Long Term Storage In Factory Packaging
I have a 1977 Detective Special with the original box with foam insert. Is it ok to store the revolver in that box?
I was recently asked about this subject by another Forum Member, and the following was my response.
My Experience With Long Term Storage In Original Colt Packaging:
Several years ago, I had the great fortune to do business with a family that once owned a sporting goods and gun store in a rural community in the mid-west. In addition to being a successful farming family, during the 70s and 80s, they saved (rather than sell in their gun store) about 600 new, direct from the distributor, firearms from Colt, Smith & Wesson, Browning and Ruger. I met this family as they began the process of selling the collection, in accordance with their retirement and estate planning.
Over a period of several years, I purchased new Colts and Smiths from this family, all of which were stored in the original factory packaging, never opened, cleaned of factory oil, never handled in any way. The Colts were shipped to me in the wood-grain style box of that era. The Smith & Wesson N frame revolvers were shipped to me in the correct, mid 1970s packaging, which consisted of a mahogany display case inside a cardboard shipping sleeve, sealed with factory tape with label affixed to the shipping sleeve. The quantity of Colts I purchased is more than adequate to express these observations about the adequacy of factory
long term storage of up to 40 years. At least two other Forum Members have done business with this family and are familiar with their collection.
Each 35 to 40 year old Colt was inside the plastic bag (the plastic bags had the appearance of a newly dispatched Zip Lock), and each was covered with a dried, crusty, and uneven oil or grease. There was no viscosity to this material. This dried material on the wooden stocks had turned white. I photographed each package and each gun with this dried material on it, before I started any cleaning. Out of this collection, there were two, a revolver and a semi-auto, which I think suffered a slight bluing deterioration. The bluing on these two Colts showed a cloudiness over certain parts of the gun. There was no rusting or pitting, just a loss of bluing over about 25% of the surface area. The finish on the nickel guns was perfect; this is one of the reasons I admire Colt nickel.
When I received the Colts, the end flaps of the wood-grain style boxes were stiff and solid. There was no sign the boxes had been opened or tampered with. There was some storage wear on the outside of the boxes, but each remained strong and secure. One of the packaging characteristics that stood out to me was the condition of the gun’s plastic bag. Unlike any Colt I have acquired from this era, the plastic bag had the appearance of being folded once, with the gun in it and then never touched.
From this collection I ordered and received a number Colt Archive Letters that, combined with the seller’s store receipts and other documentation, links the guns very neatly from Colt to the Distributor, then to the family’s gun store, then to me.
Although I had very good luck with this collection, I do not believe these Colts were packaged at the factory in a way that would guarantee long term protection. I often wonder how long the grease had been dried before I got them. I also wonder what the internals must look like, as they have never been cleaned.
However, I am convinced from this experience that a properly cleaned and oiled or waxed Colt can be stored in this manner over a very long period of time. I think the duration is limited by the type of oil that is used, which may last decades.
The Smith & Wesson revolvers are from 1976 to 1980, both blue and nickel. All are N frame models, and all were shipped to me sealed in the Smith & Wesson shipping carton of that era. Of the ones I have un-sealed, each gun was covered in a film of grease, which still had some viscosity left. It is a sticky grease, almost like a sugar substance on the guns. Because of the remarkably good condition I found the guns in, I have kept a good number of them sealed. I have attached a few photos from my Smith & Wesson collection.
I believe the Smiths were greased and packaged at the factory in a manner that offers very excellent long term storage.
The fact that all of this family’s Smith & Wesson N Frame Collection, about 75 to 100 pieces, remained sealed, further supports my believe that the Colts were likewise not opened or handled during the time they owned them.
Colt Python Target - Stored Since 1980:
Colt Viper - Stored Since 1977:
Smith & Wesson Model 57 - Factory Sealed Since 1977:
Smith & Wesson Model 57 - Unsealed Showing Factory Grease: