The Cimarrons made by Uberti have a color case hardening finish that looks identical to the Rugers. Does anyone know if their finish is also "fake?"
So, when the fake colors on my Single Six .32 go 'bad', will I be able to have it blued? In other words, will it accept bluing?
What other options do we have when the fake CC colors go bad?
The term 'Case Hardening' actually encompasses several slightly different processes. Generally speaking, Case Hardening was used on parts that needed to be slightly ductile (soft), so they would not shatter under impact, but still needed to have a hard outer surface so the parts would not wear out quickly as they rubbed against each other. Modern steel alloys are simply hardened all the way through the metal by heat treating, which is what Ruger does with their frames. But in the 19th Century when Colt and other revolver manufacturers were in their heyday, those alloys had not been developed yet. So manufacturers would Case Harden their parts.
Generally speaking, a part made of relatively soft, low carbon steel is packed in carbon rich materials and heated in a furnace to a specific temperature. The carbon bearing materials were often pulverized bone and charcoal. Sometimes a combination of leather, hooves, urine and salt. These materials were probably readily and cheaply available at slaughterhouses. When the proper temperature is reached, some carbon will migrate from the carbon rich materials directly into the surface of the steel. The carbon does not travel very deep, just a few thousandths of an inch, maybe a little bit more, depending on the process. This extra carbon infused into the outer layer of the steel raises the carbon content of the outer surface, basically forming 'high carbon' steel at the surface. Since it is a very thin layer, it is often called a 'case', hence the name. The part would then be removed from the furnace and quenched in a water bath. The result was a part that was strong and ductile at its core, but hard and resistant to wear at the surface. Perfect for moving parts like hammer, triggers, etc, that need to be strong, but are continually bearing against other parts as they move. Revolver frames were good candidates for Case Hardening because the ductile core would absorb the pounding of recoil, while the surfaces presented wear resistant surfaces to the hardened, moving, internal parts.
The colors of Case Hardening, however have nothing at all do do with the process, or the durability of the parts. They are simply a byproduct of the impurities in the carbon bearing materials. Indeed, it is completely possible to Case Harden parts with no colors at all. And it is also very easy to 'wipe off' the colors of Case Hardening, but the hardness of the outer layer will remain because the extra carbon is now chemically locked into the steel. But during the 19th Century the public became enamored with the brilliant colors of Case Hardening and each gun manufacturer came up with proprietary processes to bring out the most brilliant colors possible. Each manufacturer jealously guarded their process.
True Case Hardening is a labor intensive process. It must be carefully monitored. It is also very easy to warp parts in the furnace, rendering them completely useless. Today their are a few artisans like Doug Turnbull who specialize in beautiful Case Hardening with brilliant colors.
While I agree that Uberti does perform some sort of rudimentary hardening on some of their parts, I doubt they are spending the money to do old fashioned, expensive, bone Case Hardening. There are other commercial preperations available today that impart a hardened outer case to low carbon steel. Parts can be heated in a bath of sodium cyanide and then quenched and rinsed. This is a much quicker, less labor intensive process than bone Case Hardening. I would not be surprised to hear that Uberti was using something similar to this. I have several Uberti revolvers and rifles, and the 'case hardening' on them does not look like bone Case Hardening to me.
As far as bluing a previously 'color cased' finish is concerned, yes it can be done. But you will have to take the gun completely apart, including unscrewing the barrel. Then the surface is cleaned to remove the fake colors and it can be blued. If you send the gun back to Ruger they will do this for a reasonable fee.