Generating Some Patina


The final look. Note the “notches” on the grip bottom and finish left in
the nooks and crannies like a real worn gun.

It’s funny, but to many people — including me — a “cowboy” gun just doesn’t look right unless it has a certain patina. Finish wear, stained grips, shiny edges, nicks, scratches and even some rust pits make any “new-old” gun look like it’s been there, done that. But it’s easy to forget when the west was “new” — so were the guns. Keep in mind, the entire history of the Old West as we think about it was only about 25 years. Say, from 1865 to about 1890 was the heyday, and then civilization set in and the heady days of desperados and Indian fights were pretty much over.

During that time a new Colt SAA or ’73 Winchester was as pretty as anything you’d see out of Colt today or Turnbull’s custom shop. Jump online and look at the minty guns for sale at auction sites and you’ll see what looks like new guns, just as they appeared in the rack at the local dry-goods store in 1875. Even old-time photos show clean, sharp-looking cowboys posing with obviously shiny new guns. What we think of as “real” cowboy guns are 150-year-old antiques, with suitable patina from being exposed to neglect, rust and abuse — for 150 or more years!

But it is what it is, and while I’d never “age” a new Colt or Winchester or some other collectible, there’s plenty of very affordable “cowboy” guns around to have some fun with. So herewith is a sort of brief how-to if you’d like to make your favorite modern revolver — or auto — into a “real” Old West gun. Take some time to troll the internet and look at old guns and how they’ve worn. Look at old tools, old cars, see how the handles wear on things, how an old pot or pan looks. There’s secrets there and you can put what you learn to good use. Oh, also, feel free to file off the original maker’s name if it’s too obvious and takes away from the game — or those silly “Read the manual” markings. Just don’t try to fool anyone “too good” here, if you know what I mean.

Note the bunged-up screw heads and lack of finish where it’d rub on holsters,
hands and stuff. Now the “old” gun is the “panacheiest” of ’em all.

Now we’re talking. Plenty of “honest” wear is evident, along with stock abuse
and dark “oil-stained” areas around the metal. The stories it could tell!

Fun Part

I have a dear friend who saw a Rossi 92 I have I did the “patina” dance to and he dearly needed one too. He supplied me with a brand-new current Rossi 92 and I went to work on it. His charming wife also snuck me a Heritage SAA in .45 Colt to surprise him with. Keep in mind there’s little right or wrong here, just do it a bit at a time so you don’t get into too much trouble.

First off, get the rifle stock or grips off. I like to remove the shiny finish and if the stain is “walnut” I like to change that to a more reddish finish like the old Winchesters. “Home Depot” stain works fine, just get a color you like. You don’t need to do it though. Then I use a bit of kinda’ heavy chain and whack the stock or grips some, leaving good dents. Use a pipe wrench if you want. Scratch some marks, put some sharper dents and dings around and maybe even drag it along the rocky dirt a bit. Depends on how “worn” you want it. Playing fetch with the pooch can add some interesting marks. “But hey, no chewing!”

Then put the wood on the rifle and the grips on the handgun. Remember, guns “wear” with the wood or grips in place, so “age” it that way. You’ll find the creases and crevices, nooks and crannies will keep some finish on a “real” old gun, so yours should look the same. To get off old finish it depends on the finish. Some bluing — isn’t — it’s more like paint, so I like to “wear” this using a “Scotchbrite” type pad. Get three or four grits, finishing with the finest. Rub over everything and you’ll begin to see what’s happening. The high spots get worn, like real wear. For bluing, you can do the same thing, or any rust remover can help out, and Birchwood Casey makes a dedicated one. Go slowly and use it sparingly with Q-Tips and small patches. You don’t want it all gone — just some. I like to ding up the screw slots too using a badly fitted screwdriver. Bang the metal bits of the gun on a vise or something and drag ’em in the rocky dirt some too. Have fun. I’ve been known to wet the bare metal down and let it sit outside for a week or two to rust, then rub this out some. You’ll get the hang of it. I know all this goes against everything you feel about a “new” gun — but be brave.

The Heritage Big Bore (.45 Colt) SA before we made it have a bit more panache.

At this point, I had some of the finish off using Birchwood Casey blue remover, had wet it
and was letting it rust-up for a few days. I was using the Scotchbrite pads to blend and
soften the look of the finish too.

Then What?

Once the wood is “old” and the metal’s been abused and the finish “worn” all the edges should be looking about right. Feel free to “wear” the muzzle edges, front of the cylinder, edges on the rifle’s steel, etc. Once you have it “about right” a once-over with 00 to 0000 steel wool sort of blends things nicely, even on the wood. I like to rub old black dirty grease into the stock around the action and in most of the deeper nicks. I just rub my finger on my tractor’s axle, hit the spots, then wipe the wood good and hard with a rag to just leave the black in the pits.

My friend was delighted with the rifle and surprised with the “old” SAA with it. He’s pronounced them his “favorite” guns now (from a man with some pretty fancy guns) and said, “I just can’t put them down! I keep working the actions and my brain fills with stories to go with how they got all that history on them!”

When people see my own “old” Rossi Model 92 their eyes always light up as they reach to hold it. “Wow, what a great old Winchester. What’s the story behind it?”

