Some time ago, I had a chance to use Birchwood Casey Super Blue to refinish a large amount of AKs (over a hundred, to be more precise). When I was looking for an effective bluing solution, I found a surprisingly little amount of actual reviews featuring different types of cold blue. So if you’re considering using cold blue to refinish your weapon, this little article might be helpful.
First of all, why use cold blue, when there are so many other options for refinishing a weapon? Well, my situation was rather unique. The refinishing had to be done in a country where no gun products are readily available, so I had to bring everything with me and on a commercial airline. That means strict weight restrictions and most importantly – no flammable liquids. Just that, right away, cuts off most available commercial products, including paint like Krylon and Rust-Oleum.
I talked to representatives of Duracoat, Ceracote and there was always something flammable in their “magic potion”. Also, many other products require “curing” which is a fancy word for baking the weapon at high temperatures after applying the finish. With all that in mind, cold blue was the only option. After doing a little research, I bought several 32-ounce bottles of Birchwood Casey Super Blue, packed them neatly into my suitcase and headed to the airport.
What I did not know, is that apparently with one 32-ounce bottle you can refinish about 120-150 AKs. But everything comes with experience.
Keep in mind that Birchwood Casey offers two types of cold blue – Super Blue (that is what I used) and Perma Blue. I looked up reviews on youtube for both, and Perma Blue application results looked less than impressive, so I went with the Super Blue. But personally I have no experience with Perma Blue, if you do, please share in the comment section.
OK, so why would a normal person use a cold blue instead of modern, more high-tech firearms finishes? Reason number one – it is cheap and fast. Results might not always be great, but at least you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of equipment and spend tons of money. Reason number two – if your weapon was originally blued, it makes sense to re-blue it instead of using modern finished that would completely change the look of a firearm. Reason number three – with cold blue, you can easily draw funny faces on an AK receiver.
But to get decent results, there are a lot of things you have to do. You can find official instructions on the back of a bottle of Birchwood Casey Super Blue.
I tried to tweak the process in order to streamline refinishing and found that use of degreaser is often not critical if a weapon is dry and has no oil on it, to begin with. The important part is to get rid of all the existing finish, for that, I used steel wool and it worked very well.
You can use different tools to apply cold blue. I started with cotton pads until the harsh realization that apparently I cannot really get more cotton pads in this country and my supply is quickly coming to an end. I switched to Q-tips, but that did not work very well, and I remembered that I have a very nice paintbrush at my disposal. With the paintbrush, productivity dramatically increased. Here is an example of what I was working with.
This weapon is a beautiful specimen of East German AKs, MPi-KMS manufactured in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic) in the 80s. For some inconceivable reasons, East Germans still hot blued their weapons in the 80s, so cold blue looks pretty authentic on them.
Despite having a rough look on the outside, weapons were mechanically in great condition. I just had to make sure their look outside will match their inside condition. After applying just one layer of cold blue, here how MPi-KMS looked.
What I found out during the process is that the most important part of blueing comes right AFTER you apply the blue. If you apply the blue and leave the weapon like that in just a few hours it would look like an AK you captured from a Somalian pirate.
And that is to be expected because essentially blueing is an oxidizing chemical reaction, a process somewhat similar to corrosion (sorry chemistry enthusiasts, I want to be brief). You MUST neutralize your bluing solutions unless you’re going for “Somalia pirate AK” look.
To prevent corrosion, you need to rinse a surface where blue was applied with water. I couldn’t really do that since a hundred AKs would require tons of water, so I used a wet sponge. Rinsing is obviously more effective. After I talked with Birchwood Casey representatives at the SHOT Show, they told me that soapy water would work better for neutralizing the blue, I will definitely try that next time.
To make sure no rust would appear on the weapon after rebluing, I developed a whole system. A weapon would be reblued, “rinsed”, and I’d leave it until morning. In the morning, I could use natural light for inspection, then touch up problematic areas and leave it until the next morning. Then, finally, I would do the final inspection, generously apply oil and put it in the box. Final results were pretty decent.
In conclusion, if you want to reblue your gun, you can definitely give Birchwood Casey Super Blue a try. Just keep in mind that any cold blue has a lot of limitations, and if you’re not a budget, there are a lot of other options. But if you appreciate an old school look and like to do everything yourself, without spending tons of money, cold blue might be just what you’re looking for.
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