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Seeking advice on restoring an old Colt 1908


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Greetings from Nashville! I recently found my grandmothers Colt 1908 that was given to me by father a number of years ago when I turned 21. I am considering looking into the process of getting it refinished/restored back to its original condition. Is this something that would be crazy to do? I'm not looking to sell it and plan on keeping it as an heirloom to pass down, but wanted some feedback from the forum to see what my options might be.

Here is a quick photo. You can see the finish appears corroded and the pearl grips could use some love as well. 

Thank you in advance for looking and your input!


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I recently spent $1500 having my great grandfather's Waltham restored, it's now a beautiful watch. 

I suspect having it replated will cost you about the same. 

Realize it's only original once. 

Whatever you do or don't do, don't cry over it. 

Dollar value? There is a blue one on Guns International for $1700 in the box. Do you have the box?

Everyone one is different, differing perspectives on value. I just paid double the value of a gun because it was unfired and not only NIB but also had the shipping carton. I've decided for the most part to only buy NIB.....Yeah, I'll pay a few hundred for a box. 

I sold two Browning pistols similar to your Colt for $50 each, (inherited) one was NIB......I personally have no tolerance for pocket guns. 

There will be very few....if not only one.......items that will come down to you through the family, it's entirely your call. 

Also, you might want to think now what you will hand down to your kids. 

Edited by LSMurphy
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Tough call. Ordinarily I'd say never refinish a classic old gun. Refinishing hurts value more than having a poor finish. Collectors are strange about that.

However, since you plan of keeping the gun and passing it on, I don't see why not. Be aware that a proper restoration will likely cost more than the gun is worth. Don't half azz it with some local refinish guy. Do it right with a restoration specialist. It won't be cheap and they will likely have the gun for months, perhaps a year or more. But the final results will be worth it. 


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I'm of the opinion to clean up the rust gently, a good cleaning inside and out, and that's it. While this might sound esoteric, your grandmother handled that pistol, then your father, and now you. The worth it might have restored against the worth of having something your ancestors handled and used.

Once it's restored that patina of ancestry goes away and it's just another gun.

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I recently spent a lot of time and effort removing rust from an original Spencer repeating carbine built in 1864.  I did not want to remove any of the finish or original bluing and was advised to rub a light oil on the surface and then rub it with a brass or copper brush.  DO NOT USE STEEL.  It will do a remarkable job in removing the rust but of course, will not remove the pitting.  Another thing that does a good job is to take a copper penny (use only one made prior to 1982 as after that date they added an alloy) and rub this over the oily surface of the pistol.  The penny is really good on the flat surfaces.  You will notice a brown to amber milky tint to the oil which is the rust and some of the brass/copper, too but after doing this for a while, rub it off with a dry rag and repeat. Lots of elbow grease and several applications but it will get rid of the rust.  

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Is that a nickel finish?  That will seriously complicate a restoration.

I’m of the leave it be mentality.  What you have now is the pistol’s history.  A very costly and likely disappointing refinish might spoil that regardless of intent, but you’ll never really know until it’s done.
BTW, according to Colt it was made in 1920.

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Clean that heirloom up and keep it as it is.  Its value as it sits is basically the same as it would be if you had it refinished. If you want a nice example, take the refinishing money and purchase a nice, original example. 

Just a guy on the internet’s opinion. It’s yours. Do what makes you happy. Sometimes you need to do that, economics be damned!


Oh yeah. If you haven’t done so yet, put that thing back together and go shoot it. They are amazing little pocket pistols!

Edited by gregintenn
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Wow, a huge thank you for everyone that has chimed in thus far. I sincerely appreciate it! I'm leaning towards giving it a good and gentle cleaning to get rid of the rust and leaving it in the current form. 

Any other suggestions on cleaning techniques for the pistol as well as the pearl grips? I know there's a lot that can be found on the internet, but I'd value the opinion of someone on this forum over something found on YouTube. 

Any certain products to avoid (other than the steel/wool that was mentioned)?

Edited by pfair
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Avoid any chemicals on the pearl grips. I'd use soap suds from Ivory soap (no water) and rub gently with a soft sponge.  Then rinse the soap out, wring it out, and gently rub the residual dampness over the grips. That's all. Consider them clean. 

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