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  #1  
Old 10-03-2019, 4:45 PM
javaduke javaduke is offline
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Default Colt 1903 - restore or not?

Hi, C&R gurus, need your advise here. I just picked up this nice 1903, but as you can see, it's in a pretty bad shape. My intention was to remove the remaining bluing, clean up the pitting, blast it with 120 grit AlOx and finish with rust blue or Belgian blue. But I looked up the year of manufacture and it's pretty early, 1905 or 1906, to be precise. So I'm wondering if it has any collector value and my restoration process would rather ruin it. What do you guys think?
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  #2  
Old 10-03-2019, 5:18 PM
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These things go for a bit more than their worth in scrap metal so yes they have value. I would leave it as-is. Looks like it has character to me.

BTW I have a 1905 mfg Colt 1903 and it is the one handgun that anybody I take to the range loves to shoot. They are generally great shooters.
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Old 10-03-2019, 5:23 PM
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I have two 1903s, both are too nice to shoot.

I’d enjoy yours as-is, I’d like to find one like that. If you want a looker you can always get one later.
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Old 10-03-2019, 7:20 PM
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I vote for leaving it as-is. It's sort of cool- looking and is probably fun to shoot.
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  #5  
Old 10-03-2019, 7:46 PM
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I would go a different route - clean it up, refinish (Parkerize, cerakote, beadblast and blue) and shoot the snot out of it. Maybe put it on my CCW.
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Old 10-03-2019, 7:55 PM
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That is bad *** looking, leave it as it is.
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Old 10-03-2019, 8:01 PM
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I would leave it alone. Shoot it and enjoy it for what it is.
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Old 10-03-2019, 8:22 PM
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It made it through the Crusades and now you want to mess with it?




But seriously, that thing has enough character to share with everyone you take shooting, and plenty left over.

Another nice thing is it's relatively even, all over the pistol, instead of blood stain on one side and rust on the other.

Another thing to look at is the economics of it. Is the price you bought it low enough to allow you to do all the other refinishing work ( either by yourself time-wise or if you're paying someone to do it) without going into the price range of a very nice original Colt 1903 that is "too nice to shoot /safe Queen"... then don't go that route.


Regardless the first thing you should do before you start refinishing it or even think about it...

is shoot the snot out of it. A few times before you change a character like that one.


Just my two cents.
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Old 10-03-2019, 8:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javaduke View Post
Hi, C&R gurus, need your advise here. I just picked up this nice 1903, but as you can see, it's in a pretty bad shape. My intention was to remove the remaining bluing, clean up the pitting, blast it with 120 grit AlOx and finish with rust blue or Belgian blue. But I looked up the year of manufacture and it's pretty early, 1905 or 1906, to be precise. So I'm wondering if it has any collector value and my restoration process would rather ruin it. What do you guys think?
Restoration would kill any value. But we're not exactly talking about a 1965 XKE being taken to Earl Schieb. I'd say bead blast or parkerize away. Slap some repro checkered wood grips on it too.
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Old 10-03-2019, 9:53 PM
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$200 gun even though the original mag may be worth $100.
Go ahead and reblue it but do it right. Try not to loose the roll marks etc.

Keep the mag original.
If the safety is original blue,keep it same.

Look up pics of pristine samples.
They are beautiful pistols!
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  #11  
Old 10-04-2019, 5:35 AM
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I could go either way, but I also lean more to the keep it as found side. In the end it is yours now, And doing what makes you Happiest is the only answer here.
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  #12  
Old 10-04-2019, 6:07 AM
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Forgot to mention, it came without any mags, so I ended up buying a TripleK new mag.
OK, I'll probably keep it as is but will replace the grips. Somehow these grips remind me of Spanish Inquisition, lol I'm leaning towards walnut checkered grips from Altamont.
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Old 10-04-2019, 6:53 AM
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check this person out they do amazing work.
https://www.turnbullrestoration.com/
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  #14  
Old 10-04-2019, 8:02 AM
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I have an entire sub collection made up of historical guns and knives with, erm, "Character" - basically used and abused but still functioning.
I enjoy them more than the safe queens.

In the case in the commando knives and fighting knives, they speak of their wartime history, and secret missions, the military handguns the same.
Of course they could have been poorly maintained by some farmer in Idaho and still look the same, but they're interesting.

