New Life For A New Service

A facelift for a 113-year-old Pony

Starting in 1976 I have been to Gunsite more times than I can remember. Besides meeting life-long friends, one of the best things is the networking always taking place.

At a three-day revolver/lever-action rifle event last year, I took my Colt New Service and a Model 92 Winchester, both chambered in 45 Colt. Records show my revolver was made in 1907 — roughly half a century before I was born. Two years after this one was made, the U.S. Army adopted it as the Model 1909, two years before the iconic 1911 became the standard issue sidearm.

I love my Pythons, and K- and L-Frame Smith & Wessons, but I have a soft spot for the older revolvers, especially the large frame Colts. Mechanically this revolver was in good shape and I have used it at several Gunsite events.

However …

The exterior was another story and I confess toying with the idea of refinishing the big Colt. The original blue was about 60 percent and showing honest use. This was not a concern as I believe such wear shows character. There were, however, some nicks and scratches I wanted to correct.

Among other things the bottom of the frame appeared as though it had been used for hammering something — I like to think it was from hanging up a wanted poster from some long-forgotten Arizona desperado.

Before: Denny’s 1907 Colt New Service before refinishing.

After: Denny’s beautiful Colt New Service after restoration. It’s ready for another century or more of good shooting!


After much internal debate I finally decided to give the old war horse a facelift.

At the Gunsite event mentioned above I met a young man by the name of David Fink. Fink has, among other things, both a Gunsmith Master Certification and a Gunsmith Advanced Certification to his name. Dave offers custom gunsmithing, custom rifle and pistol builds, machining and prototyping, along with re-bluing and Cerakote coatings. In short, it’s a full service shop.
I saw several examples of Fink’s work at Gunsite, including refurbishing and re-bluing a beat-up Smith & Wesson Model 10. All examples I observed showed superb workmanship so I made arrangements with Dave to remove the imperfections and re-blue my revolver.

After acquiring a pair of ivory stocks with gold Colt medallions from N.C. Ordnance to replace the original worn, hard rubber grips, I gave the Colt to Dave. The only thing left was the anticipation of receiving back the finished sixgun, reload some more 45 Colt and head to the range.

As custom work goes, I didn’t have long to wait as Dave completed the revolver in six weeks!

Before: The bottom of the frame showed dents as if it had been used as a hammer.
Maybe from hanging up a wanted poster from a long-gone outlaw?

After: Look Ma! No dings! All the dents were removed from the frame.

The Facelift

In addition to the damage on the bottom of the frame mentioned above, the cylinder had deep scoring caused by a sharp burr on the front sideplate screw from a previous owner. There were some small dings on the top strap of the frame as well as on the barrel towards the muzzle.

The Rampant Colt logo and inspector stamp were very shallow and I asked Dave to retain them during finishing if at all possible. He was able to retain the markings on the sideplate and the marking “New Service 45 Colt” on the barrel is still crisp and clear.

Dave recontoured the previously burred sideplate screw and fit it flush with the frame. The overall finish is a bright, polished blue and is so deep it is reminiscent of the finish applied to Colt and Smith & Wesson years ago.

The nitre-bluing process (sometimes referred to as fire bluing) can produce a wide range of colors from light yellow to super bright “peacock” blue. Dave finished the screws, trigger, hammer, cylinder release, lanyard ring and ejector rod head in a gold color to contrast with the bright blue and compliment the gold medallion in the stocks.

The completed restoration was more than I could have hoped for. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it was simply stunning.



100-lb. Trigger

The double-action trigger pull on my New Service was light — as long as you had a mule handy to hitch to it! The pull weight bottomed-out every gauge I own. The single-action pull wasn’t much better, being roughly the same as the double-action pull in many revolvers. I asked Dave to lighten it up some if he could.

Colt revolvers use a “V”-shaped mainspring. One method of lightening the trigger pull is to put something between the upper and lower leg of the “V” and bend the top leg upwards. This method sometimes barely lightens the trigger pull and if bent too much, it results in unreliable ignition.

Dave tried the above technique, but because the 112-year-old spring was so brittle, it snapped before any bend could be made. He ordered a new main spring and much to his and my surprise, the double-action trigger pull was now at a very manageable 9 lbs., with single-action breaking at a crisp 2.5 lbs.

Proof Test

I couldn’t wait to shoot it and despite the temperature being in the mid-30s with drizzling rain, I went to the range the same day I picked it up, along with a quantity of Keith-type 255-gr. semi-wadcutter rounds. To my great satisfaction the old revolver was more accurate than before. The restoration itself had nothing to do with the increased accuracy but it can be attributed to the much lighter trigger pull, allowing a smoother press while the sights were on the target.

Any new finish will add a few thousandths to the thickness on the metal surface. As a result, there was a barely perceptible hitch in the cylinder release. I have no doubt this will disappear with use as the parts wear in.

A friend remarked the old Colt is now too pretty to carry. However, I don’t own any “safe queens” and I’m looking forward to more trips to Gunsite to put some honest holster wear back on the old warhorse.

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