Let’s talk about Cerakote. Some of you may have heard of it, but most of you just learned a new word. Cerakote is a ceramic-based coating for metal that is sprayed on and baked dry. Think of it as something like paint or powder coating, but more durable than bluing or other firearm coatings like Parkerization. And the bonus: It comes in just about any color you can imagine.
Many firearm manufacturers have gone to Cerakote for their factory coating. In fact, if you’ve purchased a firearm in the past five years that is any color other than metal, black or deep factory blue, it’s probably Cerakote. Your Sig is flat dark earth? Cerakote. Your AR is olive drab green? Cerakote.
There was a time when hot bluing was the state-of-the art solution to prevent your gun from rusting. But it’s very hard to even find firearms that are hot blued anymore. Technology has advanced, and there are simply better coatings to protect against corrosion.
Hot bluing is nothing more than protecting a gun from corrosion with corrosion (albeit in a more controlled and stable form). Because of EPA regulations, hot bluing is a very expensive process, and not many companies do it anymore. To redo the hot bluing an older firearm will more than likely cost more than its value. If it’s something you plan on actually using, Cerakote it instead.
Cerakote is a great alternative because of its ease of use, level of protection and color selection. You can even create custom colors, because you can mix different colors like paint. So, if you want a custom pattern on your gun for hunting or a different color on the entire firearm for aesthetics, it’s easily done. The sky’s the limit — well, that and the talent and experience of the person applying it.
Now I know a lot of curmudgeons out there just said, “Guns are supposed to be black. Why on earth would I want to color my gun?” Well, Pops, times change. I just picked up a .357 revolver that I plan to use for hunting. It had a nice shiny hot-blue coating — but nice and shiny don’t work well for hunting. It’s now O.D. green and black. I can give you a dozen more reasons for changing the color of a firearm than you can give me for not changing it. Face it, this is an “OK Boomer” situation.
Custom color options bring more people into firearms, especially woman. To most women, guns are ugly. They don’t match with anything. And guns are marketed to men. If a Tiffany Blue Glock attracts your wife to shooting, then what’s wrong with it?
Cerakoting isn’t something that you can just jump into. The entire gun must be completely disassembled, and parts to be coated have to be completely clean and free of dirt, oil and grease. Then each part must be blasted with a specific media at a specific grit to prep the surface for coating.
Once the Cerakote is applied, it needs to baked at a certain temperature to cure the coating. If you’re doing multiple colors or complex color patterns, this may have to be done numerous times. At no place on the firearm should the Cerakote be more than one coating thick, and that coating is about 20 microns (0.001 inches).
If you’re spraying four colors on top of one another, the Cerakote will be too thick for the firearm to function properly. So, if you pick a four-color pattern, one color is sprayed on and baked set. Then vinyl is applied in the places you want that color to show, and the firearm is media blasted again leaving only what is protected by the vinyl. Then another color is sprayed and baked. Rinse and repeat. You basically have to work backward to move forward.
This is why I stay on the gunsmithing side. My mind can’t work that way. I’ll stick with the set process of tearing something apart and putting it back together and let the professionals do the coating.
And of course, prices vary according to number of colors and the difficulty of the pattern. To give you an idea, it runs about $300 to do an everyday semi-automatic pistol one color on the slide and receiver. Just want your slide coated? About $150. It’s not dirt cheap, but that’s reasonably inexpensive to give your firearm a custom look, protect it from the elements, or make it less obvious to the game you are hunting.
Capt. Cayle Wills is a USCCA-certified firearms instructor and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or Cayle@HigherPowerOutfitters.com.