Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

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Rube Burrows
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Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#1 Post by Rube Burrows » Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:42 pm

I am looking at buying a new 73. I have had a couple Uberti 73s but this time around I was wanting to go with a Miroku Winchester 1873.

Are the case hardening on the new Winchesters actually real case hardening? The colors seem to pale in comparison to someone like Turnbull. They seem closer to the Uberti which I have heard is not a real case hardening but some type of chemical deal. Please correct me if I am wrong.

We don't have many stores around me that carry Lever guns so most likely I will have to order one and wont be able to have my pick. I really love the case hardened receivers.


Thanks.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#2 Post by M. M. Wright » Tue Mar 12, 2019 10:49 pm

I'm no help Rube. My new Miroku 73 is a SRC so full blue. I compared it to one made in 1895 and they are nearly identical. I have 2 Uberti 73s and the CC on them is spectacular but I don't have a new Miroku with which to make a comparison. I understand that the potassium cyanide process used by Miroku produces a very hard surface though quite thin, .002 to .005 inch. I think you should look at a couple.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#3 Post by GunnyMack » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:02 am

Color case hardening is a surface hardening, .005- maybe .010. The fantastic vivid colors we all love is normally achieved with bone charcoal. (Italy does not allow bone to be used for some stupid reason. ) What Miroku uses I don't know.
The new production guns have the advantage of modern steels that are tougher. The colors might not be as vivid with different steels, charcoal and or chemical hardening.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#4 Post by vancelw » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:07 am

Turnbull's method is more case coloring than case hardening.

I have a Miroku made Winchester 1873 Sporting rifle in .357 and a Miroku 1866 in .44 wcf.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#5 Post by GunnyMack » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:20 am

Vance it's the same process. The colors are a 'happy accident' of steel parts imbedded into a crucible full of charcoal, sealed air tight and brought to about 2000 F then quenched in water.
The process was developed to surface harden by allowing more carbon to enter the surface of the steel.

While I was in school I did a K98 action. Sadly it twisted at quench. The rear receiver bridge being unbalanced in mass is where it twisted. The bolt stop section was too thin and was hard through. It broke there when I tried to straighten it... had to anneal it, weld & shape then sent out for commercial heat treatment. It had very nice greens and reds and blue colors.

No matter what case colors are beautiful!
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#6 Post by Sixgun » Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:41 am

Rube.....think like this....you only live once........why settle for chemical case colored blue when you can have the real deal? The "Master" GunnyMack is right.....the coloring is a"by product" of the more intensive process done by bone and charcoal. If I wanted a '73 with the beautiful colors I would buy a Miroko (I don't like foreign guns but you don't have much of a choice and the Japs build the best....by far.....reproductions of Winchesters.). and have the receiver, buttplate, forend cap, and lever case colored by Turnbull....might cost you a grand if you take the gun apart by yourself......that's what it costs me on the below pictured 1893 Marlin takedown in 38-55....that pic only shows a little bit of the colors as I took the pic for the sight earlier.

Give em a call and see what they say.....this way, you won't have to "settle for less" for instant gratification that's so common today.......big deal, you might have to sell something to pay for it but in the end, you will be much more satisfied because you will have "the shyt" with excellent bragging rights.....and a better resale value down the road.

You listen to ole 6....he has been there and done that and is just passing on a little "wisdom" he's learned in 64 years. :D ---6

(On a different note, some foreign countries have a ban on using bone for color case hardening because.......their governments are afraid the manufacturers will use people bones as the color from these are much brighter than using bones from cows....that's real)

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#7 Post by Rube Burrows » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:20 am

Thanks for all the comments and thanks for the photo of the beautiful rifle Six. :mrgreen:

Very good info. I really like the Winchesters for what they are and while I wish they were still made in New Haven or anywhere over here they seem to be made very well. I just didn't know if the case hardening was done like the originals or closer to what Uberti does.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#8 Post by Sixgun » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:45 am

Your welcome Rube.......during my lifetime of collecting........I worked with my hands so I had to watch my expenditures.......always upgrading to what I really wanted and for the most part, I'm here...satisfied......but it was a LOT of work, attending weekly auctions, estate sales, etc.all the time putting my family and responsibilities first. Shyt! I only drove 3 vehicles my entire adult life....making boots last three years.....my John Deere was 30 years old before I upgraded to a new Kubota.etc.....

Just trying to save you some work...so.....get what you want first.......it takes longer but the satisfaction is greater.

I must have gone through a dozen-20 1873's, another 3 dozen 1886's, Rugers..Marlins, etc. before I was happy.....

Thinking about this solidifies my thinking on a lifelong 1873.....if I was in your young shoes......the Miroko 1873 of your taste...you know, rifle, src, deluxe, whatever....in the caliber you want most...I love the 44-40.....then get that baby done right! by Turnbull.

