Jun 29, 2009

To refinish or not?

I've been lax in posting; the pace of life has been insane and involved a tremendous amount of overtime in the past week.

I posted a bit ago about the S&W 647 I'd put a deposit on... that has yet to come to fruition. New York's cumbersome pistol permit process requires me to register each pistol I purchase; my county requires a judge's signature for each registration... and my county's judge has been less-than-prompt about signing recently. My first few pistols were usually four to six business days. My most recent was two weeks. This has now been just over three weeks, and there is no way to find out the status of the process. So be it. Meantime, I will be making a face-to-face trade for my Mini (for a Winchester 1894) tomorrow - completely legal and no extraneous people necessary.

In other gun news... Most gun collectors, serious or not, know what a "Grail Gun" is. Not the magnetic-acceleration particle rifle, that's a rail gun. A grail gun is The One Gun... it may change, and once one is acquired, another grail may be determined. In my case, the Grail is a non-mixmaster Ithaca 1911A1. There are a fair number floating around out there, but as they age (only produced for a few years in the 1940s), more and more are being retrofitted with new parts and losing their character. It takes a good eye and good grasp of history and serial numbers to pick out a non-mix gun; it's not uncommon for a slide to get slapped on a different frame and be sold under the slide's label.

On top of the mixed-parts problem comes another: refinishing.

Don't get me wrong: I have no inherent issue with someone paying the money for a careful refinish of a piece that is important for sentimental reasons, or even simply because "I want it"... but dammit, be careful when you're picking your finish and who's doing it.

Case in point... I was poking around an auction site last night and came across two items listed as Ithaca 1911s. One is an obvious veteran - there is an honest patina of wear and use, and this is a look that I love and appreciate. The numbers match and the proof marks all appear to be correct. Without stripping it I can't be sure, but it's probably a legit Ithaca 1911.

The second... well, it was originally listed as an Ithaca 1911. It's been refinished (from an original parkerising to a satin blue), and in the process, the sharp edges have all been smoothed. If this were a carry gun, it would be described as a "light melt"... but this isn't a carry gun. It's a piece of history. In all likelihood, it saw holster time in one war or another - if not WWII, then quite probably Korea or Vietnam. Combat? Possibly. The original grips are long gone, replaced with cheap plastic "stag" grips. A sharp-eyed observer must have emailed the seller, as there is a note in the listing that by serial number, it's a Remington-Rand frame, with an Ithaca slide. (See: Mixmaster.)

I've no doubt it's a functional 1911 - it has plenty of history attached to it - but my own sense of propriety and aesthetics says this is a sham... the firearm equivalent of slapping some Bondo on that stone-chipped hood and then spraying it with a can of Rustoleum.

I'm sure you can gather which is which:



PS: If anyone reading this does happen to have a gin-yoo-wine Ithaca 1911A1 that they'd like to part with, please let me know ... I'd be willing to move a lot of mountains to get to one.

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