Flaring the ejector port (aka: Roll over notch)

After yesterdays adventures, I have more confidence and so I decided to attack the most challenging part so far. I want to create a roll over notch for the ejected cartridge. Most of my other custom 45’s have a notch, and so I examined them closely before I started. I will be using a special set of grinding stones that I bought from Brownells a few weeks ago. These stones are listed in the catalog for just this purpose…….So, on with the show……….

I started out by reading the instructions that came with the grinding stones (big mistake, but more about that later). The instructions show the 2 different shape of stones, and they say to use the B51 (the long thin one) to start the cut. The instructions go on to say that the entire job can be done using only the B51 stone, but that they recommend using the B42 stone to bring the port to final length and depth. This picture shows the two stones I am using.


I tried doing it that way on the first Sistema, and almost ended up ruining the whole slide…..BIG MISTAKE !! I don’t know if the instructions are wrong or what…..but after inspecting the 2 stones and looking very carefully at the instruction sheet, I am now convinced that the written instructions are right. But that the labels are totally backwards. The instruction sheet labels the two stones like I did in the picture above. However…..if you reverse it and use the short fat one first, and then use the long thin one to bring it to length….everything works fine. Bad, Bad, Bad instruction sheet. The other thing that they say to do in the instructions is to draw the outline of how you want the port to look after its done. The idea is that you can use the pencil marks to shape your notch…..once again I have to say Bad, Bad, Bad instructions. It simply doesn’t work like that.

Here is an example that may help to explain what I’m talking about. Imagine that you have a 2 x 4 and you want to cut it with a hand saw (you remember hand saws don’t you?) The trick to getting a good cut is to “Start” the cut correctly.(the very first couple of teeth will start it) Once you get the first downward stroke of the saw…you are pretty much committed for the rest of the cut. If you start the cut at an angle, you will pay hell trying to get it straight again, because the saw blade naturally wants to follow the line of the initial cut right? If you messed up, you need to start the cut again. Ok so what does this have to do with anything?…..

The same thing applies to your initial cut with the stone. I did it all wrong on the first gun, but figured it out on the second one. This picture shows the “initial cut” on the second gun (the one that turned out right).


Look closely at the picture and you will see a shiny spot where I just barely started to grind. This cut takes on the shape of the bottom of the stone and makes it hard to control the stone in any angle other than the one I just set. Also notice the line I drew on the picture. It shows the correct angle that you should hold the stone when you make the first cut. If you do it right, then the rest of the process is really, really easy. You simply use the same stone (the fat one) and stay in the same spot until the notch gets deeper and wider. The stone will do all the work because it is shaped just for this purpose.


Here is another picture That shows you what I mean. I didn’t move the stone or change the angle….I just left it in one place and let it dig in a bit. ** Warning ** If you do as the instructions say and try to “freehand” it you are asking for big trouble. I did that on the first one. I was able to kinda fix it, but it will never be quite right. The instant that I started moving the stone around, all was lost. Because I could never get back to the original shape of the stone. Once you go outside the lines it’s too late.


This picture shows a close-up of the one that I did correctly. Notice the shape of the notch. It’s the exact dimensions of the Fat stone….I didn’t even use the thin one at all. I did the whole job using the B42 stone. If I had chosen to do so, I could have then switched over to the B51 (thin one) to lengthen the opening. See what I mean…..they have the instructions 180 degrees backwards. The instructions say to use the B51 for the whole job….trust me folks THEY ARE WRONG !!!! (bad, bad, bad instructions) Here is a final picture of the notch after I applied some cold blue (to keep it from rusting while we continue working on the slide)


What did I learn?

Ok everyone, up to this point I have done mostly “text book” stuff. What I mean is that all the modifications that I have performed are pretty well documented and are simply a matter of correctly following a set of instructions and measurements. However…. today I attempted something that simply can’t be explained with words alone. The grinding of a roll over notch is more of a “skill” or “Art form” than simply taking a few measurements and doing a good job of setting up. It’s these little things that can only be learned through actually doing it.

** Important Warning ** Be very careful to stay away from the opening where the extractor comes out of the breechface. If you cut too deep or too close to the opening, you can grind into it. If you do that it is nearly impossible to salvage your slide. You will need to leave yourself at least 1/16 of an inch of metal between the extractor opening and the edge of your roll over notch. Keep checking it every couple of seconds and stop if you get too close.

I must admit, I’m a little bit pissed about the instruction sheet that came with the stones. A simple labeling error on the part of Brownells nearly cost me a slide. Luckily, I was able to catch it early and get it “mostly” fixed….but it will never be as nice as the second one.


Here is a picture of the first one that I screwed up. I fixed it the best I could…….Lots more to do and see, but until then……….


(hey, did you notice how nice the Bake-on finish looks….look at the closeup picture again…only the frame, we didn’t do the slide yet.)

Lowering the ejector

Lowering the ejector port

The time has finally come for me to try my hand at milling. This will be the first time I have cut into my Sistemas with my new mill, and I must admit I’m a little nervous about it. I’ve been practicing with the mill for almost a week now…..and my cuts are looking pretty good. The main thing (and the reason I decided to go ahead and try it today) is that I have figured out how to do precise depth/length cuts.