Leave it be - perhaps swap out those grips for some period ones from Ebay.
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  #15  
Old 10-04-2019, 8:32 AM
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Unless you’re going full Turnbull, I wouldn’t change a thing; that wear and tear took a long time to earn (and the grips have a out of character to them).
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Old 10-04-2019, 8:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javaduke View Post
Forgot to mention, it came without any mags, so I ended up buying a TripleK new mag.
OK, I'll probably keep it as is but will replace the grips. Somehow these grips remind me of Spanish Inquisition, lol I'm leaning towards walnut checkered grips from Altamont.
Also take a look at these repro grips at Numrich. I put these on one of my 1903 to preserve the original Bakelites from any damage.

https://www.gunpartscorp.com/products/1289880

They have some others too https://www.gunpartscorp.com/search#...ort=Price:desc


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Old 10-04-2019, 9:12 AM
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Leave it as is. Don't cover up history. If it could talk..........
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  #18  
Old 10-04-2019, 4:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javaduke View Post
Forgot to mention, it came without any mags, so I ended up buying a TripleK new mag.
OK, I'll probably keep it as is but will replace the grips. Somehow these grips remind me of Spanish Inquisition, lol I'm leaning towards walnut checkered grips from Altamont.
Folks often write that Triple K magazines are lousy even though they don't have the particular gun in question. I do. Don't waste your time with Triple K. I had to file mine so much the seams cracked.

If you must, go to a gun show with it and try any aftermarkets that might be out there.
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  #19  
Old 10-04-2019, 4:19 PM
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I found a retailer on ebay that sold new 1903 mags that are downright excellent. They are out if Texas. Accurate right down to the 2/3 bluing. Will post of I find the link. Yes avoid Triple K if possible. Overpriced junk
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Old 10-04-2019, 5:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bainter1212 View Post
These things go for a bit more than their worth in scrap metal so yes they have value. I would leave it as-is. Looks like it has character to me.

BTW I have a 1905 mfg Colt 1903 and it is the one handgun that anybody I take to the range loves to shoot. They are generally great shooters.
This^^

I might try and find some better condition grips for it (keeping the ones on it now, just not leaving them on), but outside of that I’d leave it as is.
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  #21  
Old 10-05-2019, 9:13 AM
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I bought a very nice one with 1 original mag, about a year ago here in Ca for about $600. A little surface wear on the outside, but 99% new on the inside. Probably just handled a little, and never or very little shot in it's 100+ yr life.
What is it like inside?
So, the question is, how much do you want to spend, and then what will it be worth as a refinished gun?
I think I would keep it as is, at least for now.
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  #22  
Old 10-05-2019, 10:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirtracer View Post
Leave it as is. Don't cover up history. If it could talk..........
This.

I have a Spanish Izarra (Ruby) that is based on the 1903 Browning design. I wouldn't dream of trying to refinish it, even though it's not worth as much as the Colt.

If it could talk.........

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Old 10-05-2019, 1:42 PM
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Love those GF photo and pinup grips on the old stuff.
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Old 10-05-2019, 3:29 PM
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Yes, definitely cool. Even more so since my father picked it up in France during WWII. He was with the 36th out of Texas and stormed Green Beach in the south of France a month after D-Day. And since he had no wife/girlfriend/sweetheart at the time, the photo is of his 16 year old kid sister. My father kept the original grips which are in pretty decent shape.

And I guess he was inspired by the grips he made for the Izarra when he made the laminated grips for the Luger in my avatar. He got a little carried away, but they're definitely different and unusual. He lived in San Francisco at the time, attending Heald Engineering College some time around '48 - '49.
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Last edited by sonofeugene; 10-05-2019 at 3:32 PM..
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Old 10-07-2019, 3:35 PM
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Well, I finally had time to detail strip the gun and look at it more closely. First of all, the bluing is almost completely gone except the small area under the grips. The thumb safety still has some bluing left, looks pretty decent. There's a lot of rust inside the firing pin channel and the firing pin sticks out of the breech face and does not retract. But the worst part is barrel, the bore is completely rusted and no rifling visible. I'm not sure if I can find a type 1 barrel anywhere. So what I'm going to do is try to clean up rusted parts with some #9 and steel wool first. After that I'm not sure how to proceed...
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Old 10-07-2019, 5:08 PM
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Type I barrel, aftermarket
https://www.gunbroker.com/item/833359039

