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S&W Antiques S&W Lever Action Pistols, Tip-Up Revolvers, ALL Top-Break Revolvers, and ALL Single Shots


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Old 04-17-2024, 06:53 AM
Jaxenro Jaxenro is offline
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Default Refinishing or Restoring

Ok I know never refinish a firearm. Unlike a car where a high quality restoration enhances the value firearms, knives, etc. should never be refinished and with coins you donít even want to clean them. Doing so destroys the collector value

But letís say we are talking a 32 S&W single action top break with maybe 40% nickel remaining. On a really good day the guns worth $300 but that would be a lot. There are just far too many out there in better condition and they arenít that desirable to begin with. The 38ís and 44ís are far more desirable than the little pocket 32ís and unless there is some proven uniqueness, like a certified famous owner or unique feature, they really donít have any historical relevance

The problem that I see isnít so much destroying the collectors value, a $250 gun with a $1,000 restoration will still probably bring $250, but just that. The refinish doesnít increase the value so from a financial standpoint it is money down the drain.

Simply put you end up with a gun with a lot more invested in it than itís worth. Is that an issue? Depends on the individual. Have you harmed or destroyed anything? In this case I donít think so. I wouldnít restore a rare, desirable, or unique firearm but a run of the mill one with little value to begin with? I donít think from a historical standpoint it matters just from a financial one

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Old 04-17-2024, 09:04 AM
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Default Never?

Never say never. I have owned a number of valuable S&W single shots & revolvers that had been factory refinished, with provenance belonging to a notable person. Each brought considerably more than a non-refinished same model in excellent condition.
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Old 04-17-2024, 09:12 AM
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Don't be so sure the refinish was the reason why they sold for more than you expected. They might have sold for even more if the wear put on the guns from those owners was evident.
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Old 04-17-2024, 09:34 AM
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I really like the “Eagle Lake” S&W’s. A rich New Yorker had ten of them made for gifts to some lady friends. My problem is they rarely come up for auction and go for a decent amount when they do usually north of $5,000

So will I ever own one? Unlikely. I have to find one at auction and hope there isn’t a person there with more spare cash than I have, which is a lot of people, who also wants it

So do I just live with pictures or take a $200 revolver and have it engraved and refinished to match? At the end of the day it won’t be an Eagle Lake, just a refinished run of the mill, and it definitely won’t be worth what I put into it, but for me it may be worth it.

Wonderful New York Cased and Engraved Smith & Wesson 32 Single Action Revolver Eagle Lake 1892
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Old 04-17-2024, 09:57 AM
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For openers, Gary makes a good point---as usual.

Next is your example of laying out $1,000 for a "restoration". Is that even possible? Certainly, only it wasn't much of a restoration. The last one I knew enough to even talk about was $6,000. Now that wasn't on a little pocket pistol, but the point is whatever you spend your money on ought to make at least a little bit of sense. Spending it on Abraham Lincoln's bedside beater would probably make some sense.

There's a couple of old sayings that might be worth repeating here:

"Look before you leap!"

"Measure twice, cut once!"

Now the bottom line here is the same as always: Not everything you do has to make good sense---or any sense at all----it just has to make you feel good-----YOU, nobody else.

One thing's for sure: You're NEVER going to get a decent following on this topic in a place like this. You, and any followers are going to be the odd men out.

But then again, time passes and things change---just don't hold your breath waiting.

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Old 04-17-2024, 10:03 AM
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I don't like ugly guns. If I was going to keep it I'd probably refinish it. But whatever you spend will be gone. Consider it an entertainment expense.

In my experience having somewhat derelict guns restored, or otherwise brought up to spec, is not a profitable endeavor. Which is not to say that it is not worth it.

I once bought a derelict 6" Model 66-2. This was my choice as a platform for a purely target/range gun. The gun was in pretty rough shape. I sent it off and it got a yoke stretch and a barrel set-back. The timing was reset and I also had them install a .500 wide target trigger, and a DX front sight base. The trigger pull was set to 3# and the gap to .003". Finally, it was bead-blasted to clean up the finish.

