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  #1  
Old 25 January 2012, 21:23
In The Gap In The Gap is offline
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Refurb'ing Grandpa's 1911

Gents,

My Grandfather carried this 1911 in the Aleutian Islands and the South Pacific during WWII. I remember him telling me he "acquired" the gun in the war, but I was never able to figure exactly what that meant. I remember him telling me he wanted to refurbish the weapon- but that fell to the wayside in the late 1980s when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's and Alzheimers. After his passing, my uncle inherited the weapon, but took no steps to restore the gun.

After some conversational ninjitsu with my uncle, I now have the gun and want to 1. restore it to its original factory condition; 2. find out as much about it as possible.

The best zero-fail option I've found (recommended to me by the Colt Factory) is a complete refurbishing through Turnbull Manufacturing. Very Expensive. I just returned from a year-long deployment, so the funds are there, but I'm obviously interested in figuring out what other options may exist.

I see this as a way to honor my grandfather and his service, and would appreciate your thoughts/direction. Please post or PM with your thoughts, questions, comments or 1911 resources.

Thanks guys.

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Old 25 January 2012, 21:55
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I have no expertise on the matter, but I want to say that's an awesome bit of history/family heirloom you have and good luck in your endeavor trying to refurbish that bad boy!
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Old 25 January 2012, 22:04
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You can get a factory letter from Colt which says where it was originally shipped. For the refinishing, it looks like it was nickel plated. Colt will re-finish firearms and you can get a complete re-finish for under $400. If they need to replace parts, that is extra. I have not had any autos done by them, but I have looked as some really rough DA revolvers that Colt re-did and they look like new.

Doug Turnbull does really nice work, but I am assuming you don't want a complete restoration to like-new condition museum quality with re-cut markings etc. If that is what you want, I think that Turnbull is the only game in town.

Just FWIW, that is a 1911, and not the 1911A1, so it is pre-WWII. The mag is also original, but for the life of me, I really cannot figure out what the flaking white stuff on the finish is. You can get an estimation of the manufacture date at proofhouse.com from the serial number. If it has a "C" prefix, it is a commercial gun. If it was GI, the frame will be marked "United States Property."
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Last edited by Snowball; 25 January 2012 at 22:08.
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Old 25 January 2012, 22:19
BigNickT BigNickT is offline
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Just so you know...."refubishing" will ruin the value as far as collectibility goes. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it. The choice is yours. I would do it if the gun is severely worn or rusted.

I think it's also a realistic option to do it yourself if the object is to get it back to the way it was coming through the armory window. There are any number of manuals on the 1911. A refurbishment would mean replacing springs or worn parts, maybe replacing the barrel and or bushing and getting the pistol reparkerized. Parkerizing is not something you can DIY but you can get it done pretty cheaply. (technically you can do parkerizing yourself. The stuff is available through Brownell's but you don't to do it in the kitchen.)

Turnbull restorations do generally come out very nicely and they retain far more value than equally nice restorations by lesser known and smaller operations. You're paying for the name, and the convenience. Thay aren't perfect. My father sent some old original Winchester parts there for case coloring and got back a reproduction hammer. They had done several in the batch so there was no way to find the original. Shit happens but still...

IMO if the gun is in operable condition with little or no damage I'd keep it as is. For the cost of a restoration you can go buy another 1911 to shoot. It's an old gun. It's very collectible. And you'll feel like shit if the 100th time you pull the trigger the slide cracks.

Tax out
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Old 25 January 2012, 22:22
BigNickT BigNickT is offline
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How the hell did I miss the picture? Swear to God ti wasn't there when I started reading. Anyway yeah. Get it refinished. Professionally. lol

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Old 25 January 2012, 22:24
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Looks like you got a VERY good'un. Looks like 1915, based on what looks like a serial number of C23634

<table border="1" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td>Model 1911 Commercial & 1st Mod N.M. .45</td> <td> http://www.proofhouse.com/colt/index.html</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="50%">Year</td> <td width="50%">Serial Number</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1912</td> <td>C1</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1913</td> <td>C1900</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1914</td> <td>C5400</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1915</td> <td>C16600</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1916</td> <td>C27600</td></tr></tbody></table>
Treat it well, and YES, I'd spend the money on a complete restoration, but that's just me.
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Old 25 January 2012, 23:55
In The Gap In The Gap is offline
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Thanks to all for the quick replies.

