Refinishing a old Colt Cobra

This is a discussion on Refinishing a old Colt Cobra within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I'm thinking outside the box here, and need some suggestions. I just picked up a 1961 Colt Cobra 38 snub nose, in the factory blue ...

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    New Member Array dakotalee's Avatar
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    Refinishing a old Colt Cobra

    I'm thinking outside the box here, and need some suggestions. I just picked up a 1961 Colt Cobra 38 snub nose, in the factory blue finish. I've always been a fan of the Nickel Cobras, but they come at a very nice premium $$$$. So I'm wondering, if I take it apart and send it to get stripped of its blue finish, nickel plated and polished, how well it would look when it's done. I know the condition of the specimen at the start will have a lot to do with the final result. The guns in pretty good shape, minus some barrel marks. That may or may not come out after stripping the metal. The barrel might get a swap out via eBay, if deemed the original is beyond help. Just curious if anyone has ever tried this with a older gun. Also any takes on Durcoating or Cerakoting it, if my nickel plater says it's not advised to spend the money. All in all, I'd have about $650 in it with the nickel plating work. The gun is missing the ejector knob on the end, but not for long... Thank you for any words of wisdom!

    The last pic is referencing my goal.
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    VIP Member Array Kilowatt3's Avatar
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    Greetings, and welcome to the Forum.

    Personally, I would not destroy the original factory finish on your gun. It doesn't look to be in such bad shape, and it will crater the collector value of the ol' pony. I can't imagine you could get a good plating job on it and still only have $650 total into it, unless you got the gun for next to nothing to start with.

    Carefully clean it up as best you can, keep it original, and if you really have your heart set on a nickel 'D' frame, a nickel Detective Special can still be found in pretty decent shape for $600-$800. Then you'd have two fine old collectibles instead of one much less desirable refinished gun.

    FWIW
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    Heck if it shot good, I'd kept it like it was. JMO PS Look Good ; )
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    You'd be money ahead to sell that one and apply the funds toward a nickel Cobra as you desire, which may be ordered off one of the internet auction sites.
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    ^^That^^
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
    You'd be money ahead to sell that one and apply the funds toward a nickel Cobra as you desire, which may be ordered off one of the internet auction sites.
    Ditto, don't ruin a beautiful classic. Refinishing a classic collectable like that destroys resale value. That gun appears in nice shape, you would definatly be better to either hold on to it, and when money allows buy the nickel version. Or sell it as is and apply that to the gun you want. I like refinishing, and customizing my guns. But some guns just should not be messed with.
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    OD*
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    If you decide to refinish, send it back to Colt and let them do it.
    By the pictures, the condition it's in, refinishing won't hurt the value of it.

    You might find this helpful.

    When to Restore (and when not to)
    By Bill Adair

    Deciding when (or why) to restore a firearm is not as complicated a matter as would be indicated by the millions of words written on the subject. "RESTORING AN ANTIQUE WILL DESTROY ITS VALUE" is the phrase most often heard; but, what if its value has already been destroyed by a previous refinishing done badly by one of the great many hacks out there (especially true in the 50's and 60's), or what if it's a pitted, rusty, brown or grey gun with numerous other problems?

    Basically, if a gun is not a "collector-grade" specimen, meaning that it has less original finish than what the collector is looking for (say less than 80% as a general guide), then its collector value cannot be considered in the decision to restore or not. The exceptions are: (a) a gun with some documented historical provenance or (b) a gun of great rarity, both of which are factors that outweigh amount of finish or condition as collector-criteria.

    So, if a gun is in the less-than-80%/no-provenance category, it has a value to the "accumulator" (most of us), but no real "collector" value. Probably 95% of the guns coming into my shop are non-collector guns with little or no original finish, are often abused, pitted, gouged, dinged, prevously-overbuffed, hot-blued, cold-blued semi-wrecks in the less-than-10% category. Restoring these "bad-guns" and making them into "good guns" is what it's all about. It's either that, or let the effects of abuse and negligence eat them away until they're gone forever.

    I frequently advise my customers not to "mess" with a particular gun if it happens to fall within the collector-grade range. On the other hand, if a collector-grade gun has something wrong with it, which is correctable, but which hurts the value if left uncorrected, I'll often do a partial restoration to fix that one problem.

