts and pins were also Parked and painted, but I did tape off the surfaces of the hammer and sear, and everything fit together as it should. I was pleased with how much of an improvement polishing out the Chinese tool marks on the slide and frame rails made to the operation of the pistol. It probably didn’t get any more reliable, but racking it no longer feels like drawing a file across it.

The astonishingly cheap and poorly fitting grips are Falcon Arms XT grips, which are indeed grippy, if nothing else. I have no excuse for the allen head grip screws, I should know better by now.

The magazine catch assembly was not originally intended to be silver, but after I left it in the sandblasting cabinet, a fellow student picked it up and painted it for me, thinking it was one of his. The effect isn’t bad, but the painting job was not as good as my own, and the silver wiped off with a bit of brake cleaner!

Not bad for the first gun I’ve ever refinished, if I do say so myself.

Of course, I cheated and did it twice.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Bunnyman | August 23, 2008 at 7:29 am | Permalink


    I thought Park on internal bits was a no-no, though.

  2. NotClauswitz | December 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    If once is good, twice must be better! My Ed Brown has allen head grip screws…