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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a couple of guns that I've been wanting to have refinished in Birdsong's "Black T" finish. A friend of mine has had maybe 30 guns done, and I'd gotten a chance to look at and handle most of them. If you're not familiar with the finish, it's a very hard Teflon coating that's sprayed on, then baked onto the metal. Smith & Wesson has some of their "special" guns done in the Birdsong finish, and Mr. Walter E. Birdsong can also point to the LAPD, FBI, and "other government agencies" as clients.

So my friend and his gun show partner both had guns ready to be picked up and called me to tell me to get my stuff together. I have a Series 70 Colt that I've shown pictures of here, and it was to be one of the test subjects, along with an early 70's Commander. Mr. Birdsong will finish two magazines with each auto brought in for refinishing, so I found one Colt 7-round mag and three contract mags made back in the 70s by High Standard.

Aside from all the good stuff I've heard about the Birdsong method from my friend and from gun magazines, there is another really strong recommendation for doing business with Mr. Walter: his is a Mississippi company, and it's only an hour and a half from my front door to his shop. That means no shipping costs or hassles with FedEx, just a pleasant drive up to the outskirts of Jackson.

So we arrived at a little after nine this morning. After managing to convince the barking, growling dog that we meant no harm, we entered the shop, which is a pretty nondescript building hidden in a copse of trees about sixty yards from Mr. B's house. The first thing I saw inside was the ultra light airplane he's building, but that's another story, I think. I guess if he moves some stuff around he'll be able to get it out the service doors, but again, this story isn't about the airplane.

Mr. B was busy talking to someone in his office off the little hangar / waiting area, and while I thought it was some phone call to exotic places, I found that it was just some guy ready to leave with two recently finished Browning shotguns. He was the guy with a HUGE grin on his face, by the way. Walter Jr. (Wally) came out from the shop and ushered us inside, explaining that his dad had a couple of phone calls to make, then he'd be in to speak to us. Wally got my friends' guns, one a long slide .45 and the other a Sistema 27 built up as a target gun, and then he asked me what I had, and what I wanted done.

Until then I'd spent a lot of nights thinking about just those questions, and he could tell, so he began bringing down customer guns for me to look at. The Birdsong finish comes in two colors, a light olive drab and a flat black, and lots of people like to do combinations of the two. He showed me a Beretta in all green and a Kimber in all black, backed up by a Model 10 S&W snubnose in a bit of both. Then there was the Colt with green and black like my friends had done.

Me, I'm the simpleton of the group, so we ended up agreeing to all black on the Commander, though with an unfinished barrel, as I might have to throat it one day. I also didn't want scratches on the black of the barrel that would show up inevitably with shooting. The Series 70 will be all black as well, though the barrel, hammer, and trigger will remain bright.

Then Wally took me back for the guided tour, explaining each step of the process, and ending up back in the spraying room. To make a long story short, this is all hand work, and the Birdsongs are sticklers for customer satisfaction. I was definitely impressed, so say the least. When Wally started telling me about how he wanted a really nice Hi Power, well, let's say we started out with things in common and ended up the same way.

Later everyone adjourned to Walter Sr.'s office. The man is incredibly knowledgeable, not just about how things work, but about the business of manufacturing firearms in the 21st century. I found out that my guns would probably be finished a little sooner because a shipment of FBI guns hadn't arrived yet, and as a matter of course, they accept and work on guns in the order received. So if I'm just a little bit lucky I'll have my guns back around the first of September, just in time to test them in the last month of miserable summer heat, South Mississippi style.

Did I mention that this was one very enjoyable little roadtrip? I've been under the weather for a couple of days and didn't know if I'd make our seven AM meeting time for the ride up, but I figured this is one of those events that doesn't take place too often. I had fun, and I even learned a few things, like how the Birdsongs have an open field in front of the shop so that corporate clients can land their helicopters close by....

Now I have to decide what gun or guns to carry with me when the two Colts are finished. I have this kind of ratty looking S series S&W Model 58 that's a fine shooter, so I'll be thinking about it all slicked up.

Here's the Series 70 as it appears now. Wally Birdsong mentioned that the finish is really nice, but then he looked at the top of the slide, which is in very bad shape. When I get it back it'll be all nice and black all over.

 

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Hello Leland & Thanks for sharing this with us.

I've heard that Mr. Birdsong is a super nice & smart guy that does first class work, and I believe it to be true. I'm sure your pistols will turn out Great.

From what you saw & learned being there, is the Black T finish about as close as a fellow can get to the finish that comes on a MKIII Browning High Power, also, is the Black T in fact applied over a phosphate or Parkerized base coat?

Thanks Leland,
The Sockman
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The Black T finish is much, much nicer and more even than the coating on my black MK III. The truth is, my MK III is just butt ugly, mainly because of the lousy finish. It does prevent rust, however. The Black T finish, on the other hand, while cosmetically similar to that on the MK III, is also very "slippery," and actually seems to help things move against each other. Nothing sticks to Teflon, remember. :)

I believe the Black T finish is applied directly over bare, sandblasted metal. I base this belief not on what I was told, but upon observations of bare metal guns waiting in line for spraying.

Also, Mr. B says he can apply his finish to anything which can withstand a temperature of 350 F. In fact, most coil springs can withstand that much temperature.

Wally gave me a demonstration of just how durable the finish is. He pulled out a section of badly damaged 20 gauge barrel about 12" long that had been finished in Black T. He then proceeded use it to beat the heck out of a big bench vice. He handed me the dinged, dented, and bent section of barrel and dared me to find any areas where the finish had chipped off. The best I could manage was a tiny little scrape, and that turned out to be a dusty spot that cleaned off when I ran my thumb over it.
 

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Hi there Leland,

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and hopefully you can post some follow-up pictures of the finished work.

Chris
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Four to six weeks. Four to six weeks. Four to six weeks. Four to six weeks. I got to keep repeating it, and have you any idea what I did with my ruby slippers?

Is it September yet? I'm impatient.
 
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Leland,

This is a great report, informative and entertaining. I look forward to the next installment in "four to six weeks." Reckon he'll coat that airplane?

Max
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Leland,

This is a great report, informative and entertaining. I look forward to the next installment in "four to six weeks." Reckon he'll coat that airplane?

Max
You'd better have your earplugs for the next installment, as it'll be after a session of 230-grain stress relief.

I think he's actually coated the tubular fuselage.
 
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