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To Restore or not to Restore. That is the question.


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First, look at this....

 

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This is a first generation Colt, made in 1884.  I got it for $500 because of it's "bad chrome refinish."   Almost all the markings have been scrubbed away, and you can see the poor condition of the grips.   I do like how the trigger, hammer, ejector housing and cylinder pin have been somehow coated with gold though.  It is a .44-40 and it is in excellent mechanical condition.  It is an honest shooter.

Step 1 will be to get a letter from Colt to determine what kind of a finish it had when it left the factory.   

Step 2 will be consider going to Turnbull to have it restored.   To be honest, I hope it left the factory as a nickle gun because I think it looks kinda cool.  I would also keep the gold parts that way to give is some character, even if they are not original.   

In a generic way, I don't think doing the restoration is a bad idea.  I got the gun dirt cheap, and as is really has very limited value.  But I am not thinking restoration to make it work more.   I am think just because it'll look better.   The gun really is ugly as is, but it's not an "honest" ugly.   For example I have a 2nd gen gun that has no finish left, but it's an honestly worn out one.   I'll leave that one very much as is.   But this, I feel is a good candidate for for restoring.

Good idea or not?   Opinions welcome.

But much more than that, who else has an old gun that might make for a good restoration candidate and you are undecided about doing it or not?   Doesn't matter if it is currently a wall hanger, or something like this that is fully functional but bad looking.   Might be interesting to see what people are considering.

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This is a perfect candidate for restoration.  Someone has already messed it up so a good quality restoration can only improve it.  On the other hand, it won’t be cheap, so you should do the math to see that it is worth it.  At least you are in it at a good price. 

Edited by Doc Coles SASS 1188
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It's a tough call.  I have this first generation Colt SAA in 38WCF out at Spring Creek Armory in Ten Sleeps Wyoming to get it reblued and color case.  

 

1848560929_StimulusColt38WCFAApril2020.jpg.40b596f67d6ba33b389e4bee35afc7b1.jpg

 

Even though I got it at what I felt was a good price,  I'll have more in it than this one I bought new in box.

 

566376717_ColtSAA38WCF1996.jpg.aa6d51bf0e5f772a94541851d544dc03.jpg

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I would not have an issue restoring that SAA. As you stated, get the letter from Colt first is you are trying to match the factory configuration. 

 

I have a first gen in 38 WCF that someone nickeled or re-nickeled. I'm not sure which and I can't recall if I got a letter from Colt on this gun or not. Doug Turnbull does great work, however it is not inexpensive. 

 

You can request a quote here: Restoration Services

 

Or just drool on the finished products here: Restoration Gallery

 

Let us know what you decide to do! 

Edited by Ethan Cord
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4 minutes ago, Warden Callaway said:

Do the numbers match on the gun?  

On my 38 WCF? Yes 

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Value wise, if you restore it at best you might break even. Maybe a better choice is to have it fully engraves in a historic pattern. I know engravers that use these poorly done guns as canvases for their work.  Once finished they command much better prices. But, still affordable as opposed the high end original engraved guns.

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Turnbull is not cheap, Being as the gun isn't original it won't hurt the value but I doubt the money invested will make the gun worth the cost. I'm with CC on this. I don't know that I would even change the grips because the new grips will make the rest of the gun look bad and that is a slippery slope.

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Suggest you also talk to Eddie Janis at http://www.peacemakerspecialists.com/

 

This might be a good gun to make into a BBQ gun, or at least a pretty little fun toy.

It doesn't have to be about $$ value, it can be about fun and money well spent making you happy.

 

SC

 

 

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For the record, I am not looking to make the gun "worth more."   And I have no plans to fix it up and then resell it.   I am just considering making it look new again.  Or close to new.   I know Turnbull is expensive, but I figure if I am gonna do this, I may as well do it right.

I do like a gun with honest wear.  It gives it character.   Here's my Second Gen I mentioned earlier...

 

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This is another one that I got for surprisingly good price, only $700 at a time when others looking like this were usually selling for well over a thousand.   It is not pretty to look at, but I'd not even think of changing this one.

Ironically with the one I am considering, I did find myself thinking about fixing up the gun itself, but leaving the old grips as is to give it "character."

Thanks for the link to Eddie Janis site.  It gives me an alternative to Turnbull to consider.

I have long found it baffling how fixing up an old gun "ruins" its value, but restoring an old car only enhances it.   Granted, if you've got a gun still looks 90% or better then redoing it is foolish.   But once it has become a beater, restoring to its original glory should not be detriment.   Maybe it's because for years so many of the "gunsmith reblue" jobs were poorly done?   Turnbull has raised the bar on restoration work and made it more acceptable.   Perhaps it is inevitable that there will be competition in the restoration market.  Others will do just as good a job, the prices for the work will come down, and the general gun buying market will grow more and more "tolerant" of having old guns returned to as new condition.

One can only wonder.

 

Edited by H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619
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Gun collectors, the guys with the big bucks, want it original. No cleaning, no buffing, no trying to make it look better. It's only original once. Once it has been messed with (buffed, sanded, reblued, nickel-plated, etc), true collectors don't want it unless it is something really special like a Custer gun. That doesn't mean someone won't fall in love with it and pay higher than expected. Guns are not like cars, at all. Watch Pawn Stars. They restore almost everything but firearms.

