Lipstick On A Pig

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

Looks good on the outside

By James Nicholas 

I am seeing this all too often now, where a refinisher is cutting corners. Its really giving the gunsmithing profession a bad name. Yes it looks good on the out side when you first look at it, but underneath hidden from view you have problems that are festering. Here is another example of a "reputable" refinisher that either from lack of skill or just lazy is creating more problems than they solve. Here is a hint if you look at a refinishers work and they paint the sights the same color as the slide this is what you are going to get. What it means is that the refinisher did not completely disassemble the firearm and just painted over things. Any rust, abrasive media and other junk is left behind hiding. One day all of those nasties will start to rust and damage the slide from inside out. The customer sent me this to replace the sights, but now the issue is that the new sights will not cover the coating gaps completely. So here you have a customer that paid for a professional refinishing job only to be left with something thats 80% finished. 

Sight Pusher Damage & XD Mod.2 Restoration

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

A Sad Looking Mod.2 

By James Nicholas 

We had a customer send us an email asking for some help. He used a sight pusher to remove the factory sight and everything was going great, that was until he backed off the pusher. The front sight was removed, but the pusher had gouged into the band new XD Mod.2 and actually raised up the edges of the dovetail thoroughly messing up the slide. 

The customer basically thought all was lost and he would have to live with the damage. I told the customer that I would realistically be able to fix about 80% of the damage, but there was a change that I could not fix the deep gouging. 

So here is the same slide after I worked some of my magic. The XD Mod.2 slide was originally a stainless steel version, but the customer chose to get it refinished after the restoration in KG Gunkote Grey and top it off with a set of Trijicon night sights. Overall the restoration was a complete success and at least 98% of the damage was fixed. If you did not know the slide was ever damaged you would not be able to tell by looking at it now. 

Step one was to clean up the deformed metal with a metal working hammer. Afterwards I dressed up the dovetail working though progressively finer files. I then blasted the slide with aluminum oxide and refinished the slide in a Matte Grey KG Gunkote. The customer let us know that after getting the restored slide back that they could not be happier. The work exceeded his expectations and thats what I like to hear.   

I Broke a Sight :(

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

Even I can have a bad day. 

By James Nicholas

As good as I am, I had a bad day and broke a sight. It was one of those deals were I knew it was going to happen and I just kept going. As soon as I heard the snap I didn't even want to look. I had visions of glowing radio active dust all over my work bench. But as a good gunsmith I called the customer let them know what happened and what I was going to do to fix it. I didn't lie or try to shift blame I just told the truth. I think the customer was relived just to be kept in the loop. The customer had two sight installs so I shipped the one that was competed and I have the replacement for the broken front on the way. In case you were wondering that white rod is the vial that makes night sights glow green. I can make excuses and say that the sights were to blame, but no this is one of those times you learn something and make the mental note, hey stupid don't do that again. 

Refinisher Cuts Corners

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

When Refinishing Guns Make Sure Your Gunsmith Does It The Right Way

By James Nicholas

We had a customer send us their newly refinished Springfield XD Classic for a sight install. Normally we will not install sights on a gun that has been refinished by someone else. You just do not know the quality of the work and what issues can arise. But I agreed to take on this job because it was refinished by a well known company. 

After unpacking the box and looking at the slide, I would agree that the refinisher knows what they are doing. The matte black coat was flawless and even throughout the slide. It was only after removing the factory sights were it became apparent that even though the refinisher was good, they do skip corners. Above you can see lighter gre area, thats were the factory sights were. The refinisher did not remove the sights when they refinished the slide. The sights acted as a mask and kept the new finish from fully coating the slide. Normally this would be no problem since this is hidden by the sights and you would never see it. 

The problem is if the customer ever wants to change the sights, the new sights may not cover the same area. Above you can see a front sight from a set of Trijicon HD's. The new sight's blade is not as long as the factory sight and when installed will exposed the non refinished portion of the slide. 

