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GUNS Magazine February 2013 Digital Edition - Page 24

To resTore or noT that iS the queStion. very gunsmith with two screwdrivers to rub together is queried regularly about restoring guns. Often, the guns are family heirlooms with sentimental value or basket cases that would cost many times their NIb (new-in-box) value to rehabilitate in good style. many are perfectly wonderful and desirable guns that are just a little past their prime. some are extraordinarily rare pieces, which deserve the work. If ever there were loaded term, it is “restoration.” For most of us, it means returning to new condition, exactly as it was when it left the factory. In strictest terms, it is also an impossible standard. In the years since a gun was made, the craftsmen who made it have shed their mortal coils. Much of their equipment, materials, processes and formulae went with them. Consequently, at best, we can get infinitely close to original but never 100-percent there. On the other hand, there is “refinishing” which is probably best defined as getting a tired arm back into respectable condition with respect to function and appearance without regard to authenticity. It is often the best goal. A sensible gunsmith will raise a few questions e HaMilton s. Bowen smith & Wesson New Frontier target models in .445 Webley are also exceedingly scarce. since this one was stored in a wet rag for decades, etched, pitted, and refinished with indifferent cold blue, it is an ideal candidate for a careful, meticulous restoration. export target model s&W triple Locks (above) are exceedingly rare in any condition. this specimen has much of the original finish but is pretty banged up and in need of some minor repairs so may be a good candidate for a maximum-effort restoration. this lovely old Fraser rifle (below) is just a wee bit worn and misused to ignore and will justify any effort and expense to heal. before agreeing to a restoration project as there are pitfalls that would do credit to the average minefield. Should you? Often as not, no. If your cousin brings in Uncle Willie’s Model 61 Winchester .22 showing decades of use in the field and proper care, it is probably best left alone. Honest, patina is the work of a happy lifetime in the field and must be respected. The costs of a proper restoration with great care taken with respect to duplicating factory polish, bluing, stock stains and finish, etc., will considerably exceed the value of the gun at this writing. Worse, all traces of Uncle Willie would disappear. Suppose it is Aunt Bertie’s “Owlhead” top-break .32 revolver mail ordered right out of the 1905 Sears catalog for $3.45 and now an absolute piece of crap with broken spring, cracked grip, missing parts, half the nickel flaked off and heavily pitted from storage in the chicken coop. It might be possible to restore such a gun since it was possible to make it in the first place but it will cost thousands of dollars tedious welding, fabricating, filing and fiddling to do so. Then, what do you have? Despite great sentimental value, it is best nailed up over the doorjamb next to the lucky horseshoe. GOOd INvesTMeNT? Suppose, on the other hand, it was Great Uncle Willie’s Colt SAA taken with him to Oklahoma during the great land rush. It may be a hellish wreck now with sewer-pipe bore, missing front sight, bumperchroming shop polish and re-blue and plywood grips. But, any Colt with a visible serial number that isn’t polished beyond the point of no return is a good candidate in the hands of an enterprise such as 24 W W W. G U N S M AG A Z I N E . C O M • F E B R UA RY 2 0 1 3

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