Restore Your Ugly Guns with Turnbull Manufacturing

Send to Kindle

A gun like this Winchester 1886 could be cleaned up with bronze brush and solvent, but it will never be a treasured gun again, or so you might think. (NOTE: If you click these pictures you will get a huge one with detail.)

On second thought, this is actually the same gun, restored by Turnbull Manufacturing. It has returned to its original glory, just like it was shipped by the factory, and can now be treasured by another generation, or several generations, who hopefully know how to take care of it better.

Here is the “before” picture of a WWI era 1911. It is worth a couple thousand dollars like this for sure, but serious collectors and investors pass on guns like this because they just aren’t exciting. And to give this to your child or grandchild, it’s a classic, but in age appropriate terms, it’s kinda yucky.

Here is the same gun as it was issued, with the correct charcoal bluing and nice crisp letters and numbers in the roll engraving. Now that’s a family heirloom!

It would be great to be able to take an old Winchester and throw it in some kind of bath and have it emerge like brand new, but in real life it is a ton of hand work by experts in the craft. It takes about two weeks to restore a gun front to back, and I think the pricing on the work is extremely reasonable.

Over the years Doug Turnbull has paid top dollar for the actual engraving dies from the original machining on many guns, including this Colt die being used to replace the lettering on a 1911 frame.

From initial dissasembly to final assembly and finishing, every gun is gone over piece by piece, until it is in effect, factory new.

The Turnbull engraver can fix the engraving on a gun that needs substantial pitting removed, and/or upgrade your field grade or utility grade gun to a classic Colt, Winchester, or Marlin pattern using the actual materials from back then. He can also do custom patterns, like a picture of your dog on your shotgun.

Custom hand engraving is an art that you don’t see on many guns overall. It creates an elite class of firearm that will always hold the value you put in with the Turnbull engraver.

This originally blah Kimber has been transformed into a true work of art, with color case hardening and charcoal bluing. This job goes for only about $650.

If you are enamored like we were and must have one of these beautiful guns today, this Ruger #1 in the proprietary .475 Turnbull caliber is drop dead gorgeous. They do have some in stock, but we suspect they will dry up shortly after this article comes out. Originally created for leverguns, the .475 Turnbull is a monster cartridge, and we hope to be able to cover the gun more fully down the road.

Turnbull Manufacturing
http://www.turnbullmfg.com/

Guns can be beautiful, but they can also be downright ugly. And even though a gun may have historical significance in its original condition, ugly is ugly. If you can afford it of course, some old guns are good candidates for a complete makeover restoration, back to factory original. Restoring an old gun can be a big decision.

Original Colts, Winchesters, 1911s from various manufacturers, and double shotguns are worth big bucks even in rough condition, so not all guns are suitable for restoration from a value standpoint. But factory new condition is possible, even if a gun is horribly pitted and the parts are not all there. There is a tradeoff between “all original” value and refinished value in these guns, and that can get a little tricky. There isn’t a lot of collector demand for really rough guns under 45%, and these are great candidates for restoration.

Turnbull Manufacturing has been the most recognized name in old firearm restorations since shortly after Doug Turnbull started out in 1983. They employ nine full-time gunsmiths, plus an engraver, and work out of a 6400 square foot building in Bloomfield, New York. Overall, Turnbull has restored and/or repaired over 25,000 firearms, and now they even have their own line of guns There is no more respected name in firearm restoration worldwide than Doug Turnbull, and if you want your old gun restored to factory new, there is no company more capable and trusted than today’s Turnbull Manufacturing.

You may not even know this, but guns were much prettier back in the day. From the factory, most pre-WWII guns, through the late 1930s, had what is called a “charcoal blue” finish on the barrel. It is a light blue, not the black you see today, and it glimmers and shines, unlike the black of today. The old guns also had “color case hardening,” on many of their bare metal parts, including the receivers on rifles and the frame on revolvers. Color case hardening is a multicolor design that is literally burned into the metal and shimmers with colors ranging from blues to greens, to purples to oranges, and no two guns are ever alike. Generally they also had reddish hand rubbed wood, really beautiful stuff.

If your old gun is 45-50% or better condition, and hasn’t been cut down or had major parts or wood replaced, you should take a hard look at the all-original value before deciding to restore it, according to the experts at Turnbull. Guns in less than 45% condition can generally be refurbished back to factory new, and they will and retain in re-sale value that money that you spend with Turnbull Manufacturing (and sometimes multiply several times).

Better condition guns are always in demand by collectors and investors, but the rougher the gun, the fewer people want it. The Turnbull crew can give you a good idea in real dollars of what the effect of a high quality restoration will have on the overall resale value of the firearm, original versus refurbished. They have a 12 month wait on restorations, so they aren’t hurting for work, and you can trust their opinion as to what is best for your gun. Doug and the guys themselves buy guns to restore and sell at a profit, because though nobody wants an old grey ugly gun, everyone wants a Turnbull, if you’re a gun nut of course.

Accuracy is often even more important than beauty in an historic firearm restoration. Parker Shotguns, for instance, are known for muted colors in their case color hardening, whereas WInchester and Colt produced guns with purple and even orange highlighting. You may have heard of charcoal bluing if you are a gun nut, but did you know that the screws, trigger, basepin and some other small parts were what is called Nitre Blued in the late 19th and early 20th century? Colt, Winchester, Marlin, and many other gunmakers used this purplish, or what is sometimes called “fire bluing” on the small parts only, because it is more durable than charcoal blue. By the second world war, the black bluing we see on guns today, which is called hot, or “dulight” bluing, became the standard because it was cheaper, but prior to this most guns were charcoal blued with Nitre bluing on the wear parts.