The rear sight was the same and was not removed for the refinish. When I removed the factory rear sight it exposed the "raw" metal. The new Trijicon rear was not wide enough to cover the "raw" area. After informing the customer and sending him pictures the refinisher indeed told him they do not remove the sights and refinish right on top of them. I told the customer I would install the new sights, but it would look bad. He was so mad that the original refinisher did not tell him that they do not remove the factory sights he told me to redo the whole thing. This ended up being a 55.00 fix that could have been avoided by just asking if they completely 100% disassemble the slide including the sights.

As a refinisher it is always best to completely disassemble what ever your refinishing. Refinishing is not always done for cosmetic purposes, but may be for protection or repair as well. Above the Ruger slide looks like you could just blast the slide and coat over the old sight without removing it. Well look what you find when you do remove the old sight. Years of old crusty rust that would have continued to destroy the slide from the inside out. After completely disassembling the slide, I abrasive blasted the slide removing all traces of rust, then coated it even in the areas that would never be seen. So now that hidden rust pocket is no more, and the slide is protected inside and out. 

Always interview and shop around for your gunsmith 

You would not take your car in for a transmission problem to a brake specialist would you? The same goes for your gunsmith. Ask your friends for recommendations if they have had similar work done. Use the internet and find a talk group that corresponds to your make and model of gun--guaranteed they know who specializes in your firearm. Interview your smith. Do they answer when you call and answer all your questions to your satisfaction? Does the smith have experience on your weapon? I tell people all the time I would rather not experiment on their gun if I have never worked on anything similar before. I have never had a customer laugh at me because I did not know something. In-fact most are thankful at the honesty.

Things to ask your potential Smith:

  1. •Have you worked on my make and model firearm? 

  2. •Have you ever preformed this particular job before? 

  3. •What's the turnaround time? 

  4. •What's your current lead time? 

  5. •What's the cost? (including shipping and/or parts)

  6. •Do your warranty you work? 

  7. •What if you break or damage my stuff? 

  8. •Do you have examples of your work? 

  9. •How long have you been in business?

  10. Do you remove the sights when you refinish guns?

Rusted Smith & Wesson Shield Safety

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

Rusted & Dangerous Condition

By James Nicholas 

A customer recently sent me his 40 caliber S&W Shield for a simple sight install.  The customer told me that the gun was less than 1 year old and had less than 300 rounds through it.  On initial observation, the pistol appeared to be well cared for and in excellent condition.  It was dripping with oil and had no visible rust issues.  

This is the actual slide that contained the internal rust issues.  As you can see, there is no visible rust present.  

I started to remove the factory rear sight as I normally would.  It was then that I noticed a gritty sound and feel when removing the sight.  Once the site was removed, I discovered that the bottom of the sight was rusted and there was rust all in the rear dove tail of the slide. 

The rust was bad enough that I removed the striker block spring and cap to inspect them.   They were both rusted as well.   One of the main selling points of the S&W M&P series of pistols is the melonite finish with its rust resistant properties.  One of the bad things is that even though the slide is rust resistant, the small parts and assemblies are not as rust resistant.  Rust is like an animal.  it will continue to feed and grow.  It will not stop on its own.  

I suspected that the rust continued internally so I continued with the disassembly and removed the striker block. Sure enough, the striker block spring had some rust that could over time continue to weaken the spring and eventually may disable the safety.  Strangely enough, there was actually oil present where the gun had rusted despite being oiled  

To further follow the extent of the damage, I then removed the end cap assembly (slide back plate) and removed the striker.  When inspecting the striker, I found rust on the tab.  If the tab rusted enough, then the drop safety feature of the pistol could cease to work.  

The striker block is an integral and main part of the pistol's safety.  There was enough rust that could have worsened over time leading to the safety becoming stuck and inoperable.  