I just had to learn how to set up my dial indicators correctly and how to get everything adjusted. (tram, level, feed rate, tool speed etc..) I’ve never used a mill before so that’s why it took me so long. I’ve been practicing on a piece of 1“ ”keystock" which is very soft metal, so it’ll be interesting to see how much different it feels when I’m cutting a real slide (much harder metal). So without further ado, let’s get crackin………..


Here is a picture of what I am starting out with. I am using a 3/8“ carbide endmill to do the actual cutting. The radius of a 3/8” will give me the correct “rounded” corners at the bottom of the ejection port. Look closely at one of your guns and you will see what I am talking about. The shape of the ejection port is not perfectly square. I also get to use my new Yavapai slide milling jig (the aluminum thing in the picture). Next I measured the distance from the bottom of the slide to the edge of the port opening.


This picture shows you want I mean. I do this to find out how much I need to lower it. According to my manual, a lowered port should be between .425 and .475 from the slide bottom to the bottom edge of the port opening. I measured a couple of my other custom .45s and found out that this is true. The one that feeds the best for me is a Colt 1991 that I have, so I measured it and decided to make the Sistemas the same. (.460).

All the measurements are done and I’m ready to start setting up the slide in the mill. I used a couple strips of 3×5 card to keep the Yavapai slide jig from scratching the underside of my slide.


This picture illustrates. Here is another picture that shows the slide mounted on the jig and ready to clamp in my mill vise. I put the jig and slide into the vise so that the ejection port is facing up, and the opening is towards me (the front). This way I can have a nice clear view of the cutting process.


Next I leveled the slide so the cut would be perfectly straight (Note this only works if your mill table is also level with the horizon….).


I need a way of knowing how far to go when I’m moving from side to side. It is important to NOT cut too far to either side because on one end you could cut into the breech face, and on the other end you could cut into the area where the barrel chamber is supported. I looked at the little needle on my mill tables X axis and it has a small ruler with a triangle shaped needle. By placing a couple small pieces of black duct tape at the same angle as the needle, it gives me a real good mark. (easy to see). I only need to be close, not “Dead on” because the final step is to run the cutter along the left and right edge to straighten it all up. (you’ll see later). Here is a picture of the tape marks I used as guides for the side-to-side measurement.(in the picture I have the needle lined up with the right limit mark)


This is what it all looked like after I set up for the cut. If you look closely at the picture you will notice that I have a dial indicator sitting on the left side of the table. the dial indicator has a super sensitive needle that will measure .001 of an inch. I set it up so that the needle is just touching the tip of the mill table.


As the table moves forward (towards me) it will cause the needle to register. Remember that the table moving forward means that the cutter is digging deeper into the ejector port opening. So I just move the table until the dial reads .165 and I have my new depth. You can also see the little pieces of tape on the front ruler (right beside the hand wheel I’ll be turning). I can just go back and forth, stopping and reversing direction each time I touch the tape. This sets my left and right limits.

** IMPORTANT TIP ** – Remember that you only want to take off a tiny bit with each pass. I only cut in .010 for each pass from left to right. By only going a little at a time, it allows me to cut in either direction. (left to right AND right to left) This allows me to go from one side to the other….then deeper…. then back to the other side….then deeper. well you get the idea.


If you try to cut a lot of metal off with each pass, then you run into a problem with the mill cutter doing what’s called a “climb” cut. This illustration shows how a cutter is designed to work in a “CONVENTIONAL” cut.


You feed the workpiece INTO the cutting blades. Now if you feed the workpiece AWAY from the teeth it’s called a “CLIMB” cut. The climb cuts are harder on the machine and on the workpiece and they exert a greater force on everything. (but climb cuts create a really smooth finish, so end your cutting on a left-to-right cut if you can). ** SIDE NOTE** I found out about all this stuff by accident. I didn’t know that it made any difference which way you fed the darn thing, until all of the sudden my machine started to vibrate and chatter. If I just went the other direction though it worked fine…….hmmmm interesting. So I did a web search and found out about Climb -vs- Conventional…..either one is ok to do, but you can’t be making deep climb cuts on a small milling machine. (sorry if I’m boring you)……back to the real story…….

Ok, where were we….oh yes, we were cutting our ejector port. Here is a picture of the cutting process, I kept spraying cutting fluid on the slide and cutter to keep them cool during this process.


And this picture shows what it looked like after I cleaned some of the metal shavings off (but before polishing) .


Next I used a small round course grit stone and my RTX to smooth everything up and remove the tooling marks. Then, a final polishing job using my trusty polishing stones and viola… Look closely at how straight and even the “vertical” edges are at the front and the back of the opening. I made one final in-out cut down the edge of each side before I took it out of the vise. Mine looks better than some factory jobs I’ve seen. Some of them have a slightly forward leaning notch to the opening. (which Jerry K. says NOT to do…..)


What did I learn?

I found out that the Grizzly Mini-Mill will cut the harder metals with no problem at all. It didn’t complain one single bit about anything I threw at it. Of course the real test is going to be when it comes time to cut a rear sight dovetail…..that’s the deciding factor. But so far I have been nothing but pleased with this little mill. At $ 475.00 plus shipping, it is certainly affordable. And the size is perfect for a “Garage Workshop”.

The lowering of the ejection port is what I would consider one of the easiest milling operations I can think of. (that’s why I did it first). The precision of the cut is what I would call “Low” because you have some latitude with your measurements. (between .425 and .475) and because the side-to-side cuts are dressed up at the end of the process anyway. So being ridiculously precise isn’t a problem. I was a lot more precise with mine than others might be, but hey…..they’re mine and I want them perfect.

