Review: Ford's Custom Guns Refinishing and Laser Engraving

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posted on November 29, 2020
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Several years ago, I was introduced to Ford's Custom Guns Refinishing when I was looking to breathe new life into a few likable handguns that had been mistreated by previous owners. This company boasts 35-years of experience with a variety of finish options. They avoid mass-production practices in favor of conducting each step of the refinishing process by hand with a professional and personal touch that shows.

Their team will tackle handguns or long guns, vintage or modern models to either restore their former glory or trick them out with a brand new look. The company has expanded its services to include custom laser engraving ranging from small highlights to full gun coverage. This time around I checked in with Ford's to make three little dreams of mine come true. Based on the results I saw with the previous guns I sent in, I knew this was the company to work with. Here’s a bit more information about the guns that were refinished and how they turned out.

Polishing Up a Colt Police Positive

The .32 S&W Colt Police Positive shown here is an intriguing little piece of shooting history that I fell in love with the first time I laid eyes on it. Made in 1924, its svelte size, clean lines and smooth action make it a real pleasure to shoot (when you can find the ammunition for it). One thing that's very important when it comes to making changes to vintage guns is to do your homework first.

The Colt Police Positive revolver before being refinished by Ford's Custom Guns.
The Colt Police Positive revolver before being refinished by Ford's Custom Guns.


There are many older guns that will lose their collector’s value if you have the factory original finish removed and replaced. In some cases, the guns won't survive the refinishing process or some of the marking may be obscured or rubbed away when polished. I already knew that this particular Colt was mechanically sound and its value is far more sentimental than financial.

The Colt Police Positive revolver after being refinished by Ford's Custom Guns.
The Colt Police Positive revolver after being refinished by Ford's Custom Guns.


I was also told that there was a good chance that the delicate pony logo on the left side of the receiver would need to be re-stamped. They had the equipment to do it on hand, but it would be an additional charge. I went ahead and gave them permission to do the work if it was needed.

This little wheel gun was treated to Ford's high-polish Master Blue finish which gives it a very satisfying deep, glossy appearance that looks more like obsidian than gun metal. The barrel stamp remained intact but the pony was re-stamped. The original hard rubber grips were in terrific condition so I left them in place.

A close up of the refinished Colt Police Positive revolver with the cylinder opened.
A close up of the refinished Colt Police Positive revolver with the cylinder opened.


Although this revolver was free of any surface pitting or deep scratches, it did show noticeable wear along one side of the muzzle and two sides of the cylinder. The Ford's team conducted some careful polishing to bring those surfaces back to a mirror shine.

A Shining Star BM

This is one of the sharpest looking 1911s that I ever held, an authentic Colt Government Model chambered in .45 ACP that sported a hard chrome finish on the slide and the steel frame. While the rounded surfaces had a matte finish, the flats were polished to a literal mirror shine. Although a polished chrome finish is not very conducive to nocturnal tactical operations, it makes for a handsome show piece. I've wanted something like it ever since.

The Star BM handgun before being refinished.
The Star BM handgun before being refinished.


Fast forward several years to my discovery of the surplus Spanish Star BM pistol. This all steel, compact size 9 mm semi-automatic, which was made from 1972 to 1992, is not quite a 1911. It does borrow enough from John Browning’s classic to fit the bill. It's an old school pistol that I enjoy shooting and the one I found was in excellent condition inside and out. Fords gave it a full hard chrome finish with brushed rounds, polished flats and polishing for the barrel, controls and grip screws.

The Star BM handgun after being refinished.
The Star BM handgun after being refinished.


One of the services that Ford's provided was the removal of the roughly applied importation markings on the slide and frame while preserving the original stamps and serial number. They also gave the blued steel magazine a brushed chrome finish. The checkered black-plastic grips were traded out for a set of smooth stabilized maple grip panels from 4S Custom Pistol Grips ($42.95). This company offers a variety of wood, texture and price options with fits for several revolver and pistol models. The cool black and blue coloring of this set was just what I was looking for. 

Laser Engraving a Ruger Blackhawk

As a young man I chaffed at the obsolete and odd ball caliber articles that were cluttering up the pages of the shooting magazines that I was paying good money for. And why did they have to waste time with those old fashioned cowboy single-action revolvers? But now that I've got a bit more salt in my beard, and a good deal more trigger time at the range, I know exactly what those old timers were talking about.

The Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .41 Rem. Mag. before being refinished and laser engraved.
The Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .41 Rem. Mag. before being refinished and laser engraved.


If you ask me which shooting irons I favor these days, one of them would be the 4.62" barreled Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .41 Rem. Mag. It provides a terrific balance of potency and portability in a wheel gun that's enjoyable to shoot. So when I discussed this wheel gun with the Ford's team, I told them I was looking for something special to dress it up. That's when they walked me through their laser engraving options.

The Ruger Blackhawk revolver after being refinished and laser engraved.
The Ruger Blackhawk revolver after being refinished and laser engraved.


Traditional hand-engraved embellishments are highly desirable, but exceptionally expensive. Modern laser engraving techniques replicate these eye-catching details for a much lower cost. It can still be a fairly good sized investment, depending on how much work you're looking for, but it's worth it! The team works closely with the customer, including consultations and computer mock-ups to ensure the pattern is just what the customer is looking for before any changes are made.  

For this project, I opted to go whole hog and requested a full coverage set of engraving. I wanted classic cowboy floral flourishes with sections of geometric patterns, please. The more old fashioned the better! I opted for a high-polish nickel finish to bring out the patterns and designs. The checkered plastic grips were swapped out for a set of Ruger factory smooth-hardwood grip panels.

A closer look at the engraving work from Ford's Custom Guns on the Ruger Blackhawk.
A closer look at the engraving work from Ford's Custom Guns on the Ruger Blackhawk.


One of my favorite touches is the engraving along the top of the grip frame. But all of the engraving is pleasing to the eye with little surprises that pop out each time I look the revolver over. Now it is one of my favorite Ruger pistols, and is a true family heirloom that I plan to pass along to future generations. Ford's service prices vary depending on the finish selected the degree of polishing involved and other details which may be unique to your gun. For more information, visit fordsguns.com.  


Ford’s Custom Guns Services:

Colt Police Positive Revolver:
High Polish Master Blue Finish $500
Logo and VP Mark Restoration $55

Star BM 9mm Pistol:
Complete Hard Chrome Finish with Polished Flats and Magazine $500,
Importation Mark Removal $25
4S Custom Pistol Grips Smooth Stabilized Maple Panels $42.95

Ruger Blackhawk .41 Rem. Mag. Revolver:
Bright Nickel Finish $500
Full Coverage Cowboy Custom Laser Engraving $2,500

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