Between the base price for the gun and the work that was done it was definitely more than what I could have bought a new-in-box example of the same gun for. Financially it was a bust from a collectors viewpoint. But from a shooter's viewpoint well worth it.

You have no assurance that a new-in-box one doesn't need work. As we all know, sometimes the new ones are jacked up. If you're going to throw it in a safe I guess it doesn't matter. I intended to shoot it a lot. Plus I would have still had the DX front sight base and the target trigger installed.

After the work was done the gun was "right". Not only that, it still is. Some 15 years, and 40,000 rounds later, it's still going strong and shows no signs of significant wear. Now it has been serviced once in that time but only got an inspection and cleaning.

I only shoot .38 cast bullet loads so it should last a long time. Which was the plan. The hundreds of dollars that I paid over an equivalent new gun has been amortized over a lot of years and a lot of rounds. I place a lot of value in having that same gun last me so long and having it set up to my liking. What I wanted to do was to add a couple of features to a 6" K frame and shoot the same load out of the same gun for as long a period of time as possible.

Mission accomplished and well worth the cost. I don't expect it to bring much once I am no longer able to shoot it. Sometimes it's not about the money. This is my hobby not my livelihood. Let's have some fun.
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Old 04-17-2024, 10:17 AM
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Seems like English rifles, especially doubles and big game rifles, increase in value significantly when factory refurbished, as they call it. U.S. arms usually are the exact opposite. As for cars, mentioned by the OP, you may increase value by restoring one, but you will rarely get the money back that you spent on restoration. If you look at a top restoration, of say a 1970 Challenger R/T, it may cost you upwards off 85K to have it professionaly restored. That does not include the origional cost of the car. So you can easily have 120K in your car and when it sells, you will be lucky to get 80K for it. I think if you want to have a gun restored, then do it if you are doing it for yourself. But, if you go to sell it, you will almost certainly lose money.
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Old 04-17-2024, 10:24 AM
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I have a finished challenged, (but as tight as it left Monkey Wards in 1900) 44/40 DA Top Break that I kind of like the family story that it got that way by hanging on a peg in a chicken coop in Eastern Montana early last century.. Donít know just how many critters it discouraged, but I imagine quite a few.
Prime example of a candidate for restoration, but why??
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Old 04-17-2024, 10:24 AM
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I've had guns reblued/refinished twice. From an economic prospective I'm not sure either made any sense. I tell myself I won't do it again.
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Old 04-17-2024, 10:28 AM
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Default Restoration

This really is a very broad subject. Some guns should be left alone.
However, if pushed, I will proudly stand with RESTORATION most every time.
Why?
Because a very large percentage of antiques found are in miserable condition and/ or if not restored they will be lost from heavy decay and neglect.

I just finished this antique reloading tool box restoration yesterday . Without restoration it would have basically disintegrated.

Iíve restored many antique firearms in this condition to PRESERVE THEM. If done right the value does increase considerably.

Often times also the decay that can often be misinterpreted as PATINA is like cancer. If itís not removed completely it will consume the antique.

Murph
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Old 04-17-2024, 10:34 AM
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You're not "restoring" or "refinishing", you are making a replica of a specific historical firearm. (Which is pretty cool, thanks for the link!)

Obviously you are starting with a real Smith, but you are using it to create a copy of a specific historical Smith. Much like somebody taking an old Colt and making a replica Fitz.

As long as the monetary outlay is worth it to you, I say go for it. I've done it with shotguns.
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Old 04-17-2024, 11:04 AM
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Some collectors choose to stabilize or conserve. But Im an ancient ole
gun guy.
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Old 04-17-2024, 11:21 AM
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Lots of good answers. I’m not looking for consensus or agreement, at the end of the day it’s my money and my enjoyment that matter to me.

Yes fine English shotgun barrels are often rebrownd, it is almost expected, but it is different.