Stick around….there’s more to come. ** Note** there is no “Until then” photo this time, because I still have em torn down for the next step. Flaring the ejection port.

Fitting the Barrel Bushings

Fitting the Barrel Bushings

You may recall that I ordered some new barrel bushings in one of my earlier orders from Brownell’s. Well today I decided to pull those guys out and try fitting them to my Sistemas.

I bought a couple of “Match Drop In” bushings made by Maryland Gunworks (MGW). I like these very much because they are somewhat thicker than a mil-spec bushing. What I mean by thicker is that the face sticks out away from the front of the slide by about .003 more than a normal one. This allows the tip of the barrel to be flush with the bushing instead of poking out beyond it. I have another custom 1911 that has the same bushing (fitted by a professional before I started doing my own work) and I really liked it, so I bought the same ones for my Sistemas. They are also marketed as “Match” bushings which means that the ID is precision measured but the OD is left a bit oversized for a custom fit to slide.

As with any so called “Match Drop In” parts, you still need to do some minor fitting if you want everything to be just right. I inspected the new bushings very closely and found that the ID (inside diameter) was just about right, but that the OD (outside diameter) was a bit oversized. This is EXACTLY what I was hoping for.

This means that I will need to re-size it slightly so that it will fit into the slide. But I will not need to do anything to the ID (the hole) in order to get the barrel to fit. The ID is just about perfect, you have about .002 of clearance between the barrel and the bushing. You need some clearance in order for the barrel to be able to tilt enough to lock and unlock from the slide lugs. But you want a super tight bushing to slide fit so that there is no movement from side to side or up and down. If you have a tight fit it improves accuracy.

I like my bushings to be tight enough to where I can just “barely” get them out with my fingers. I have to rock it a little to get the bushing to turn. I normally use a bushing wrench, but I have to “theoretically” be able to disassemble by hand……that’s just the way I like it, you can go tighter or looser based on your own preferences of course. The mil-spec bushings that came with the pistols are real loose. They are easy to turn by hand….and if you shake the slide with the bushing in place, you can hear it rattle……not good enough for me. So here we go.


This picture shows what I am starting with. I decided to try a little trick of my own for sanding the OD down so it will fit into the slide. I saw a mandrel listed in the Brownells catalog and it looks pretty simple to me. The mandrel is made for a lathe and I don’t have one. But the idea was good so I decided to make my own fitting for doing basically the same thing, plus it’ll save me $34.81. (You’re gonna love this).


I found that a sanding drum holder for my Dremmel is just slightly undersized and will fit easily into the hole in the bushing (too loosely in fact) This is the part I’m talking about. I tore off a few thin strips of duct tape and wrapped the mandrel until I got a snug fit. By doing it this way, I ensure that if the bushing spins it will not harm the inside surface (as it turned out the thing never spun at all). This picture shows the home made mandrel with a bushing “Chucked Up” hahaha.


I used the slowest setting on my RTX to spin the bushing. At first I tried using a small needle file. It worked ok but it was taking a long time to get anywhere. That’s because a file is made for slow movement, even the slowest setting on my RTX was too fast to let the teeth dig in.

Now don’t get me wrong, it was working…..just really slow. Ok so I needed a better tool for cutting the bulk of the stuff off with. I looked around and realized that just about any Dremmel attachment was made for high speed cutting so I looked through my box and came up with a nice course stone. I used a needle file handle and chucked up my Dremmel stone so I could hold on to it more easily. The stone cutter worked perfectly.

I used it until the bushing would start to slide in, but wouldn’t quite fit (not even if I pushed on it). Now I switched over to the needle file to get the final fit. The file takes off tiny bits and I had to keep stopping and checking the fit. I got it to where I could get it in…..but it was really really tight. (Read the important tip at the end of this section !!!). I had some tooling lines that I wanted to smooth off anyway, so I wrapped a piece of fine grit emery cloth around the file and did the last little bit with it. This picture shows the sandpaper rig.


That did the trick, the sandpaper not only made everything glass smooth, but it also took it down the last tiny fraction so that I could get the bushing in and out by hand (but just barely). This picture shows the bushing installed in the slide for the first time.


The last step is to polish the bushing face (I like that look). So I used my trusty Black and Decker polishing kit with a felt wheel and some polishing paste.

What did I learn?

I found out that it’s not that hard to fit the bushing as long as the ID is ok. I would have needed a reamer if the hole had not fit the barrel. I think I’ll try that on my next project, but the fit of these bushings is every bit as good (if not better) than any of my other custom built high dollar 1911’s. (all done by professional smiths).

IMPORTANT TIP* Be sure that once you start getting close. When the bushing as almost starting to fit into the slide. Install the barrel in the slide BEFORE you try to push the bushing in all the way. Sooner or later, you are going to get to the point where the bushing will fit into the slide, but it will be a little too tight. You will want to remove the bushing and do the final sandpaper polishing trick.

If you forgot to put the barrel in the slide, you are gonna pay hell trying to get the bushing back out again.(how do I know this you ask?….look at the picture again hahaha). If you have the barrel installed it’s easy…..just pull on the barrel and it will pull the bushing out with it. Once you get it all polished and fitted correctly you should be able to get the bushing in and out without the barrel in the slide…….but until you get to that point, heed my warning or you will be sorry.

