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raftman

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A somewhat different topic to a theme I have brought up in the past, but...Case in point: I picked up another import from the big Ethiopian stockpile. It’s an 1891 Carcano cavalry carbine. It just happens to be particularly early and uncommon example. It’s 1894-dated, and has the first style of bayonet mount and also one originally manufactured without a handguard. The change in bayonet and handguard would’ve happened around WW1 and nearly all of the previous models would’ve been retrofitted accordingly so it’s rare to see an all-original pattern. BUT, even though it seems mechanically sound, in working order, with an ok bore it’s in REALLY sad cosmetic shape.

So that brings me to the point... is the cosmetic shape so poor that it won’t hurt anything to do some restoration or should it just be enjoyed as is regardless of how bad it looks?

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It all depends on what kind of restoration you wish to do and what you intend the piece to be (after all its your rifle). Cleaning the century of dust and dirt is generally fine and shouldn't affect the "collector value" of the rifle. If you are speaking of going in and refinishing the rifle I'd take a step back and first try to consider what the gun is actually worth and if it is indeed worth going through the trouble. In this case I'd question if it was worth the effort, as I don't believe the rifle would benefit from being restored. Sometimes though, a firearm can be valuable enough even in a restored state that its worth the time and investment (like Broomhandle mausers, you often see them with relined barrels). For this Carcano, I'd suggest taking the conservation route, the history of it being sent and used in Ethiopia and then stored for so many years is what is most interesting about it IMO, so the wear is honest and to be expected. The history of Ethiopia is quite interesting and your rifle is apart of that history. That being said I'd also try to make sure that it is in complete shooting order, IE fixing any developing cracks, replacing missing parts etc... Thats how i keep my rifles atleast.

As another example, I have a Russian Winchester 1895 that has had quite a rough life, but it too is in good mechanical order (aside from a magazine spring issue). I enjoy it as it is has quite a story and it really shows it. It was sold to the Czarist Russians during WW1 and then probably saw use during the Russian Civil War, the rifles were very sought after by Russian soldiers as they were high quality rifles and as such were used quite a lot. After the war it was most likely sent to Spain as aid during the Spanish civil war. You can still find some fantastic condition Russian Contract 1895s, but they are almost certainly not issued rifles and were most likely Russian Inspection rejects. So even though the original finish is lacking, the fact that it represents its history is exactly how i like it. I could do a full restoration to it and make it all shiny and pretty, but it would lose that authenticity that I enjoy. So I just keep it as it is and am quite happy with it.

A TLDR would be to consider a firearms individual history when trying to determine what, if any, restoration should be done. Would it benefit from looking like it just came off the factory floor or would it be better off proudly showing its battle scars. That is one method you can use to determine what to do with your firearm. In general, I find it rare for any full restoration to be warranted, especially on milsurps.

Anyways I hope that answers your question, in the end, the decision is yours and whatever makes you happy with your rifle is what you should do.
 
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Being the owner of a rare pistol in far from even "OK" condition, I have decided to leave it as is. Restoration would be too costly and you would never fully recoup those costs in a sale (my opinion of course).

I agree with the rest - hang it on the wall.
 

WAYNO

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Clean it up and oil it. That's all.

But...I owned the very similar gun in the 7.35 chambering. It didn't look very nice, but since it had no value, I restained the wood, and cold blued all the metal, and instantly it could have been placed in a museum. Really.
 
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Restoration of a firearm needs to be evaluated, and considered based on many things, and not just condition.
Of course condition is usually the first thing that tends to trigger thoughts of restoration, but one needs to consider not just condition, but how rare a gun is. Also how many of a particular example are still around, and what level of restoration is appropriate for the particular firearm.
I've done all sorts of levels of restoration, and certain guns should never be restored at all. Those fall into the range of guns that are too far gone, and cost of restoration is much more than the gun is worth; to guns that have such historical significance that a full restoration will destroy the gun's history. In the case of historical provenance, and especially historical weapons that are tied to famous individuals, a complete restoration should never be done! In the case of historically significant firearms the firearm should get a "sympathetic restoration" where the gun gets any mechanical issues repaired, and minor cosmetic cleanup, but no metal or wood refinishing.
I own a number of historical firearms, and a fair number tied to notable individuals. In one case I bought a old Rolling Block rifle as a "parts gun" to disassemble and maybe use the action on a build, and toss the rest. But upon disassembling it I discovered a name hidden under the forearm wood on the barrel. I stopped my disassembly, and began searching the owner's info, only to discover he was a prominent Oregon pioneer, and early mayor of Oregon City. So I set about to repair stock cracks, and missing wood. Then repaired damage to barrel dovetails, and extra holes in the barrel and top tang. Once the repairs were done I blended the finish, and aged the repairs to maintain the old patina. This gun deserved to be saved, but a restoration would have detracted from it's historical value.
In the case of your rifle, if it's that rare, and collectible, I'd give it a gentle cleaning, an make sure it functions perfectly. Then just leave it as is, and not go further.
 

raftman

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TBH if it were a run of the mill example of a cavalry carbine, I would probably restore because they’re not a terribly rare or well-liked rifle. Maybe that’s a bad attitude to have because a lot the collectibles of today were plentiful and unwanted “back in the day.”

I’m just hung up on the fact that in collector circles... probably the most prized of things is originality. A lot of these guns get re-arsenaled, rebuilt, become mismatched, get retrofitted with upgrades, etc. For example an all-original, early production, unmolested M1carbine is far more desirable than one that’s had critical parts replaced, retro-fitted with later features, etc even if the latter carbine might be in overall better condition.

So it might seem with this Carcano. It’s extremely original, so much so that I suspect it was captured by the Ethiopians in the first Italo-Ethiopian War rather than in the inter-war period (hence no retrofitting). But as remarkably early and original as it is... it’s also in saaaad cosmetic shape.
 
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I have a friend who is so anal about originality that when he found an Egyptian Rolling Block carbine he was taking it down for general cleaning, and discovered a void in the buttstock under the buttplate. Inside was a handful of fine sand from Egypt that had somehow worked it's way into that void. After cleaning, and oiling the mechanics, he reassembled the gun, and poured the sand back into the buttstock before reinstalling the buttplate!
That's taking things way farther than I ever have, or would. But some guys REALLY appreciate original history!
 
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