The gun is inoperable at this time. Rusting is causing rough slide movement.

The serial # is C(Maybe "G"?) 23624. Just above the S/N reads "Government Model".

The opposite side has patent dates listed which, due to rusting, have become illegible.

I really appreciate the feedback, and at this point, am leaning toward Turnbull. Will Turnbull be able to determine the exact specifications of how this gun originally left the Colt factory? The gun was definitely nickel plated, but some guys I've shown the gun to think the nickel plating was an owner modification- - possibly by my grandfather, but I can't know for sure.

More pics to follow.
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Old 26 January 2012, 00:00
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Colt did not ship nickel guns in that era. Turnbull is THE expert is restorations. That being said, it is just a shooter. You may not need to spend Turnbull money to have it reconditioned so you can shoot it. You really should ask Colt what they would charge. After all, they did make it in the first place. Don't misunderstand me, a Turnbull restoration would be grand, but they can be spendy.

Also, it is a C and not a G.
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Old 26 January 2012, 00:36
In The Gap In The Gap is offline
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Thanks for the replies Snowball. I spoke with Colt earlier today and the young lady said when it comes to anything other than refinishing, Colt sends people to Turnbull. There are a slew of other guys on the web claiming top-notch capability in restoring/refinishing early-model 1911s... like anything else, it's a trust issue. More pics below, considering a field strip tomorrow to see about springs, etc.


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Old 26 January 2012, 06:23
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My first guess is that the weapon has already had some re-finishing work done to it that wasn't.... superlative. It won't cost you anything to get some detailed pictures and mail them to Turnbull for an estimate.
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Old 26 January 2012, 07:13
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Thanks for the info on this thread. I have my grandfather's 1911 from the same era, and may look to refurbish it in the future...
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Old 26 January 2012, 09:26
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The nice thing about Turnbull is that he has the roll marks to sharpen up everything. It will look like new. Good luck.
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Old 26 January 2012, 22:14
Lennie Small Lennie Small is offline
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Most of the time nickel or chrome has to be chemically de-plated to remove it, blasting won't take it off completely. It will look like it's all gone but when you go to blue it there will be all these silver specks in your finish.

I've handled a Turnbull full resto job 1911 and while the work was amazing, it looked so much better than it did new that I thought of it more as a refinish than a restoration. It had a mile deep bluing job that looked like the gun was painted in oil. The only stuff I've seen as good was some of the pre 1960's carbonia process S&W guns, Colt Pythons and guns done by Ford's Reblue Co down in Crystal River.

Looking at the way it is now, collector value isn't much of a consideration. It's value lies in sentiment which means you should do with it as you like. Jason Burton is one of the best 1911 smiths on earth and does fine work. He's one of the few other than Turbull that can freshen slide stamps (that I know of). Honestly if you don't want to drop at least 3+ grand I'd send it to Ford's or another reputable refinishing shop, have them chemically strip it and deplate it. After that you're stuck with a choice- live with the small pits, have it lightly finished and blued or have the surface prepped enough to remove all the pits and live with faint lettering. You may not lose as much of the stamps as you might think, I had a pre 1911A1 slide that was straight up sandblasted to remove corrosion damage and then finished up to 800 grit. The lettering still looked pretty good.
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Old 26 January 2012, 22:22
Lennie Small Lennie Small is offline
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Also, since I can't edit, I forgot to mention there are electrolysis processes that can remove the rust from the metal to sacrificial anodes without abrasion. That's probably the best way to give you an idea of what kind of pitting it has and the surface prep you'll need to get it looking good again. Good refinishing shops should be familiar with this but it's not difficult to do yourself with store bought materials.. I've seen some amazing results, even off guns that were found on the bottom of lakes and had so much rust they were barely identifiable. Here's a few links

