Two Ways to Blue a Gun at Home
Russ Chastain 08.23.17
Bluing a gun, or even a part for a gun, is not usually something that’s easily done at home. From the factory, most guns are “hot blued,” which provides an attractive finish as well as corrosion protection. Doing it right requires chemicals, tanks, and know-how, but “cold bluing” is fairly easy to do at home. The trouble is, cold blue sucks. At least, every method I have tried has sucked. Cold blue usually doesn’t last, it wears off easily, and after a few years it even turns brown. But some folks think they have a better way…
Cold Blue On Top of Brown
A friend of mine pointed me to this first video, saying he’s going to try it on an old Winchester 250 lever-action 22 rifle. In it, the guy uses a browning solution (browning used to be used on guns before bluing took over), then goes over it with a few coats of a cold blue solution from Brownell’s. He uses some low heat and says this method produces good corrosion resistance, but he doesn’t show us any parts that have had this finish applied for a few years.
He’s not much on public speaking, but give him a chance. He seems to be more comfortable talking to us when he’s off camera.
Stovetop Stump-Killer Niter Blue
This method is interesting — and far from cold. This method uses potassium nitrate, a.k.a. saltpeter or niter, which is often sold in small bottles as a stump killer.
The guy in the video credits a guy on reddit for the method; here’s a link to his instructions, which are thorough. And reading through these instructions will help you understand what the video guy is doing, and why.
In the video, the guy keeps touching the steel with his bare hands. In my experience, that’s not the smartest thing to do. Every contact with skin transfers oils onto the steel, increasing the potential for a bad finish.
This fellow isn’t nearly as cautious about the super-hot molten niter as I would be. That stuff is like 400 degrees, and a little splash from that on skin would really suck.
The results aren’t bad, and probably would have been even better with a little more care. And once you buy the saltpeter, you can use it more than once, so there’s that.
Obviously, it would be more difficult to do a long part such as a rifle or shotgun barrel…
I might have to try these methods. What do you think? Any experience with these or other methods of home bluing? Let us know in the comments below.