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Restoring a Corroded Lever-Action Rifle Lever
by Roy Seifert

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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.

Many of us who participate in Cowboy Action Shooting like to wrap leather around the bottom of the lever of our lever-action rifles to soften the sharp contact with our hand.  Unfortunately, the leather we use is often chrome tanned.  Chrome-tanned leather leaves tanning salts behind which will corrode metal, even if you thoroughly oil the leather.  Leather that will sit against metal – like holsters – should be vegetable-tanned.

Marlin® 1894 Cowboy


I have a Marlin 1894 Cowboy rifle in .45LC that I purchased used many years ago.  The previous owner had wrapped the lever with leather; you can see the resulting corrosion in the above photo.  The resulting pits left sharp edges, not to mention how ugly it looked.  A new lever costs about $60.00 but I restored my existing one for much less.

Polish out the Pits/Corrosion


Like with most things in life, preparation is everything.  I made sure my rifle was unloaded, then I removed the corroded lever.  First I polished out all the corrosion and pits.  I took 150-grit sand paper wrapped around a bastard file to aggressively sand the sides of the lever.  By doing the top and bottom of the sides I ensured they remained flat and parallel.  Then I took a 220-grit polishing stick ( to remove the sanding marks.  Finally I took 400-grit wet/dry silicon carbide sand paper, then 600-grit wrapped around the bastard file to final polish the metal.

For the wide part of the lever I removed the corrosion by shoe-shining first with the 150-grit sand paper, then final polishing by shoe-shining with 220-grit, then 400-grit, and finally with 600-grit wet/dry sand paper.

Cold Bluing
Now that the metal is prepared I needed to clean and degrease it to remove all of the residual oil and sanding dust.  First I put on a pair of vinyl gloves so the oils from my hands wouldn’t contaminate the clean, bare metal.  Then I used acetone and cotton swabs to degrease the exposed metal. 

I recently found a cold blue product called Rugged Gun Blue available from Shooter Solutions™ (  This is probably the best cold blue I have ever worked with (refer to my product review article Shooter Solutions Rugged Gun Blue).  Because this product uses acid to react with the metal I continued to wear the vinyl gloves.

Note:  The solution is milky because I have been using it and it has some impurities in it.

I purchased two 4-ounce bottles which I poured into a glass measuring cup.  I dipped the lever into the Rugged Gun Blue and allowed it to soak until it turned dark blue/black.  The exposed metal only required a few seconds to change color.  Because Rugged Gun Blue uses acid, if you leave your part in the solution too long it will start to eat away the metal.


I removed the lever from the cold blue solution and placed it under running tap water to remove the excess acid.  This step is necessary to dilute and remove all the excess acid and stop the bluing process.  I used a hair dryer to remove the water, then applied gun oil to the entire lever.  As you can see from the above photo the lever came out almost factory new.

This is an easy restoration that the home hobby gunsmith can perform to bring your lever-action rifle back to looking almost factory new.  The polishing and preparation work took most of the time, but the results were worth it.  Not only was the cost of materials far less than the cost of a new lever, but I have the pride of doing the work myself.



   © Copyright 2013 Roy Seifert.