I like how you described it I am in a way thinking of a replica more than a restore. Is it cost effective? No. Will I recoup the money? No. Do I care? That is the question. Custom engraving rarely increases the value by what it costs to have done but it seems like many guns are engraved each year

What I don’t like about restoring is you lose insight into how the factory delivered the gun. I would not do it to a rare or historically significant example. But a run of the mill $250 gun that they made 50,000+ and most of the finish is gone i don’t think it matters
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Old 04-17-2024, 12:10 PM
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You can find a near perfect 32 SA out there if you watch the auctions for and for less than $1,000. All original, unique and in demand, unlike a refinished gun.
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Old 04-17-2024, 12:43 PM
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You can find a near perfect 32 SA out there if you watch the auctions for and for less than $1,000. All original, unique and in demand, unlike a refinished gun.
Yes I have a couple of them. Just not engraved and partly gold plated 😁

We all agree this isnít cost effective. Financially it is a loser

My question is more along the line of does refinishing (or using as a base for replicating a different gun) a gun that basically has no collectors value (I.e. under $300) wrong?

There were some beautiful gold inlayed Smiths that were shown in exhibitions and are in museums today. My only chance of owning a similar one would be to use a actual old Smith and have it inlayed and engraved to match

Legally I may own it so what I do with it is my businesses but I tend to go with the concept when dealing with historical artifacts even if I own it then I have a obligation to preserve them for future generations after I am gone.


Trying to find a line I am comfortable with between preserving the past and enjoying the present.

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Old 04-17-2024, 01:31 PM
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Default My thoughts Ö

As long as the owner is aware of what they are doing I think itís perfectly fine.

Here is a registered magnum restored by Turnbull (I hesitate to say restored because itís Turnbullís charcoal blue) and the polishing does not replicate original factory pre war guns but in most other aspects once could say restored. And with Persinger mammoth ivory stocks.

This was a completely gratuitous expense. Iíll never recover the money I spent. But it was all in good fun. FYIÖ The gun came to me poorly refinished with hideous electro pencil work done to it.
Some would say this was a huge waste of money Ö
But too me it was well worth it
I too cannot stand guns that are ugly due to poor work or abuse.
I have others that of course I would not modify or restore.

Doing a project gun just for the fun of it would be cool.

So both the purist collector camp AND the custom / restoration camp can both be right. Just depends on each gun and its owner. It sounds to me that you should do the project. Again just my 2 cents


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Old 04-17-2024, 03:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaxenro View Post
Ok I know never refinish a firearm. Unlike a car where a high quality restoration enhances the value firearms, knives, etc. should never be refinished and with coins you donít even want to clean them. Doing so destroys the collector value

But letís say we are talking a 32 S&W single action top break with maybe 40% nickel remaining. On a really good day the guns worth $300 but that would be a lot. There are just far too many out there in better condition and they arenít that desirable to begin with. The 38ís and 44ís are far more desirable than the little pocket 32ís and unless there is some proven uniqueness, like a certified famous owner or unique feature, they really donít have any historical relevance

The problem that I see isnít so much destroying the collectors value, a $250 gun with a $1,000 restoration will still probably bring $250, but just that. The refinish doesnít increase the value so from a financial standpoint it is money down the drain.

Simply put you end up with a gun with a lot more invested in it than itís worth. Is that an issue? Depends on the individual. Have you harmed or destroyed anything? In this case I donít think so. I wouldnít restore a rare, desirable, or unique firearm but a run of the mill one with little value to begin with? I donít think from a historical standpoint it matters just from a financial one
You ask an interesting question. Many purists on this forum will state a restoration and/or refinish or any modifications diminishes collector value but there is hypocrisy Iíve found! It seems any S&W factory refinish gets a pass! There have been many RM, NRM, TL and various rare pre war S&W revolvers, many with excellent provenance, that have been sent back to the factory for refinishing, both re nickel and re bluing, sometimes many years later from the date of manufacture.

These guns seem to all get a pass from the collectors because the factory did the refinish. A factory refinish certainly doesnít harm collector value Iíve seen. Yet a non factory refinish, perhaps even better done than the factory, does not get a pass! Oh the horror, the horror the purists shout! Also non factory engraving gets a pass when done by a notable engraver as well as period correct aftermarket sights and grips, all get a pass.

