What you will need:

  • abrasive paper (preferably cloth backed) 120-400 grit

Remove pitting with files and or abrasive paper. Your metal preparation will probably begin with a coarse grit abrasive paper, but should be completed by using 320 or 400 grit.


What you will need:

  • detergent (Simple Green)
  • scrub brush
  • tongs or wire hooks
  • air compressor or paper towels
  • clean cotton gloves

Degreasing is essential in getting fine results. Parts should be soaked in hot soapy water using a cleaner such as Simple Green. Scrub parts with a brush during the cleaning process. Remove parts from the cleaning solution with tongs or hooks. Rinse thoroughly with hot water, and dry with compressed air or blot with paper towels. Do not touch cleaned parts with bare hands as the oils from your body can contaminate the metal. Wear cotton gloves while handling degreased metal parts.

ETCHING (Optional)

What you will need:

  • sandblasting gun
  • 150 grit garnet (aluminum oxide can be used)

Etching helps the first applications to take hold of the base metal. Etching can be accomplished chemically (acid dip) or mechanically (blasting with media). I do not recommend using acid because it is too hard to control. Blasting with 150 grit garnet is the best. The polished metal will appear dull grey after blasting but the process of rust bluing will bring the sheen back. The finish will look almost the same whether it is blasted or not. The blasting is best to do after the degreasing and parts should only be handled with clean cotton gloves.

Warning:  Do not blast with glass beads as the beads produce different textures to hard and soft steel.


What you will need:

  • vinyl or latex gloves
  • cotton gloves
  • natural sea sponge, cellulose sponge, cotton swabs, or poly foam paint brush
  • small glass or plastic container
  • propane torch or other heat source
  • steel wire brush (.003-.005) or oil-free steel wool
  • container for boiling distilled or deionized water (tap water can be used in many parts of the country but it depends on the mineral content in your area)

Pour solution into small glass or plastic container. Warm metal parts to 150-200 F with a propane torch or other heat source. Use vinyl or latex gloves during application. Dip applicator in solution and apply to warmed metal parts.

If the solution does not evaporate right away run the flame back over the metal parts to dry the coating. A coating of brown to yellow rust will immediately form. Coat two more times drying the coating with the flame each time. Using clean cotton gloves remove powdery residue with steel wool or a fine wire brush. The coating is very tough so do not be afraid of carding it too hard. The metal should now be an uneven brown coating. Do not worry about the uneven finish, as it will even out with each application.

Warm the metal parts again and coat with solution three times. Card off the loose residue and repeat the steps of coating and carding until it gets difficult to card. There are usually some yellow streaks mixed in with the brown. At this point dip parts in warm tap water (100-110 F).  Dry the parts with compressed air and card again. The carding should be much easier after the water dip. Warm the parts again, put on several coats, dip in water, and card parts. If you want a more plum brown heat the water to 150 F or higher. You can get any shade of brown up to plum brown black just by raising the water temperature.


What you will need:

  • baking soda

When satisfied with the metal finish place the parts for 5 minutes in a solution of baking soda and water (concentration is not important).  Rinse the parts; dry and coat the browning with RIG (gun grease) and leave set for 24 hours.


During the whole browning operation don’t touch the metal with your bare hands as you can leave contamination spots in the finish.

If you use steel wool for carding make sure to buy oil free steel wool. It is available at fine wood working stores.

Garnet is preferred for etching as it is unlikely to imbed in the metal. This is only a concern on parts that rub against each other such as the bolt.

Do not try to brown the ends of a barrel because you don’t want to get any browning solution in the bore. Polish the barrel crown back to white after browning. I don’t plug bores anymore but I make sure I’m using fresh water when boiling barrels.

If you don’t have a boiling tank and are only going to do a few guns you can buy a piece of PVC pipe, glue a cap on one end, hang your barrel in the pipe and fill the pipe with boiling water each cycle.

Parts can be strung on a wire for boiling but don’t wire brush the parts with the wire attached. I almost lost an eye when the wire brush grabbed the string of parts.

After initial cleaning, a light scrub down with a 3M Scotchbrite pad while in the water rinse is often helpful to insure that all cleaner residue is removed.