Using a Uberti or a Rossi ...or other Italian "stuff" will be a hit or miss as to individual quality......the Jap gun will be a guarantee as to quality, endurance, and accuracy......to be your life long buddy----6
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#9 Post by vancelw » Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:03 pm

GunnyMack wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:20 am
Vance it's the same process. The colors are a 'happy accident' of steel parts imbedded into a crucible full of charcoal, sealed air tight and brought to about 2000 F then quenched in water.
The process was developed to surface harden by allowing more carbon to enter the surface of the steel.

I understand the process perfectly.
I also understand how Turnbull does ir.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#10 Post by Rube Burrows » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:25 pm

Sixgun wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:45 am
Your welcome Rube.......during my lifetime of collecting........I worked with my hands so I had to watch my expenditures.......always upgrading to what I really wanted and for the most part, I'm here...satisfied......but it was a LOT of work, attending weekly auctions, estate sales, etc.all the time putting my family and responsibilities first. Shyt! I only drove 3 vehicles my entire adult life....making boots last three years.....my John Deere was 30 years old before I upgraded to a new Kubota.etc.....

Just trying to save you some work...so.....get what you want first.......it takes longer but the satisfaction is greater.

I must have gone through a dozen-20 1873's, another 3 dozen 1886's, Rugers..Marlins, etc. before I was happy.....

Thinking about this solidifies my thinking on a lifelong 1873.....if I was in your young shoes......the Miroko 1873 of your taste...you know, rifle, src, deluxe, whatever....in the caliber you want most...I love the 44-40.....then get that baby done right! by Turnbull.

Using a Uberti or a Rossi ...or other Italian "stuff" will be a hit or miss as to individual quality......the Jap gun will be a guarantee as to quality, endurance, and accuracy......to be your life long buddy----6
Know just what you mean. My family comes first and foremost. I have a daughter that will be starting college next year and a son who graduates high school in two years. Then a 5 year old. I have been wanting a real Winchester 73 for a while now so I figured this was as good of a time as any to get one.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#11 Post by fordwannabe » Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:47 pm

I gotta add to this thread. That picture of Six’s 1893 don’t do it any justice at all. That sumbitch is GORGEOUS. Makes my mouth water but I am refraining from it’s temptation....for a while. I even Know what he wants for it. Ahhhhh.
Rube, buddy how many rifles are ya gonna get in your life that just make ya smile EVERY time you see them.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#12 Post by marlinman93 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:43 pm

Anyone who brings parts up to 2,000 degrees to caseharden them is warping receivers and parts! Color case hardening is normally done at 1350-1450 degrees to get proper colors with bone charcoal.
Turnbull does indeed do color case hardening, and I would agree he and most good gunsmiths are going for colors. But that's not to say the surfaces on gun parts they do don't get case hardened too. It would be very hard (if not impossible) to get good colors, and not end up with some surface hardness too. How hard they get depends on the temps used, but if they aren't brought up high enough, you might actually take a good receiver and weaken it by annealing, vs. case hardening. I think Turnbull gets them hot enough to remain safe, or we'd hear about it after several decades of his being done. But I also am not a big fan of the rainbow colors Turnbull's does, and is so famous for. They rarely look like what originals look like in my opinion, and his pricing is scary!

As for the new Winchester 1873, they look like chemical to my eyes. Certainly not like anything most good case colors done by the best in the business. I'm biased and think nobody does case colors as good as Al Springer myself. And at a fraction of Turnbull's prices too! These were all done by Al Springer.

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The late Dr. Oscar Gaddy was one of the finest men to do modern reproductions of the old color case hardening, and did so before Turnbull or many others. He was also extremely free with his information on how he did it, and what temps and materials were used in the process.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#13 Post by GunnyMack » Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:45 pm

Marlinman thank you for correcting my memory!! Yes you are correct, 2000F is WAY to high. 25 years ago, and apparently my mind isn't what it used to be! :D

When steel is brought up into that magic temp it begins to draw carbon into the surface, when quenched it hardens , normally not much deeper that about .010.

Mass and thickness has some effect on how it colors as well as the steel formula.

Many may not know this but many years ago cyanide was used for heat treatment. It was brought to a molten state and parts were immersed. Family friends had a machine & tool company, hurricane a long time ago flooded their heat treat building and the cyanide went down river and killed thousands of trout in the state hatchery! Regular salt can be used as well.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#14 Post by Rube Burrows » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:56 pm

Love seeing all the great conversation about lever guns here. :wink:

I guess my main question and reason I started the thread is to find out if Winchester is actually doing a correct case hardening or ifnit was chemical like Unerti?

I am trying to decide if I want to get one already case hardened or just get a blue one and let someone Case harden it later.