They look great and function fine. Need to take em to the range now and see how they shoot. Stick around I’ll post the range report next week sometime……..but until then………..


Brownell’s Bake-On Finish

Brownell’s Bake-On Finish

After much deliberation, I decided to stick to the original plan and go ahead and apply the Bake-on finish over the top of our Parkerizing job. I really like the way the Parkerizing turned out. But I want the finished guns to look like a CDP, which means that the finish should have a smooth “semi-gloss” look to them. Also I like the feel of the smoother finish when I’m holding it in my hands. If done correctly the Bake-on finish should give the frames a very professional look, and should hold up real well. I’m using the Brownell’s Baking Lacquer as my finish.

Well the first thing I did was make a little home-made paint spray booth, so I don’t get paint spray all over my beautiful new (freshly painted) workshop. I just used an old cardboard box laid down on it’s side.


This picture shows the booth that I made for today’s endeavors. I also cut a hole in the side of the box and stuck the end of my shop-vac hose through it to help control the fumes and the spray. I used a rubber band and a coffee filter over the end of the vac hose, like this.


I am using a little cheap Testor airbrush to apply the paint. An airbrush is 100 times more controllable than a can of paint and at 14 bucks I figured what the heck. I don’t want any runs, and I want to be able to control the paint very well, this allows me to put on several very fine thin coats instead of one heavy one. Here is a picture of the airbrush I bought at a local Hobby Shop for $14.00 It came with a little jar to hold the paint and a removable spay tip (for cleaning). I bought 2 cans of propellant so I would have very clean steady air for the process. (More about the canned air later).


I mixed up a small batch of Baking Laquer and thinner as the directions instructed. They call for a mixture of 4 to 1 (4 parts paint to 1 part thinner), but I left a little bit of room in the jar so I could add more thinner if the airbrush started to clog. As it turned out I’m glad I did. The airbrush needs a bit thinner mix in order to spray correctly so the final mixture was 3 to 1 instead of 4 to 1. Here are a few pictures that show the process.


Look closely at the picture and you will notice that I placed the air can into a pitcher of boiling water. I found out that the can gets VERY cold if you use the airbrush for more than a few seconds. Once the can gets cold it looses all it’s air pressure and stops working. It annoyed the hell out of me so I went inside and filled a pitcher with boiling water and then placed the whole can in the water. This solved the problem completely and the rest of the painting process went forward without a hitch. I let the paint cure for an hour before I baked it. Here is a picture of the first Sistema ready to go into the oven.


I used a small cookie sheet that my wife had and I covered it with aluminum foil (so she wouldn’t kill me for getting paint on it). I preheated the oven to 325 degrees and then baked the frame and the grip safety for 45 minutes. After that you just take the parts out of the oven and let them cool to room temperature. The whole process only took 2 hours from start to finish and 90% of that was just waiting.

I love the way they turned out. The finish is very smooth and has a tiny bit of a shine to it. It really does look a lot like the factory finish that you see on aluminum frame guns and some others that use this type of process instead of more traditional finishing. Here is a picture of what the first one looked like as it came out of the oven.


What did I learn?

Well for such a simple operation it doesn’t seem like there would be much to learn from today’s exploits….WRONG ! I discovered a bunch of things that I didn’t know before I started. First off lets talk about the little cans of compressed air that I used for the first gun.

I already mentioned that the cans loose pressure real fast when they get cold, but what I didn’t tell you as that they run out of pressure way too fast to be useful. I bought 2 of the biggest size cans they had so that I’d have more than enough canned air to do both pistols and both grip safeties……or so I thought. As it turned out I used up both cans on the first gun. At 5 bucks a pop, they start to add up fast. I probably would have needed 5 cans to do the whole job (including clean-up afterward). I didn’t feel like spending 25 bucks for air, so I decided to make a few modifications to the basic canned air design…..hee hee you’re gonna love this……….

The airbrush that I bought has a special fitting on the end of it’s hose that only fits on these little cans of air (that’s why it is only 14 bucks) If you have a professional airbrush (like a Pasche or some other name brand) then you can buy air fitting adapters that will allow you to use your compressor as the air source. You still need to clean, filter and regulate your air supply, but at least you don’t have to buy all those little cans of air for 5 dollars each. I didn’t want to buy a different airbrush (I really like this one a lot) so I took one of the empty cans and drilled a hole in the bottom of it. then I tapped it with my 9/16 pipe thread tap and fitted a quick disconnect standard air nipple in the hole and soldered it in place.


Now I have an “unlimited” can of air. This picture shows the can with it’s air supply attached. I can now use my main air system with my new airbrush….I works fantastic. I just dial down the pressure on the feed valve to about 35 psi and presto, no worries about cold cans or running out.


I also found out that it was a really good idea to parkerize the frames first and then apply the bake-on finish over that. It would be nearly impossible to get a fine smooth coverage of paint on the inside parts of the frame (like the disconnector hole and the inside of the plunger tube). The parkerizing assures that all metal surfaces are completely covered and protected against rust, while the spray on finish makes the outside look very professional. Also by having the parkerizing under the paint….if you scratch your finish it will not show through because the metal underneath is also black. (assuming you used black parkerizing)

I used a cookie sheet when I baked the first Sistema, but I decided to hang the second one from the rack using a piece of wire.(through the grip screw holes) This insures that the baked on finish doesn’t have any marks on it from where it touches the cookie sheet. The second one turned out perfect so I’ll just have to re-do the first one. I want them to be as perfect as I can possibly make them, so the little 1 mm long mark on the first one has got to go. hahaha.


