How to Antique a Colt Single Action Army (SAA) Revolver

Originally published on The Open Range in June, 2014

In this tutorial I have taken a Great Western II Californian 45 Colt and applied antiquing with two  methods. In the first part you can get a clean blue free gun that has the appearance of being old. The  advantage to this first method it the amount of time spent on the project (about two-three hours) and  being able to keep the gun rust free. The disadvantages are the gun still really is shiny and has no age  character.  

The second method is more involved but results in a gun that really has an antique look. I don’t beat the  metal or let it pit so in reality it could be re-blued at a later time and would look new again. 

This project is fairly simple, as you really can’t mess up. If you antique too much, work off the rust with  0000 Steel wool and WD-40. Be sure to try and keep the cylinder and bore clean during this operation.  Also take care to keep the inside areas of the frame free from rust.  

In this tutorial be aware that the chemicals used can cause injury if you aren’t careful. Follow all the  directions on the labels. 

I use Vinegar as a blue remover for the following reasons. It does a relatively quick job of removing the  blue for a tiny fraction of Blue and rust remover costs and is safe to use. You can supplement ingredients  I have listed if you like. You just need to get the end goal. 

The items I used in this project are as follows.

First Method:

  • 1 Gallon of common cheap white vinegar
  • WD-40
  • Birchwood Casey Degreaser
  • 0000 Steel Wool
  • Plastic or Glass Tray

Second Method:

  • 1 Gallon of common cheap white vinegar.  
  • WD-40  
  • Birchwood Casey Degreaser  
  • Birchwood Casey Perma Blue  
  • Birchwood Casey Plum Browning  
  • 0000 Steel Wool  
  • Plastic or Glass Tray  
  • Small bristle brush

Method 1

Let’s get started.

Please forgive me for totally and utterly desecrating this brand new EMF Great  Western II Single Action. I wanted to use this gun as it was a perfect example and had no wear or  damage (until I got my hands on it).  

Disassemble the revolver and use the degreaser on all the parts to be antiqued. This can be done with  paper towels.

Set the hand, bolt and internal springs, trigger, center pin, and cylinder bushing aside. These parts will  NOT get antiqued. Get the plastic or glass tray and place the frame and barrel, backstrap, trigger guard, ejector rod and housing, and all exposed screws in the container. Now completely cover the parts with the  vinegar and forget about it.  

It will take anywhere from ½ hour to 2 hours to dissolve the bluing, just check from time to time on the  progress. 

As you can see in the photograph the blue comes off pretty quick. If you want anything less than the  finish removed you should use a paper towel or rag and wipe the parts until you get the desired results. 

If you use Birtchwood Casey Blue and rust remover it is INSTANT! As soon as the solution contacts the  gun it blue is gone.  

The Vinegar is slower, more controllable and takes nearly all the case colors but leaves a trace, which is  desired.  

(Stop before next step if you are using method two and scroll down for those instructions)

When you are satisfied with the results rinse in hot water, reassemble without the innards and place in a  glass tray in a heated oven (200 degrees) to dry the gun. After cooling disassemble and reassemble lubing  all the parts as you go. Finish with Steel wool and oil or WD-40. 

This completes method one. If you want to see the pictures of the finished gun go to photos at the end. 

Method 2

Lets back up to when you are satisfied with the results, rinse in hot water, use the Birtchwood Casey  Perma Blue all over the gun, especially in all the protected areas. Place the parts in a glass tray in a  heated oven (300 degrees) to get the metal to the point water will sizzle on the surface of the gun. 

Be sure to try and keep the cylinder and bore clean during this operation. Also take care to keep the  inside areas of the frame free from rust.

Be prepared with the Plum brown solution and a small bristle brush to apply it. 

It is very important to take the gun from the oven and move it to a well ventilated (Outside is good) area  before appling the browning because some real bad fumes result when the solution hits the metal. THIS  IS REAL IMPORTANT if you want to continue Cowboy Action Shooting without a ventilator. 

Apply the browning liberally and cover every area, Let the solution sit for 1-2 minutes and spray with  WD-40. The metal will still be too hot so let it cool. Next take a wad of 0000 Steel wool and scrub the gun  taking the surface rust off and leaving the brown in the protected areas. I can’t tell you what to take off.  It is up to your creative instincts now. Degreasing again and heating the metal with a propane torch and  applying more brown and taking it off will accomplish the desired results. 

Be sure to keep cylinders and base pin hole clean  

Photos of finished gun below:


What Year Was the Colt Single Action Army Revolver Made?

The Colt Single Action Army revolver was introduced in 1873. It became renowned for its design and performance, earning a place in the annals of firearms history as “The Gun That Won the West.”

How Much Did the Original Colt SAA Cost?

The original Colt Single Action Army was priced at approximately $17 in the late 19th century. Its affordability, coupled with exceptional performance, contributed to its widespread popularity.

Can You Still Get a Colt Single Action Army?

Colt Single Action Army revolvers are still available for purchase. Collectors and enthusiasts can acquire them through specialized dealers, auctions, and collectors’ events, though modern reproductions are more common.

What is the Famous Colt Single Action Army?

The famous Colt Single Action Army is a revolver celebrated for its role in the American West. It gained notoriety for its reliability, durability, and accuracy, making it a preferred choice for lawmen, outlaws, and military personnel of that era.

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