In all outward appearances this pistol seemed to look and function fine.  However, internally and hidden from view, it was a disaster waiting to happen.  My advice is to avoid getting your pistol wet if possible.  However, should it come into contact with water, thoroughly dry, clean, and re-oil your pistol as soon as possible.  Remember that rust resistant does not mean rust proof.  Armorers should take the extra effort to remove the rear site and inspect for this kind of damage during any major inspections.  Remember that pistols are machines and required due diligence and proper maintenance to be kept in safe working condition.  Even though this damage was hidden and only discovered when I removed the rear site, it could have been found during a routine inspection and cleaning just by removing the back plate and cleaning in the striker channel.  Upon seeing the first evidence of rust in the striker channel, you would have been prompted to perform a more detailed disassembly to find the complete extent of the rust damage.  This condition would not have stopped on its own, and it would have created an unsafe pistol.  Please do not take these pictures and story lightly.  This is something all gun owners can learn from.  

Another Bad Install by a "Gunsmith"

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

I saw this on a forum, were a member was asking about centering a set of sights installed by a "Gunsmith". The sights are indeed off center, but the worst part is that the gunsmith mangled the sights when installing them. Supposedly the sights were installed using a sight pusher so its weird that the tab would be deformed as it is. When batting sights installed make sure the smith will warranty the work. Any self respecting professional gunsmith would have stopped before the damage occurred and or replaced the sight before the customer ever saw it. I have made those phone calls before calling a customer up. Letting them know I damaged your sight, but then letting them know not to worry a new one was already on the way in and that they would have nothing but my best work. I have never had anyone say that that was not acceptable. This unfortunately is unacceptable. 


XDS Kaboom

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

Reloading Mistake Costs Owner New XDS 

By James Nicholas 

This was reposted from a talk group with permission from the original poster JMB.  It looks like this may have been another case of a reloading mistake and a double charge or maybe a rifle primer. Again anytime you are reloading ammunition it is always better to double check than to double your charge. 

"I overloaded my handload of 231, best shot of the day from XDs 45. Take it at least once a week to practice drawing and double tap. Today it blew up in my hand. Beside the way extra recoil, blood blister, slight burn and shrapnel to my face, I'm great The bullet in the picture is the next one in the mag. BTW after 2 months when I got it back from SA recall it was better than before. I don't suppose this can happen from a heavy crimp?"

"Thanks all for your well wishes, 
I have been handloading for years.
I was using new brass, which was very reflective, so I probably checked them being loaded but not quantity of load. I do both usually. I used Win. 231 5.4 gr.,Star Line brass and win. Lg. pistol primers, Hornady HAP hollow points 230gr. Measuring 1.230" loaded. Single stage RCBS press with Lee Loader 4 die 45 acp I contacted Gander Mountain where I purchased and got an extended warranty. They said they will mail it to SA for me. But that kind of smells bad buying an extended warranty just for their mail service. I think they should replace it. I have a Magnum Research Baby Eagle I bought through Davidson's Gun Genie, the extractor broke and they sent me a new gun after 2 years."

'I just finished pulling a bullet from the heaviest round I have left. Everything , brass, powder, and bullet checked out A ok. I did this at my work station and I noticed one of the primers is brass, others are silver. It could be I used a large rifle primer inadvertently. I threw that one away. Is it the reason for the failure?"

XDM 5.25 Kaboom

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

Reloading mistake leads to kaboom?

Reposted with permission: evenash 

BY James Nicholas 

This is an interesting post I came across from a talk group and figured I would share it as a learning lesson. If you do any work on firearms or components you need to remember your life depends on that work. Most likely this kaboom was due to a double charge of powder since it looks like half of the bottom of the case is missing. The 5.25 XDM has a fully supported chamber so this should not happen with a normal charge. 

"This is my shooting buddies gun. this was his first shot of the match. he thinks it was a double powder charge in his reload. bullet fired and hit the target. mag stayed in. next round didnt cycle. gun was broken down without much resistance. he has some powder burns on his hands. no other injuries besides his wallet. when it fired he threw it in the gravel. Side of the frame is blown out, mag release just flops. whole frame looks bulged apart. slide, barrel and mag look fine. 
More info: 
1.150 COAL, 147gr Falcon lead, WSF powder with supposedly 3.4gr charge. Brass was PPU, don't know if range or personal pick-up".