Well that’s all I can think of for right now. I’ll be practicing with the new milling machine for a few days before I do any milling of the slides (I want to get good with it using scrap metal before I start cutting on my babies). So hang in there we aint done yet…..much more to come. But until Then…………


The Beginning of a Hobby Gunsmith Adventure

The Beginning of a Hobby Gunsmith Adventure

It’s all in the Details

This picture shows the two basic mil-spec Argentine Sistemas that I am starting out with. They are really in fantastic condition and I must admit that I feel a little twinge of guilt about cutting into them. But what the heck that’s the whole reason I bought them in the first place so I’ll get over it. They are in my opinion however some very fine shooters just as they are. I fired one of them for about 50 rounds as it came and no FTF’s or other problems at all. Shoots about 2 3/4 inches at 25 (not bad for me).

WHY? – Yeah, Yeah I already know what some are thinking. If you’re gonna build a pair of custom carry guns why choose the 1927 Sistemas? Well I’m glad you asked…I actually chose them on purpose. I am a C & R collector and as such I am able to purchase Curios and Relics in a way that an FFL dealer can buy modern guns. The 1927 Sistemas are C & R eligible for one thing. secondly…they are made on 100% Colt compatible machines and as such are 100% colt compatible down to the smallest parts. Thirdly they are fairly inexpensive. At 299.00 a piece I could afford to buy them as complete guns. I could hardly get a slide and frame combo for that amount of money anywhere else, so for the same money I get a C & R eligible complete gun (spare parts after the project). Fourth I am doing all the work myself…that means the milling operations also.


I do not have the space to install a full sized Bridgeport Mill so I need to be able to work on these with a Mini-Mill. the older frames and slides on the 1927’s are much softer (due to the fact that heat treating metals was not quite as evolved as it is today). So the odds are that I may actually stand a chance of making it to the other side of the slide with a dovetail cutter if I use the Sistemas.

Parkerizing part 2

Parkerizing part 2

Ok it was hard to do but I waited 24 hours without messing with them. I was beginning to get a little concerned about the “specs of stuff” that I saw on them and several times I thought about wiping them off. But after re-reading the instructions for the 30th time I realized that the specs were normal and I should probably just wait. I didn’t want to take a chance of rubbing off the finish until it was hard enough (cured) to withstand it.


This picture shows the “specs” that I am talking about. It gives the metal a sparkly look and it worried me at first. I was afraid that they would become embedded in the finish and then they wouldn’t come off after drying. I shouldn’t have worried, they wiped right off.


Here is a picture of what they look like after I wiped them down with a clean rag and some gun oil. I was amazed at the amount of black that came off on the rag, but it’s all just excess chemicals and oxidation. The finish looks great. A very even deep black.

What did I learn?

The difference in metal hardness doesn’t really apply to the frame because they don’t have any spot hardened places, therefore it is fine to parkerize the frame. Of course you can do the slide too, but you’ll have an area around the slide release notch that will be a different color because it’s hardened in that area.


If you look closely at the “before picture” you will notice that the area around the notch was discolored when I first got them. Blueing has the same problem with showing different colors for different metal hardness.

Parkerizing was much easier than I thought it would be. I figured I would probably have to re-strip them at least once to get the hang of it, but it worked out great the first time. I would have no trouble recommending the chemicals that I used, they worked great. It’s almost a shame to put a finish on top of the Parkerizing, I could actually leave them just as they are. Maybe I’ll have to rethink the bake-on finish idea…..hmmmm I’ll let you know……but until then…………




I decided to go ahead and do the Parkerizing on the two frames today. I don’t want them to rust while I am waiting for the degreaser to arrive from Brownells and after-all the Parkerizing kit includes it’s own degreaser so I figured I’d use the stuff that came with it.


The kit that I bought is for creating a black finish (Manganese) and the company advertises that their chemicals will create a mil-spec finish that is easy to use. Let’s put those two statements to the test and find out. The kit includes a small one page instruction sheet that explains how to use everything. The instructions are super easy to understand and they basically say…degrease, beadblast, cook and spray. Pretty simple if you ask me (although I beadblastered THEN degreased). Off we go….

I started out with a stainless steel “Stock Pot” that I bought at Walmart this afternoon. I need a dedicated pot for this because :

1.) It is unsafe to prepare food in the same pot as chemicals and
2.) My wife would “kill me with a shovel” if I used one of her “special” cooking pots.

So to avoid both problems I decided to pay the $14.97 and get my own. The instructions also call for a cooking thermometer and a strainer so I picked up one of each while I was at Walmart. So with all my supplies and chemicals gathered neatly beside the stove I was ready to dive in. Here is a picture of what I started with.


