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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Restoring a long-gun,or handgun is something that can make people cringe. To many, restoring a firearm destroys its value, and is economically impracticable for the results; and I usually agree.

However I believe that many misuse the term 'restoring' for a another term, refinishing. I personally would misuse the two terms for the longest time; and it would always make me angry when someone had a aneurysm over my plans to 'restore' a used military rifle or an old civilian sporting rifle.

It wasn't until later that I learned my 'plans', so to speak, were never at their core, a restoration project. They never involved a major overhaul of the action assembly or the barrel. Still some feel that a gun, like the Garand for example, should never be touched at all. It's heresy to think of touching it up, at the cost of its history, and its collector value. To me it's all circumstantial, and making a gun nicer looking doesn't ruin its history; its financial value though, is another story entirely.

So what does everybody here think? What are you're thoughts on restoring or refinishing, the use of their meanings, and their relationship to a firearms historic, financial, or sentimental value?
 

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"Restoring" is actually putting an item back as close to original condition as possible. It can be very expensive, difficult to do, and unless the gun is in extremely poor condition to begin with, still devaluates the firearm.
Refinishing is either applying a custom finish or original type finish in a utilitarian context.
Refinishing lowers the collector value of the gun.
 

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Being old doesn't make a thing valuable in and of itself. Just ask my wife. ;)

The thing must have some rarity, or historically significant use, to be negatively effected by restoration or refinishing. For example: Was it carried by Audie Murphy, or used by Bonnie and Clyde, or Sam Colts first revolver (extreme examples, but you get the picture). If not, it's not really a collector item, and I wouldn't have any qualms about restoring or refinishing, especially if I intended to put it to use.

Sentimental value is not the same thing as collector value. I have quite few old pieces (furniture, weapons, documents, etc.) that I've restored or refinished, but only a small handful that I would not refinish/restore for fear of devaluing them.

That said, those that are of collector value should not be allowed to deteriorate. They need to be protected from things like sunlight and excessive humidity at the very least. Many museums offer on-line advise in this regard, so you might want to contact some if you're in doubt about what to do or not do.
 

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I don't know that a true restoration necessarily "devalues" a firearm, but it seldom adds its cost to the value.
I've always liked the old adage that a $100 refinish takes a $500 firearm and turns in into a $300 firearm. It might be said that a $2000 restoration will take that same $500 firearm and, maybe, turn it into a $1000 firearm. (If the restoration is a good one.):D
 

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DIFFERENT ATTITUDE RESTORATION-REFINISHING GUNS PRE vs. POST 1840

It is almost a mantra that refinishing a gun destroys collector interest. Well, yes and no. It is pretty much true with guns made in the 'machine age' that I would date as post 1840 for guns. Even so, some are so scarce and sought-after that one in any condition sparks collector interest.

But ---- this is about pre-1840, ---- the lock, stock & barrel type of gun. From my experience in serious restoration dating from about 1960 and scores of guns, there is a very different attitude amongst collectors. I have dealt mostly with a few major collectors and dealers interested in the early guns from their 1500s beginning to ca.1800. The typical piece I received was in well-used condition, usually basically sound but needing work to correct or restore after modification, damage, parts loss, incorrect parts or inept previous work which was evident in about 75% of them.

The typical piece was something of collector importance, such as American Rev, European historic association or of very early type such as wheellocks and primitive flintlocks. The goal was without exception to put the piece back in its basic condition that it originally was --- in its initial use period. Never was it to try to restore it to appear near new (such as today in rebluing).

Typical, and of many examples, would be a 1730s period military pistol arriving in basically good condition having been used and cared for by generations of owners. With time and use it was 'modernized' in the late 1700s with its 12" barrel cut to 9" and half a century later converted from flintlock to percussion. Its use would show. Restoration was to put it back to how it was in the mid-1700s, retaining its minor distress.

I restored the barrel length and restored the ignition to flint as imperceptibly possible. The wood added to the fore end looked the same as the rest of the wood & did not show a joint, the bore would be shootable and the flintlock showed signs of flint wear. Rarely did I actually harden the frizzens. I restored lockplate markings that usually were disturbed by the rework. This resulted in a gun of 1730s in its 'original' used & abused condition, externally imperceptible of any rework, the rework distressed as necessary. This is what the collector and/or dealer expected -- and invaribly got from me.

The collector was pleased having that early piece in his collection. The dealer had a piece of much enhanced value. Whether the dealer told his clients of the restoration was not my business. Some dealers did, for sure, tell clients, proven to me by referrals of them to me for more info as to what, how, etc. I have no trade secrets and explained to their satisfaction.

