The Best Finish for a Defensive Handgun (PART 2)

You learned in Part 1 of this segment how the best finish for a defensive handgun can depend on where you live and the proper maintenance. Check out this second part for extra tips!



One downside to a blued pistol is that holster wear is going to eventually start showing bare steel where the bluing has been worn away. Here’s where one separates the mall ninja from the savvy individual who is more concerned that a pistol work good than look good.


Defensive Handguns

Notice the holster wear on Workman’s often-carried Kimber Compact. His much newer Kimber Ultra Crimson Carry wears a two-tone finish.


To some folks, holster wear is like a badge of honor because it means they’ve been packing a gun and using it long enough that it is a seasoned friend. Still, every now and then it is a nice touch to spruce up the pistol’s finish. Get some very fine steel wool and spray it with a degreaser, maybe the same stuff you use to remove all the oil finish from your handgun around the worn spots.


Once you’re down to bare steel, polish it up a bit with the steel wool, from which protective oils have been removed. Steel wool — no surprises here — will rust when it is left exposed. Be willing to toss it after you’re finished; there is more down at the hardware store.


Get a good cold blue, liquid or paste, and use a cotton swab to apply it to the spot that needs to be re-blued. Wipe it off quickly and polish it up with the steel wool again. If it’s not dark enough, give it another application. Buff it up with a soft cloth and apply a thin coat of oil.



Whether your handgun is stainless or blued, you will be carrying it in a holster, and you want to maintain that piece of equipment too. For nylon rigs, believe this or not, you can do yourself a favor by occasionally using a vacuum to clean them on the inside surface. Suck out all the lint and dust.

holster for gun carry

Fans of Kydex or other hard “plastic” holsters might wipe them down with Armor All to spiff up the appearance and actually slick up the surface.


People who wear leather concealment rigs should never treat them with oil. This will soften the leather and it will collapse, which makes re-holstering difficult.


Neutral shoe wax can be rubbed inside and out on smooth surfaces, but don’t do this on a rough-out rig like the Summer Special. Rub the inside only and maybe use a clean toothbrush on the outside to clean off dirt and restore the rough.


Mitch Rosen markets some stuff called Leather Lightning, and because it is a surface treatment, it won’t hurt your holster. The ingredients are proprietary, but whatever is in this product, it makes a holster fast, and speed is important whether your gun is blue or stainless. It does not harm the surface of your pistol.



In humid environments, whether you carry stainless or blue, your handgun will require more frequent maintenance because you’re going to sweat, and I’ve actually known some people who perspire so much that they actually sweat right through the leather of their holster and onto their guns.


It’s rare, but it can happen, and it happens more with shoulder holsters than inside-the-waistband rigs. At the end of the day, let your holster dry out and keep the pistol out of it overnight. Wipe down your gun.


This is a good reason to have more than one holster for your carry gun. I certainly do, and that’s not just because I build holsters. Wear one holster one day, wear a different rig the next, especially in summer or winter.


Out here in Washington, holsters can get wet from the rain and when they do, I let them air dry at least 24 hours. In the meantime, my defensive pistol goes in another rig.

stainless steel gun

Weather and perspiration can take a toll even on a stainless steel gun…keep it clean and lubricated!



I’ve been impressed over the years with stainless pistols that come from the factory with black sights. Not only does this look good, it works.


For my defensive handguns, I prefer tritium sights, and these work equally well whether they’re on a black or shiny pistol. It’s important to keep your sights clean, so after a shooting session or a long day of packing your defensive handgun under a cover garment, take a cotton swab and gently wipe off the tritium lamp surface to remove any dust or film, and restore that marvelous—and possibly lifesaving—glow.


The bottom line is this: a defensive firearm is nothing more than a mechanical device that must be lubricated and cleaned, regardless what it is made from or where you live. Rain or shine, heat or bitter cold, humid or desert dry, you must keep it running at the top of its game, lest it may quit when you need it the most.


Story & Photos by Dave Workman


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