Case color hardening was used on Colt frames and Winchester receivers during the entire cowboy era, as well as on many other guns, like the Sharps, Winchester Hi-Wall, and the Remington Rolling Block. Most side by side shotguns also had charcoal bluing and case coloring. Bone charcoal is the key ingredient in this unique process that Turnbull has perfected over the years. The gun is packed in it and heated in an oven, and the longer you leave it, the richer the highlights. It also hardens the steel to a 28-35 Rockwell, and the finish can’t scratch off. It is 15-20 thousandths deep into the metal.

Turnbull can bring all of these guns and more back to factory new condition, with, in most cases the original correct markings re-rolled into the metal, clean and sharp. Over the years they have accumulated a number of original dies from the original manufacturers, and it is almost scary just how “original” they can make a beat up old gun look. They will not, however, take an Italian or other replica gun and sand off the old markings to replace them with period correct markings. This would lead to a very confusing situation with possible Turnbull guns being sold as original guns, and there are also copyright issues even if they wanted to do such a thing.

The guns that Turnbull Manufacturing now makes are made from purchased parts, in the white with no finish, and Turnbull works their magic on them to make them truly exceptional pieces of art. The lever gun receivers are custom CNC machined from one, consistent supplier, and the single action revolver frames come from U. S. Firearms, who make their own version of the famous Colt that is known for great quality. Turnbull does not do action jobs though, so if you want a gun that is both beautiful and competitive, you will have to also send it out to an action specialist. Just remember that rust solvents also remove traditional bluing, because it is in fact rust, so for working guns you need to be careful not to ruin them with the wrong chemical. Also keep in mind if you plan to cowboy shoot with these guns that sunlight, and UV rays, are about the only thing that damages case coloring, and it is tough to stay out of the sun cowboy shooting.

The costs involved with a Turnbull restoration may require a specific quote. They do have a price list on their website, but those are exact prices for disassembled, cleaned and polished parts. On an old grey Colt single action that has all working parts and doesn’t need anything, a typical simple bluing and case coloring, as well as grips will run you about $2,500. A working yet ugly Winchester levergun with the metal done, as well as the stock, is about $3,000. Replica guns, brand new from Uberti and others, that you want to transform to the original factory look run about $650, and leverguns about $1300. And though the 1911 was never issued with a case colored frame, the Turnbull 1911 re-furb, to case color the frame and charcoal blue the rest of the parts, very pretty, is $650. If you have a field grade L.C. Smith, Parker, Fox or other old shotgun, complete restorations are in the $3,000 range.

The in-house engraver has an interesting variety of functions at Turnbull. They get in a lot of old higher grade shotguns, like a Parker DHE, and many of them are in terrible shape, pitted and worn from years of neglect. In these cases, where some of the guns need to be sanded a great deal to get out the pitting, their engraver can exactly replicate the engraving that was on the gun. They also have a bunch of original patterns from Colt, Winchester, Marlin and others of the factory engraving on higher grade guns. So you can upgrade your gun as part of the restoration. Custom patterns are available as well. And engraving, historically, is also something that almost always stays in the value of the gun and often multiplies in value. Not a ton of engraved guns exist in the world, and there will always be a good market for them from collectors and shooters alike.

Instant gratification is possible at Turnbull, but not with restorations, which do have that 12 month wait generally (notice that we repeated this 3 times so don’t complain in the comments when you call and are told this). They currently have some of their Ruger #1 Rifles in their own proprietary .475 Turnbull caliber. They are roughly $2,000, and are absolute things of beauty. The Ruger #1 didn’t exist in the late 1800s, so they were never a true buffalo rifle, or the first generation of African rifles, but since Ruger introduced their much loved falling block in 1967 it became an instant classic, and a favorite of American, African, and European hunters alike. The Turnbull #1 is made specifically for them by Ruger in .475 Turnbull, and the base cost is $1,100. Refinished with rich color case hardening and charcoal blue brings them up to $2,000.

Both Hornady and RCBS make dies to reload the straight-walled Turnbull brass (probably made for them by Starline so good stuff), and they sell the unprimed brass for $175 per 100, very reasonable. Grizzly and Corbon both make loaded ammo for the gun. For bullets, Barnes makes a solid hardened copper and zinc solid for dangerous game, and a solid copper hollowpoint TSX for extreme expansion that was designed specifically for the .475 Turnbull. I found a lead bullet supplier, with gas checks and without for $30 per 100 at Montana Bullet Works, and they appear to get the gas check mold from Lead Bullet Technology (LBT). I also found a less expensive two cavity with several drive band options with no gas check at Mountain Molds. And wouldn’t you know it, there is actually a 325 grain gas check double cavity available from Lee for twenty bucks on Midway USA. They also have the gas checks available, and they have some pre-cast bullets with gas checks for sale as well. You would need the gas check for full snot loads in this powerhouse caliber, but I think that if you want to invest in one gun for a variety of purposes, this caliber could be downloaded to much less with wheel weight bullets for whitetails. We hope to get one of these Turnbull Ruger #1s in down the road to be able to get to actually shoot one.

From an investment perspective this gun is a steal. The Ruger #1 comes in and out of production and they almost always increase in value in the odd calibers. The Turnbull #1 is the kind of gun where someone just said, “this would be kinda neat,” and they actually followed through and made a bunch. Like all specialty guns, they WILL dry up, and when that happens I predict you will have to pay twice as much for one overnight, used. I’d love to see Turnbull take this caliber to some of the classic external hammer single shots, like the Sharps, Highwall and Rolling Block, but only the latter could probably handle the pressure. Getting this gun in and shooting it will be exciting. Nobody doesn’t like a #1.

