Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 4

Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 4 Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

Sliding into home, almost…

By Dennis Adler

 “Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

– Ralphie Parker, A Christmas Story

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One little problem

Birchwood Casey Perma Blue works on most alloy components as shown with the frame. But…the slide on the Swiss Arms 1911A1 is a different alloy composition than the frame and the Perma Blue won’t color it. Now, I have not had this happen with other alloy slides going back to the Gletcher Makarov TT-33, which turned out perfectly. But whatever alloy combination Swiss Arms uses for the slide doesn’t work with Perma Blue, it just beads up into little blue droplets and does nothing.

Photo without caption…there’s nothing happening here. Perma Blue was repelled by the alloy composition of the Swiss Arms 1911A1 slide. Polished out exactly like the frame, I expected it to begin turning blue black when I rubbed the cotton patch with Perma Blue over the right side flat. Zip, nada, zilch.

If you are thinking Birchwood Casey Aluminum Black, it does not render a finish that will work. I tried it first after the Perma Blue failed. Aluminum Black takes to the slide but it is too dark, uneven, and does not lend itself to polishing or ageing with 0000 steel wool. But don’t count it out yet. The slide became the ultimate challenge. I used the steel wool to polish off almost all of the Aluminum Black so the slide was about 90 percent back in the white. My hope was that the Aluminum Black may have left something behind that would help other bluing solutions adhere. I don’t know for a fact that it did, but my next mix was Birchwood Casey Super Blue. It worked, a little.

Fast forward about six hours and I had concocted the right mix of three Birchwood Casey products to achieve a nicely polished and blued Swiss Arms 1911A1 slide. I’d say, “Do not try this at home” but that’s the whole point of this article. Do try this at home. Just have a lot of patience, a lot of 0000 steel wool, and good ventilation. The three bluing chemicals have strong vapors. And yes, I suppose if you wanted to create a new blued finish, this process would be the ticket.

It finally took a mix of Birchwood Casey Super Blue, Perma Blue and Aluminum Black applied in separate applications. To apply the bluing I used a well saturated cotton patch; actually I stacked two patches, and on some applications, like the slide, I used a small piece of microfiber cloth for applying the bluing and rubbing it in. I also wear rubber gloves when working with the bluing. And be sure to have good ventilation when working with the Birchwood Casey bluing products.

Of course, I now had a slide that looked much better than the finish on the frame, and since the two are comprised of different alloys I wasn’t about to go back and mess with a darn near perfect looking weathered frame finish.

First I used Super Blue followed by a mix of gun oil and Super Blue. This began to build some color. I went over it with Perma Blue, then oil and Perma Blue and the color started to get even deeper but still not the right shade. I gave the next move some serious thought and tried it on the underside of the slide, a direct mix of Aluminum Black and gun oil. This brought the slide to a deep blue grey with a look of aged, polished metal. I know from trying that Aluminum Black alone will not give you the desired result, but mixed with a couple of drops of gun oil on the microfiber cloth and rubbed over the previous Perma Blue and Super Blue coats it brought out a deep blue color that looked great. It is a lot of work and a lot of rubbing the surfaces to get the finish color to take hold and get dark and even in color. But it works. The gun oil is an essential ingredient mixed with the various types of bluing chemicals to create the color you are after.

Haul out the 0000 steel wool and begin working down the edges, around the underside of the slide, edges of the ejection port, and don’t forget to take down the high edges on the slide serrations and tops of the sights; anything that would have edge wear over extended time and use in the field.
Gentle use of the steel wool gives just the right amount of edge wear. A light rub over the slide flats will also take down the darkness in the bluing combination to come close to matching the look on the frame done with Perma Blue and gun oil alone. There is very little steel wool or finish residue in this process. A light wipe down with a clean patch and a run by with Dust Off, inside and out, will make things clean and ready for reassembly.

Getting the bluing on the slide is the hard part, at least with the Swiss Arms 1911A1’s slide, but like the frame, using the 0000 steel wool to lighten and create edge wear is an equally meticulous project. As one photo shows, the new finish on the slide, compared to the frame, is much nicer, too nice, and so began the slow wearing down of the high edges. This included the tops of the sights and any surfaces that would rub in a holster, or be handled frequently, like the slide serrations. The 0000 steel wool is perfect for this final step but I can’t stress enough how lightly to use it, and use a brand new piece that still has smooth surfaces.

