When beginning this project, I had hopes of telling you a tale about two old-time shooters, Mr. Birchwood and Mr. Casey, who developed products to restore and preserve their old hunting rifles. Perhaps they were chemists or maybe just tinkerers. However, my research into the background of the Birchwood Casey company took me through a series of mergers and acquisitions as far back as the Fuller Pharmaceutical Company founded in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, in 1948, with a division called Birchwood Laboratories.
Pieces got added and others sold off until Birchwood Casey was a totally separate company which is now part of the GSM Outdoors Group. I had no luck finding information on the guys with the original ideas and seed money, but I can tell you the folks running the company today know what they’re doing, and they know guns and gun people.
Background on Use
I’ve always liked to piddle with things. The challenge to me is that old things can be made new and new things can be made better. There’s a whole series of products from Birchwood Casey that are designed to help me accomplish my goals when it comes to DIY gunsmithing. Two areas, in particular, stand out.
One is the ability to refinish the metal parts of a gun, i.e., bluing or re-bluing. The other relates to refinishing wooden stocks. Birchwood Casey has conveniently packaged products to help with either task. It also has interesting products that can be used to totally change the looks of a gun to make it emulate color case hardening.
Some professional bluing jobs done by a gunsmith involve submerging gun parts in heated chemicals in a large vat. You may have heard it referred to as Hot Bluing or Salt Bluing. This process requires a more-or-less permanent setup of bluing tanks and a good bit of time. There are many bluing projects, including bluing an entire gun that do not require hot bluing. For those projects, Birchwood Casey has kits that provide all you need. And for smaller projects or finish-up on an existing project, any of the products packaged in a kit can be purchased separately.
The bluing kits contain a ‘bluing and rust’ remover — the first step in any bluing process. Ideally, you would strip the gun down to bare metal. Although, there may be times when you’re doing touchup bluing and you only strip the part of the gun you’re going to re-blue. The Birchwood Casey kits contain a pad of steel wool along with applicators for the chemicals. Following the instructions in the kit, you’ll find yourself stripping the gun, then cleaning it thoroughly with the ‘cleaner degreaser’ product contained in the kit.
Next comes the bluing chemical which may be Perma Blue or Super Blue depending on the kit you buy. Super Blue is a little darker and seems to work faster to change the color of the metal. Bluing is a form of rusting the metal in a controlled manner. The process is stopped by washing the object being blued with cold water and then coating it with gun oil. I have a friend who skips the water and goes right to the oil, and I must admit his projects seem to have a deeper blue. I’ve tried that myself on a couple of my more recent projects, and it seems to work fine.
My first time using the Birchwood Casey bluing kit was to touch up the barrel on an old shotgun. After that, I did the entire barrel and action assembly on my first .22, a Remington 514. After bringing the Remington back to an almost new condition, I did a Marlin 80, then a Remington 1911 Carry Commander pistol. It is very rewarding to be able to turn some of your old guns into show-off pieces.
Making a show-off gun doesn’t stop with the metal and neither does Birchwood Casey. The stock refinishing kit contains a Walnut stain, Tru-Oil for treating wood in its natural grain, and Stock Sheen and Conditioner for cleaning up minor imperfections in the wood and giving it a satin-like finish. I liked the wood grain in my Remington 514, so I didn’t stain it, but I did use the Tru-Oil to give it an almost new looking stock.
On another project with an old single-shot shotgun, the stock was nicked and chipped so badly that I had to use wood filler to patch up a number of places. I then stained the stock with the Walnut Stain and after it had dried, I rubbed it all over with the Stock Sheen & Conditioner, and it turned out nicely. I then stripped the barrel and action and blued them with Super Blue. That old shotgun earned a place with my collection instead of being relegated to the corner of a closet.
Several years ago, I bought a Uberti Hombre pistol that had a black matte finish. I read an article by a guy who had used Birchwood Casey’s Color Case Hardening products to emulate the color case hardening we all admire in some of the old Colts. I tried it on my Hombre and soon had a beautiful Cowboy Gun I was proud to show off at outdoor shooting events featuring old west guns.
Birchwood Casey has other products that can prove helpful in maintaining or restoring some of your guns. One is Aluminum Black which works very well in covering scratches in guns with black aluminum frames. Another handy product is Plum Brown Barrel Finish, which can return old muzzleloaders to their original condition.
These products work so well, I find myself looking for old beaters among some of the used and consignment products at my neighborhood gun store. Bringing one of these old guns back to an almost new condition is a wonderful way to spend your time between range or hunting trips.