I had a Ruger New Vaquero that CCH but the stuff just rubbed off in the holster and rust formed on the surface. I don’t want that again so trying to stay away from chemical.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#15 Post by Rube Burrows » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:57 pm

fordwannabe wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:47 pm
I gotta add to this thread. That picture of Six’s 1893 don’t do it any justice at all. That sumbitch is GORGEOUS. Makes my mouth water but I am refraining from it’s temptation....for a while. I even Know what he wants for it. Ahhhhh.
Rube, buddy how many rifles are ya gonna get in your life that just make ya smile EVERY time you see them.
If you were coming here for the voice of reason and restraint you are on the wrong site.

Definitely not wanted to be talked out of it. If y’all tried to talk me out of buying a new rifle what kind of friends would that be?

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#16 Post by HawkCreek » Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:16 pm

Not that mine has been used a bunch but the CCH on my Miroku/Winchester seems to be lasting better than what Ruger gave me on my Vaquero. As has been said neither one is a proper hardening but an acid coloring.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#17 Post by fordwannabe » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:27 am

Rube, PERXACTLY what kind of friends indeed?
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#18 Post by piller » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:46 am

The hardening is from Nitrogen bonding with the steel under heat. Nitrided steel is around 85, if memory serves correctly, to 90 Rockwell C scale. Knives are in the 50s to 60s. The nitrided steel reacts with other metals in the charcoal to give the colors. Magnesium is usually the green color. Potassium is often blue. Cyanide is a donor for the Nitrogen. Not the only one, but it can be used.

Case hardening is a surface process. It does not migrate down into the steel beyond a few thousandths of an inch to a few hundredths. If done well, it is hard enough to withstand wear to an amazing degree. Quite often in the past, case hardening was used to harden cheap steel to make it useable. Only in the last 50 years or so has case hardening become expensive. During WWII, blacksmiths around the country would weld sweeps and chisels for farmers when they broke, common in hardpan, and then case harden the implement to make it last longer. After the war, production of farm equipment came back, and was cheap enough, that case hardening fell into the realm of being done by a few. It then became expensive. My 4 Uncles who all could case harden steel are passed on. My Dad, the youngest, was not taught how to do it as he was learning how to repair those new things called gasoline motors.

Oddly enough, some farmers chose to have the chisels tipped with Stellite as it withstood wear infinitely better than even case hardening.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#19 Post by marlinman93 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:14 am

There are so many things that go into color casehardening, and much beyond temperature, and what the pack is. Oscar Gaddy was a wonderful teacher to those who wanted to learn and had discovered all the issues that resulted in poor colors, even when you thought you'd done it all correctly.
Things like shielding, and what water you quench in are just as important as the pack and temperatures. If you have multiple receivers and parts on the same "tree" or fixture, you still need sacrificial steel on each end or your parts might get one bad side on each end. If you do one receiver at a time, you need shielding on each end to create the swirls and colors, or an open end will result in poor colors.
And water is critical, and can mess up your colors. If your water is too high in minerals it can result in no colors, even when everything else is perfect. People on well water often use distilled water to get proper colors. Some people have found they can only quench once or twice before they need fresh water to get good colors. Others get more quenches, but no way to say it has to be a certain number, so it's trial and error until you figure out what works for your particular case colors to come out nice.
It is a science, but it is a flawed science that isn't always exactly the same for each person. But once you've discovered what works for you, it should continue to work as long as you do everything exactly the same. And what produces good case hardened surfaces, wont always produce good case colors too. Need to get it all right to get colors, but not to just get surface hardness.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#20 Post by HawkCreek » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:06 am

piller wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:46 am


Oddly enough, some farmers chose to have the chisels tipped with Stellite as it withstood wear infinitely better than even case hardening.
Stellite was (maybe they've changed it) used in barrels for the M2!


Never used stellite myself but when I was welding I hard faced a lot of plow points with tungsten carbide.

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Ok sorry for the thread derail. Please return to discussing the beautiful case colors.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#21 Post by Leverluver » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:49 am

Didn't Navy Arms take the Miroku Win and have Turnbull case harden it? They certainly aren't cheap but it is the outcome you are looking for IF they are still using Turnbull.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#22 Post by M. M. Wright » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:20 pm

Rube, I wanted to tell you that I bought my new Miroku 73 from cheaper than dirt. Cheapest price I could find. (under a grand) You might want to try Bud's and Classic Arms too.
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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#23 Post by Sixgun » Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:42 pm

Who cares how it's done.....I figure it's easier to pay someone and I'll enjoy it.---6

Turnbull work on the takedown Marlin

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Factory original model 39 Marlin from 1941

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#24 Post by Rube Burrows » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:12 pm

Six, your beautiful guns never cease to amaze me.

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Re: Winchester 1873 Case Hardening Question

#25 Post by Rube Burrows » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:14 pm

M. M. Wright wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:20 pm
Rube, I wanted to tell you that I bought my new Miroku 73 from cheaper than dirt. Cheapest price I could find. (under a grand) You might want to try Bud's and Classic Arms too.

Well, I’ll never use Cheaper Than Dirt (made my stand when they jacked up Pmags to over 60 bucks each after 44’s first election win) but will definitely check out the others.

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