http://www.surplusrifleforum.com/vie...?f=80&t=103161
http://www.rowand.net/Shop/Tools/Electrolysis.htm
http://www.theguncounter.com/forum/v...hp?f=6&t=11010
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Old 26 January 2012, 22:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lennie Small View Post
Also, since I can't edit, I forgot to mention there are electrolysis processes that can remove the rust from the metal to sacrificial anodes without abrasion. That's probably the best way to give you an idea of what kind of pitting it has and the surface prep you'll need to get it looking good again. Good refinishing shops should be familiar with this but it's not difficult to do yourself with store bought materials.. I've seen some amazing results, even off guns that were found on the bottom of lakes and had so much rust they were barely identifiable. Here's a few links

http://www.surplusrifleforum.com/vie...?f=80&t=103161
http://www.rowand.net/Shop/Tools/Electrolysis.htm
http://www.theguncounter.com/forum/v...hp?f=6&t=11010
That's pretty cool.
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Old 26 January 2012, 23:25
In The Gap In The Gap is offline
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Thanks Lennie. Some excellent points to consider. 3 grand is a lot to spend, no matter the sentimental value. Part of me likes the idea of taking ownership Of the restoration process by doing most of it myself... The other part of me wants to leave it up to the experts.

How operable might it be if I send it to Turnbull?
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Old 27 January 2012, 00:18
Lennie Small Lennie Small is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by In The Gap View Post
Thanks Lennie. Some excellent points to consider. 3 grand is a lot to spend, no matter the sentimental value. Part of me likes the idea of taking ownership Of the restoration process by doing most of it myself... The other part of me wants to leave it up to the experts.

How operable might it be if I send it to Turnbull?
In my opinion, I think you have the perfect opportunity to have a hand in re doing it into something you or your kids could shoot one day. If you send it to Turnbull for a full restoration, it will come back literally in better shape than it came off the line back in 1915. It should function the same as it did when it was new. In the end it boils down to how far you want to take it. That's pretty much as top of the line as it gets.

On the other hand, you could do the electrolysis yourself, send it out for de plating to a good shop, have them prep it and do a quality blue job on the frame, slide, barrel, trigger, bushing, thumb safety, hammer and grip safety. After that, acquire some period grips, have a smith run through the gun and replace any corroded or broken small parts, pins and springs with new old stock USGI parts. You should end up with a gun that will be very handsome and functional but it will lack the extreme attention to detail a Turnbull gun would have. For example, some of your slide and frame stampings might have their edges softened, your blue might not precisely match what was correct for the period, machining lines may be slightly rounded, etc. It won't be museum perfect, but it will still look good, shoot good and be a nice heirloom to pass down that you won't be afraid to take to the range.

This is more or less what your pistol should look like in the end.
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Old 27 January 2012, 09:03
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I'll agree with Lennie Small, your first step will be to strip off the plating and see what you have to work with. This is best done in the platers tank. Then you can see how much pitting you have.
You may want to have it rebuilt or put back together as it once was. You should be albe to getting looking good again.
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Old 27 January 2012, 09:34
Hostile0311 Hostile0311 is offline
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I can't offer any advice on refurbing, but what I can tell you spare no expense in getting it done if you can afford it as heirlooms like this bring great satisfaction and you'll have something that can last for generations to come to appreciate.
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Old 27 January 2012, 12:26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hostile0311 View Post
I can't offer any advice on refurbing, but what I can tell you spare no expense in getting it done if you can afford it as heirlooms like this bring great satisfaction and you'll have something that can last for generations to come to appreciate.
Thanks brother. Keeping in mind that I intend to keep this as an heirloom, the gun (and its story) will hopefully one day be an excellent conduit for me to tell my kids about how my grandfather taught me the principle "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing the right way". Turnbull has an excellent reputation... I can see his restoration of the gun could be worth every red cent.
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