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Just got back from a friends house, he wanted me to look at five old guns that came down from his wife's side of the family. They are thinking of selling and wanted a ballpark idea of what they have. Guns are a 1928 vintage Colt SAA in 45 (350XXX) at maybe 90% and all original and still showing case colors (altho faded), an 1849 pocket (71XXX) with a scene and all matching including wedge but no finish, a Colt 1903 (27XXX) with beautiful bluing below tobacco staining and pearl grips altho I do not think they are original since he also has a spare set of grips for it, also at 90% (I am terrible at this). A P38 AC41 with matching magazine and all numbers match in great shape, and a Whitney Arms percussion revolver in poor shape. I may be able to post photos in the appropriate forums later but right now need to find out one thing.
The fella that originally owned all these was a cigar smoker and had these guns out on display. They are coated with a yellowish film. How can this be removed? I once owned a Winchester 1873 that was THICK with cigar film and I couldn't remove it w/o harsh treatment, which did not matter since there was no finish underneath anything anyway. But these guns (especially the SAA and 1903) have BEAUTIFUL bluing under it all. What should we try? Anything or sell as is and take the hit? Anybody out there have experience with this? On my 1873 I tried alcohol, acetone, laquer thinner, and the usual gun solvents w/little effect. These are high condition guns and we really are afraid to experiment much on them.
 

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I believe Alcohol will remove Tobacco Smoke Film pretty well...and it will not harm the finish of the Gun.

I would not use Alcohol on Hard Rubber Stocks though...for those, use cool Soap and Water and a soft Toothbrush.

In fact, midly Hot Soap and Water and a soft Toothbrush would likely do very well for cleaning Smoke film from the ( semi-dismantled ) Guns proper...( but never use Hot Water on Hard Rubber Stocks ). Then dry with a Hair Drier till the Metal is warm enough to quickly evaporate a test 'smudge' of Water.

Pretty much like cleaning a Black Powder Revolver that way.
 

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I can't imagine acetone or laquer thinner not taking that off . Niether will harm any metal finish. Just remove grip panels, plunk guns in a pan full, cover and forget for a few days. At that point a old soft paint brush should take it right off.

Or, just call it "PATINA" and jack up the price.
 
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Several years ago I purchased a few rifles that sat in a cigar smokers den that were covered with tobacco film. I used Hoppes bore cleaner on a bunch of clean patches. It dissolved the grime and film on the metal and even the wood. It really wasn't a big problem or a lot of work.
 

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Concur .
I use Hoppes 9 on nasty guns that come in the store . It won't hurt the finish on the stock or plastics .
 

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If plain old alcohol won't take those stains off I find it hard to believe they are from tobacco smoke.
Alcohol seems to do fine to remove built up tobacco tar in briar pipe stems, which are a lot more porous than steel. The amount of tar that can build up in a pipe stem in a short period of time makes 100 years of smoke on a handgun look like nothing by comparision.
 

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My dad smokes a pipe from dawn to dusk. His house is full of nautical antiques. Lots of shiny brass. I have never noticed any buildup of smoke residue on anything. Are you sure it is cigar smoke residue? Maybe it is dried oil residue he used to protect the finish?
 

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Hmmmm...may be dried oil after all. I have already advised him to try hoppes on a clean cotton patch in an unobtrusive area (the barrel flat under the loading lever of the 1849 pocket) and let me know what he finds. The reason I thought it was cigar smoke was because of my 1873 winchester which had a film on it exactly like what is on my friends guns, but mine stunk to high heaven and the dealer online warned me before bidding that it smelled and looked heavily of smoke. My friends do not stink at all, but I was informed he kept these out on display and was a heavy cigar smoker. Plan on helping my friend out here and hopefully he will allow me to post a few photos of what he has...I know I love the SAA but it is out of my price range. So we will try the hoppes and the alcohol and see what happens. Thanks to all.
 

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"Plan on helping my friend out here and hopefully he will allow me to post a few photos of what he has...I know I love the SAA but it is out of my price range".

Been there as well helping a buddy sell something I'd really like to have myself but really couldn't afford. Kinda gnaws at a fella during the process. But you're a good friend to help him out like you're doing.
 