I had already beadblasted the frames (yesterday) so all I needed to do was to degrease them (I know it seems redundant but I’m a perfectionist) to remove any finger prints, dust, or anything else. Nearly everyone I ask about blueing and parkerizing says the same thing. It’s 90% preparation 10% doing. And the most important part is to be absolutely sure that you have no grease or oil on the metal. I degreased both frames and the small parts by bringing the degreasing solution to 180 degrees and then “cooking” the frames for about 10 minutes. This also pre-heats the metal and makes them flash-dry really fast. Here is a picture of the degreasing process.


After removing the frames from the degreaser I mixed the Parkerizing solution and brought it to a brisk boil. The directions say to keep it at a brisk boil during the entire process to keep the oxidizers in suspension (whatever that means). I like the fact that this kit doesn’t require me to keep the solution at any special temperature and it doesn’t appear to be very sensitive to changes (like some other formulas). So basically I just turned it up to high and left it there. Here is a picture of the frames as I lowered them in.


The water began to fizz pretty hard the minute they were lowered in. It looked a little like an Alka-seltzer. I left them in for exactly 30 minutes before taking them out. This picture shows one as it is coming out of the solution.


I noticed a lot of heavy oxidation on all the parts and was a bit concerned at first. They almost looked like a gray color instead of the deep black I was hoping for. However after I re-read the instructions it very clearly states that this is common and that it will wipe right off after the new finish hardens. Here is a better picture of what they look like with the oxidation on em.


While the frames are still hot from the boiling solution I ran out on the porch and let them finish drying. They completely air dried (aided by the hot metal) in about 2 minutes. The next step was to soak them down real good with the water displacing spray that came with the kit. The spray is actually a light oil of some sort and it turned the parts black on contact. It says to let them cure for 24 hours. The new finish is still soft for a few hours so I’m just going to hang them out of the way and let them fully cure before I mess with them any more…….. so until then



Refinishing Prep work Part 2

Refinishing Prep work Part 2

Today I received the new nozzle for the beadblaster that the good folks at Cyclone had promised to send out. So since we now have the part let’s try to finish the prep work and get the frames ready for refinishing.


Here is a picture of what they sent me. There were no instructions but I was able to figure it out anyway, the way this thing works is so simple it would hard to screw it up. I installed it in the cabinet via an external airhose being fed in through the back of the cabinet (through the breather hole). I had to block the hole around the hose so I just wadded up an old handtowel and stuffed it into the opening to fill it up. After installing the new trigger gun, airhose and pickup tube, the cabinet is quite full. It’s like trying to fit 20lbs of sh!t into a 10lb bag, but it worked. Here is a picture to illustrate how tight the fit was.


It only took about 10 minutes with the new nozzle to completely blast each frame. The end result is somewhat spectacular too, they sure do clean up nice. I used the same #100- 170 grit beads that I’ve been using all along and they seem to be just about right. I got a very uniform matte finish that looks great and is very even. The new nozzle makes all the difference. Here is a picture of the completed frames (and small parts). They are now ready for a final degrease and then on to the re-finishing process.


What did I learn?

As expected the new gun style blast nozzle worked fantastic. It is more powerful than the pencil type and I have a feeling that I will be using it almost exclusively. The pencil is still nice to have for small detailed blasting but the new nozzle is what I envision most gunsmiths using. I feel that I could completely mess up the parkerizing and it wouldn’t really matter. I can always head back to the blast cabinet and start over.

If you are getting into gunsmithing I would like to restate my previous recommendation. Get the dual head unit that I talked about earlier. It really is the way to go. The dual head model is the “PBH2000 COMBINATION BLASTER” and it is offered by Cyclone on their web site for $295.00. I would like to upgrade mine but, in essence I already have the same thing except that mine has a smaller cabinet. The extra space would be nice, but it ain’t worth buying a new one over. I’ll be doing the refinishing as soon as the next order arrives from Brownell’s. I am waiting on the special degreaser solution that is in that order…………so until then.

Refinishing Part 1

Refinishing Prep work – Part 3 of 16

Today I want to strip off all the bluing and beadblast the frames so they will be ready to parkerize when the fluid arrives. I decided in the beginning that I wanted to try a two-tone look similar to the Kimber CDP series of .45s. If you haven’t seen them then I’ll try to explain. The frames on the CDP’s are aluminum and are then anodized black. I’ll be using a different method since I have carbon steel frames instead of aluminum ones. The colors look great to me when you do this scheme. the Frames are black but all the parts like the thumb safety, grip safety, mainspring housing, slide release ect..are stainless steel. the slide is also stainless so it makes for a very attractive finish. Here is a picture of a CDP so you can see what the color scheme looks like.


I decided to dunk the parts in a bath of Muratic acid cut 50 / 50 with water for about 10 to 15 seconds. Here is a picture of what I am starting with.


I poured the acid / water mixture into a little bucket that I have and then attached the parts to small pieces of black iron wire that I bought from Brownell’s. I used the wire as a handle to dunk and remove the parts so that I wouldn’t have to touch the acid. (not even with gloves).

Here is a picture of the first Sistema as I lowered it into the acid. This stuff dissolved the finish INSTANTLY baby.


10 seconds was plenty of time. The stuff simply disappears on contact, (no fooling). The Muratic acid trick will not work on parkerized finishes only on bluing……so if you are stripping a parkerized gun you will need to beadblast it.

Here is a picture of the ladies after their bath hahaha.


I left the thumb safety and the beavertail on the frames when they went in the solution. that way I didn’t need to rig a small basket type thingee for the smaller parts. It worked out just fine though, the acid gets in between the parts easily. After I took them out of the acid I rinsed them in a pail of fresh clean water and then used my airhose with a blowgun attachment to dry em off good.

