Gun Finishing . . . Then and Now

Seventy-five years ago the only
type of gun refinishing we had was bluing and nickel plating.  But a lot
has changed since then.  Gun bluing is not what most shooters think it
is.  Bluing is not a coating or even plating, bluing is a controlled rust
process.  Yep, that is right, a controlled rust metal finish
process!  In my opinion, nothing looks better than a bright blue finish
job, but how can rust be so darn pretty.  Bluing is all about the prep
work.  The cleaner and shinier you make the metal before it is goes into
the hot tank to start the rust, the better the finished product will
look.  It takes many hours of polishing on the barrel and receiver to get
a good quality blue job.  About the time of World War I, the military
needed a finish that was fast to put on and corrosion resistant to the
elements.  This is when phosphate was invented and used as a metal finish
– better known as Parkerizing!  Parkerizing is a heated chemical reaction
between the metal and the chemical bath in the tank.  The chemical will
leave small deposits on the metal, which will protect it from the
elements.  Most Parkerizing is either Zinc (old school) or magnesium
phosphate.  The old gray color found on early WWI or WWII guns is Zinc
Phosphate.  Magnesium is a more modern chemical which protects better and
gives a better looking black color found on newer guns like AR15’s or
M1A’s.  Parkerizing has been in use for a long time.  It works well
at stopping rust on your guns and it looks OK.  Parkerizing is easy to
install and takes little prep work to get a good finish on the metal.  But
there is a much better and more versatile looking finish on the market for
shooters to try today.
Teflon and Ceramic coatings are
two of the most interesting metal finishes on the market today.  About 25
years ago, I saw Teflon being used on oil field pipe to keep it from rusting
and galling.  Within a year I was applying Teflon on guns.  Teflon is
high-grade paint with PTFE (polyterafluoroethylene) added and in some cases
Moly is also added.  PTFE is one of the slickest and most corrosion
resistant chemicals known to man.  If PTFE will hold up to the high
pressure and salt water of offshore drilling, then it will hold up to
nearly all types of abuse that shooters can do to a firearm.  Teflon is a
spray on, baked on finish.  The gun will need to have all the old finish
removed, which is done by sandblasting or polishing.  Then the metal is
cleaned, heated and sprayed with the Teflon in the color you desire.  The
final step in coating guns with Teflon is the baking process.  All metal
parts need to be baked at approximately 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. 
This baking process will bond the suspended PTFE and moly to the metal. The
baking process makes the paint dry and become slick.  One of the great
things about a Teflon coating is that it is high-grade paint and you can pick
most any color you want.  The only thing that could keep a customer from
having a yellow slide with a pink frame and orange parts on his favorite .45
would be the cost.  Teflon is not cheap; a gallon of Teflon in black will
cost about $450.  It also takes someone who knows a lot about spraying
metal coatings to be able to do a quality job.  Last, you need a good
vented oven to cure the product in; without the curing, the paint never
dries.  Most gunsmiths who do this type of finishing will have 3 to 5
different colors to choose from.  My company keeps about 10 different
colors in Teflon, and for the discriminating customer who has to have the
orange and black .45, we will custom order colors for them.  Another good
thing about Teflon that it is so slick, parts will not gall.  You can’t
make it rust or corrode either!  But Teflon will scratch or can be blown
off parts like the rifle muzzle or a revolver cylinder.  With a little
care most shooters never have a problem with Teflon coatings. The usual cost of
having a gun Teflon coated will run from two hundred dollars up to four hundred
For the shooter or hunter who
likes to drag his gun on the ground and over rocks there is Cera-Coat or better
known as ceramic coating.  Cera-Coat is another super paint, which has
Moly PTFE and ceramic particles embedded in the paint.  Ceramic coatings
are applied to guns similar to Teflon but require a much longer heating and
curing time.  Once ceramic coating is applied to a gun, it is almost
impossible to scratch the surface.  For a Police Officer who has his
handgun in a holster for 20 hours a day, ceramic coating is for you.  If
you are real hard on you firearms or use them in a professional way, you should
take a look at having them ceramic coated.  Cera-Coat comes in several
colors, but the product price is very expensive.   Cera-Coat like
Teflon is slick, corrosion resistant and tough as nails.  To have a gun
ceramic coated will cost from $250 to over $500 depending on the type of
firearm and how fancy you want the print job to be.
In the future you may see
finishes using Silver Phosphate or even Titanium Nitrate, it would be cool to
have a golden gun.  For now, with all the new finishes on the market, you
have to decide whether to have your gun blued in the traditional way or to have
one of the new paint type coatings applied to the gun.  Then of course,
you have to decide do I paint my gun pink or not?