Restoring an old gun is a tough decision, but it truly becomes a legacy and family heirloom that you create yourself. And though Turnbull doesn’t encourage people to send a $100 gun in for a $2,000 restoration, to bring it back to factory new, plenty, and I mean plenty of people send them old hardware store double shotguns, .22 plinkers, and beat up old break tops to restore for children and grandchildren, A utility gun won’t retain the money you put in, but you will be passing along a family heirloom in the same condition it was originally purchased. What is the price of a legacy after all?

Classic Colts, Winchesters, Marlins and even double action pre-war Smith & Wessons and L.C. Smith or Parker shotguns will almost certainly retain the investment made in them with a Turnbull restoration, and the transformations you can see here in the pictures. Your old grey gun that your great grandfather brought home from the war, a gun you feel responsible not to get rid of, will turn into a gun you love to own, and that you will be proud to pass on to your heirs. Few things in life are a no brainer, but restoring an old grey and only marginally collectible gun with Turnbull is a no brainer. That is probably why they are backed up a year.

Turnbull Manufacturing
http://www.turnbullmfg.com/

{ 57 comments }

{ 55 comments… add one }

  • Matt February 17, 2012, 5:47 pm

    these guys are right down the street from me, they are always busy without any advertising, that says something about their work!

  • Robert Decker February 20, 2012, 3:31 am

    In terms of re-case coloring vintage Classic American Doubles Doug Turnbull is ” the man”.

  • Kurt Scott February 20, 2012, 3:51 am

    how can I buy a Nice 1911 or 357 or hi point from you the black 1911 Look great email me your for sale inventory

  • Gayle Hodge February 20, 2012, 8:37 am

    Please send me a newsletter and a price list for gun repairs. Thanks.

    .

    • Administrator February 20, 2012, 8:42 am

      You have to click into their website and contact them directly.

  • Sam Alexander February 20, 2012, 11:30 am

    I collect 1911’s and the example you show has had it’s value reduced by your work. You can take a 1917 manufactured Colt with battle ware and worth $1,200 more or leass and run its value down to $800 by doing what you are doing. You have taken a collectable and turned it into a reduced value shooter. It’s a shame. I have a couple of these, one from 1918 and another from 1943, that I use just as cheap shooters because the finish was professionally redone. It’s much worse than sanding proof cartouches off of military stocks. You are destroying history and value.

    You’re making money but it’s a crying shame.

    S. Alexander.

    • Mark Wynn February 20, 2012, 4:42 pm

      Don’t doubt your point … but it really comes down to what floats your boat. Enthusiasts take a rusted, bent up old car and restore it to like new … and we all love to see them go down the road and on display at vintage car shows. They show what the item looked like in its day … as such, a valuable glimpse back in history. Believe there’s a place for both unrestored, and restored guns.

      • Administrator February 20, 2012, 4:56 pm

        I think they are missing the point Mark, and it is probably because they have never been involved with the antique firearms market. Guns under 50% aren’t “sought” by collectors at all. They will kick out a couple grand because they know they can get their money back out and it is a steal, but nobody actively seeks to collect extremely rough guns. Do people who just get into collecting sometimes pay too much for a really poor condition gun, just to own “an original?” Yes, they do. But you know the story about a fool and his money right? The Turnbull guns always being a premium, much more than what the gun would bring as a “flip-over” price, which is all you generally get for less than 50% guns.

  • Richard Alajajian February 20, 2012, 11:34 am

    Please email me an approximate price listing. I have a 1911 Military class .45. Looks a bit rough and I would like to clean it up.

    • Administrator February 20, 2012, 11:41 am

      There is an overview of general prices in the article. You need to call them and explain what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Rich February 20, 2012, 11:56 am

    Love the case hardening colrs. But was told not to bother even thinking about going there unless you wanted to wait over a year for them to get to your gun.

    • Administrator February 20, 2012, 11:59 am

      Doesn’t it say that three times?

  • Jjet February 20, 2012, 11:59 am

    Sam Alexander, you are correct in that refinishing a collectable does destroy it’s very appeal, but I think you’re missing the author’s point.

    He’s talking about family heirlooms that one wishes to rejuvenate and pass on to his heirs or heiresses.

    Did the same with Dad’s old Remington 12 pump (although I didn’t use Mr. Turnbull and did the stock myself). Never looked back.

    #1 son loves it. So will his daughter.

    Cheers.

    • Mark Wynn February 20, 2012, 4:44 pm

      Excellent!

  • tom February 20, 2012, 12:34 pm

    If you would like the 2nd Amendment to be strong and enduring, then it’s smarter to support California’s shooters, hunters and firearms owners and instructors.
    California leads the county in trends, popular and liberal movements and visibility.
    That will not change in the next four years or forty years. Every effort to avoid dealing with California Shooters is direct and collaborative support for the Anti-gun Factions.
    Help us support the Second Amendment here through involvement and assistance.

  • Greg February 20, 2012, 1:19 pm

    @Tom, EXCELLENT point made!
    From a California gun owner….

  • Bill Gram February 20, 2012, 1:41 pm

    Hey Guys. Can you tell me about what it would cost to clean up my 1965 winchester 94. Receiver is about bare. New it had a rust spot on the front of the receiver. Also it has not been loading properly for years. Had a smith look at it but some how it still doesnt quite work right.

    • TomA December 10, 2012, 9:33 am

      Greg,

      You have a gun with opportunity. I found some time ago that this is firearm that is relatively easy to work on and fun, at least I enjoy it. Parts are fairly easy to get, first through Numrich, usually best price and then eBay.
      On line you can get very good instructions on assembly and blow up diagrams. I mostly finish mine to still show some wear but look good and above all perform well. I have had pretty good success with some of the cold bluing if I take care to clean the metal very good. Make sure every part fits well and works smoothly, common sense, but I have seen this ignored. Like I said do not be afraid to work on this gun, easy and fun.