https://inleadwetrust.com/product/ty...rels-in-stock/

I would soak the parts in kroil for a week or two, then use copper or bronze wool, copper brushes etc. Steel wool will only cause more rust.
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Old 10-07-2019, 5:11 PM
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Wow, $180 for just the barrel, that's a lot But I'll think about it.
First I'm going to boil the rusted parts and get rid of all the rust and gunk, then we'll see...
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Old 10-07-2019, 5:18 PM
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Originally Posted by javaduke View Post
Wow, $180 for just the barrel, that's a lot But I'll think about it.
First I'm going to boil the rusted parts and get rid of all the rust and gunk, then we'll see...
Yes, boiling also a good idea to turn rust back to blue, but it will still need to be carded/brushed after.
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Old 10-09-2019, 6:57 AM
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Well, I don't know if what I did was kosher, but I'm very pleased with the result. I boiled the frame and slide for about an hour, then carded it with 0000 steel wool, then blued with Birchwood Casey Super Blue (since I didn't want to blast or sand it) and wow, it matched the remaining bluing color really well! Then I soaked parts in oil overnight and here it is - very nice shiny dark blue finish!
I decided I'm going to try to find original type 1 plastic grips (or a faithful repro) instead of walnut, and maybe one day a reasonably prices type 1 barrel will surface.
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Old 10-09-2019, 8:22 AM
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^^^
Your pic is a bit dark. Try taking a pic outside in shaded sunlight. I'm interested to see how this looks in natural light.
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Old 10-09-2019, 9:10 AM
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Quote:
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^^^
Your pic is a bit dark. Try taking a pic outside in shaded sunlight. I'm interested to see how this looks in natural light.
Is this better?
Sorry, this is the best my phone camera is capable of. In reality it does look much nicer than on the picture.
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Old 10-09-2019, 9:30 AM
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Still not a great photo but it looks good! After this sort of treatment (rust blueing/carding) - I like to either boil these parts in fresh motor oil or heat the parts up with a heat gun then dip them in a pan of used motor oil and let them soak for a few days.
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Old 10-09-2019, 9:33 AM
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Yes, that's exactly what I did, soaked (not boiled) in motor oil overnight.
Next step is to polish and blue the tips of all the cross pins I wish I had setup for nitro bluing, but if I do it in my kitchen, my wife will kill me with her bare hands I'll try to heat them up with torch and see if they get any blue color.
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Old 10-09-2019, 9:47 AM
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No collector value. Too many nice ones around. Send it off and get it finished in black oxide.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:38 AM
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I would look at this guy's stuff
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXj_SaE8Z08

Think conservation and refurbishment, not restoration.

Don't do the steel wool, but this guy does some stuff with boiling water and buffing to get rid of the surface rust. It won't refinish the piece, but will stop the rust and may improve the look of the weapon.
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Old 10-09-2019, 6:50 PM
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I would drop $180 on a barrel if it gets it back into operable condition.

It's only too much money right now. The way the market for C&Rs works, it will be worth it in a decade or so. In the meantime, you'll get to shoot it.

You can also prowl ebay and GB for a replacement barrel but I doubt it'll be much cheaper
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Old 10-10-2019, 6:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigdog68 View Post
I would look at this guy's stuff
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXj_SaE8Z08

Think conservation and refurbishment, not restoration.

Don't do the steel wool, but this guy does some stuff with boiling water and buffing to get rid of the surface rust. It won't refinish the piece, but will stop the rust and may improve the look of the weapon.
This is exactly where I got the idea of boiling from I don't have a buffing wheel like he has (nor I have a buffer of any kind), but gentle rubbing with 0000 steel wool did just fine. I really like the way it turned out.

Still trying to solve the barrel problem. Ideally what I would want is to reline the original barrel, but apparently no one makes barrel liners in .312 (or at least my duckduckgo-fu has failed me ) I guess I'll have to be patient and wait till something shows up on eBay (and then there's no guarantee that the replacement barrel rifling will be any better).
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Old 10-10-2019, 10:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javaduke View Post
This is exactly where I got the idea of boiling from I don't have a buffing wheel like he has (nor I have a buffer of any kind), but gentle rubbing with 0000 steel wool did just fine. I really like the way it turned out.

Still trying to solve the barrel problem. Ideally what I would want is to reline the original barrel, but apparently no one makes barrel liners in .312 (or at least my duckduckgo-fu has failed me ) I guess I'll have to be patient and wait till something shows up on eBay (and then there's no guarantee that the replacement barrel rifling will be any better).
Usually if the bore is bad, in addition to a bore liner you also want a new chamber cut, headspaced etc.

Here is a replacement barrel for $96 (C&R price). But it is for Type 3/5. You should call the mfg and see if they have plns for a Type 1 or if there is any way the Type 3 could be modified (by grinding off the bushing maybe?)

https://www.brownells.com/handgun-pa...rod104838.aspx


Here is one in stock for $61!! (or $55 C&R price). Has 1/8" extractor cut, could be for S/N 72001-95800
https://www.gunpartscorp.com/products/1862390



This looks like a Type 1 barrel for $122 (probably less with C&R). But it shows out of stock, but it says 'new' so I wonder if it was a repro? You might call Numrich and ask
https://www.gunpartscorp.com/products/553740

They have several listings for various serial number ranges
https://www.gunpartscorp.com/products/553750
https://www.gunpartscorp.com/products/553760
https://www.gunpartscorp.com/products/14962604
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Last edited by SkyHawk; 10-10-2019 at 10:19 AM..
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  #39  
Old 10-10-2019, 11:41 AM
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Yeah, I checked with Numrich, they don't have what I need - type 1, 4", 3/32" extractor cut.

In the meantime I polished all screws and pins and blued them with torch and quenched in oil. They turned out just amazing, I tried to take picture but phone camera is just not good enough for this.
I started reassembling the frame and wad wondering why the disconnector looks just like 1911. That's because it is a 1911 disco! So no wonder it doesn't protrude from the frame when pushed up. I went and bought the correct part. This project is becoming expensive!
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Old 10-10-2019, 11:42 AM
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I wonder if anyone has ever welded in a shim or something to convert 1/8 to 3/32 extractor groove. I guess by the time you pay for welding and machining, probably cost as much as a new repro barrel.
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