Many purists shake their fist at the sky and gnash their teeth when discussing Heavy Duty and Outdoorsmanís with cylinders bore out to 357, a common modification of the times, yet I can assure you some of these same people have one right now in their safe which is bored out but they dare not slip a 357 into the cylinder lest they find out the truth!

In fact I would suspect more than a few collectors on this forum have a Chicoin refinished cylinder or barrel on their vintage S&W revolver that they will take to the grave before announcing this! All is not as it appears I suspect. Some purists Iíve seen on the Colt forum take it to the extreme, opining that so much as replacing a screw ruins the collector value!

So to sum up:

Factory refinish by S&W gets a pass.

Non factory engraving not only gets a pass, but done by a notable master engraver greatly enhances the value.

Non factory refinish does not get a pass! Even if better done than the factory!

Modifications as a general rule do not get a pass unless done by Hamilton Bowen and maybe a couple other notable custom revolver-smiths.

And lastly restorations. The purist on this forum do not give a pass! Why waste your money itís a shooter they say! Or they will be mildly condescending, ďgee, your lucky you have a nice shooter, I could never shoot mine.Ē I personally feel that a Turnbull or C&S restoration for example, is perfectly acceptable and can be quite beautiful to behold. I believe there is nothing wrong with this if it pleases the owner.

Here is my S&W Registered Magnum beautifully restored by Cylinder & Slide with Keith Brown grips and yes I do shoot it!


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Old 04-17-2024, 03:31 PM
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I think I am dividing old top breaks into collectible versus what is often called “shooters”. To me collectible is anything with a unique feature, a factory longer than normal barrel length, or a historical customer, or pristine condition. Those I would leave as is

But the rest to me are fair game to engrave, restore, refinish, or anything else
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Old 04-17-2024, 04:09 PM
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If you want a drippy, new mint gun, just buy one and leave the old crusty,
rusty stuff to us old guys. We have a different viewpoint. We stabilize/conserve antiques.
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Old 04-17-2024, 04:39 PM
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Share a quick story;
Years ago at Butterfields in San Francisco an old ďPurist collectorĒ friend and I attended a sizable auction preview.
We examined a wonderful collection and I was having the time of my life until he walked up to one very rare 1st year in fact 1st one produced Colt Thunderer that had been restored but it was gorgeous and a very early restoration.
ďTHIS IS A TRAVESTYĒ!!! He shouted at the top of his lungs! He proceeded to literally have a break down. I backed up several paces until he calmed down. Walked up to him and said ďCALM DOWN MANĒ!
That refinished/restored antique sold for $7,000!

Murph

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Old 04-17-2024, 04:39 PM
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I would be happy to buy a factory new 32 caliber top break single action custom ordered with engraving and ivory grips

Know anyone making one?
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Old 04-17-2024, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
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My question is more along the line of does refinishing (or using as a base for replicating a different gun) a gun that basically has no collectors value (I.e. under $300) wrong?
I wouldn't buy a similar "replica" for any more than $300 / $400 however, I wouldn't think twice about doing it, assuming it's something I thought I couldn't live without. Anybody that wants a run of the mill old 32 SA can go buy one for a couple hundred.
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Old 04-17-2024, 04:52 PM
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I wouldn't buy a similar "replica" for any more than $300 / $400 however, I wouldn't think twice about doing it, assuming it's something I thought I couldn't live without. Anybody that wants a run of the mill old 32 SA can go buy one for a couple hundred.
Agreed it wouldnít raise the price by a penny but then again I donít consider it an investment but entertainment. If I said I was going to drop $1,500 on a 7 day cruise no one would think twice even though at the end all I have are the memories but drop the same $1,500 on a project gun and it is somehow sacrilege?
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Old 04-17-2024, 05:15 PM
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What a ridiculous comparison. A 7 day cruise with your girl friend?
Come on man.
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Old 04-17-2024, 05:59 PM
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What a ridiculous comparison. A 7 day cruise with your girl friend?
Come on man.
I take a 7 day cruise with my girlfriend my wife would kill me.