  • Sid February 20, 2012, 3:05 pm

    Have to agree with Sam. Forgoing monetary considerations and dealing with aesthetics only, which of the “before” and “after” 1911’s would draw the more awe inspiring response to the statement, “This is the pistol my grandad carried in WW1″

  • Charly February 20, 2012, 6:46 pm

    Restoring by refinishing an antique historical firearm even a poor condition piece is wrong. Once restored – that history is lost forever. One of my rifles was used in the trenches during ww1and has odd small dimple marks down one side of the stock. A restorer would have sanded those out. Those cause of the dimple dimples came from the vet who passed the rifle down to me when I was a kid. They came from tapping the bullets point first into the stock to knock the mud from the strpper clips and realign the rounds……now which is more important a rifle that appears amory fresh or one that still bears witness to the Somme!

    • Administrator February 20, 2012, 7:04 pm

      Historically provable value is of course another reason you wouldn’t want to modify a gun. Some of the most valuable guns at live antique firearm auctions are plane jane guns that have a provable and documented story behind them. Doug Turbull is at every major collector show in the country. And as has been explained, if a gun has value as all original, nobody with a conscience would ever modify it. Some guns have no story and got trashed, and I’m sure that if they could talk they would say they would love a new life and to find love again.

  • Matt February 20, 2012, 8:45 pm

    I love how folks cry for freedom and then complain when others exercise theirs.

  • Mike Bryant February 21, 2012, 12:07 am

    I think Sam my want to fly in our present day war’s in a VetNam Era Huey that had not been repaired over the years. I know without doubt that he is from the Old School of gun nuts. I had a heart attack when a friend of mine had a Colt (1913) chrome plated (not redone), that his grandfather had passed down to him and he used it for carry duty in LE. First it was a real bad job and you had no idea who made the weapon or could find most of the SN. I have over 50 hand guns, shotguns and rifles that will be handed down to my kids and gran-kids. I have a few that were made in the 30’s that need to be redone but the cost keeps me from that. I think Turnbull is doing the right thing and hope they keep up the good work. By the way Sam, I am not reffering to you as a nut as I am also in that group but see the past being passed up to the future…

  • Ken February 21, 2012, 10:01 am

    I’ve known Doug Turnbull for 3 decades. He has been married to my sister for many years. This article is accurate about his expertise. I can speak to his character. You will not find a more honest man, business-wise or otherwise, than Doug Turnbull. His passion for his work ensures the best possible quality results for his customers. When considering the restoration of your heirloom firearm or upgrading of your favorite gun, have no reservations about Turnbull manufacturing. He and his crew are not only the best at what they do, they are some of the most trustworthy people I have ever known.

    • Ryan Kephart February 21, 2012, 1:13 pm

      Ken,

      Nice plug for the kinfolk. still destroying history though.

      RK

      • Ron Yates December 21, 2012, 10:38 am

        History depends upon the prejudices of the writer.

      • Ron Yates December 21, 2012, 11:13 am

        A rusty old firearm is useful only as a paper weight. Now if someone wants to pay $150,000 for one, that is their business. Personally I think what Turnbull is doing is an art and restoration is the only way to go for a shooter.

  • mark w. kluting February 21, 2012, 10:48 am

    ladies and gentlemen; please, lets keep and use the term “UGLY” for attorneys\government that are swindling our loved ones, and extorting thousands in “perpetual litigations” from loving family members providing care for them. not an aged weapon who saved the life of the person using. after all, when the appearance of an old rifle\pistol shows where\when its been, it should be treasured “as is” and values higher.

    in memory of, united states army veteran Gerald a. Sisson…
    swindled by a gambler and attorney joseph penna-elder abuse and fraud ponzi

  • Kenneth February 28, 2012, 6:57 pm

    Destroying the firearms history??? The people are the history behind the gun! Would I have a vintage WWII weapon refinished? Not a non shooter safe queen. This process if for those who wish to relish and use the firearm as it was intended. Once refinished the legacy continues. The only way you can destroy the history of these guns are to destroy them physically.

    They’re many avid shooters/owners on here; where is all the anal P.C. crap coming from? Especially in regards to stuff that isn’t THEIRS!

    • Administrator February 28, 2012, 7:48 pm

      I think the source is just ignorance really. Those comments were from people who have never been in the collectors market, or had a gun left to them that they felt they had a responsibility to keep, but that had no real significant history behind it. There are also those who just don’t read the article beyond the first paragraph, or even the title. Remember that half of America is on Prozac and the other half is on Xanax. People think zombies are fiction but we are living the walking dead headed every day.

    • Ryan February 29, 2012, 1:06 am

      Aftad er you refinish your gun, just try to sell it. I’ve been a dealer since 1981 and the first thing we look at is refinishing. Or even better, look at what refinished guns versus truly original guns in the same product line are offered for in GA. Folks who really collect guns truly want them in original and used condition “no matter how bad it is”. Refinishing is the death sentence as they are destroyed physically. Function is another thing though, if it ain’t working you’d best fix it but keep the original parts to go with it, it really makes a difference.

      Yes, you own your gun and can do what you want to it. You’re just making the one’s that aren’t refinished even more valuable. Someone down the line in your family will decide to sell it for whatever reason and when they do the first thing they’ll hear is “well, it would be worth a lot more if it wasn’t refinished”. seen it happen hundreds of times.

