Gun Coatings: Cerakote
Everyone has Cerakote on their guns nowadays, but what is Cerakote? Is it really the wave of the future in the gun coatings industry?
You’re in luck: NetGunsmith is ready to tell you all about it give you our opinion of its usefulness; and get a good picture as to whether or not Cerakote makes sense for you and your guns.
Gun Coatings serve many purposes:
- Gun Coatings are functional: they provide benefits over bare metal or factory gun finishes
- Gun Coatings can be used to mask heat signature for military or special law enforcement and special operations
- Gun Coatings are cosmetic enhancements
- Gun Coatings can add bulk to loose tolerances
- Gun Coatings can be a fun way to personalize your firearms
- Weather, oxidation and other gun enemies are good reasons to explore gun coatings
- Camouflage is possible with certain gun coatings (one of the original reasons for modern gun coatings)
- Gun Coatings are typically more accessible to the end user than other firearms finishes
So, given all of these basic premises (and we will cover the basics much more in depth later), where does Cerakote brand gun coating fit in?
Cerakote: a leader in the Gun Coatings Industry
Firstly, Cerakote has a nearly genius marketing strategy: DEMYSTIFY and make more accessible to the “common gun owner” a high quality finish for firearms that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars. Well, Cerakote did just that. Their website is comprehensive, easy to navigate, and gives ALL of the information a normal Joe needs to get these gun coatings onto their firearms. Cerakote makes it easy to personalize guns; replenish guns; protect guns; and make them better for the average gun owner.
Good marketing alone doesn’t an industry leader make, however. You’ve got to have a good product and back it up with an excellent service record to get to the top; I don’t think there are many people who doubt that Cerakote is the gun coatings industry leader. Firstly, despite being relatively new to the gun coatings scene, Cerakote has the best presence on the net (as well as in gun owner’s minds, with only a few other competitors even reaching the same radar).
Is Cerakote just a fancy name for gun coatings we’ve had for years?
Cerakote isn’t just an impostor in this gunsmith’s mind. Is it perfect? No. But it’s one of the best things we’ve got going in the gun coatings game. The question’s been asked: isn’t Cerakote just the same old gun coatings we had all along (at least since the 1980’s)? It’s not. It’s better looking; it is tougher, more customizable and more uniform, not to mention, it can be applied by the average gun owner.
What Makes Cerakote a better option in the sea of gun coatings?
Well, Cerakote started as a coating for headers and other automobile exhaust components which need to withstand heats above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s got toughness in its DNA, so to speak. As a gunsmith and a technology geek I am constantly amazed by ceramics technology. As a defense industry consultant and analyst, I am grateful that we are exploring the potential of ceramics. But as an average Joe gun owner with a need for a quick, easy and durable, good looking gun finish, I can appreciate the beauty of a ceramic hybrid epoxy-like coating that anyone can do.
Before the modern gun coatings came out, we had minimal industrial options for gun finishing and refinishing.
Mostly, the lack of access was due to the difficulty of gun finish application.
- Oxides-caustic salts which produced a hyper oxidative state on the surface of metals, but required hazmat delivery charges, heavy costs, tons of expensive and difficult to operate equipment and a ton of experience to achieve consistency.
- Hard Chrome, an expensive and difficult to produce “coating” which had chemical restrictions and was expensive to get a hold of.
- TiN coatings (a relatively recent dinner guest in the gun coatings industry), which was a similar process to the hard chroming process.
- Rust Bluing-similar to oxides, but even more difficult to produce and while it is pretty, it’s tough to achieve consistency and even less durable than other options
- Paint- weak and flaky. No really.
- Proprietary finishes like Robar NP3 which is very hush-hush and expensive, not to mention that it takes months to get it back from factory.
- Anodizing, which only works on titanium and aluminum and non-carbon based alloys (typically) and was hard to recreate in a small shop or home/garage.
- Polyester and electrostatic coatings (powder coating, etc.) which were tough, good looking and easy enough to do, but couldn’t create high tolerance coatings.
- Parkerizing which has a great reputation for weatherproofing, durability and colorization, but did not have the best reputation for consistency in finish. It is particularly less difficult to apply than bluing or other hot baths.
- Electroplating-which looks great, but isn’t very durable, not very consistent, and requires substantial experience to achieve great results.
- Other gun coatings, surface treatments and chemically driven finishes like Case-hardening (cyanide is required to do the easiest version of case-hardening).
All of these are tough to do (with the exception of a couple) and all of them only addressed a small amount of the desired characteristics for a gun finish.
Cerakote claims to be able to add strength, toughness, beauty and ease of use to the mix. But it also makes the gunsmithing profession, a little bit more approachable by the average do-it-yourself type.
Here are some of the claims made by Cerakote:
(ASTM D2794) Cerakote has the highest (reasonably measurable) drop test result. The toughness implied by the drop test defers to the lamination and deformation resistance of a coating. Cerakote gun coatings achieve the 160 inch-lb maximum meeting or exceeding all other competing products.
(ASTM B117) Cerakote shines in the corrosion resistance testing. It exceeds all relative competitors in gun coatings and gun finishes in the salt spray testing which determines how easily a piece of material is oxidized by “normal” and slightly elevated environmental exposure.
(ASTM D3363) Cerakote as a gun coating, redefines hardness as a usable gun finish. This test determines a material coating’s ability to avoid penetration and scratches. Cerakote blows away all other dedicated “coatings”.
(ASTM D4060) Cerakote has abrasion resistance far superior to ANY other standard gun coatings or gun finishes. The friction testing helps to determine the wear capabilities of the product, and in these tests, Cerakote as a gun coating excels.
Eight other claims (backed by testing and data) are made by Cerakote to explain their case to the consumer as the de facto standard for gun coatings. They include key factors like flexibility, adhesion strength and chemical resistance.
Is Cerakote a gun coating I CAN ACTUALLY do all by myself?
Sure. But it isn’t a slam dunk. Some of the preparatory equipment can be costly, but with the right favors called in, or the right sale at harbor freight, you can redesign the contents of your gun safe relatively easily.
You need to understand the process isn’t particularly difficult, but compared to washing your car, it could be considered tedious.
This text isn’t specifically built to discuss the application process (we will show some projects later to explain the application and specifics), so we won’t get too far into the process, except to say that if you have ever sand blasted or ultrasonically cleaned something, you could probably do the job, if you had the tools and a weekend day to try it out. After the first time doing it, the process gets infinitely easier to perform.
The process is broken down to prevent mistakes, and the application instructions and foolproof; written for normal people to achieve great results. If you follow the instructions and practice the first time on a few magazines or tools before you work on your $1300 gun, Cerakote is ridiculously easy to handle. As far as gun coatings go, if you have access to the prep materials and the tools needed, you virtually cannot screw it up. Is it the easiest thing you’ll ever do? No, but you will have a sense of accomplishment more than you will have a regret that you performed the work yourself.
The good news though? You don’t have to necessarily do all the work yourself to feel like you are getting a good deal. Many of the outfits doing “Cerakoting” are inexpensive providers of the process, and often, small firearms can be refinished for under $150. That’s less than you would pay for just about ANY other surface treatment. Most outfits can do it for under $75 for simple or generic jobs. Cerakote is a good value for the money.
If you are in California, you might even contact me to get some Cerakote gun coatings done, as I happen to be a Cerakote proficient gunsmith.
Is Cerakote the King of gun coatings now?
Cerakote is a good option, but it isn’t the only option. I personally like it, but don’t worry, I’m not a one trick pony: I’ll be putting out a whole series of “Gun Coatings” articles to help you understand all of these options. Projects are upcoming too, which provide a first-hand look at the process.