Point being I donít look at collecting guns as dollars and cents, investment value, or the rest. I look at it as entertainment and the enjoyment I derive from it. Same as I would a cruise, or any other entertainment

think of it like this. the two guns below are from the Chicago fair and in a museum the other three are Eagle Lakes. Will a similar gun come up for sale in my lifetime (I am 62) in a auction I know about when I have the spare cash (probably before I retire)? Or do I have one replicated using one of the three or four run of the mill ones I have with 40% nickel and a value of $250? I would probably get more enjoyment from that then dragging the wife's wheelchair around a boat (not to be blunt)




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Old 04-17-2024, 06:15 PM
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I view both endeavors as entertainment. Collecting guns does not even rate as compared to a cruise with my best friend.
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Old 04-17-2024, 06:46 PM
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The way things are going it wonít be long before they can 3D print exact copies.

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Old 04-17-2024, 07:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaxenro View Post
ÖMy only chance of owning a similar one would be to use a actual old Smith and have it inlayed and engraved to match
...
I understand what you are saying. When the topic of the New Century revolver comes up, everyone ooohs and aaahs over the ones chambered for the 44 S&W Special and less so over the 455s.

During the Army Trials of 1907, S&W supplied several Triple Locks chambered for the 45 S&W Special cartridge. It is believed two (2) survived. I will probably never see, yet alone be able to purchase, either one. So, if I want one, I need to build one of my own. Or, Andy Horvath can build one with the New Century I brought to him.

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Old 04-17-2024, 09:25 PM
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Devil's advocate here. I can't help you make a decision, but my take is that if you want a specific item such as an Eagle Lake 1892 then one must save the money and buy it when it is available. Dr. Lloyd Hudson's Eagle Lake was available at auction for $7800. I doubt that the Eagle Lake clone/copy could be replicated for less than $7800.
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Old 04-17-2024, 11:39 PM
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Golfers pay green fees, and rent golf carts. It's part of the hobby.

If you decide to pay for a refinish to your firearm, know this: It will not increase the value.

That being said, it's your money.
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Old 04-18-2024, 03:48 AM
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When I look at my antique guns, their patina tells me many things about their past history, where as a restored gun has nothing left to tell. It's become just a gun like any other...

The only case I do something on an antique gun is reblueing it when it has been "put in the white", which was what did the French army for non-officer's American guns bought during the 1870 French_Prussian war.
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Old 04-18-2024, 10:38 AM
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This one was given to me. It had been (nicely) cut down to 2 inches and bead blasted.
I had Jim Downing engrave it in increments and then re-blue it.
It is an amazing shooter. I used it as a Main Match pistol in a Cowboy Action Match and only had one miss.

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Old 04-18-2024, 10:48 AM
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I have it's little brother too. It's been engraved but not refinished.
Any suggestions?

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(The bottom one is a factory 2" barreled 2nd SA 38.)
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Old 04-23-2024, 05:58 PM
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There will always be several different opinions when this topic is discussed.

You get the purist collector that will say don't touch it as you will ruin any collector value. The shooter that just likes neat looking firearms and doesn't care if a new paint job ruins collector value may be fine with it.

You could argue that you can go out for dinner and spend hundreds of dollars on a good meal with fine wine and we all know what you get after spending all of that money. But if it makes you happy and you didn't spend the rent money, whose business is it anyway.

It's similar to that here. It's your money so spend it however you want.

The other way that I look at it is that with one less collector grade gun out there then mine is worth more.

TOMATO OR TOMATO
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Old 04-23-2024, 07:48 PM
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Yes kind of what I thought any two of us probably have three opinions on it

Collector grade guns I prefer to leave alone. $200 beaters are a different matter. Some people call them shooters a opposed to collectors quality

When dealing with guns I just don’t worry so much about value to me it is entertainment. And a $200 break top 32?
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Old 04-25-2024, 10:15 AM
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What you are thinking of doing is simply called an 'Upgrade' by the gunsmithing/restoration folks.

