Notes on Browning a Barrel 


First thing, buy a bottle of Laurel Mountain Forge Browning Solution. I have had good luck with it. You can order from Dixie or Track of the Wolf or any number of other gun shops. The second thing is to draw file  and sand the barrel to the desired finish. You only need to draw file if the barrel still has a rough milled surface.  Colerain and Rayl barrels generally fall into this category.  Getz, Green Mountain and especially Rice barrels generally only need a light sanding.  Don Getz says that he just uses a Scotch Brite pad on his barrels. You don't need to use anything more than 120 grit emory if you are going to brown the rifle or let it oxidize normally.   If you want to fire blue, then you will need to polish a bit more.   Don’t polish too much though. A real bright surface will not brown very well.   If you get up to 600 grit then the surface will resist any sort of oxidataion.

Once you have the surface you want, then clean it good on the outside with alcohol or a commercial degreaser. Clean the bore and apply a couple coats of heavy oil. Hang the barrel muzzle down from the breech plug using a coat hanger through the tang screw hole (or better yet, through a lock screw hole). Apply thin coats of the browning solution to the entire barrel (do not try to brown the muzzle - it won't take and you risk rusting your bore). You want as even a coat as possible. Leave it until you get a thin coat of rust. For most browning jobs, the goal is to evenly rust the barrel without pitting.

 Once you have a light coat of rust you want to polish off the loose scale leaving just a little reddish brown color. If the rust is heavy, then #000 or #0000 steel wool will work nicely. If the rust is light, then a coarse cloth will work fine. I generally use a paper shop towel. If you use a cloth, rub the barrel down until no more loose rust rubs off on the cloth. At this point, apply another coat of the browning solution. Repeat the process until you have the desired color.

 You will probably have to leave the first coat on for the better part of a day, perhaps longer. The subsequent coats can probably be scaled after a few hours. The amount of time between scalings depends on the temperature and humidity. I brown my barrels in my basement (hanging over a wash tub filled with water - some people use a wood box with a light bulb and a pan of water) and it normally takes me about three days to get the finish I want.

When you have the color and texture you want, wash the outside of the barrel with a baking soda solution (I usually add about a tablespoon of baking soda to a cup of hot water) to neutralize the acid, rinse the barrel with scalding water and apply a liberal coat of WD-40. The WD-40 will displace the water and help retard further rust. However, the barrel may keep rusting for a few days. Just rub the barrel down daily for the first few days with Ballistol or a similar gun oil. Make sure the bore and breech plug face is polished bright and oiled with a good gun oil (DO NOT rely on WD-40 for long term rust protection). After the rusting has stopped, apply the gun oil of your choice to the barrel. Some people use linseed oil on the outside of the barrel.  I have used paste wax to good effect and highly recommend it.

The above technique will give you a nice even, just out the gun shop, brown.   Perhaps you want something that looks a bit more aged.  Some people will scrub back a browned finish with steel wool so that a good bit of bright metal shows.  If you are going to do this, it is probably best to let the browning go a little farther than you might otherwise in order to get some pitting that will remain under the bright metal.    

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This page was last updated on  04/01/05 .

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