    As an example, I recently had a would-be collector-grade Colt single-action where the front sight had been filed down to nothing, and the barrel had been hit a few times in the filing process. I made a new front sight of proper shape and height, polished out the file marks and re-blued the barrel using the original nitre-blue, then "aged" it back just a little to match the rest of the gun. Could you tell? No. Did it hurt the value of the gun? No. Did it increase the value? Yes.

    Flayderman has written: "Refinishing is akin to taking an 80-year-old man and dressing him in the clothes of a teenager". I couldn't disagree more if we're talking about non-collector-grade guns. It's more like taking a naked 80-year-old man and dressing him in a nice suit (even though it may not be a new-looking suit). Which would you rather look at?

    What needs to be remembered is that there is a world of difference between "refinishing" and "restoration". The term "refinishing" could mean hot-bluing a single-action (where hot-blue wasn't invented till about 1937). But "restoration" means doing things right. It means doing it precisely like it was done 80 or 150 years ago by the factory. It means polishing in the exact way the factory did it, and finishing the exact way the factory did it.

    There are only a handful of restoration-gunsmiths in the world who can do that... or who will do that. To that handful you can entrust your antique arms.

    Editor's Note: Sadly, Bill Adair is no longer with us. His skill, knowledge and friendship will be missed.
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    I would say that IS a definite candidate for refinishing. You need to send it to a place that will not grind it up and destroy the original crisp lines. There really are places that will do a magnificent job.

    I would opt for either bright or satin ELECTROLESS NICKEL rather than the older decorative Nickel that was done on older firearms. Electroless Nickel forms a molecular bond with the base metal and it will not chip, flake, or peel.

    I think pretty much everybody is doing Electroless these days anyway. It is nearly as durable as Hard Chrome with none of the disadvantages.

    It is your firearm. You might as well have it look the way you want it to look.

    If you have the job doe right you will not really depreciate the value.

    What I would suggest is that you have a professional trigger and action job done at the same time or before having it Nickeled and have the internal parts done also.

    That way you will have a slick, butter smooth firearm that you will keep forever.
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    Distinguished Member Array DingBat's Avatar
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    it's all about who does the work, and sorry to say, a good job probably STARTS at twice the $650 you mention.

    done right in can maintain or possibly increase the value. done wrong....well....
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    Colt does not refinish the cobra's.. most refinish places will not mess with a colt cobra. It is to easy to ruin the alloy frame when separating the barrel from the frame. The frame is actually anodized aluminum alloy and the barrel is blued steel.
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    Distinguished Member Array dangerranger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OD* View Post
    If you decide to refinish, send it back to Colt and let them do it.
    By the pictures, the condition it's in, refinishing won't hurt the value of it.

    You might find this helpful.

    I fall in this camp, on a well worn gun repairing its finish isn't going to hurt its carry gun value. DR
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    Lots of expert advice that normally applies, but I'm going to have to side with OD from an investment point of view given the pitting. Surface pitting like that makes the collector value, where condition is everything, almost nil. Colt may not do it (as suggested) but Turnbull or another reputable outfit may. It's going to be $$$, and you will not get $1-$1 back, but if it makes you happy I say go for it. I also like that you're completely changing the finish, because I get vexed when noobs or scoundrels try to pass off a refinished pistol as a very fine original. For value sake letter it, and then get a letter from the refinisher. If you ever want to sell it the correct providence will get you more than than deception and keep your reputation in tact. Nothing ever dies on the Internet.
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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OD* View Post
    If you decide to refinish, send it back to Colt and let them do it.
    By the pictures, the condition it's in, refinishing won't hurt the value of it.

    You might find this helpful.
    Exactly my thoughts. Always let the factory do it.
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    OD*
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaeger View Post
    If you ever want to sell it the correct providence will get you more than than deception and keep your reputation in tact.
    Excellent advice.

    Old collectors truism, "Buy the gun, not the story."
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

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    Electroless Nickel can be plated onto alloy metal and it looks great. Colt does beautiful restoration work but the waiting list is quite long.
    I think it is 18 months or longer right now.
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