      • Administrator February 29, 2012, 1:53 am

        As explained ad nausium at this point, it isn’t for guns that have collectability on their own. “Folks who collect guns” don’t buy ugly guns and are not interested in guns that are less than 50% and don’t have a reliable value.

        • Ryan Kephart February 29, 2012, 8:58 am

          You’re obviously just a writer and not a person whom is actually in the trade…and I did read the whole ad. Yes, I do mean ad, not article! It is obvious that Turnbull Mfg. is garnering support through the media by providing big charitable contributions to NRA and some new fodder to individual writers. I’ve seen the “supposed” good work of the past top refinishers and it’s still a refinished gun which is the major knock-down in value. I don’t care if the refinisher puts their name on their handiwork or not, a gun trader can tell immediately and then shares the disappointment with the owner. Most folks whom own a refinished gun almost show it with shame to friends as they know it’ll be met with a grimace every time. I’ve got one now, a nice 95 Winchester priced right, advertised as refinished. Zero inquiries other than to ask about serial number. Either time or trying to sell what you have will prove me and Mr. Alexander correct in our assesment. The Ad Nauseum is the continued promotion of refinishing (with emphasis on the “AD” part). Go to your local gun store and ask them what they think of refinished guns.

          • Administrator February 29, 2012, 10:07 am

            As many others have noted here, you are missing the point. The only reason resale is even mentioned is because heirs might be concerned that value is being taken out of their inheritance in the long run, so we noted that Turnbull doesn’t restore guns that are going to have any collectible value down the road in their original condition, at least in the foreseeable future. There is a whole collector world out there that you are completely ignorant of, because you are coming from being a local gunshop, where ham-handed non-collectors may pay a certain premium for otherwise not collectible guns, just because they are “all original.” From an investment perspective, book value is a statistical norm that you can pretty much count on. Unless a gun has a specific documented history that makes it more valuable in crappy condition, it is just another utility gun with nothing interesting in its history. Remember that guns are a nearly unique product in that they are seldom thrown away, so there are literally millions of guns out there in the market that have never been fired more than a handful of times, never have been fired in anger, or at game, or at anything more interesting than tin cans. As a family legacy, that was owned by people in the lineage of the family, it is much more pleasing to take a gun out to shoot that looks like it did when it was made, when the person in the lineage bought it, than it is to take an old rattly grey thing out that looks like it has been under a bed for 50 years, because it has. Restored, there is no reason not to shoot it as well, which takes the guilt out of shooting an original, because you might ring the cylinder or whatever. You have to understand, the word ignorance is not generally an insulting word. It just means you don’t know because you haven’t been exposed to something, and in this case, you are speaking from simple ignorance.

  • Ryan Kephart February 29, 2012, 12:00 pm

    Oh no, I get your point totally, I covered it in a previous e-mail you glazed over and did not enter into the blog.

    I deal on the national scale my friend. Through your very pages and site (and other sites). Thousands of guns have gone through my hands both locally, on line, and at trade/gun shows and I deal mainly in high-grade Brownings. I’m sorry but I just don’t see it your way at all. History doesn’t have to be a significant event to be historical. Just the mere fact that it survived this long and through so many hands is history enough for most folks. It adds charactor and knowing you can put your hand where your great-grandpa’s hand was is a great feeling, in the orginal form anyway. Talk to some of the bigger dealers you may more easily recognize like Rod Fuller, James Wayne, Holloway and Naughton, Steve Barnett, etc…most of these guys won’t even touch a refinished gun. From what I understand Mr. Turnbull is a nice guy. I have an American Western Arms (Italian) his firm did an action job and finishing (not refinishing) job on. Slickest and prettiest gun I own in the SAA style. but, it would be considered an enhancement or custom since it basically came from the factory this way, therefore, no harm done. If I had to have something re-done, his firm would be my choice (like a salt-wood Browning which is usually an imperative no-questions-asked-have-to case). There will always be a debate about this. Eventually we truists get the last input when the end of the family line is done and the widow comes in with a load of re-finished guns that we can’t sell for top dollar. (and before you say it, I usually sell all family heirlooms at auction for a minor percentage only after I’m sure nobody in the family wants them – that way everybody can watch the auction and know exactly how much money I made for them and myself).

    • Administrator March 1, 2012, 9:06 am

      None of those people would be interested in a 73 Winchester with no particular history in 40% condition, with visible deep pitted rust and no original finish on the gun. And you don’t feel you missed the point? Have you ever tried to sell something like that for even close to book value online, or to anyone but a local rube? They sit and sit and sit until you list them for half of “book” value, and you have to endure hundreds of “will you take…?” emails from people offering 1/4 of book value who insult the gun and tell you it is worth nothing. If you put a Turnbull on GA for base value plus the cost of the restoration, you will most likely sell it within a month, if not overnight because of our wishlisters.

      • Doug Turnbull March 1, 2012, 3:24 pm

        Ryan, I understand and hear what you are saying. Having been in the gun business for 30+ years dealing with collectors, dealers, and family heirloom guns, there is a reason why we get involved in restoring the various guns. So in your opinion, you are saying that a gun that has been refinished, barrel and or parts replaced should be left as is? Even though the gun has been devalued, is non-original and never will be original again?
        We offer a service to replicate the original texture and finishes on firearms to duplicate the original look and feel as they did when they left the factory, if not better. Our guns consistently sell for more money than any other refinished or restored guns due to our pain staking attention to detail – whether its keeping edges flat, squaring the holes, or taking the time to recut or reroll lettering and addresses that have been worn off or worn thin due to age, abuse and prior refinish jobs. Giving those that appreciate firearms an opportunity to see firsthand how a firearm would have appeared the day it was shipped, is something I strive for. Seeing the excited look on someone’s face, and their reaction to their newly restored firearm, is something that will never get old for me. Many times I have shown my work to certain collectors that have collected one particular model in their lifetime. They will insist that the firearm must be original, and I have to let them down gently when I explain to them that it has been restored to new. In the early 80’s I decided to go public on the work that we do to let people know and educate the collectors that the old processes have been brought back and rediscovered. I didn’t go the path to restore old guns to age them back to appear original because that would be fraudulent. We have consistently worked with dealers and collectors over the last 30 years as our mentors to guide us and improve the final product that we generate so that they do look like an original gun in every way that we can. I have never been in the business to misrepresent guns. The process of restoring any item – whether it is a firearm, house, car, or even the declaration of independence is simply a means of preserving history.

