Sig Sauer with a custom Cerakote finish

The Ultimate Guide to Cerakote: Customizing Your Firearm with Durable Finishes

When you want to protect your custom firearm, adding a Cerakote finish is a great way to keep it safer from wear and tear while also giving it a finish that makes it uniquely your own. Firearm coating has been important as long as guns have been around. Guns represent a significant investment in money, time, and resources, making their protection vital. When it comes to modern firearms, the most popular choice is increasingly a Cerakote finish.

A Brief History of Gun Finishes

French steel firearm

The makers of early guns knew what effects the elements could have on the metals of the time. Bronze didn’t rust, but it also wasn’t as strong as steel. Steel, on the other hand, was highly reactive to not only water but the caustic effects of black powder.  To try to stave off pitting and rusting, liberal amounts of grease and oil were used to protect early firearms. With the advent of new materials and processes, like stainless steel and bluing, the metal in weapons proved more resilient but still required a protective oil coat to fend off water damage, and fine particulate, like sand, was still a threat to their service life. More modern finishes, like powder and nitride coating, have solved parts of this equation, but due to thickness, appearance, or other vulnerabilities they present, the “oil coat and hope” maintenance approach remains common.

What A Cerakote Finish Is

Cerakote finishes are a brand name for a thin-film product put out by Cerakote, a division of NIC industries. The finish is made up of a proprietary epoxy and ceramic composite that can be painted on a wide variety of materials once they’ve been properly prepared, including the metal and polymer pieces of your firearm. The resulting film is just 1/1000” thick, making it half the thickness of thin powder coating applications and well within operational tolerances for gun parts that rely on a tight fit to control massive amounts of pressure when a round is fired. Once dried, this firearm coating is almost non-reactive, waterproof, and tough as nails when it comes to resisting damage from the environment, holster wear, or rough handling. Here it is taking a shotgun slug without cracking the finish on a metal plate. It’s easy to see why the firearms community loves it.

The Cerakote Process

Person in full protective gear carrying a container with a poison sticker

Applying Cerakote is relatively straightforward, but it’s best left to the professionals. While none of these steps require tools you can’t buy as a layman, there’s no cutting corners, and the finish materials themselves are hazardous, requiring full PPE. We’ve all had a friend that’s painted their own car with hilarious results. DIY Cerakotes are similar, but the owner is holding a gun with a controlled explosion in their hand while they’re trusting that they completed the process correctly. If they’re wrong, they’re lucky if they just have an ugly gun and manage to avoid gun damage or personal injury.

Fully Disassemble The Weapon

Field stripping isn’t enough. The weapon needs to be fully disassembled to ensure that a good coating is achieved and that no screws, pins, springs, or other internal parts are affected by the coating process. Most shops that do custom Cerakote finishes employ an experienced professional gunsmith to ensure the weapon is disassembled and reassembled properly. The gun will also be thoroughly cleaned to remove not just residue buildup but grease and oil as well. You need to be down to the bare metal before the next step in the process. 

Sandblast the Components Being Treated

The idea of sandblasting your weapon may make your heart drop down to your stomach, but it’s necessary to form a firm bond between the firearm finish and the weapon itself. A Cerakote finish will stick to almost anything, including metal, polymer, wood, and bone if it’s properly prepared.

Metal components will be blasted at high pressure to a uniform sheen using 100-grit aluminum oxide or garnet sand, while softer materials will get a lower-pressure treatment to reach a matte finish. This won’t cause deep scoring in your weapon when handled by a trained coating technician, instead creating microabrasions for the Cerakote composite to hold onto.

Painting the Gun

Cerakote finishes are applied similarly to other paints, most often using a sprayer for larger areas and a stencil or brush for smaller detailed work, like logos and mottos. The liquid finish is toxic, so the person applying the coating will wear a rebreather, goggles, and other protective gear to make sure they’re being safe. This timeline can vary, with simple, single-color coating being relatively straightforward, while more detailed or complex firearm finishes will take longer. 

Oven Baking

While some Cerakote finishes can air dry, most firearm coatings will require heat from the oven baking process to fully cure and harden the finish. While the temperature ranges are well within those reached by the one in your kitchen, the presence of dangerous chemicals makes DIY curing a bad choice for your health and that of your loved ones. Your vent hood isn’t made for this job. After several hours in the oven, depending on the Cerakote composition used, your finish will be hard, tack free, and ready for action.

Reassemble the Weapon

Now, it’s time to put the gun back together. While a properly coated firearm should go back together with no issues, as the 1/1000” thickness of the film is well within most gunmakers’ tolerances, a professional gunsmith has the parts and tools on hand to make any needed adjustments to get you and your gun back on the range.

Show it Off

Are you a coordinated outfit type of gun owner or a top place in the safe sort? You’ve invested in one of the toughest custom firearm coatings on the market, and it’s time to use your weapon with its new Cerakote finish proudly.

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