I know some collectors would be horrified to learn that one of their pieces had been restored but most would not be detered in buying a restored early piece. An example extreme yet typical is my restoring a 1560 period wheellock pistol, the owner acquired with its lock missing for $1200, paid $7000 for making a proper lock plus some other restoration. In that job we followed the criterion that nothing original or probably original be disturbed. He later marketed it in Europe, including my DVD of the restoration project and it was sold for 35,000 Euros. Detail of this project is on this forum, item 3 of --- http://thefirearmsforum.com/showthread.php?t=112001&highlight=french

Some people decry restoration as 'deception' - but are comfortable with to personal cosmetic work on hair, teeth, noses, faces, etc. & repair of fender benders of their cars. The old saying applies of "different strokes for different folks".
 

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I have a H&R M1 Garand, it has the original barrel, a complete H&R
trigger group and a Remington NM op. rod. I don't know what the
gas cylinder or the other small parts are and I don't think the
stock is H&R. The upper and lower handguards were very bad and
the stock had a few small dents, nothing larger then 1/8th. inch.
I had no problem buying new handguards, cleaning the stock
and getting it all to match. Maybe an expert would find fault, I think
it is a fine looking rifle. chuck 41

ps: The rear sight is H&R and the barrel is 1.1/2 with the CMP
muzzle gauge.
 

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Restoration and refinishing are two different terms that mean different things. However, "restoration" has several different meanings also. Restore to original condition? Restore to original appearance? Restore to original functioning? etc. etc.

I own and operate a firearms refinishing company. We don't offer traditional bluing or Parkerizing. We've developed our own application process for a finish that uses a resin applied over Parkerizing. The extent of any restorations, are to make it function well and look good. Restore to original appearance? NOPE!

Over the past thirty years, I have refused to refinish several firearms for assorted reasons. Most of the time, the reason was simple: I'm not going to take a $2K+ collectible and turn it into a $500 shooter. Besides, there's just something obscene about applying an OD Green finish to a Nazi Artillery Luger! Sometimes, I turn down work because of legalities.

Most of the time, refinishing a firearm will increase it's value depending on how bad it was prior to refinishing. (As long as it's not a collectable) How much it increases depends on what you paid for it, what it's worth and how bad it looks now. Very often, monetary value has nothing to do with it. "It was Grandpa's", etc.

The type of finish used in any refinish can have a huge influence on it's value. Some finishes look good...until it even smells something with acetone in it. Then it melts.

As long as it's not an antigue or collectable, etc. and as long as it's a good quality finish applied by somebody who know's what they're doing, it will not hurt the value. Keep yer powder dry, Mac.
 

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IMO restoration or refinishing is only viable if/when it is of no detrimental effect to, or will enhance the value of the gun. Which is tricky business unless you have a reliable crystal ball. How many Sporterized WW-2 Mauser's have we seen that were cheap surplus when the bubbatizing was done. But would've been valuable collectors pieces now if had left original? Only rarely will I do more than attempt to clean and repair.
 

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There are reasons for restoration than value (ref my diatribe #5 above on restoration). It can be family heirloom interest of which I have had several. I had one of major historical. It was the remains of a long gun, with solid provenance, that dated back to the Revolution, owned by a "Varick" who was someone on Washington's staff & with Varick's name engraved on the butt cap tang. It had been a very good quality gun but had been "kept modernized" by conversion to percussion, barrel shortened and in later days fallen into into disuse.

Maybe 25 years ago I restored it to the standards of its time of original use. It was on display for years in NY, Fraunce's Tavern & may still be there.

I had more than a restorer's interest in it. The gun may have been in the hands of my ancestor James McCrory who was Ensign to Washington, wintered at Valley Forge. I have his Bible with that info he penned in it, plus his pension records.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
IMO restoration or refinishing is only viable if/when it is of no detrimental effect to, or will enhance the value of the gun. Which is tricky business unless you have a reliable crystal ball. How many Sporterized WW-2 Mauser's have we seen that were cheap surplus when the bubbatizing was done. But would've been valuable collectors pieces now if had left original? Only rarely will I do more than attempt to clean and repair.
Respectfully,

They became collectible because so many people sporterize the surplus. Similar to the Mosin-Nagant: eventually those too will be collectible when everybody has sporterize them. If a massive amount German Mauser had been left in their original condition; then they would be relatively cheap, and not very collectible.
 