        • Peter Nadzeika December 10, 2012, 10:23 am

          Doug I believe that you provide a GREAT service. I purchased atwo basket winchester rifles. One was a 1892 which I had a local gunsmith replace the shot out 44-40 barrel witha stock Winchester 44 Mag. barrel. A shooter, but not pretty. The second one a 1873 a gemuine basket case sent to the Florida panhandle (I didn’t know about your company) came back absolutely beautiful. I won’t hesitate sending a damaged gun to be restored back to new even if in someone elses opinion it is worthless.

      • Ryan Kephart March 1, 2012, 4:50 pm

        Gee, you appear to have some real confidence issues. First-off, I rarely sell a gun locally. It is all internet nowadays and was the Gun List and Shotgun News long before that. I am very thankful to have GA, GB, GI, and AA to sell guns through, it is so much easier than the old days. People love well-worn guns. Of course, they love less-worn guns better but even Navy Arms has recognized that people like the in-the-white and rougher finish look since they offer a whole product line of them as they look more “authentic” and “used”. The “books” you mention are frequently wrong about actual values and current “going prices”. I only use the books for historical notations of finishes, cal, barrels, aging, etc…they are really great for that. The 100% to 10% grading is just a joke and most real dealers like myself get a chuckle out of anyone using it for real-time values. Guns are just like anything else, they’re worth as much as you can get out of it. Your listings are filled with hundreds of original finish Winchesters and Colts with no provenance or history to them and they don’t last long. I did a search for anything with the Turnbull name on it in GA. Came up with 34 guns. 31 of them are in Turnbull’s own inventory. That’s a good statement in one way that people keep them once they get them restored but not a good statement that dealers are willing to “supposedly” increase value by putting more money into it to make it look better (they know it just don’t work that way). Also, I generally price it right and don’t haggle that much anymore. If I do it is usually just the shipping amount saved or a minor cut – in 31 years I’ve never had anyone offer 25% of my asking price. Probably never had anybody offer any less than 90%. Out of the thousands of guns I’ve shipped only 3 have come back because accuracy in advertising is everything. I would ask that you please don’t cut and demean the good gun buyers and gun owners of America by calling them Ham-Handed and Rubes. These local guys are the whole backbone of the industry. Even the lowest knowledge gun-person wants good value/quality arms for their money and the fact that they are even asking makes them winners in my book. Most of the folks that call on me are well-educated in firearms and know what they want. For local folks I just charge $20 above wholsesale cost to transfer or buy new guns. My stock-and-trade is in used or pre-owned guns that sometimes get sold before I get them. Buy reasonable and sell reasonable is my game. In regard to your statement about getting base value and the cost of restoration back, what would I gain for tying up my money in a speculative risk when all I had to do was just sell it for base cost to begin with? Sound slike you’re promoting investing in dead-even money. Guns are just like anything else, we want to be in this business to support our addictive firearm pursuits while making some money, and we are good at it because we understand what works and what doesn’t. I “totally” get your original point in the article. You think all guns ought to look from 75% or up to 100%. In your mind grey and pits are bad. In our minds they show character. There are many, many more people who want the old guns in original “used” condition no matter how bad they are. Otherwise you’d have a classified section for “refinished” guns.

        Finally, you have me at a disadvantge about the wishlisters. I can’t see that collective field at your site. If there are a lot of folks looking for them I would be very surprised. When I do see them in other gun lists like Cabela’s I see them sit in inventories much longer than original guns for what I would assume as them being very pricey and/or non-original.

        This is my first time blogging but refinished guns have been a burr under my saddle for many years. I am enjoying the opportunity to possibly deter someone from making the mistake of refinishing their firearm treasures.

        i’ve said about all I can say and tried my best not to insult you with any demeaning words although you seem to have taken a stab or two at me. I am ignorant about many things, but not guns. I make a good living at it.

        • Administrator March 1, 2012, 5:28 pm

          We’re ignorant about some things Ryan. And who said the article was about investing? The article is about restoring guns, and the investment part is just an aside. Guns aren’t worth “what you can get out of them.” They are nearly 100% commoditized and have been for generations. Antiques have the greatest swing in them of course, but they will always still sell within norms or boundaries, except to a rube here and there, but that is only for those who like to take advantage of people when they can, which, no swipe really intended, does seem to be your point when it comes to getting “what you can out of them.”

          You do seem to have learned the online game pretty well so you don’t get blasted with ridiculous offers, but I assure you, anyone posting book value for rough guns gets hammered with offers, often ludicrous.

          The wishlist is an email subscription that people sign up for.

          • Ryan Kephart March 1, 2012, 9:55 pm

            I guess at this point we can agree to disagree. That’s very American of us both. I think between both of us we’ve exhausted the full spectrum enough to make folks really think either way. No need to publish this comment unless you want to. Have a good day.