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if you are keeping it have it as you want it - if its a collector and you turning it it will not increase the value only degrade it , i kinda like them in original state but i get wanting it as you want to see it , enjoy it either way , nice piece 

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I pretty sure chrome was never a factory option at the time this gun was built.  So, it having been messed previously, probably has taken most of it's value away... getting it redone to anything near a factory type finish shouldn't reduce it's value any further.  Whether it'd be worth the cost of the redo... either monetarily, or emotionally.

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10 hours ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

Good points, all.

 

One idea I have toyed with is figuring out if the markings can be accurately recreated while otherwise leaving it as is.

Yes, Turnbull can redo all the markings and make it look like new. Dave Lanara can as well.

http://www.davelanaracolts.com/services.html

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H K, if it were mine, I would replace the base pin with a Colt or Colt style one.  I like a bullseye ejector for a 1st Generation Colt, repair or replace the grip panel (if for no other reason than to keep dirt out of the innards), add markings and leave it at that.   Nothing too drastic and if one changes their mind, it would be easy enough to go the whole route and restore it entirely.   That Colt is really a nice find, just like the one Warden found not too long ago. 

 

Tex

Edited by Tex Jones, SASS 2263
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I have been through this several times over the decades, usually with S&W revolvers. If it was original. I would say it's a no-brainer to replace the grip and leave it alone. Since it has been refinished, get your prices to do a restoration and decide from there. It's a good shooter you said, maybe just strip the gold off, and shoot the snot out of it. If you ever decide to part with it, let me know!

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Howdy,

After some thought....Leave it as is, get remarked if not going to look odd.

And find some better grips, not new just better.

If it operates properly, shoot it sometimes. 

If you really want to spend money get a classic engrave job done.

But I bet you never see that money again.

I would consider selling it on an auction and using the money for other guns.

Best

CR

 

Edited by Chili Ron
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Ya know what? Get it restamped and put some Mexican Eagle faux ivory grips on it. It would be a GREAT BBQ gun!

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Just an FYI, this is a black powder only firearm. This has been discussed many times on the Colt Forum. It wasn't until roughly 1902 that Colt SAAs were proofed for smokeless powder. The pressure curve on black powder is different than modern smokeless.

https://www.coltforum.com/threads/black-powder-or-smokeless-where-to-draw-the-line-on-a-older-colt-saa.379378/

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14 hours ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

I have long found it baffling how fixing up an old gun "ruins" its value, but restoring an old car only enhances it.   Granted, if you've got a gun still looks 90% or better then redoing it is foolish.   But once it has become a beater, restoring to its original glory should not be detriment.   Maybe it's because for years so many of the "gunsmith reblue" jobs were poorly done?   Turnbull has raised the bar on restoration work and made it more acceptable.   Perhaps it is inevitable that there will be competition in the restoration market.  Others will do just as good a job, the prices for the work will come down, and the general gun buying market will grow more and more "tolerant" of having old guns returned to as new condition.


One can only wonder.

 


interestingly, the collector car community as coming around to the gun collectors way of thinking.  As the saying goes, “it’s only original once”.  Car collectors are now paying top dollar for unrestored rare cars in original condition (even some with significant cosmetic issues) that would have been instantly sent to restoration in years past.  
 

In the gun field, an original gun that survives in good condition is worth more than a restored one because it is rare and “real”.  A restored gun, while lovely and valuable is not as rare and lacks the authenticity of the original.  It’s no longer solely the work of the manufacturer, but includes the work of the restorer, is dimensionally smaller (due to the prep work required to get a good finish), and usually has a lot of new parts.  in addition, the work has to be very good to be indistinguishable from an original.  You see a lot of guns (and high end cars for that matter) that are over restored.  
 

Having said that, I have personally restored guns (I am a smith), but I would never touch a gun with original finish or that had not been significantly damaged in some way.  I know Turnbull takes a different view and he does lovely work.  To each his own.  
 

As for cars, I have a 1926 model T speedster with a mahogany skiff body under construction in the garage.  I am cursed by having two expensive hobbies!
 

Back to the question about folks to do the work on your colt.  You might look at Dave Lanara.  He only works on first generation SAAs, does very nice work, is less expensive than some of the others named, and is a good guy to work with. Do a google search for him and you will find his site.  

Edited by Doc Coles SASS 1188
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Good deal for a shooter.

I would leave as-is.

The photos look like someone removed and rounded a lot of metal, especial on the cylinder and frame.

I had a 1902 Bisley in .32 WCF that had been chrome plated, likely in the 1950s, that was similar.  There is no easy way to put that material back.

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1 hour ago, Three Foot Johnson said:

I know little to nothing about the resto business, but, as above, that thing looks like it's been polished waaay beyond restoration.

I would mostly agree with you but Sal Lanara, Dave's brother has posted Colt M1877 before and after photos in which he had welded metal back on so he can re-machine crisp edges. His work is amazing and frightening because when is the restored gun going to hit the market as original? Yes, he marks it but most new collectors wouldn't have a clue what stamp means.

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I found a nice nickel plated 45 Colt made in 1910. It looked  original to me. I paid about $200 for a Colt factory letter and found out it left the factory as a blue 32-20! Nobody wants a 32-20 the 45 is a lot more fun to shoot! It would take a whole lot of money to make it a 32-20.  Keep what have and save your money and avoid disappointment.  Irish ☘️ Pat

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OK, if it were mine, I'd shoot it for a while and then consider a restoration. It's not mine, it's yours (and you're a lucky devil for getting a real Colt at that price). It comes down to: Do you have the money and are you willing to spend it, without thought of profit or resale value? You're probably never going to recoup the price of the restoration --- but if you enjoy the gun more restored, spend the money and hang the expense.

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