Exploring Originals

Welcome back to our exploration of the differences between modern color casing and traditional color case hardening. Last week we defined a few key terms, which you can review here. Before we move on to seeing examples of these two different finishes let’s dig in a bit more on color case hardening.

Does Turnbull Restoration Co. Really Know What They’re Doing?

You may be visiting our website for the first time, or you may have known about our company for as long as we’ve been around – almost 40 years at this point! Either way, you can take our word for it that we’ve perfected the nearly-lost-art of traditional bone-and-wood charcoal color case hardening or you can read on for some proof. Today we’ll view a few immaculately preserved color case hardened firearms from the late 1800s and early 1900s compared to the restorations we’ve completed on the same models.

Uncovering Treasures at Rock Island Auction

Most of the antique firearms we see at our shop are in rough shape. Since people are reaching out to us to preserve and restore their family heirlooms, we almost never get to see the one-in-a-million pieces that have somehow maintained a nearly perfect finish over more than 100 years. Luckily, Rock Island Auction has become the go-to home for sellers looking to send these unique pieces out into the world. Not only are these firearms beautiful and valuable, they’re also important reference pieces to show us how our restorations should look to truly be authentic.

This rifle is part of Rock Island Auction’s Premier Firearms Auction #89, scheduled for August 25, 2023. Image source: Rock Island Auction Company.

The first piece we’ll explore is a Winchester 1873. As you can see it has beautiful, bright coloring that is varied and flowing. The colors are evocative of a fire, with flames licking the edges of the receiver. Bright blues play between tan sections, with hints of pink and purple in the very center of the blues.

Now let’s take a look at another Winchester 1873. This rifle is an example of something a customer sent to us to be restored and, in this case, upgraded. The first photo shows what you’ll typically come across for an original rifle; the finish is fully worn away and the surface of the receiver is pitted. In the after, you see how we’ve recreated the coloration found in the previous 1873, with similar colors, variation, and patterning.

As you can see, the customer requested a number of upgrades in addition to a standard restoration for this rifle. It now sports a pistol-grip stock with checkering. See more in our restoration gallery.

Colt Classics Then and Now

Another classic firearm from the late 1800s is the Colt Single Action Army revolver. Rock Island Auction has an example that sports original color case hardening, as well as bright nitre blued small parts (sometimes called Peacock Blue or Fire Blue).

This revolver is part of Rock Island Auction’s Premier Firearms Auction #89, scheduled for August 25, 2023. Image source: Rock Island Auction Company.

Again, you see the same type of coloration on this revolver, although the patterning is different due to the size and shape of this frame as compared to the Winchester 1873 receiver.

A revolver in this condition is not common. Below is an example, with before and after photos, of a Colt Single Action Army that we restored. Again, you’ll see the “before” condition is what you’ll usually encounter.

See more examples of restored Colt Single Action Army revolvers in our restoration gallery.

In both examples the colors are similar, with tan around the edges and wisps of blue and purple in the center. The patterning is similar, too. It’s important to note that the colors and patterning vary for the Colt SAA depending on when it was manufactured. We’ll explore these intricacies in a later blog post.

Hopefully now you’ll agree that we know what we’re talking about when it comes to color case hardening! You can view more of our restorations in our restoration gallery.

Stay Tuned…

Coming up in our color case hardening series we’ll be discussing the unique colors and patterns different manufacturers have become known for over the past century, as well as finally seeing some side-by-side comparisons of traditional color case hardening and modern cyanide color casing.

1 Comment

  1. Scott Farrell

    There’s no comparison between traditional color case hardening (Turnbull) and the modern cyanide coloring. I have both. The Turnbull guns are truly works of art.


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