Cold Bluing Parts

I am not a gunsmith nor do I play one on television. That said, I like to be able to do minor things such as mount a scope or assemble an AR lower. I can add something new to my repertoire – cold bluing.

I am having a friend help me re-barrel my older Savage 111 to .338-06 A-Square. Since I was going to all this trouble I thought I should put a new recoil lug on it. The factory recoil lug is stamped whereas a high quality machined lug would be parallel front and back. I got one in 4140 alloy steel from Pacific Tool and Gauge that was 0.228 inches thick. I could have gone with stainless but the rest of the rifle is blued.

To protect the steel from rusting, I could have just painted it with anything from Rust-Oleum to VHT auto paint. However, paint can chip. What doesn’t chip is bluing nor does it change the dimensions of the part. I don’t have access to a hot bluing tank and rust bluing would have taken more time than I wanted to devote to this. So that left cold bluing. There were many different products to choose from but eventually I went with Brownell’s Formula 44/40 Instant Gun Blue which I ordered from Amazon. I have chatted with a tech at Brownell’s before I placed my order and he confirmed it would work on my steel alloy.

Photo from Brownell’s website

The whole process could not have been simpler. I think from start to finish it took less than 20 minutes while sitting at our kitchen table. I started by cleaning all the oils off the recoil lug with brake cleaner (outside!). I cleaned it twice. While it was drying I assembled some Q-tips, cotton balls, and gauze. Then, while wearing nitrile gloves, I heated up the lug using a hair dryer. When it was hot to the touch, I applied the first coat of Formula 44/40 and then wiped it off. I ran it under hot water to neutralize the bluing and then dried it off. Checking it over, I decided a second coat was needed and repeated heating it with a hair dryer. I gave the lug a good, liberal coat of the bluing and then wiped it off. After rinsing in hot water again, I coated it in Ballistol gun oil and put it in a ziplock bag. The lug now has a dark blue matte finish which will match the rest of the rifle.

I’m not sure if I’d do a whole gun or even a barrel with cold bluing but for a small part it was perfect. I think it is also great for touching up scratches or wear spots. As to the Brownell’s Formula 44/40, it worked well for me. Brownells also has Oxpho-Blue which has a good reputation. Birchwood Casey is another company making a number of cold bluing products. As with all things, ask questions and go from there.

Everything About MIM Parts *

* That you didn’t know enough to ask.

I just finished reading a three-part series on MIM or metal injected molding by Mike at the and why Smith & Wesson adopted it for some of their revolver parts. The series dealt with both the myth and realities of MIM parts, the details of the molding process, their strengths and weaknesses, and the engineering that must go into designing the molds as well as the metal mixture.

One common misconception is that it is just a cheap way to make parts. Given that each mold can cost upwards of $150,000 and that engineering a proper part can take from six months to a year, this is definitely a myth. Another myth is that MIM parts are weaker than those made using other methods. This is not true especially when compared to stamped parts.

Part One – The Basics

Part Two – The Pros and Cons

Part Three – The S&W Experience

If you have any interest in how firearms are made or in Smith & Wesson revolvers, I highly recommend this three-part series. You, like I, will learn a lot from it and you don’t have to have a degree in engineering or metallurgy to understand it.


A First-Class Gunsmithing Program

A couple of weeks ago I got to tour the workshops and classrooms of the gunsmithing program at Montgomery Community College in Troy, North Carolina. To say I was impressed by the facilities is an understatement.

I was given the tour by Len Fagan who is one of the instructors. He also teaches most of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Management classes. Prior to coming to MCC, Len was the lead gunsmith for Alexander Arms as well as was the owner of Old Lodge Armory in Willis, VA.

The first room I saw had both milling machines and metal lathes.

Adjacent to this workshop were both a couple of classrooms as well as another workshop with both milling machines and lathes. The classrooms are not your average classroom with desks. Rather, they have six to ten heavy duty worktables with one to two bench vises attached on each. Companies such as MidwayUSA and Brownells have been very supportive of this program.

From Facebook

Mark Dye is the head of the program. Like Len, he is a graduate of the program himself. He also was a gunsmith with both Clark Guns in Louisiana and Bowen Classic Arms in Tennessee before going out on his own. In addition, he is the inventor of the Drop-In Trigger System for 1911s being marketed by Nighthawk Customs. It is essentially a drop-in trigger job.

Moving on, the equipment available for students includes:

  • 28 lathes
  • 13 Bridgeport type milling machines
  • 2 precision surface grinders
  • 1 CNC milling center
  • 3 commercial spray booths for Cerakote
  • Arms room with 350+ firearms for classroom examples and training aids
  • A myriad of bench and belt grinding equipment
  • Welding equipment 
  • Heat treating furnace
  • Hot bluing tanks

The MidwayUSA Arms Room has a wide assortment of firearms with which students can tinker.

If you work on firearms then you need a place to test them. They have two 100-yard ranges on campus which they share with the law enforcement program.

In addition to the regular degree and certificate program, they are one of four schools certified to offer NRA short-term gunsmithing classes and the only one east of the Mississippi. These classes range from an AR-15 armorer’s class up to building your own custom 1911 from a kit. They also will have classes on knife making, shooting, reloading, and finishing. I could easily see myself taking one or more of these classes.

Carolina All Out is a regional TV outdoor program available on cable in the Carolina as well as YouTube. They featured two episodes on the gunsmithing program at Montgomery Community College. The first featured rebarreling a Remington 700 and the second featured taking the rifle’s accuracy to the next stage by bedding and load development. Seen together, you get a good feel for the facilities and the expertise of instructors such as Len Fagan and Mark Dye.

If you are interested in learning more about gunsmithing as either a career or just because you want to tinker on your own firearms, I can recommend Montgomery Community College. In the interest of full disclosure, I will be graduating in less than two weeks from their Hunting and Shooting Sports Management program making me an alumnus of MCC. Nonetheless, I think they are one of the premier gunsmithing programs in the nation.

NRA Foundation Helps North Carolina Students

Catching up on emails that arrived while I was out of town, I came across this one from the NRA. It discusses the substantial donations made by the NRA Foundation to Montgomery Community College to fund scholarships for gunsmithing students.

NRA Foundation Funds Montgomery Community College Scholarships

TROY, N.C. – Nearly $100,000 in NRA Foundation grants have funded Montgomery Community College scholarships for its gunsmithing program since 1994. These merit-based scholarships help spur high academic achievement and pristine attendance records while providing students with the freedom and flexibility to undertake notably challenging projects.

Throughout their time in MCC’s gunsmithing program, students develop skills tooling and blueprinting, metal finishing, firearm diagnostics and repair, and custom firearms manufacturing. More than two-thirds of class time is spent hands-on in the college’s 5,400 square feet of shop workspace.

“Friends of NRA and the NRA Foundation are both great proponents of Montgomery Community College’s gunsmithing program,” said Mark Dye, gunsmithing program director at Montgomery Community College. “In their biggest show of support yet, the NRA Foundation granted us funds to award 12 gunsmithing scholarships this year. We are truly grateful for the NRA’s unwavering commitment to our focus on this great American tradition.”

Both the East and West Friends of NRA State Fund Committees in North Carolina award grants to the program each year. In 2014, nearly half of all scholarships awarded to MCC gunsmithing students came from The NRA Foundation.

I am especially gratified by these donations as my family connections to Montgomery County go back to before the Civil War. My father was born in Troy and I still have cousins living there.

If you need a tax deduction for 2015, a donation to the NRA Foundation is tax deductible. You have until midnight tomorrow to make one if you use a credit card.