Taking off the matte finish, detailing small parts and cleanup
By Dennis Adler
The hardest part of this defarbing project with the Swiss Arms 1911A1 is the frame which takes the most time and effort to work around small corners, edges, and parts that are attached to the frame, such as the thumb safety. Once you have cleared this hurdle there remains only a few small separate parts to strip the finish from, and then it is time to do a thorough cleaning of all polished out parts, before removing the blue tape and cleaning out any debris that may have gotten past the tape and into moving parts.
There are probably half a dozen ways to do what I am doing in this series of articles and this is my way, maybe not the best or easiest, just what I have done in the past to achieve the look I want. But the hard labor in stripping off the matte black finish is only the first part of the job. The final polish and refit come next and then you have a polished out gun that needs to be refinished.
After I had the slide completed (fully polished out) the frame required the same steps plus adding a green 3M scrubbing pad for working around curves and small edges. This does leave some scoring in the alloy because it is more abrasive but it can all be polished out later with the 0000 steel wool. And a little roughness isn’t bad when you are trying to create something that looks like a battlefield worn gun. That is another touch that will come in at the end when the final finish is applied.
In doing this process, the maker’s marks, proof mark and even the serial number of the air pistol (if it has one) will be polished off; it is back to a bare alloy gun like it was before markings and the matte finish were applied by the manufacturer. Getting into tight spaces the 3M scrubbing pads (or similar scrubbing pads) work well and also for flat surfaces such as the face of the recoil spring retainer sleeve, which has the checkered front that resembles the recoil spring plug on a 1911, front of the barrel bushing, sides of the slide stop (slide release), and even the face of the grip screws. Just a light buffing leaves a worn look. The 0000 steel wool is your best friend for finalizing the clean polish of parts since it is flexible for getting into tight spots. After using the steel wool or any of the other emory papers or scrubbers, always dump any dust or residue off the parts being worked on (it piles up) and blow off the parts with Dust Off. After you have reached the point where all of the parts are cleaned of the matte finish (though some small edges may remain and that will be alright), the parts need to be cleaned off. This is to remove any oils or remaining debris.
For cleaning there are a variety of recommended degreasers, but for this project it is a simple use of warm water with a drop or two of Dawn (dishwashing soap) to make a solution that will be wiped over the exposed surfaces. The blue tape is still in place but be careful not to let any of the solution get inside the gun. Only work on the outside surfaces. I wiped the gun parts down with a wet microfiber cloth. After that, it is dried off with another microfiber cloth and we are ready to remove the blue tape and reassemble the gun to make sure everything is working smoothly.
After the gun was reassembled I gave the inside of the rails (gun turned over grips up, rails showing with the slide locked back) a light oiling with RWS Air Chamber Lube. And a light drop on either side of the trigger at the top edge. I wiped off the edges, ran the slide and fired the gun (no CO2, no magazine inserted) about a dozen times to see that everything was running smoothly and the trigger pull remained smooth.
Where we are and what we have
At this point the Swiss Arms 1911A1 is a buffed out in the white gun showing some darkness around protected areas that are less prone to surface wear. Of course, a polished out gun is not a finished product, but it is more realistic looking than the Swiss Arms model was when we began.
Time thus far invested is about six hours and maybe $10 in materials. If you like guns in the white, this is the end. If not and the look of a war worn 1911 is your goal, in Part 3 we begin experimenting with finishes.