People like factory engraved, factory stocked and checkered, & orig finishes.
But not everyone can afford an original specimen of their favorite firearm in the higher grades.
So,,people build or have built an 'Upgrade'. Using a factory gun in less than collectible condition (usually orig finish is gone), they have the gun
engraved, blued, plated, stocked, checkered,,what ever to the old factory specs and appearance.
You do have to watch that your Upgrade doesn't end up costing more than what you may be able to buy an orig for. The work is expensive of course.

The practice is common as mud with Colt revolvers and semiautos, vintage USA mfg SxS shotguns like high grade AH Fox, LCSmith, Parker, etc.

The long guns get pricey as there is re-stocking involved with fancy wood that drives the cost way up.
The 'base gun' can also be tough to locate at times if wanting to get specific bbl length, caliber, and with SxS's , factory single trigger, ejectors, etc.
Same with Rifles, Winchester is a prime candidate to take one of their lever actions and restock, maybe convert to pistol grip deluxe. Add or already having things like 1/2 magazine, oct bbl, etc.
Engraving patterns are usally straight factory patterns from the old mfg'rs specs. They can be copied to a T, or get into a bit of custom work and layouts changed slightly to include more coverage for example. Or perhaps adding inlayed figures and such.,

Handguns generally much less of an investment to have made as the entire package is smaller obviously. But there may be grip making involved and usually is, there isn't the big expense of an imported walnut fancy stock blank and turning that into a butt stock and forend. Then checkering both to factory pattern(s).

Since you would be making a 'copy' of a factory produced gun, the upfront thing to add to it is some form of marking(s) that indicate it is NOT a factory original.

Usually just the gun itself will present itself as a non-factory item to most collectors. But there are some that excede that and have been passed off as original.
Mark it and it doesn't have to be a BillBoard, mark it more than one location is my suggestion. Though that can and has been overcome b y some less than upfront individuals.
Also make some small diviation from the factory specimen so as to note their difference.

There are plenty of Upgrades around in the gun world.
Unfortunately many have already been passed off to other buyers as originals.
People are just too hungry for the profit they may be able to make to not try it.
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Old 04-25-2024, 11:42 AM
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The good thing with old Smiths is factory letter are available
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Old 04-25-2024, 12:16 PM
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It's interesting that this thread should show up while I'm in the midst of refinishing a pistol. Before I get flamed, allow me to explain. This came to me in pretty grotty condition. Most of the nickel was worn off and someone had attempted to make it look better by bluing it, probably cold blue and rag. Add to that it had been the victim of poor gunsmithing which I'd mentioned in an earlier thread. In short, I'm not taking a piece with history and provenance or honest wear and devaluing it. Up here, it will sell given the shortage of good shootable antiques, and the aesthetics will help a lot. If you can imagine this with a nice professional hot blue and the lovely pearl grips, I think it will "pop". The deal I'd worked out with the gunsmith who'll do the proper hot blue is that I do all the prep work and ship him something ready for the tank. OMG! Did I set myself a chore. When I started removing the old finish I found lots of evidence of old rust or moisture pitting, minor but visible. Add to that the bruises and divots in that older milder steel and my fear is that if I remove all the flaws to get a bare polished steel, I may remove so much metal as to compromise the structural integrity of the pistol. I'm going to talk to the gunsmith and send him pics when I have the parts at a stage that I'd call "good enough" for bluing. The nickel on the foresight is pristine and I'm debating about leaving it in the nickel. How do you think that would look on top of a nice blued pistol? Anyway, here's where I am thus far, first pic being what I got and second 2 being where I am now in my labours. The 4th pic is my keeper and shooter which is mechanically perfect. It went back to S&W in Aug. 1921 and that may explain it's mechanical excellence. I don't know if it was refinished and the look now is after a further 100+yrs. of use, but other than fabricating a foresight that puts me on point of aim, I have no intention of touching the finish as it stands. Comments or observations are more than welcome.
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