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Thread: Smith and Wesson 1917 - Polished Backstrap?

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    Contributing Member rcathey's Avatar
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    Smith and Wesson 1917 - Polished Backstrap?

    Hi all,

    Picked up a nice 1917 in an auction last week. Beautiful, original, bluing.
    Strangest thing though, the backstrap is polished.

    It was wearing a Pachmayr grip but that will be replaced with wooden ones. But of course that's even stranger, the polished area was covered up by the grips that were on it.

    Anyone ever see anything like that? It wasn't like that as issued, was it?



    It's nicer than my refurbished, parkerized one so I'm keeping it anyway. Just thought that backstrap was strange. I might put some cold blue on there just for display.

    Thanks!

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    Advisory Panel browningautorifle's Avatar
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    It was probably worn to the white and someone thought they would sort it out...my wheel guns all wear like that too.
    Regards, Jim

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    Contributing Member rcathey's Avatar
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    Making wear look flashy. That makes as much sense as anything else.
    The US military was fond of leaving random things in the white. Thought I'd ask just in case. I'll have to get some pictures posted of it tonight. It's really in quite nice shape other than that.
    Here's a few not-so-great pics from the auction. You can just make out the top of the polished backstrap in the last one:


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    The revolver looks polished and blue...not bead blasted and matt finish. I don't have a handle on all these and only owned one of them through time. US handguns of the time should be a flat finish shouldn't they? The ordnance bomb looks crisp so it wouldn't have been polished and redone. Is it early or late...I don't think the backstrap could have been deliberately left white though. They bath blued these I think... If they were done by hand then it could have, like the Mauser military pistols of early. Those were done outside while the inside of the frame was in the white. The mechanism too...

    Your cold blue won't stay long if you shoot this. If you wanted to cover it for all time, a man that blues professionally could do it with a strong bath of salts and just a paper touch up of the backstrap. The gun would be stripped completely and frame only go in. No other polish and you'd never be able to tell it had been done. A strong bath might well enrich the rest of the frame too...

    Nice looking revolver too, yes, that grip needs to go.
    Regards, Jim

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    Contributing Member rcathey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by browningautorifleicon View Post
    The revolver looks polished and blue...not bead blasted and matt finish. I don't have a handle on all these and only owned one of them through time. US handguns of the time should be a flat finish shouldn't they?
    That's a good question. As you state, the bomb is super crisp. The eagle head proof mark (??) is also minty crisp. I can't recall the serial number but it is earlier than my current one. I'll have to look at that tonight.

    And get more pictures. I wouldn't hate it if the finish wasn't original but I'd sure prefer it to be.

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    Advisory Panel browningautorifle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcathey View Post
    I wouldn't hate it if the finish wasn't original but I'd sure prefer it to be.
    I'll bet it is, maybe someone will see this and answer us...
    Regards, Jim

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    Contributing Member rcathey's Avatar
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    Serial number is 34575.

    According to the snappy-titled "America's munitions 1917-1918 : report of Benedict Crowell, the Assistant Secretary of War, Director of Munitions," that would date it somewhere around early April of 1918. The books say the GHD inspector mark was removed in April 1918, so that jives as well.

    I've attached a screenshot of the output chart from that book. This chart is a treasure trove of information all in one little box, if you haven't seen it.

    Some more pics:


    I've ordered a sling swivel and reproduction grips are on the way from, of all places, Thailand.

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    From those pics I too believe it's original polish and blue from manufacture, didn't see much use. Could have sat in a collection after being liberated anywhere after manufacture. The backstrap is easy to polish within the lines of shape but you can't just do a little...maybe a light fur of rust formed and the owner felt guilty. Anyway, I wonder if you could do a rust blue on the back strap so as not to disturb the rest? Then it would match and be durable... Nice revolver...
    Regards, Jim

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    Contributing Member rcathey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by browningautorifleicon View Post
    Anyway, I wonder if you could do a rust blue on the back strap so as not to disturb the rest? Then it would match and be durable.
    Rust blue...now that’s an idea. Not really much “infrastructure” required for that either. I like the way you think!

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    Advisory Panel Lee Enfield's Avatar
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    It's not a "rust blue", it's what S&W called "Carbona / Carbonia" bluing, using an oil mixture, sperm whale oil, "Tar pitch" and bone charcoal ect.

    The American Gas Furnace Co. Supplied the equipment to S&W, Colt, Marlin, Winchester ect.

    AGF Co. processes were referred to (at various times and various people) as "temper", "engine" or "machine" bluing.

    S&W continued using the process into about 1970.
    Last edited by Lee Enfield; 08-06-2019 at 01:18 PM.

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