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Every time I try to respond to a "refinish, restore or not" post, I get in so deep that I give up. Generally, if a gun has a collector value, which guns like the Yugo M48 or the M-N's do not, it should not be refinished or restored unless it is in such poor condition that the only way it can go is up. If a gun 100% original, sells for, say, $1000, and the same gun at 60% sells for $300, one 10% bought for $100 would probably be worth restoring, bringing it to a 50% level. But the cost of a good restoration would be in the $400 range, so it is easy to see that the cost effectiveness is low.

Jim
 

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I don't know.. What I DO know is that no one would look twice at my Gras until I broke it down to parade rest, cleaned everything and sanded/refinished the stock. It was way too crappy-looking to touch without gloves on!

In fact, it was given to me just to get rid of it.
 

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Pretty Gras.... And a good example of one of the differences between a refinish and a restoration. The original Gras did not have a blued bolt nor a gloss finish on the stock.
However if it was as bad as you said, this is an improvement and by doing it yourself you don't have a lot of money tied up in it.;)
 

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Here's a challenge.....
Refinish? NO WAY! The rifle shows its 130+ years of service and the only things I have done to it is replace some missing parts just to make the gun appear complete. I had to fabricate the tang sight, ramrod,ramrod tips and thimble. (None of these parts would "fool" anyone familiar with the originals, but that wasn't my intention in the first place. Originals just aren't available)
The front sight is a current exact reproduction of the original and cost nearly as much as I paid for the rifle

Restore? Good question.. This M1875 Officers Model 2nd type in excellent condition auctions well into 5 figures. (Flayderman has them up to around $30K) I don't have any idea what a proper restoration would cost and what the end value would be. I just know it's beyond my capabilities and if I paid the price, I would have to sell the gun to recoup my investment.
I'm quite happy with it as-is and owning 1 of the 477 made........


 

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Pretty Gras.... And a good example of one of the differences between a refinish and a restoration. The original Gras did not have a blued bolt nor a gloss finish on the stock.
However if it was as bad as you said, this is an improvement and by doing it yourself you don't have a lot of money tied up in it.;)
Thanks. Since everything was worn down to silver and I had a lot of emery sanding to do to the barrel to remove surface rust, I figured I'd give it a cold-blue treatment. Surprisingly enough, the bore isn't all that bad! I can knock the satin shine off the stock with a little 00 steel wool if you think that would look better (?)

The whole thing looked like it was dug out of the dirt in an automotove wrecking yard. Now tell me; who would pay money for something like that?
 

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I refinish SxS shotguns. I find old beatup shotguns and bring them back to life. IE, bought an old Sterlingworth SxS in 16 ga., Not necessasarily collectable, paid $400.00 for it. Repaired several screws, the trigger guard, and the fore end. Repaired scratches and gouges in the stock. Brought it back to a respectable bird gun with character. I bet I could get twice what I paid for it now.
 

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MSGT-R,

I wouldn't mess with it....Just tell people it was a parade or honor guard gun.;)

Have you shot it? I remember the first Gras I had years ago. I loaded up some BP loads and all I had for slugs were some 500gr.'ers. That thing kicked like a mule. Even knocked my glasses off.......:eek:
 

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Thanks. Since everything was worn down to silver and I had a lot of emery sanding to do to the barrel to remove surface rust, I figured I'd give it a cold-blue treatment. Surprisingly enough, the bore isn't all that bad! I can knock the satin shine off the stock with a little 00 steel wool if you think that would look better (?)

The whole thing looked like it was dug out of the dirt in an automotove wrecking yard. Now tell me; who would pay money for something like that?
I would if price was right. But that's my hobby, doing just what you did (and a very good job of it too). That is IMO a perfect example of a viable restoration/refinish project. Worth little or nothing as is. Worth at least something after. And done cheaply enough that you don't take a bath on costs. Collector grade? Probably not. But still worth a few bucks as good looking wall hanger or maybe even shooter. Well done.
 

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Have you shot it? I remember the first Gras I had years ago. I loaded up some BP loads and all I had for slugs were some 500gr.'ers. That thing kicked like a mule. Even knocked my glasses off.......:eek:
God no! I have a messed up shoulder from a motorcycle accident 8 months ago. I shot a 30-06 two months ago and quit after the second round! I think my Winchester 30-30 is my recoil limit for now.

I know what you guys mean about the levels of restoration. I also have a sporterized Krag that I just cleaned up really good, but no bluing nor refinishing.
 
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