Shiny on the Outside Rusty on the Inside

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

If rust is hidden - is it really there? 

By James Nicholas 

Just because you can't see it, does not mean it's not there. A customer called and said he put together an AR-15 a couple of months ago and wanted to refinish the barrel. He wanted something more tactical and the stainless steel barrel did not match his style. Well this gun had been wet and did not have any type of oil to protect the barrel. The stainless steel "was not supposed to rust" so no one bothered to take even basic measures to clean, protect or dry the rifle. 

I started to disassemble the upper, and locked it in the vice to remove the barrel nut. As I started to unscrew the barrel nut I could hear a powder grinding sound almost as if sand was in the nut rubbing against the barrel. 

After getting the barrel nut off, you can see what I was left with. A nice new stainless steel barrel that was only a month old and it was rusty. When I rubbed my finger in the rust it was moist and had a mildew smell to it. This rifle had to have been dropped in some kind of Alabama swamp water and not fully cleaned up afterwards. This water sat in-between the barrel and barrel nut and in a month had rusted enough to already show pitting. The Upper and barrel nut were fine since they are aluminum but the stainless steel is rust resistant not rust proof. 

First step in this restoration was to hit it with some steel wool and oil. All of the loose stuff came off but as you can see around the indexing ring it is caked on good. 

Step two is to kill and remove the rust. I put the barrel in my large blast cabinet and hit it at 90psi with 80 grit aluminum oxide. As you can see above a couple minutes abrasive blasting cut right through the rust down to fresh raw metal. The little black looking specks is the pitting in the metal. once the metal is pitted and gone it is hard to put back. Imagine the damage in a couple more months. 

After abrasive blasting the whole barrel and chemically degreasing it It was off to spray it in KG Gunkote. KG Gunkote is a protective coating that will protect metal against rust. KG is not a miracle cure and you will still have to do maintenance on your firearms. But it makes it a heck of lot easier to do so. If you look real close you can still see the pitting, KG will not get rid of that, but now the whole thing is sealed and protected. 

Gunsmithing Trick 

Above is a barrel from another project. So how do you abrasive blast a barrel without ruining the chamber and inside of the barrel? Easy Use play-dough and stuff the barrel. It is soft and can easily be packed in to protect areas you do not want to blast. You can also use the is technique to refinish scopes as well. Use a napkin to protect the glass and then pack in the soft clay making it even with the bell housing. Spray or blast away. When the play-dough is soft it can be picked out, or if you let it dry out it will be hard and shrink, easily removed. 

Above our like new barrel ready for action and reassembly. 

Rust is like a living organism that will eat, spread and destroy what ever it can. Simply oiling and cleaning the barrel would have prevented this. Even if you do not have the tools to remove the barrel WD-40 is made for this exact purpose to displace water. If your rifle takes a swim dry it off as best you can, then spray the gun down in all the nooks and crannies to remove the water. Then blast it with air to get rid of the excess WD-40. Now oil and clean as normal. Remember just because you can not see the rust, does not mean it is not hiding slowly eating your gun away. 

Brownells Whoops!

by James Nicholas the XDMAN

Brownells makes a major mistake in one of its e-mail ad campaigns today. Brownells has an e-mailing list you can get on called daily deals. If your not on that mailing list it is worth it since you get some great deals. Well Imagine my delight today when I checked my email and I see this Brownells daily deal. If you buy two of the Brownells brand AR-15 30 round magazines 9.99 each you get a FREE!!!!!! Surefire 60 round AR-15 magazine. Now the Surefire magazines are 111.30 each so WOW. Now instantly I knew this had to be an error, but for a split second I wanted to log in to the bank account and see how many free Surefire mags I could get. Sure enough about an hour latter I got the updated email. Here is the link for the real deal, if you buy 1 Surefire magazine the will throw in two of their house brand magazines a 20.00 value.


Whoops some one got their magazines mixed up. "Get a free Surefire 60-rnd Mag!"  A free mag indeed!