            RK

          • Administrator March 2, 2012, 1:32 pm

            Yea, same here. The only reason the original one wasn’t lit up was because the article had just come out and I do think that you missed the point of what it was trying to say, and you probably accused us of having some bias. We are just died in the wool gun nuts here and all of us have safes full of everything from cowboy guns to modern black stuff, and the Turnbull restorations are never a question as to value, and long term investment, for the right guns. Have a nice weekend. -ph@ga

  • Doug Turnbull March 2, 2012, 10:16 pm

    Ryan

    It appears that you have written a book on collecting in about 1993. This answers a lot about you and your feelings on anything that has been touched in any way. I have delt with many people/dealers/collectors that have been collecting for the last 60 years and have known the guns of yester year that are untouched and have a problem with anything that is not original. You have beeen burned over the years by people that have “touched” a finish and not been able to tell it from original and those that miss representing those that are done so good that even the experts cant tell. Yep any one that does anything to a gun that changes the finish from original is a true travisty to the guns community. Sorry for this and I hope that you are able to come to terms with this and except the fact that there are people like me that do this type of work. Please forgive us for ruining them in your mind and go back to your dealing and collecting of the original guns and leave these to people that have excepted the fact that some of us want to have a ‘new” gun at a discounted price from a 100% original gun that we can use and enjoy.

    Have a good day and find the next person to rant and rave at. I hope to meet you at a gun show some time so you can teach me what I am doing wrong and how to be a better person in what we do. I want and need this knowledge to be a better person at what I do.

    Thanks

    Doug

    • Ryan March 4, 2012, 1:51 am

      Doug and Administrator,

      I really hadn’t planned on saying anything else and let the issue drop but I guess I have to put at least 1 more in. Also, i had not planned on disclosing I was a published author either.

      Only time will tell whether it was a good thing to re-finish/restore or not. No doubt in my mind you do quality work. Examples I have seen are usually visually stunning. With enough press anything can be accepted to be the best thing since sliced bread and since your work is good I see no reason against positive articles. As it stands you probably are the best known refinishing company of all time as there is certainly no shortage of accolades. Actually I have never been burned on a refinished gun. I had excellent mentors on the subject and can usually spot a refinish job very easily. All refinish jobs miss something. I applaud you on marking your guns so it is know to be a refinish job. Most people who refinish do not do this and I attribute their efforts to trying to “fool” someone that the gun is better than it is. yep, I’m old school but probably about the same age as you. I just know if I put $500 into fixing a $500 rifle, I still have a $500 rifle, no matter who did the work. Another few things that irks me out of your services is making guns higher grades than they were to start with such as low grade parkers into high grades and changing calibers of classics like 86 winchesters to your proprietary caliber. I just feel that is way over the edge.

      I also have everything from class 3’s to single shot lo-walls. One of my best prizes is a 95 win in 30 army that was refinished. I got it at a price too cheap to pass up and if it was a takedown it’d be my favorite rifle. At the time I paid $500 for it yet if it had not have been refinished it would have fetched an easy $1500 – so yes, I do get some benefit out of refinished guns sometimes.

      I just know that about every gun show I go to and somebody tries to sell their old guns the first thing dealers look for is whether it is refinished. If I try to sell a gun that is refinished it is usually handed back to me with a look of disgust from the potential buyer.

      You keep mentioning that I am missing the point of the article. I believe your point is that if someone wants to refinish a gun that Turnbull is the place to go, correct? Then i agree!

      I just want folks to know that it’s a real pain to sell a refinished gun. Just like a BATF agent told me about my personal guns on-site that I said were’nt for sale, he said “every gun is for sale eventually”. When the family goes for an appraisal or to sell the firearm, that’s when the disappointment begins and usually starts with a comment of “well, if it wasn’t refinished…”.

      you guys have a good day and unless you make more comments I don’t plan on saying anything else

  • HBB March 4, 2012, 2:53 pm

    My husband and I collect and shoot a wide range of firearms, from first gen Colt SAAs to sporting shotguns to black utility guns, and everything in between. We have a house full of old original condition Marlins, Colts, Winchesters, and Rugers we wouldn’t monkey with for love or money. We have others we’ve had restored, refurbed or completely rejiggered (rechambered, rebarreled, restocked, engraved, etc.) many by Turnbull.

    I appreciate the provenance and patina of unmonkey’d-with firearms. We’ve been to Vegas and Tulsa and elsewhere to drool over magnificent historical pieces. But I also love my few shiny, case colored, smokin’ hot show pieces that *maybe* no one else will ever like to shoot or look at but me. It’s really okay. People are allowed to like different things. There is no “right” or “wrong.” It’s my money (well, my husband’s money :D ), and I really don’t care if someone else thinks I’m misspending it. I don’t worry about how much I can get on resale of every gun, or what my heirs and assigns do with them when I’m gone. I’ll be worm food. I just want to be surrounded by beautiful guns, for varying degrees of “beautiful” in the here an now.

    To put it another way: Sometimes I like apple pie with a slice of cheese, sometimes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You like yours plain. I’m not going to tell you how to eat your apple pie. To tell someone else they’re wrong in how they enjoy their firearms is as silly as telling someone they’re wrong in how they eat their pie.

    More often than not, when someone asks us if a shiny refurb is original condition and we say “No, it’s been redone to factory specs” the response is “Wow, who did it and do they also work on XYZ?” No one, in all these years, has *ever* said, “Man, you guys destroyed my birthright and you clearly hate America and now the terrorists win.” And if someone did, I’d just smile and shake my head rather than argue.

    Because there’s really no argument to be had here. To each his (or her) own.

    Shoot straight, gentlemen!

