An Historical Perspective by Scott A. Duff
If you want to start an argument among collectors of U.S. Military Small
Arms ask: "What color Parkerizing is original?" This seemingly
simple question will provoke endless discussion, and provide a wider variety
of answers than one could assume possible. Research conducted in the preparation
of several Ml rifle related books has provided the opportunity to examine
thousands of Garands, including hundreds of rifles in original configuration.
Observations indicate the color of the Parkerized finish varied with the
conditions under which the Parkerizing was applied, the era of the rifle's
manufacture and the condition and length of time they were stored. Specific
factors affecting the color resulting from the Parkerizing process include
the type of phosphate used, the temperature and duration of the process,
the saturating oil bath, and the preservative coating's reaction on the
com-pounds contained in the Parkerizing. In addition, the method and chemicals
used in heat treating and the specified hardness of the individual component
also affected the finish color. For instance, a softer metal has a darker
finish than a harder one.
Descriptions of variations in color and shade are subjective, and the
same finish may be described differently by two different people. With
that in mind, original finishes have been observed which are: charcoal
black, gloss black, black with a noticeable green tint, dark olive green,
a light, almost translucent gray, and translucent gray with a green cast.
The earliest original rifles examined are in the collection at Springfield
Armory National Historic Site. These rifles, serial numbers 81,87, 79115,
100,000, 1 million, 2 million and 3 million, are in "as-new"
condition. They were deemed of historical significance, and generally
transferred directly from the factory to the museum shortly after manufacture.
They all are of charcoal black color. Early production Winchester Ml's
are of the same color. None of these rifles have been coated with Cosmoline
or saturated with oil. It is interesting to note that M14 rifles were
not subject to Cosmoline coating and are the same color as these early
Other Ml rifles manufactured during this era which have seen service,
have been observed to be of gloss black or dark green finish. It is believed
that the gloss black is primarily a result of repeated cleaning with solvent
and oil-soaked rags which gave an almost polished effect to the finish.
The frequently encountered, dark green Parkerized finish is believed to
be primarily a result of the compounds present in the Parkerized finish
chemically reacting to the Cosmoline used for corrosion prevention during
long term storage. Observations of original Garands manufactured by Springfield
and Winchester indicate a change in the finish color from black to a translucent
gray during the late summer of 1944. The Parkerizing process used to finish
Ml's of post World War 11 manufacture appears to have returned to the
charcoal black finish. If the rifle has been stored in Cosmoline, a green
tint may be noted.
So, what color Parkerizing is original? Most "as new" Garands
are charcoal black. Original finishes of gloss black, black with a noticeable
green tint, dark olive green, a light, almost translucent gray, and translucent
gray with a green cast have been observed. The variables mentioned above
and more than fifty years of use and storage make it impossible to give
a specific answer. However, one thing is certain; the argument among collectors
and aficionados will continue.