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  1. #1
    Ruger71's Avatar
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    Handguns That Have Went Through House Fires-Repairable?

    Asking a question for my cousion. He has a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless that belonged to hid dad or grand dad that went through a house fire many years ago. The grips are gone and the springs have no tension. Overall the gun doesn't look in too bad of shape, but I am not into metalurgy, so I have no idea what the heat may have done to the metal. I have heard of people having guns repaired that have went through a fire. What are the odds of it being repairable?

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    kg333's Avatar
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    I've never heard of this situation before, but I personally wouldn't trust a gun that had been repaired. Depending on where it was, house fires can get freakishly hot, and I wouldn't want to risk a gun that may or may not have been affected.

    KG

  4. #3
    cooper623 is offline Junior Member
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    +1 I'm sure it could get repaired by replacing springs and getting new grips and all of that but i would definitely have the integrity of the metal checked because extreme heat can do some weird stuff to metal and you dont want it to stress it in a weird way or weaken so that when you shoot it, the gun blows up in your face. I dont know much about this subject but, it seems that this could be an issue that should be addressed.

  5. #4
    Ruger71's Avatar
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    That's the discussion we were having. Someone probably makes springs and grips, but didn't know about the metal or how to check it. Might be a good candidate for some grips and a plaqe to hang on the wall.

  6. #5
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    I am not familiar with the Colt 1903 specifically, but I do some work relating to fire damaged steel. Heat has the greatest effect on the ultimate yield strength and hardening of steel. If you can establish that the temperature did not exceed 700 degrees or so, you should be fine. That's not easy to do though, a wood fueled fire can get around 2,000 deg. I try to look for clues that can ID the local temp, for example, if it was sitting on a paper (flashpoint 451 degrees), you'd be pretty confident that the metal was undamaged.

    Plastics melt at very low temperatures, so that's not a huge concern. The springs losing their elasticity aren't promising though. I work more with structural steel (I-beams and bar joists), and springs having such low mass and very high strength may make them more susceptible to heat damage.

    We don't usually test fire damaged steel, as it's often easier to replace the suspect elements. I believe that such testing is somewhat destructive, i.e. impact testing, and may not be practical on your Colt.

  7. #6
    Packard is offline Senior Member
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    All the parts that have been heat treated will have to be replaced.

    The frame and slide will have to be checked for warpage.

    The very best thing to do is to replace and refinish the gun and then sell it and buy a new one.

    To heat treat parts you first elevate the part to approximately 1,400 degrees and then you quench it by allowing it to cool quickly. Some processes quench to about 300 degrees in hot oil; other processes quench to about 800 degrees in molten salt.

    If the part has been quenched in hot oil it will be glass-hard and brittle. It will need to be tempered. The tempering process requires that the part be heated between 300 degrees and about 800 degrees (depending upon the final properties you are trying to achieve). House fires will certainly raise to those levels (but it it doubtful it would raise to the 1,400 degree mark). In any case all the heat treated parts will have been compromised. I would sell or dispose of the weapons if they were mine.

    Additionally any parts that were cast will have internal stresses and those stresses will be relieved during the heating phase. This might allow the cast parts to warp. To a certain degree you might have similar results with the forged parts. There are fewer forged components in modern handguns than there used to be so that is less of a problem, but there are more cast parts than ever so that is a problem.

    New springs, new bluing and new grips will probably make the weapons sellable. And that is my recommendation. (But don't sell them to a friend.)

  8. #7
    Ruger71's Avatar
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    Appreciate the information. Like I said, it has sentimental value to my cousin and he would like it fixed. Just trying to help him out.

  9. #8
    Packard is offline Senior Member
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    If the forgings have not warped and the slide will rack smoothly over the frame then it can certainly be restored for a keepsake. He will have to send the frame and slide out for pickling and re-bluing (pickling is a chemical stripping of the old finish). The parts may need to be polished prior to re-bluing.

    After that it is just a matter of replacing all the springs and the grips.

    I would be reluctant to shoot it, but if he decides he wants to shoot it he should use one of the lighter loads.

    This is a .32 and the chamber pressures are not very high, but the weapon was designed to handle only those pressures and we don't know how much the steel has been compromised by the heat.

  10. #9
    TOF's Avatar
    TOF
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    Quote Originally Posted by Packard View Post
    All the parts that have been heat treated will have to be replaced.

    The frame and slide will have to be checked for warpage.

    The very best thing to do is to replace and refinish the gun and then sell it and buy a new one.

    To heat treat parts you first elevate the part to approximately 1,400 degrees and then you quench it by allowing it to cool quickly. Some processes quench to about 300 degrees in hot oil; other processes quench to about 800 degrees in molten salt.

    If the part has been quenched in hot oil it will be glass-hard and brittle. It will need to be tempered. The tempering process requires that the part be heated between 300 degrees and about 800 degrees (depending upon the final properties you are trying to achieve). House fires will certainly raise to those levels (but it it doubtful it would raise to the 1,400 degree mark). In any case all the heat treated parts will have been compromised. I would sell or dispose of the weapons if they were mine.

    Additionally any parts that were cast will have internal stresses and those stresses will be relieved during the heating phase. This might allow the cast parts to warp. To a certain degree you might have similar results with the forged parts. There are fewer forged components in modern handguns than there used to be so that is less of a problem, but there are more cast parts than ever so that is a problem.

    New springs, new bluing and new grips will probably make the weapons sellable. And that is my recommendation. (But don't sell them to a friend.)
    So you would repair superficialy and then sell to an unsuspecting buyer!! Remind me to never buy a gun from you.

  11. #10
    Packard is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOF View Post
    So you would repair superficialy and then sell to an unsuspecting buyer!! Remind me to never buy a gun from you.
    I never said to misrepresent the weapon, only that it should be sold.

    Seller: The weapon has been re-blued, all the springs have been replaced and the grips are new too.

    Buyer: Really? Why put so much into an old weapon?

    Seller: It was in a house fire, but it is a classic and I thought it was worth saving.


    Question: Have you ever sold a car that had been repaired? Body work? Valve job? CV joints?

    Did you tell the buyer that you had the repairs done?

    Just curious. More people get killed in cars than from exploding weapons.

  12. #11
    buckler's Avatar
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    aint a part on it that can't be cut with a hacksaw. So there's no temper or heat treatment concerns. That having been said, the repairs will almost certainly cost more than the gun can be sold for. Unless you can do the work yourself, forget it. a smith is going to charge you several hundred dollars for this work, and the gun is just an old blowback .32.

  13. #12
    tkroenlein is offline Junior Member
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    The gun is junk. 1.) If the temper in the springs was destroyed, then so was the temper in the rest of the gun. The accepted temperature limit for heat treated steel is only about 450 F., or about what it takes to soft solder sights etc. 2.)There may be some difficulty in rebluing the gun, as compounds introduced in a house fire are not normally encountered in the bluing process if you choose to keep it for sentimental reasons. Either way, remove the firing pin and weld the hole shut. It is THE ONLY responsible course of action.
    Last edited by tkroenlein; 05-24-2011 at 10:39 PM. Reason: spelling

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