  • william lovelady March 5, 2012, 12:18 pm

    I was really impressed with the article. Then I started reading the comments. I’ve been in and around the gun business since 1986 and I’ve seen a definite shift in the buying publics’ willingness to pay for non-original vintage guns. Cowboy and vintage military shooting has had some to do with this, as have the ravages of time and the dwindling number of correct, functional originals. But I think Turnbull has more than anything to do with making ‘restoration’ respectable. And ultimately, restoration is what will preserve history in a way that shooters can enjoy. Turnbull gives not only this generation, but future ones a chance to see what guns really looked like in the days before color photography.

    Meanwhile, I’m still looking for a buyer for my completely unrestored damascus LC Smith in 40(maybe) percent condition :)

    • Administrator March 5, 2012, 12:36 pm

      Post it for sale and we’ll take a look lol. I agree that the market has changed a great deal in the last ten years or so.

  • Tom Hunger April 7, 2012, 1:24 am

    Have any of you ever heard of a factory re-finish? I collect Parker shotguns. It was not uncommon for a shotgun to be sent back to Parkers YEARLY. I have several guns that had been returned to the factory for a re-finish and sold today as “original finish” shotguns. If this is pointed out to a seller, the common answer is that, “the factory did it therefore its the same as an original finish.” Folks, Parkers went out of business well over sixty years ago. Turnbulls is merely performing the same service with an adherence to original finishes that is truly amazing. Ditto for Winchesters, Colts, Marlins, etc. The only downside of all of this is that the original manufactures would have told you to shove it on a 40% firearm. Lets save these guns for the next generations by bringing them up to spec.

  • Grant Johnston April 16, 2012, 6:20 pm

    I have a Winchester Model 94, 30 cal WCF, with a 1913 serial number. It has a nickel steel barrel and is really ugly. Can Turnbull restore nickel steel and turn it into a pretty gun? I don’t want it blued, just repolished nickle steel.

    Grant Johnston

  • Scott December 10, 2012, 6:01 am

    Old Ryan would roll over in his grave if he found out that I had my fathers badly neglected J C Higgins Model 31 ceracoated in Blue colored ceramic. When I brought it in to a traditional gun smith shop I was asked if it was a barn find. While I was at it I had his old Model 94 32Win Spl done too! Now my sons can shoot their grandfathers rifle and maybe pass it on. I paid more to have the Higgins Ceracoated then the rifle was worth in 90% condition but I shot my first squirrel with it and I may shoot many more and the money is of no concern to me. Why some stranger should care how I treat my prized possessions is beyond my comprehension. I considered Doug Turnbull for this restoration but truthfully I lost the web page and couldnt get back to it. Ceracoating for a few hundred dollars plus a few more to get rid of most of the pitting was well worth it to me and I enjoy that old lever action.

  • Ken December 10, 2012, 7:30 am

    The Win 73 in the top picture is not the same gun in the picture below it unless the round barrel was replaced with an octagon barrel.

  • Chuck M December 10, 2012, 11:03 am

    This is for the Turnbull Co. I am the kind of person who just can’t stand to see something with imperfections in it. Especially if it was meant to be a special thing. I used to collect and restore antique and vintage wood working hand tools (Stanley planes, chisels, spoke shaves, draw knives, etc). Some of those (most) were neglected, and useless for looks or using. So—–I would buy them at a steal, take home and with a labor of love, bring them back as close as possible to original beauty. I looked at them as “works of art” and to be enjoyed by looking at, handling, and using as originally entended. I mentioned all this to remind everyone that “it takes all kinds to make the world go round”. And to each his own. Restoring something out of informed research and personal choice is one thing and Restoring some out of ingnorance is quite another. Some guns I will want restored (even if to just touch up minor defects) and some I’ll leave as is. Some I want to completely restore. In my “simple” mind, I think important history should be kept alive for future generations to learn from and enjoy. I’ll be contacting you to completely restore one of my WWI Colt 1911 Gov’s. and my Win 1894 25-35 (1926). Keep up the important work.

  • Martin A Greis December 11, 2012, 1:11 pm

    I have a Rhinemetall 16 gauge automatic that looks almost identical to the A 5 Browning ‘Sweet Sixteen.” My grandfather brought it over from Germany in the early 1900s. It has a small dent in the barrel and the forestock was cracked and someome (Probably Gramps) put a brass pin about 1/16 th inch thick through it and filed it flush with the stock to fix it. I magine it was glued at the same time. I was thinking about having the small dent taken out by a smith and was thinking about trying to find a new replacement forestock. The finish is very nice on this shotgun so it never entered my mind about having it redone. Now after reading your artical I think I am going to leave it be, with the exception of having the small dent taken out. I hunted with this shotgun a few times with the handicap of using it as a single shot because it is chambered for the shorter shell popular way back then, and being it was a square back like my Remington I couldn’t hit anything with it. I guess I am just a model 12 kinda guy. With the model 12 I could hit just about anything. I no longer hunt or shoot skeet so this faux A5 will be passed on to a grand kid or nephew. Anyone know anything about my 16 gauge? Thanks for the great artical.

  • Jeff Adams November 19, 2013, 11:55 am

    Mr. Turnbull,
    Do you do partial restorations?

    I have a first generation (1920) Colt Peacemaker that’s in sad shape. I would like you to turn it into a shooter. It looks like to me that it needs a new barrel, cylinder, hammer, and internal workings. Also, the edges, screw holes, roll markings, etc., all need restoring. However, instead of the beautiful color case hardening, and other finishing work you do, I would like the revolver to have an aged, slightly worn finish.

    Would you be willing to take on this project?

    Jeff Adams

    • Administrator November 19, 2013, 3:10 pm

      You have to call them they didn’t write this article.

Leave a Comment