All refinished and looking like an old WWII era 1911 disassembled with an odd extra recoil spring, the formerly Swiss Arms 1911A1 is ready to begin a new life looking more like an aged 1911 than a CO2 air pistol. Yes, there are no MODEL OF 1911 U.S. ARMY markings on the right side of the slide, or patent dates on the left, but that would be an added expense (hand engraved) that this project, however nice the outcome, does not warrant.
With the slide back together, the Swiss Arms 1911A1 model is ready to be reassembled.

After working down the high edges, a light wipe off of any steel wool dust, a shot of Dust Off, and the slide was ready to be reassembled with the barrel, guide rod and recoil springs. Before putting it back on the frame, since it had been cleaned and wiped so many times, I added a film of RWS Air Chamber Lube to the slide rails one last time.

Hard to believe that this is the same Swiss Arms 1911A1 CO2 air pistol from Part 1, but yep, that’s it after a visit to the WABAC machine. Blue Book of Gun Values Photo Percentage Grading Scale between 30% and 40%.
Working down the reblued finish allows you to wear the top edges of the sights, which will actually make them a little easier to see. Also note that the top of the barrel lug where it is exposed in the slide’s ejection port, has been distressed to show wear and finish loss.

All reassembled, the Swiss Arms 1911A1 looks more like an old c.1926 Colt than any commercially made battlefield edition CO2 model. It is a lot of work, a lot of time (it took about 12 hours total work time), but in the end you have a gun that is uniquely yours.

Ready for the big daylight reveal. Everything looks different outdoors in the sun, or with overcast, or even with reflections that are eliminated in the studio. So how will the new “old” 1911A1 Swiss Arms air pistol stand up to daytime scrutiny?
It is hard to believe this is not an actual .45 ACP WWII-era 1911A1 that has seen a lot of use and suffered wear to its finish. This is not all that desirable in an actual centerfire Colt 1911, unless it has exceptional battlefield and owner provenance, but a solid plus when it is an otherwise brand new CO2 air pistol!

The final look should be about equal to between 30% and 40% condition in the Blue Book of Gun Values Photo Percentage Grading Scale. This is described as: “…the bluing has turned a dark grey patina…some bluing remains in protected areas. The grip straps are very worn and have turned grey.” That sounds a lot like this “brand new” Swiss Arms 1911A1, which now appears to be a well used WWII-era 1911A1.

Here again you can see how aging the top of the barrel lug allows it to look correct for the rest of the gun when seen through the slide’s ejection port. 
When the slide locks back, you want to see an equally aged barrel, so these last small touches all add to the total visual effect of defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1.

27 thoughts on “Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 4”

  1. That is one nice looking 1911. Wonder if the reverse could be done to a weathered Peacemaker. All but Patent dates removed, case color frame , and high polish the barrel cylinder, back strap and trigger guard. If it polishes up like the slide , would be a nice looking 19th century Pacemaker with the older case hardened looking cyanide colors

    • Thanks, I think it turned out better after the Perma Blue debacle by having to come up with a different mix of cold blue. I have thought about doing a Peacemaker and might make that a fall project. Every time I do one of these I swear I’ll never do another…it takes about a year to forget and then I tackle another one! I hope if nothing else, this one inspires readers to be a little bold and give this a try. The results, like I said, are a gun that is uniquely yours.

  2. Hey Lawman67
    Recently, this spring, I defarbed two Peacemakers. The Ace and the NRA Models, both easy to do, but, as with Denis, a little time consuming.
    I used Outers Liquid Blueing as the chemical process can be quickly stopped with water applied with a wet rag. The final luster was hand rubbed parafin wax as in Crayola (colour doesn’t matter).
    Both guns were weathered overly much as a lot of the wear areas were heavily sanded sanded down to stark white metal.
    When applying the blueing I was careful not to try for a new gun finish and more or less applied three quick applications of blueing on each gun with not much care. The finished patina was excellent. A bit of 1000 grit wet/dry autobody sandpaper to simulate wear areas made for a realistic look. The resultant finish after hand rubbing the wax looked to be about a hundred years old and way nicer looking than the original factory weathered finish.
    Of note the Serial # on the Ace was still visible after the initial sanding and blueing. Not so much on the NRA Model, actually completely removed so was just inked on same as the other markings whereas the Ace looks to have been deeply laser engraved.
    Both these Peacemakers, now without the “Not a Toy and other etc…” white ink markings are really nice looking guns.
    If you really wanted to, chemical or electro engraving (Search Youtube), could be used for caliber and trades markings and would look way better than white ink!