“Well Pilgrim,” I say, “me and the boys had been riding hard when we stumbled onto the gang … but they didn’t give up easy, if you get my drift …”

Here’s a bunch of extra photos I had from the process. We didn’t have much room in the magazine, so there might be ideas or things you see which will answer questions you might have in your mind’s eye! They pretty much show different progressive steps in the process of aging the handgun and one shot of the “finished” rifle with patina. I hope you enjoy it, and do your own too.

If you have any questions, drop me a note at [email protected] and I’ll get back to you.

Proof if you put the “aged” cowboy gun in the right location it looks right at home.
That pretty single action there didn’t get any artificial aging and is an older Italian clone Roy has.

Hyskore Organizers

Ted Werner, honcho at Hyskore, always comes up with simple but clever ideas when it comes to shooting accessories, especially when it comes to storage. His latest is this series of wall racks holding AR/AK style mags (Model 30317), single- (Model 30318) or double-stack (Model 30316) handgun mags or rifles/handguns (Model 30315, shown). Each rack holds a certain number of items and can be mounted on a wall, inside a safe or even used on a bench with a simple “L-shaped” base you could make from wood. The racks are made of a sort of firm “foam” holding the guns, with a formed hard plastic bracket for mounting.

Ruger’s New Charger .22

Ihad noticed the Charger semi-auto pistol sort of disappeared for a few years, but now Ruger has just launched more new models. I particularly like the take-down models, the new stock design and the 15-round magazine — just the right size since the 20- and 30-round ones are long and awkward to use. All are threaded for suppressors, come with an adjustable bipod, and the factory installed Picatinny rail allows fast installation of optics or dot sights. The coolest feature is the standard A2-style grip allowing you to replace it with any AR-style grip! MSRP is between $309 to $599 depending upon the model.

Mini-Python Collectible

It’s always fun to show you the latest from our friends who do the great cast metal gun models. Their latest is this very detailed Python showing a scale 4″ barrel. As the others in the series, it comes in a red sort of flocked case (red for revolvers, black for semi-autos), along with an etched plate with the model name and caliber. While the “Combat Magnum” technically is the name of a S&W handgun; in the “spirit” of the caliber listed, it’s just showcasing the legendary .357 Magnum is, indeed, a “Combat Magnum” at every level! Around $21 or so, and they also offer cool lapel pins like the two shown in the photo.

C&S Hi-Power Parts

It’s always good to see offerings for one of our favorite pistols, and once again the Cylinder & Slide Shop is helping out. Their “Browning Hi-Power/Tisas BR9 No-Bite Ultra Lite Hammer Set” has a hammer, sear and two spring choices. The hammer saves you from “hammer bite” and is chamfered and hardened. The hammer and sear are both CNC’d from tool steel stock too, no MIM here. Hammer spring choices are a 21-lb.“target” one and a 26-lb. “Duty Carry” model. Ph: (800) 448-1713

S&W Spins Off Accessories

American Outdoor Brands Corporation, made up of S&W, Thompson Center and a wide range of accessory brands like Crimson Trace, Tipton, Caldwell, Wheeler and a host of others, has announced they’re separating the gun side of the house from the accessory brands. The gun side will be called “Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.” while the outdoor products side will remain AOBC. The company says it’s to allow each to focus on their respective industry growth. We don’t see anything negative about any of this and wish them all success.

Handgunner Les Baer 1911!

We finally got this together and we’re all really excited about it. Over the years I’ve kept notes concerning what features you guys think a 1911 needs. Les Baer reached out not too long ago and asked me, “How’d you like to collaborate on a 1911 based on your readers’ ideas, with input from you and me too?” I grabbed at the chance, and we soon had a list of “must-have” features named. Along with Les’ no-compromise components and build excellence, readers added: Adjustable, Tritium sights (Les used his remarkable new “Rolo” low mount adjustable rear), all-steel 5″ slide and steel frame, .45 ACP caliber, brushed hard chrome lower, blued upper, the “Guaranteed to shoot 3″ at 50 yards” promise and no forward serrations. We added the custom VZ blue/black highlighted grips, special “AH00001” etc. serial number range, and then I test-fired the heck out of the prototype.

I could chase 1″ 25 yard groups with Black Hills 230 ball and in all honesty, I think it’d do better with better eyes behind it. The adjustable sights are great, if I do say so myself. I really value the ability to dial the sights in for a favorite load. With a gun as accurate as this one, hitting a squirrel at up to 50 yards is actually possible. The ability to hold 3″ (or better) at 50 yards means adjustable sights can really take advantage of the performance. Talk about “pointing your finger and smiting at a distance!” The trigger is crisp, and the gun runs like every other Baer gun I’ve ever tested — perfectly. It’s tight, the slide runs slick as glass and lock-up is something you won’t believe. If I sound happy, it’s because I am. I’ve wanted to do this for you all for years. You’ve asked for it — and now we’ve built it! Check out the “house” ad about it from us in this issue to get more info. I can hardly wait to get mine as it will become my “most-favorite” 1911 I’m sure!

If you’d like one for yourself, contact Les Baer Custom at (563) 289-2126 or email at: [email protected] They will direct you to a local FFL in your area (or you can use your favorite FFL) to get the ball rolling. They are in stock by the time you read this. Each one comes with a certificate signed by Les and by me assuring the gun meets specs, as promised. MSRP is $2,995 for a complete, full-custom “Special Edition.” I’d like to think you’ll get one — and shoot the hell out of it! It’ll protect your family, compete on the weekends and maybe even snare the odd varmint now and again!

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