Next I need to beadblast them to give them a nice matte finish. I’m using the same #100 – 170 grit beads that I bought from Wholesale tool when I got the blast cabinet. I am planning to use the Brownell’s Moly / Teflon bake-on finish to redo the frames but I want to parkerize them first and then put the bake-on stuff over the parkerizing. The people at Brownell’s say that this a very good way to do it. the benefits are. You get a SUPER tough finish that resists any and all corrosion (because of the bake-on finish) but you also don’t have to worry about little chips and scrapes because of the parkerizing underneath. The parkerizing also allows for the entire frame to be covered. It is hard to spray into the internal areas (like around the trigger ways). So the parkerizing ensures that everything is covered. (even the stuff you can’t see).

Ok, so why don’t I just parkerize the things and be done with it? Well because the metal on these old Sistemas has been “spot hardened” in places. That was the standard back in the 40’s we didn’t have the same processes that are in place today. So what that means is that I would end up with spots here and there that are a slightly different color than the rest. So it’s off to the blast cabinet…….

Sccrreeeeeeeeeeeech……. we come to a complete halt after 20 minutes of blasting.

What did I learn?

Well it seems that I have overestimated the abilities of my new PBH1000 bead blaster.


It works great for doing small parts, but its going to take me a month of Sundays to get these two frames done. The poor little guy just doesn’t have enough gusto to get a job this size done.

When I originally bought the PBH1000 I called the people at Cyclone to ask if they thought it would be big enough for what I am doing and they said yes, that other gunsmiths had used them too. Well turns out that the “other gunsmiths” are mostly using it for doing fine detail work on small parts. (which it is perfectly suited for I might add). So after 20 minutes of mind-numbing slow progress I called Cyclone back and let them know that I was less than pleased.

The man I spoke to apologized for the mix up and said he’d make it right. ** Note – At this point I’m thinking to myself that I now have a $159.00 extra expense….I figured they would make me buy a bigger one ** NO WAY baby….these chaps are top notch.

The guy explained that it’s not the blast cabinet or the air delivery system that’s the problem. It’s the “Pencil Tip” that limits it. He told me that they also sell a unit that has BOTH a pencil and a trigger gun style all in one unit and that this other unit would be exactly what I should have gotten. The cabinet on the “Dual tip” unit is slightly bigger as he explained….but the parts will interchange just fine. After I assured him that the size of the cabinet was adequate for my use, he said he would send me out the trigger gun style tip FOR FREE !! I thanked him profusely and hung up the phone feeling like I had really been taken care of well.

I would recommend to anyone out there that you should get the Dual unit that is offered. I really like the pencil tip and it’s perfect for small stuff, but you will need the trigger style for bigger stuff (like blasting the whole frame). The upgraded cabinet is a little bigger and costs about $100.00 more than the one I got. They really went out of their way to take care of me…..you see I COULD have bought the dual unit, and it would have cost 100 bucks more, but in the end I got the same thing just because these folks are so outstanding with their customer support. I’ll let you know more when the part gets here…..but I sure do like the way I was treated. I wish all companies were like that.

I’ll finish the blasting as soon as the new trigger style gun upgrade gets here……but until then.



Installing the BeaverTail – Part 2 of 16

The point of No return. – I received the Beavertail Jig that I ordered a week ago and so today the objective is to fit our new grip safety to the Sistemas.

This of course has me a bit worried because it will entail filing and cutting the frames…..* big-time pucker factor* I guess we have reached the point of no return. After I do this there is no turning back…..so onward and upward.

I started the day by unpacking my order of parts and tools from Brownell’s. I also took the time to read the instructions that came with the Ed Brown beavertail fitting jig that I ordered.

The instructions leave an awful lot to be desired but what the heck, you only live once. The way the jig fits is pretty simple. You strip the frame and insert the jig into the thumb safety hole on the frame. Here is a picture of how the jig fits.

The directions say to install the jig and then “Scribe” around it with a sharp object. You are then supposed to remove the jig and cut down “close” to the scribed line. (they recommend a belt sander). Well as with most things, I didn’t like that idea. It simply leaves too much room for me to screw something up. I figure if I’m sanding away with a belt sander, I can get myself into trouble a lot faster than if I hand file.

The product description says that the jigs “buttons” are case hardened tool steel, so you need not worry about messing them up or going to deep (as long as they are installed). So I installed them and then decided to hand file all the way down to the buttons. This would (in theory) make it impossible for me to file off too much. Here is a picture of what I started with.

All ready to start filing away. I used a 6 " Barrette #2 Swiss pattern file. NOTE TO SELF – It’s a good idea to keep chalk on the file so the metal shavings don’t build up and clog the teeth.

As I stated, I wanted to work slowly and get a good hand fit, so I just kept on filing till I got all the way down to the buttons. It is important to keep the file level across BOTH tangs and file them together. At the end I started going in very soft half / length strokes. I wanted to be very careful not to dull the teeth of my new file by hitting the hardened buttons of the jig. Here is a picture of what it looked like when I stopped filing.


I then took the jig off of the frame and inspected my handy work. I think it looks pretty good actually. I got a nice smooth radius as seen in this picture.


