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Colt SAA to restore or not to restore...

Discussion in 'General Firearm Discussion' started by Greenbug, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    I am picking up a Colt SAA in .44-40 tomorrow. It was made in 1888 and definately was used hard. The grips are so worn down they are almost slick. The barrel has been crudely chopped of at about 6 or so inches and filed around the muzzle, I assume to remove the burrs from the cutting of the barrel. My question is should I send it to a restoration gunsmith or just leave it alone?:paranoid:

    Any thoughts, comments or helpful suggestions are appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2011
  2. Bigbaddude

    Bigbaddude West linn Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I vote to restore it since the barrel has been chopped.
     
  3. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    That is kinda what I'm leaning towards, but I don't want to spend a ton of money getting it done.
     
  4. giddyupgo55

    giddyupgo55 Vernonia Active Member

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    My question would be, how much do you want to spend ? If money not to big a issue I would restore it.
     
  5. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I'd only do the work needed to make it a good shooter, then shoot it!
    Restoring it would probably cost you more than buying a nice one.
     
  6. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Ardenwald, OR Well-Known Member

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    Restoring would probably cost more than the finished gun is worth. Only you can make that decision. Keep an eye on Gunbroker for a original barrel, may find a good deal. Is it to hacked up that you couldn't clean up the barrel and make it look nicer? Cut it to 4 5/8 and put a nice crown on it, call it good.
     
  7. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    It would be feasable to cut the existing barrel down to 4 3/4" and install a replacement sight, I don't think that would break the bank. It will probably need a new cylinder bushing and most likely a new hammer or maybe the old one can be filed and fixed. It wont hold on the full cock notch.

    Anybody out there have a recommendation on a good smith that is reasonable and could handle a job like this?
     
  8. pokerace

    pokerace Newberg Well-Known Member

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    Go check the gunsmith threads and the reviews...
     
  9. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Howdy Greenbug,

    If that is the original barrel (even crudely cut), and all else is original, you will damage the value by rebuilding it (even modified SAA's if all original besides a barrel cut are money in the bank: cowboys and other owners very often did these modifications, or had blacksmiths or others do them. The barrel cut certainly diminishes the value from absolutely original, but collectors recognize this common practice: it's all about history). You need to make an important decision about why you bought the gun: To get it up and going and shooting well, done correctly by a good smith, will cost more than you might be willing to spend. I would not discourage you from this, if your intention was to have a "real" Colt's to shoot. If you believe your investment in the work necessary to make it a good shooting firearm again can ever be realized at resale, you are mistaken. Resale intentions are better served leaving it as it is.

    The failure to hold on full cock would most likely be the result of a shade-tree gunsmith (maybe even the cowboy that cut the barrel) trying to lighten trigger pull. It may well be that he did it right (for himself and for the immediate purpose), and that it functioned fine for him for a time: later, his neglect or lack of knowledge of heat treating and hardening of these parts likely caused them to wear to the point of malfunction.

    It is VERY common to find old SAA's that are missing the telltale essential C-O-L-T (four notches, countable by the spelling) that signify a fully operational SAA. Usually it is one or two in the middle of the count of four. "Fixing" such a gun can be done right, or done wrong.

    Bottom line: if you want a shootable "real Colt's", spare no expense to restore the gun properly. Otherwise, consider it an investment, consider its history when you handle it and show it to others, imagine the stories it could tell, and revere it for it's crucial role in the development and taming of the West.
     
  10. MountainBear

    MountainBear Sweet Home, OR Well-Known Member

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    If you want it restored, it's the kind of project that needs to go to a specialist. This is especially important if you are going to do a restoration, as opposed to a simple tune up. My recomendation for the restoration would be to send it to Turnbull Restorations in New York. He's expensive, but his restored guns are second to none...
     
  11. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the suggestions.

    Upon further inspection....

    It looks like the base pin is a homemade part as it has a belled end that is checkered and it does not look like a factory part.

    It appears to have been cold blued over the original finish as some pits are visible under the surface.

    The mainspring has been replaced.

    However everything else appears original, less a couple of inches of barrel and the front sight.

    I'll try to get some pics to post for you all to see. Maybe then we can have a better guess at what to do with this little piece of history.

    Thanks!
     
  12. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Mountain Bear supplied you with what I should have toward encouraging the restoration. Doug Turnbull and his staff will evaluate the gun, ask your wants, and advise what can be done: either from just getting it in shooting conditon, all the way to making it look like it did in the glass case of the hardware store in Kansas City, and a lonesome cowboy chose to go there with his drive money instead of the bawdy house. The sky is the limit. Some may work cheaper, none do a better job. (I guess this applies to Doug Turnbull and Kansas City bawdy houses.)
     
  13. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    I just looked up Doug Turnbull's website and nearly keeled over!!!!!!!!

    Restoration work starts at $3500.00!!!!!!!!!

    Anybody interested in buying this thing? There is no way I can afford that!
     
  14. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to my world. Set screw in front of the frame designates this as a blackpowder frame (early gun). That appears to be a replaced part as well: should be flush. Then re-read my first post about revering it for what it is. Few can appreciate this, and I hope you are one.

    If you want a "real Colt's" to shoot, you can find a very good 3rd generation SAA for about half of what Turnbull would want to start on your gun.
     
  15. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Post some pics! Let's see what you got.

    Oh! I see you added to the original post. My bad.:cool:

    So, got an asking price?
     
  16. Throckmorton

    Throckmorton Florence,Ore ah gone Well-Known Member

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    but what if that 3500.00 turned it into a 6000.00 gun? 1st generation colts damand top dollar even if reconditioned,there just arent' that many of them out there. Al Janis,and Bob Munden would be 2 more folks to contact and palaver with re: value if restored vs. value if 'fixed up'.
    I may very well be way off on what I"m thinking,but a phone call,or web search could get it sorted out.
     
  17. Greenbug

    Greenbug Bend Well-Known Member

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    I honestly don't know what to ask, I probably shouldn't on this thread as it is not a "WTS/WTT Classified Handgun Thread" and I'd probably get a warning of some kind or another about how I'm abusing the site.:paranoid:

    If anyone is interested, PM me with an offer. I think if I could sell this one, I might be able to afford to get one that is in shooting condition that is a newer generation model.
     
  18. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Ardenwald, OR Well-Known Member

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    You could gamble a $100 and get a letter from Colt. If you can link the serial number to a person or location of historical significance it may be of more value than you think.
     
  19. Simonpie

    Simonpie Portland Active Member

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    I'd say get it safe and functional and shoot it. I can understand protecting really nice antiques, but it sounds like this one has had a lifetime of cowboy blacksmiths turned gunsmith. Fix what's broken and enjoy. Stop by a cowboy action shoot and check out all the people shooting modern reproductions. You'll have the real meal deal and can make snide comments!
     
  20. DieselScout

    DieselScout S Clackamas County Well-Known Member

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    Depending on how much you spent, get a letter find some history and mount it in a shadow box. It will always be there if you want to sell, restore or shoot it later. And while it's not being used, it isn't hiding in the safe either. In my mind guns are meant to be shot, but nothing says it can't look pretty on your mantel while you're not shooting it.