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The sporting goods guy's place back in my youth always had cigar & pipe smoke. So did the barber shop. In fact , it still seems like the most natural thing in the world. Cuspidors, too. For my own part, I never had a good cigar until one of the guys bought me one. It was like, $7. It was great.
Anyway, most crud can be removed with a little experimental ingenuity. A little understanding of some fundamentals of organic chemistry is good, too. Not a lot, but some. The basic idea is, 'like dissolves like'. The more involved idea is, if the crud is non-polar in its' molecular structure, you need to use a solvent that has non-polar characteristics. There are some solvents, like alcohols and WD-40, that can do both. For practical purposes, there are pure non-polar solvents, and pure polar solvents, Think of the polar solvent as one that will go into solution with good ol' water. Think of non-polar as ones that will mix with petroleum. Ok so far.
Now take a little swab of the solvent your choice and see what it does to the crud, preferably a spot someplace obscure that won't be a problem if you screw it up. Like copper solvent on a nickel finish. Do not ask me how I know this; I just do, ok? (the point here is that some over the counter stuff is specialized, and is a potent ionic solvent, to the point of being caustic or corrosive (alkaline or acid), and can wreck your finish.
Well, I guess you know why I know now anyway, huh? (read: 'bonehead')
You black powder guys and corrosive primer guys all know that windex or soap & water is best for those things. I have taken guns down to subassembly and tossed 'em in a pot of boiling water with excellent results.
Go about it kinda stragically, and you won't be disappointed.
Ammonia ok, bleach not ok. WD-40 has both polar & non-polar characteistics which is why it will make electricals work again after they get doused.
MEK (methyl-ethyl ketone) is as bad stuff as has ever been created, and is to be avioded. If you use brake cleaner, use the non-methylated type. Do not get any ketones or ethers on you, it can kill you, even in tiny amounts. Use gloves and eye protection if you go with any of these kinds of things. Avoid vapors.
I'll shut up now.
 

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Some old fish oils really smell, I repair pocket watches as a hobby and some of them stink inside from the old dried fish oil, and to think they only used a few drops for the entire watch.
 

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The best thing to remove tobacco smoke tarnish from any firearm is 409 cleaner which can be bought at any grocery store. To clean the gun, dampen a clean soft rag-like a piece of washed out bed sheet folded up, with the 409. The rag should be a medium damp- not sopping wet, nor a dry damp. Wipe down the gun with the rag. Try to use a white rag because it will tell you when you have removed all the crud.
When the gun is clean, immediately wipe it down with a light lubricating oil like 3 in 1 brand oil in the usual way. If you can't do this for some reason, set the oven in you kitchen stove on its lowest setting and once it is heated up to temperature (about 250 degrees) put the gun in with the door open. It will be completely dry in about 15 minutes. Remove the gun with a pot holder or a folded up dry rag. Oil the gun, stock/grips and all, as soon as possible in the usual way.
 

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Hi dandak;

Well, if he is a good friend, perhaps he would sell you the Colt on a pay as you go basis. Either he, or if you get real lucky, you, keep the gun and you pay so much a month.

It would a shame to have to watch that Colt slide out from underneath you while you helped with the operation all along. Couldn't hurt to ask anyway.

Good luck dandak, I hope you can get it.

Bud
I forgot one thing. That little Colt 1849 Pocket? Be very careful with it as it's worth a bit of money. That five digit serial number is a very early one and it may have been made in the first or second year. I would have to check for certain to be sure. However, with no blueing left, and all the serial numbers match, that little Colt is worth from $1,200 to $1,700.00 just as it is. I've sold four of those over the years and the second one I sold was in similar condition to yours and it sold for $1,550.00 and that was eight years ago.

Bud


Hmmmm...may be dried oil after all. I have already advised him to try hoppes on a clean cotton patch in an unobtrusive area (the barrel flat under the loading lever of the 1849 pocket) and let me know what he finds. The reason I thought it was cigar smoke was because of my 1873 winchester which had a film on it exactly like what is on my friends guns, but mine stunk to high heaven and the dealer online warned me before bidding that it smelled and looked heavily of smoke. My friends do not stink at all, but I was informed he kept these out on display and was a heavy cigar smoker. Plan on helping my friend out here and hopefully he will allow me to post a few photos of what he has...I know I love the SAA but it is out of my price range. So we will try the hoppes and the alcohol and see what happens. Thanks to all.
 

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Hi dandak;

One other thing that will most definitely work is if you happen to know anyone at all who uses an Ultrasonic cleaner. Now, it would have to be a good sized one to be able to fit a handgun into but I do know for absolute certainty that these machines will remove hard caked on oil from metal. They will not hurt the finsih of the gun either.

I have used the Ultrasonic machines to clean hard caked on oil from poscket watch parts for years. They are usually brass, some are gold and some are steel. The thing is IT WORKS and works well. You may be able to find a good automotive repair shop that has one as many often do to get that hard crud off of rocker arm shafts and other parts that gets a lot of oil.

I hope that will be of some help dandak.

Bud
ps
This is precisely why I never, ever use oil on the outside of any of my firearms. I use Renaissance Wax. Nothing else, ever. If you look around the web or Google it, you'll find that most of the worlds best Museums use Renaissance Wax to protect almost everything. Wood, metal, leather, just about everything. It never builds up and it leaves no residue. When you handle your gun after waxing and waiting a half hour you will not see a fingerprint on it either. It is magnificent stuff.
 

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Glad to hear all these warnings about solvents. Been using them for decades. Maybe I'll have trouble in my old age. I'm only 88 now.
 
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