This classic old Colt Mustang .380, the original Colt knockoff of the Llama pocket-pistol knockoff of the 1911, has seen better days. Can it be saved? A customer brought it to a gunsmith who told the story on Reddit and Imgur (all these photos came from Imgur, and are linked in the Reddit thread).
The old Colt is still functional enough, but it’s fugly. The steel slide and barrel are pitted. The alloy frame is also corroded, and the trigger guard, integral to the frame, is nicked and generally chewed-up looking. Can it look like new again? Click “more” to see!
Yes, it can be saved. Here is the “After” picture. It’s not quite “new” condition but it’s greatly improved.
The pitting has been removed by painstaking draw filing and stoning; the pistol has been refinished with CeraKote. Here are four shots of the slide in-progress. The first shows the slide, roughly as-removed from the firearm:
Cutting with the file, and stoning, eliminated the small areas of corrosion, showing where the pitting is at its worst:
There is a slight downside to this. The hard chine between the slab side of the slide, and the slide’s rounded top, has been degraded just a little bit — not so much that one would notice unless he had a comparison pistol on hand, in new condition.
Next, bead-blasting yields a rougher surface finish, and shows just how deep the pitting in the slide really is. There’s no practical way to fill pitting like this (if the pitting is not obvious to you, click to embiggen the picture).
But our nameless smith wasn’t done. He kept plugging. Here is the slide, nearly ready to go.
This is not a perfect job, the smith admits. He was constrained by the amount of money the customer was willing to spend, and therefore, by the time he could spend on the project. He tackled the biggest jobs first and gave his customer a pistol to be proud of — and one that will hold up better for the next 30 years than it has for the last 30.
Contrary to widespread belief in the gunny community, Cerakote (the finish used on this Mustang) and similar finishes like Dura-coat don’t significantly fill pitted areas. Any surface imperfection in the firearm will show through the coating, which is only a couple of thousandths thick and leaves nothing to the imagination. The Cerakote basically lays down the color and some thin corrosion protection — so any impression you get of smooth surfaces and sharp corners represents not the coating, but the underlying benchwork.
The pitting was fixed the only way it really can be — by long hours drawing a file and using stones to restore factory looks inasmuch as possible. It’s very difficult where, as on the opposite side of the slide, markings are at risk of being cut away along with the deep pitting (the smith unfortunately didn’t catch an image of that side).
We can imagine what would have happened to this poor Mustang if, instead of this pro, it had fallen into the tentacles of Bubba. But this is what real, non-Bubba gunsmithing looks like.