Nickel finish on a carry gun...

This is a discussion on Nickel finish on a carry gun... within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; As anyone who read my snubbie thread knows, I am the proud new owner of a S&W Model 19-3 2.5" nickel finish revolver. I have ...

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Thread: Nickel finish on a carry gun...

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    Senior Member Array TheGreatGonzo's Avatar
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    Nickel finish on a carry gun...

    As anyone who read my snubbie thread knows, I am the proud new owner of a S&W Model 19-3 2.5" nickel finish revolver. I have been a long time fan of the K-frame revolvers (I carried a Model 13 with round butt and 3" heavy barrel as an off-duty and occasional duty weapon for a while when I worked for another agency) and I'm excited about using it as a carry gun. At least one member, however, has expressed some concern for the nickel finish if used as a carry gun. I have owned handguns in just about every finish imaginable, to include a lot of aftermarket finishes, but this is my first nickel handgun. How fragile is the nickel finish? It is certainly a beautiful revolver, but I'm not a collector, I'm a user. Would a Model 66 or Model 13 snubbie make more sense for actual carry? Like I said, I'm not a collector, but I don't want to destroy the finish either.
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    Nickel is a better anti-corrosion finish than blueing, and it's harder than chrome, so wear resistance is quite good. However, depending on the plating method used, the nickel is prone to peeling and lifting from sub-surface corrosion and deep scratches or dents. If you look at some pre-WWII plated guns - especially cheaper ones like the Iver Johnsons - you'll see what I'm talking about; these were plated electrolytically. I think S&W guns for the last 20 years or so used the "electroless" nickel plating which adheres better overall, especially on sharp edges.

    Carrying and using guns "destroys" their finish, period; the only variable is how quickly. Blued guns wear the fastest, Parkerized (phosphate) is slower, nickel plate is slower still. Your gun's finish isn't "fragile" at all, and will overall need a little less attention than a blued M19. And if (when) the finish does get really ratty-looking, just send it back to S&W and get it re-plated.

    Good luck with it!
    Smitty
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    Yep, the older guns were decorative Nickel which often chipped and peeled.

    Electroless NICKEL is an entirely different animal. It forms a molecular bond with the substrate or "base metal" and if applied correctly cannot peel or chip and it is incredibly tough.

    Electroless Nickel is great stuff for firearms.
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    Distinguished Member Array chuckusaret's Avatar
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    Great question. I recently had a small local plating company clean the metal parts of a Mosin Nagant and when I picked up my parts I asked the owner what type finishes could he could apply to a handgun. His stated that the company has not plated any guns but he he said he would gladly do so. He went over the list of platings that could be applied but nickel and hard chrome were the two most common with electroless nickel as the recommended finish. I just might have the slide nickel plated on my LCP or XD.
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    Senior Member Array TheGreatGonzo's Avatar
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    Good information. Thanks!
    "Skin that smokewagon!".

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    I just might have the slide nickel plated on my LCP or XD.

    Satin Electroless Nickel looks fantastic. Just make sure that they do not plate it too heavy because you don't want to have tolerance problems.

    Also keep in mind that unlike Chrome - Electroless Nickel is often used to build up dimensions of undersized or worn parts so because it builds and also plates everywhere AKA inside holes and internal openings and threaded screw holes etc.

    So just have it lightly plated which will still give you a nice appearance, superior rust protection, increased lubricity etc and will not give you tolerance problems - like slide rails that are now too tight on your frame rails.

    Also remember that IF you ever decide to have a frame or a serial numbered part that is classed as the firearm plated by a plating establishment that does not normally take in firearms - they CAN plate your frame or whatever but, you must be there on site when they do it and take it back home with you when they are finished plating it.
    You cannot leave it there and then go back and pick it up. All other parts that are not classed as a firearm can be left there and picked up whenever or mailed back to you.
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    VIP Member Array zonker1986's Avatar
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    I just re-furbished a friends Model 19-5 with a 4" barrel with a nickel finish. Unfortunately, the previous owner had left the gun unattended for
    years, and there was some serious rust and pitting along the bottom of the barrel. Nickel will rust if not maintained. I just used Mothers Mag
    Polish and buffed the entire gun and removed as much of the rust as I could. Gun looks like new except for the areas that pitted.

    If you are gonna carry a nickel gun, Smith & Wesson nickel plated Model 19's were done right. With a little maintenance, and a little
    polishing, the gun should stand up to years of use with no effects.
    Kimbers are the guns you show your friends....Glocks are the ones you show your enemies.

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    Electroless Nickel will not rust. Older traditional decorative bright Nickel can micro-crack and any rusting would be in the underlying steel which can begin showing on the surface.
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    VIP Member Array pogo2's Avatar
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    Electroless Nickel

    I have two guns with factory electroless nickel finish, and both have held up very well. The first gun below is a Sig P226 that was made about 22 years ago. I have shot but not carried the gun, and the finish still looks very good. The second gun is an unfired Colt Series 70 Gold Cup that is about 35 years old. The finish on this gun is perfect, but of course it is a safe queen.



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    If I were you I'd carry that neato nickel Model 19 in good health and not be troubled over the finish. It's a pretty durable finish , can be freshened up if necessary with a light buffing of Mother's Mag Polish or similar product, will still retain a large measure of its value even if the finish is slightly degraded with use, and can certainly be refinished at some point down the road.

    I don't have a wide experience with nickel finishes but have owned a couple of nickel Model 19s over the years, this Model 57 seen below, and some older Smith & Wesson nickel revolvers. With good maintenance nickel will last. Really early guns that have been neglected are another thing and when nickel goes, it really goes!



    Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector Military & Police .38 Special from 1904 with impaired nickel finish.


    With reasonable care your gun never has to look like this poor revolver.
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    I have a 'few.' Get a good holster with suede lining, keep it waxed with a few coats of Renaissance wax, and you are good to go.


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    1 old 0311 ~ I get the impression that you happen to enjoy fine revolvers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by QKShooter View Post
    1 old 0311 ~ I get the impression that you happen to enjoy fine revolvers.

    I had a visit from ATF a few months ago, it was cool, they just wanted some info on a gun I sold last year. I told them it wasn't really a 'collection' more a 401K that I can play with. :):):)
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    Distinguished Member Array chuckusaret's Avatar
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    QKShooter, thanks for the info on the possible tolerance problems. I believe the plating shop owner stated that the finish would be about .0003" and should not interfere with the function of the gun. He also estimated that the cost would be in the neighborhood of $40 to $50 but hard chrome would be at least twice the cost of nickel. I did see several samples of his work with nickel, both the brushed and highly polished finishes. Both looked great.....
    US Army 1953-1977

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    Quote Originally Posted by chuckusaret View Post
    QKShooter, thanks for the info on the possible tolerance problems. I believe the plating shop owner stated that the finish would be about .0003" and should not interfere with the function of the gun. He also estimated that the cost would be in the neighborhood of $40 to $50 but hard chrome would be at least twice the cost of nickel. I did see several samples of his work with nickel, both the brushed and highly polished finishes. Both looked great.....


    $40-$50? No way on earth. S&W can do a factory job for $252. Fords, in Florida, is about the same price, and quality.

    With a 19 you CAN get it nickel or chrome plated. If you go with a stainless you are stuck with stainless you can't apply a finish over top of it.
    Here is a nickel model 38 Airweight that i have carried every day for 5-6 years. I wax it a few times a year, and shoot it every 6-8 weeks, but it looks almost new.

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