Protecting and restoring a blued finish

by B.B. Pelletier

Would it frighten you to learn that ALL your blued airguns have rust on them? I don’t mean the black oxide finish, itself. Yes, that’s a form of rust, but it’s not what I’m referring to. I’m saying all your blued-steel airguns have real red rust on them – unless you have taken steps to remove it already. The dark black hides the red rust, so it’s difficult to see.

Ballistol comes from good gun stores
and is a great aid to removing surface
rust without damaging bluing.

Ballistol is the secret!
This stuff has magical properties. Besides metal, it is also used on leather, wood, plastic and even the gel coats of boats! Do not use it on electronics, however. Several military organizations around the world use it on their weapons for lubrication and preservation. It has a fishy smell that isn’t pleasant, but don’t let that put you off.

Removing rust
Spray Ballistol directly on the metal and rub vigorously with a paper towel. Almost immediately, the towel will show a reddish-brown stain, which is the rust being removed. The longer you rub the more rust comes off, but the black oxide finish will not be affected. Sometimes, so much rust is removed that the metal shows shiny spots. That’s not from the black being removed; it’s the rust! The rust has taken on a dark appearance and eaten all the black, so when it’s gone there is nothing underneath but bare metal.

Preserving the finish
After the treatment with Ballistol, which takes about 15 minutes, you coat the metal with a fresh film of Ballistol. If you don’t like the smell, there’s another oil that works just as well. Birchwood Casey’s Sheath is a wonderful oil to protect blued surfaces. It has a pleasant smell and gets down into the metal to protect it even when it feels dry. It’s perfect for guns that will be handled a lot because it’s known for neutralizing fingerprints.

Wipe your guns with Sheath to preserve the finish.

What to do when there’s TOO MUCH rust
Occasionally, an airgun will be found with deep pits and a full coverage of rust. For these, Ballistol is not good enough. These take some real work.

First, the surface is rubbed with super-fine steel wool. That removes ALL surface finish, including any remaining bluing. Then, the surface is polished with Emory paper and metal polish. The goal is a mirror finish. The final step is to refinish the surface, and the quickest way to do that is with a cold blue such as Webley Gun Blue. Clean the surface to be blued with acetone to remove all traces of oil, which is the enemy of cold blues. Next, heat the metal (a blow dryer works well for this) to be blued until it is very warm to the touch. Apply the product with a clean cotton rag. Never touch the metal surface with your hands, or you’ll destroy the bluing agent’s ability to color the metal.

Reapply the bluing agent until the metal is as dark as you want, then rub with oil to stop the process. It is very difficult to get uniform results over large surfaces with cold blues, so practice on smaller items before you try an entire gun.

Blued finishes are beautiful, but often fragile. These tips should help you deal with small problems like a veteran.

5 thoughts on “Protecting and restoring a blued finish”

  1. Brian,

    As you know, the inside of the barrel is more important than the outside.

    Is it still shooting accurately?

    If it is then you have a minor problem that can be held in cheque. Use ballistol and a soft rag and rub the rust off. Then rub some more. Keep a protective coat of ballistol on the blueing. Rubbing down with a fresh coat after shooting is critical since the sweat from your hands is very corrosive to blueing.

    If looks bother you then a new barrel is the best fix. Touching up the blueing with Oxpho blue or even reblueing the entire barrel after stripping it down and following the directions completely is also an option.

    Lot of good information on this blog about reblueing a barrel.

    You've posted your comment under an article that was written years ago. Only a handfull of people will see it. Go to the most current article that B.B. has written and post your questions and comments and it will be seen by thousands and you will get many more responses as well. Here's a link that if you copy and paste will always take you to his most recent article written:


    Hope to see you there!


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