Last year we picked up an m1903 .32 Hand Ejector for $125. It was cheap because the blueing* was pretty far gone, there was some rust, cylinder end-shake and timing issues.
The timing issues went away when I detail-stripped the gun and removed a century worth of crud from the mechanism. The ratty blueing and rust went away due to the careful application of abrasives and polish. I used a combination of careful buffing with a sisal-wheel and Stainless Steel Black rouge and 800-grit emory cloth wrapped around a variety of small round rods to get into the tougher parts. You have to be extremely careful not to wash out lines with the buffer and to always buff with the direction of lines. Cleanup and buffing of the side must always be done with the side-plate in place in the frame to avoid ‘rolling’ the edges of the plate.
A bit more work and some Van’s Instant Blue gave it an ‘antique gray’ finish. Unlike most cold-blue solutions Van’s actually penetrates the surface or the metal- not as deeply as hot-bluing but it’s much more durable than other cold-blue solutions I’ve used. The ‘Antique Gray’ finish is done by multiple cycles of blueing with lots of 0000 steel-wool in between, followed by a very light buff. It gives an old gun some protection while maintaining a ‘vintage’ look that I like.
I fabricated a T-grip style adapter from aircraft aluminum, and that made it comfortable for me to shoot. Rather than the copper tabs that secure a Tyler T-Grip of a Pachymer grip adapter this one is epoxied in place. Since it is not easily removable I bored a hole in the face to allow access to the mainspring tensioning screw.
That left the cylinder end-shake, and I decided it was time to address that. I had some leftover .008 bronze washers used in making liner-lock folders, and I trimmed one down to the correct diameter by mounting it on a screw with a small washer and nut to hold it so that I could grind away the excess material in a uniform and controlled fashion. Then I hand-sanded it to the needed thickness. I stripped the cylinder, inserted the washer to shim it and reassembled. Worked a treat; no end-shake, everything hunky-dory… except that the cylinder-gap was now .016″. Average is .006-.007″, so that was rather large… yeah, gotta fix that…
Getting the barrel pin out was a problem, but eventually I followed the advice from online forums I ground a concave dimple in the face of a punch and ground it down to 1/16″ inch. After that it was pretty easy to drive the pin out from left to right.I couldn’t find a frame-wrench for an I-frame, but some scrap oak and files fixed that-
Padded vice-grips and a 2-foot copper pipe for leverage got the barrel moving pretty easily. Once the barrel was unscrewed I carefully ground the face of the frame until the barrel set-back properly. A little judicious grinding with a very high-grit belt got the few thousandths off of the forcing cone needed to fit the cylinder properly. Once that was done I ran a small drill-bit through the pin-hole and replaced the barrel-pin. This was a nice, tight force-fit.
End result? Cylinder end-shake is gone and the cylinder-gap has gone from .016″ to .0035″. The DA trigger pull is a smooth 8 lbs. I slightly widened and deepened the rear sight notch, touched up the bluing as needed and am calling this one done- at least until I am set up to hot-blue…
Very pleased with how this little gun came out!
This is going to be primarily a range gun, so it may eventually get some kind of target grip if I find the right piece of wood. I’m sure Linda is going to love shooting it, and I have a box of 96gr. LRNFPs all ready to go.
*I misremembered this gun as having a nickel finish and posted that in a couple of forums… oops.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 28 July 17
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