What to do with a very old handgun?
June 8, 2015 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Found a very old, crusted (possible) handgun with my metal detector. What should I do now in terms of cleaning it up / restoring it?

I found this in two pieces while out with my metal detector. I didn't even realize what it looked like until after I'd gotten them home and cleaned them off. It's extremely crusted over with a hard, rocklike deposit.

What should I do? I would love to see what it looks like under all the lumps and bumps. Is there a good process for doing this? Is there any risk to damaging what is underneath?

I have a bunch of nails and other metal bits that have similar deposits on them, so I would be able to test any process out on them first to make sure it didn't destroy anything.

posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That looks like corrosion. If it is, you won't be able to just remove it like a crust. The iron itself has changed state, there's no pretty gun hidden within.

And I wonder if you should let the local cops know. Guns don't just get dropped or left behind by accident.
posted by stellathon at 4:02 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

I agree with both of the answers above -- looks like some of the metal is corroded away, but giving it an electrolysis bath to get rid of any oxidized gunk is a good way of seeing what's underneath. (Though you should be aware that you'll actually be *removing* material from the gun. It will have a different shape/form when you're done. You may want to leave it as is, because the process isn't reversible.)

I have an electrolysis setup that I use for refurbishing cast iron. If you decide to go that route, feel free to MeMail me with questions.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:13 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

The profile (to my eye) looks like a Smith & Wesson revolver, anywhere from the 1940's to the early 70's. It's doesn't look like a civil war colt or remington, so it's not like it would be a super-valuable collectors item. At first I thought it might be a model 29, but the grip is kinda wrong. It looks more like a police model, but that barrel is really long. Could it be a toy?

How heavy is it?

If it were me, I'd call around and find a friend with connections, and see if I could get an x-ray, whether it was a dentist or somebody at the airport, you know?

Then I'd probably frame it under glass as is, as a curiosity.

Nice find! Good luck!
posted by valkane at 6:15 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

>Though you should be aware that you'll actually be *removing* material from the gun.

No iron or steel will be removed from the workpiece that wasn't already removed by the rust.
The anodes are sacrificial, not the cathode/workpiece.

This is a better description.
posted by the Real Dan at 6:50 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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