    • Pictures? I used the case coloring technique Dennis wrote of previously on a John Wayne Peacemaker. May try the refinish and case colors on a Fort Smith Peacemaker

  3. Hey Lawman67
    Just to bring to your attention that the commemorative text left side above the trigger and on the backstrap of the Ft. Smith Peacemaker is a laser etching and unless you want to keep that text may be difficult or impossible to remove. I think similar to the Serial# on the Ace which seems to be really deep.
    I have a nice photo of my two guns but WordPress keeps saying it doesn’t have enough memory to post!
    Will keep trying!

    • Red

      Nice work! Hard to see the colors in the photos but it looks like you got some case colors in the frame. If you have time try shooting the photos on an even solid color backdrop lighter than the guns, they will look better. Now you’ve got me thinking about doing another one; maybe a step-by-step later in the year. I am curious about your using paraffin wax. After you have rubbed it onto the finish isn’t it easy to leave finger prints in it? I have never tried that process.


      • Denis
        Yes, there are some case colours showing in the frames. Unintentional on my part though. Mostly due to the way I applied the blueing.
        I prefer Crayola Crayons for the final finish. I tried oil but ended up degreasing the gun and useing the crayons. Yes, on firearms I use oil, to prevent rust mostly. Before use I wipe and buff the guns to remove as much oil as possible as I don’t like oiley guns. Airguns, generally, don’t have too many ferrous parts on the exterior so oil isn’t necessary.
        I have found kids crayons must have some dryers in the wax to prevent smearing as they are not near as soft a finish as canning or candle wax. This property allows them to be used as a surface filler which makes for a nicer finish as the crayon levels off the heavy black to light case coloured areas that you sometimes get by hand blueing. Crayon colour doesn’t seem to matter. Handle the gun getting it to body temperature and rub the crayon in with your fingers then buff. After the gun cools buff again. Fingerprints are not a problem.
        The photos in the rock bed were just an experiment. Next time I will use a lighter coloured background, maybe the white hood of my car or a white towel and see what happens.

  4. I am part way through but so far the black is the only one I can get to take on the slide. The only place
    the blue took was on the edges of the the ejection port.

    • Derek

      This is the same thing that happened to me. Let the aluminum black dry, then use your steel wool and polish it off. Don’t worry about leaving any in the grooves of the slide serrations, that’s fine. After you have polished off the aluminum black start with Super Blue, then see if that begins to take. It might take several applications but it should. The Super Blue will begin to set, work it in and even it out, go over it with an oiled patch and then try the Perma Blue and follow along from the article. It can be frustrating, but the combination of the three Birchwood Casey products worked for me, should work for you.


  5. I started the project with the slide sides and stopped after rubbing off the Swiss Arms logo. This left me with a nice two tone looking 1911. Thanks for the idea.
    By the way the magazine problem remains even with a different brand’s.

    • Bill:
      Glad that worked out. Two-tone is another great option once you get rid of the writing on the slide. Might try that one myself! As for the magazine problem, I’m still a little baffled since I have never experienced that with any of the similar 1911 models. Anyone else having this issue?

  6. Will a Tangfolio Witness work for this project? I noticed the Swiss Arms model is all sold out. Planning on trying this next winter when I’m snowbound. I have been able to do some small scale defarbs on a couple of my peacemakers as well as my “We the People” 1911. Got rid of that terrible white lettering on that one!

      • Thanks for the info. That will make a great winter project. Winters in Iowa are plenty long, and after the deer is in the freezer I have plenty of spare time on the weekends. Good “Guns of the Old West” by the way.

  7. Hi. I did the same with my Swiss Arms 1911. The difference is that instead of steel wool I used a paint remover. In fact, the slide did not want to get blueing so I used a bath in sodium hydroxide. After this operation, the slide became matte and accepted the oxidation. 1911 look now more realistic than my other bb gun cz shadow 🙂

  8. This is paint remover. After applying this preparation, the paint peels off and can be rinsed under water. For this operation you must full strip the gun. Especially the blowback housing and hammer mechanism.

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