Ok so the initial filing is done and the radius looks pretty good by eyeballing it. Next I tried to install the grip safety. It would only mount if I tilted it to the far upper portion of the frame. Here, this picture will show you what I mean.


I am going for an ultra smooth hand fit here so I decided to use a small soft faced mallet to tap down on the safety. This causes a “shiny spot” to appear in the exact spot where the contact is. It doesn’t take much at all. Be REAL careful when you are hand filing.

Like I said earlier, there are no buttons to stop you now, so you can take off too much if you are not careful. the way I did it was to only file off the “shiny metal” just a couple of strokes until it’s not shiny anymore. After a couple of repetitions of this I ended up with a perfect fit. I know I’m partial but I swear it’s the best fit I’ve ever seen on any gun.


Now that the grip safety will install and move freely It’s time to blend the metal to the frame. Some production guns don’t bother with this, but then you are left with a round “bump” on the bottom of the frame and the grip safety looks like it’s a separate piece (which of course it is). But I want a high quality hand fitted look. The grip safety should look like it’s an extension of the same piece of metal as the frame.

After filing here are a couple of pictures that show you what I mean. the first picture shows the “bump” I was referring to and the second picture shows the top where the two pieces meet. Not exactly a hand fit if you ask me.


To blend the frame and safety I decided to start with a sandpaper roll on my Dremmel tool (more on the Dremmel later). I used a 120 grit sanding drum to do the initial heavy sanding, then switched to a 230 grit to clean up the scratch marks. What I am trying to do here is to blend the two pieces of metal together so that the lines of the frame match up with the lines of the safety. Here is a picture that explains what I’m talking about. Notice the line of sanding (where the blued metal and the shiny metal meet) This is now a continuous seamless line that runs from the tip of the grip safety to the bottom of the mag well opening.


I continued to fine tune the blending until I could not really tell where one piece ended and the other one began. I used a polishing stone from my Black and Decker polishing kit (mentioned earlier) to put the final touches on the job.

I wanted to remove any scratch marks made by the sandpaper so that after bead blasting nothing would show through and I would end up with a nice “frosted” matte finish. The pictures don’t do it justice, these two are absolutely gorgeous!!! Here is a picture of the two Sistemas after the blending process.


Next I need to insure that the grip safety engages when it is supposed to and blocks the trigger properly. Almost EVERY grip safety is cut slightly long so that it will need to be fitted. The manufacturer does this on purpose to account for different triggers. When I first installed the thumb safety (which acts as the pin to hold the grip safety in place.) and the new trigger, I noticed that the grip safety arm was indeed a little too long. That means that the arm would not swing in behind the trigger to stop it from coming back, instead it touched the top edge of the trigger shoe and stopped right there before it can come down all the way.

The result is that I had NO grip safety. you can pull the trigger even without engaging the grip safety and the hammer would fall…..not a good idea. The arm on the grip safety has to be filed down just a tiny little bit so that it will swing down behind the trigger when the trigger is all the way forward. And it needs to be able to swing completely out of the way for the trigger to move back when you are gripping it. This picture shows the way they should work. I used a small fine cut Swiss needle file to file down the arm.


It only took 3 light strokes to get the job done. Be real careful to only take off a tiny bit….it doesn’t need much. Also be sure that the trigger is in the full forward position. If you look closely at the arm on the grip safety you will notice that there is a slight “angle cut” on the bottom edge of the arm.

You need to try to maintain this angle (it helps it to slip over the sharp edge of the trigger shoe), so if you file off a little bit of the arms length, you should do the same to the angle cut. The last step is to reassemble the pistol to make sure it functions right. The spring that returns the trigger forward and the grip safety rearward is what you are checking. This makes sure that everything works fine under it’s own power. (without you pushing anything).

Both grip safety’s are fitted and we are ready to move on. The next step is to strip off the old bluing and bead blast the frames and small parts to a nice frosted finish.

What did I learn?

Well the first thought that comes to mind is that this was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I had visions of deformed and destroyed frames and parts as I screwed up every aspect of this. But the truth is, it just wasn’t that bad. I think the key lies in the fact that I went really slow and paid attention to what I was doing at all times. The first frame was done exclusively with the barrette file and took about 1 1/2 hours to do. I decided to use a different file, an 8 “ American ”bastard cut" file for the heavy stuff on the second gun and then switch to the barrette file once I got close to the buttons. that worked out real well and I was able to cut the time in half.

I also learned a lesson about Dremmel tools today….I have had a Dremmel multi-pro tool for about 2 years now. I always baby it and have never really “Used” it for anything more than a quick sanding job on a plastic model car my daughter was working on. So the thing is like new….well it DIED after only 10 minutes of blending. I couldn’t believe it. What a piece of junk. I paid $98.00 for it 2 years ago. After the Dremmel died (it overheated) I was left with no way to finish my blending job (which was now only 10 minutes underway) so I ran to Walmart again to see what they had to offer. Boy am I glad I did too. I bought a GREAT new rotary tool by Black and Decker called the RTX…this thing is pure quality too baby. I used the livin crap out of it (mainly to see if I could kill it) and it did a fantastic job. so for $58.18 including tax I got a heavy duty work horse. Here is a picture of my new favorite tool.


I had a lot of fun doing the beavertails and they turned out better than I could have ever hoped for. I’ll be doing more work on them next week, so………until then.