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Old July 21, 2008, 08:00 PM   #1
fnewguy
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Colt's Electroless Nickel

How does Colt's Electroless Nickel compare to stainless steel guns?

For instance a Colt Detective Special in electroless nickel. Does the electroless nickel just look stainless steel, or does it hold up as well too?
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Old July 21, 2008, 08:19 PM   #2
dipper
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Electroless Nickel is the best finish you can put on a firearm as far as rust/corrosion resistance is concerned.
It is just as good as stainless steel and has a few advantages over a stainless firearm in certain applications.
If you are after the ultimate in protection, electroless nickel is the way to go when choosing a coating for a firearm.

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Old July 21, 2008, 08:26 PM   #3
Bill DeShivs
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As someone who plates electroless nickel, I can tell you this-
As long as the finish is not compromised it is highly rust resistant, but it will wear eventually. EN is a thin coating, whereas stainless is not.
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Old July 21, 2008, 08:47 PM   #4
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I agree with the above statements as far as rust prevention. The only thing I don't like about it is that if and when it wears, or if you happen to scratch it, it is very visible and difficult to repair. You cannot say polish a scratch out easily as you can with stainless.
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Old July 21, 2008, 10:15 PM   #5
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Colt's Electroless nickel was also later known as "Coltguard".

It looks really nice when new, but doesn't seem to wear very well.
You see a lot of older EN guns that just look ratty, with dark stain-like areas, scratches, and areas where it's worn through.
EN does have the typical nickels "yellowish" tint to the plating.

Stainless steel is better because it actually has no finish as such. It's solid steel all the way through.
When it gets scratched or marred, it can be re-surfaced with a Scotchbrite pad.

If you're wanting a wear resistant Detective Special, buy a blued model and have it hard chrome plated.
Hard chrome is MUCH better then EN.
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Old July 21, 2008, 10:26 PM   #6
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Why is hard chrome MUCH better than Electroless Nickel in a firearms application??

What are the specific benefits over EN?


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Old July 21, 2008, 10:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Electroless Nickel is the best finish you can put on a firearm as far as rust/corrosion resistance is concerned.
First I've heard of that. The various industrial hard chrome finishes yield a much higher surface hardness and thus are more resistant to scratches and wear. Salt spray tests result about the same but only when new. Nickel can still tarnish and peel.

Hard chrome is a tougher finish but for the most part, I think nickel looks better. It has a warmer, bronze hue to it. Hard chrome is a colder, whiter finish, maybe with a slight blue tint.
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Old July 21, 2008, 10:46 PM   #8
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Craig,
if you want a harder surface finish, most people nitride coat the electroless nickel.

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Old July 21, 2008, 11:14 PM   #9
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Chrome is a much harder metal than nickle. Just stating the facts.

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Old July 21, 2008, 11:27 PM   #10
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Layton,
Is that the only consideration in a coating for a firearm??
Is that the most important aspect of a coating??
Does harder equal better in a firearms application?
What are other important considerations ---like, the rest of the facts?

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Old July 21, 2008, 11:54 PM   #11
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I could ask you the same thing about nickel? Besides being shiny or matte, what's so great about it?
Every nickel gun I've seen quickly develops hairline scratches from handling, cleaning and wiping. It is more susceptible to damage from cleaning solvents. Nickel is a fairly soft metal and is not very durable.
Hard chrome offers a more durable finish and is just a rust resistant.
That's why some gunmakers would chrome line their barrels.
Personally, I don't care for either. I much prefer stainless for guns I actually use and blue for is hard to beat for looks.
But if you prefer nickel.... that's why they offered it.

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Old July 22, 2008, 12:33 AM   #12
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The US Navy would argue with your statement that hard chrome is just as rust resistant as electroless nickel---I have handled a few firearms that were on Navy ships for many years and they looked very good---the Navy has used electroless nickel for firearms many times.

If you want a harder finish, you can nitride coat EN.

The area in which EN really shines though is a very protective coating that can be applied to close fitting parts---such as a precision rifle.
EN has a lubricity to it, and will hold up and work fine in closer tolerance applications.
I know some parts of AKs for example are chrome plated, but you can hardly call an AK a precision rifle--they are known for their loose fits.
Some rifle manufactures have used conventional steel ( non stainless) for just this reason---closer fits--then they EN the firearm for the protection.
You can use electroless nickel just about anywhere on a firearm, not so with hard chrome and I have seen a couple of revolvers that were hard chromed and USED not just kept in a safe and wiped down every so often---They fairly quickly started to look like the bumper on an old chevy.
I guess both coatings have their place, but for my money, if protection is my main concern, I'll go with the EN.
So, I guess I'm saying if you want the best finish, use EN and have it nitride coated.

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Old July 22, 2008, 07:18 AM   #13
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I ain't finished

I have stainless steel guns (and others).
I have one hardchromed gun.
I have one gun finished with NP3.

I think, of MY guns (which get used and cared for -ha!- in ways that horrify most folks), that the best finish is NP3.

However, my mind remains open......(and I'm currently testing one 1911 frame treated with electroless nickel impregnated with boron carbide).
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Old July 22, 2008, 09:14 AM   #14
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Quote:
The US Navy would argue with your statement that hard chrome is just as rust resistant as electroless nickel---I have handled a few firearms that were on Navy ships for many years and they looked very good---the Navy has used electroless nickel for firearms many times.

If you want a harder finish, you can nitride coat EN.

The area in which EN really shines though is a very protective coating that can be applied to close fitting parts---such as a precision rifle.
EN has a lubricity to it, and will hold up and work fine in closer tolerance applications.
I know some parts of AKs for example are chrome plated, but you can hardly call an AK a precision rifle--they are known for their loose fits.
Some rifle manufactures have used conventional steel ( non stainless) for just this reason---closer fits--then they EN the firearm for the protection.
You can use electroless nickel just about anywhere on a firearm, not so with hard chrome and I have seen a couple of revolvers that were hard chromed and USED not just kept in a safe and wiped down every so often---They fairly quickly started to look like the bumper on an old chevy.
I guess both coatings have their place, but for my money, if protection is my main concern, I'll go with the EN.
So, I guess I'm saying if you want the best finish, use EN and have it nitride coated.
It sounds like you may have some misconceptions about industrial hard chrome and/or have it confused with the decorative chrome plating used in the automotive industry. If it looks like the bumper on an old Chevy, it ain't hard chrome. Hard chrome is thinner and harder than nickel, 20pts higher on the Rockwell scale, which makes it superior for internal and close fitted parts. If applied correctly it does not chip or peel and is superior to nickel in every way. Except looks.

Every single steel part of this sixgun is finished in hard chrome, including lockwork and all screws, except the rear sight:


Traditional chrome plating:
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Old July 22, 2008, 09:29 AM   #15
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Chrome for wear

I have two electroless nickel guns and two hard chrome guns. I would agree with those who say the hard chrome is probably superior to the nickel in hardness and scratch resistance, but may not be quite as attractive. I think that hard chrome makes sense if you are refinishing a gun that will be used a lot in a tough environment. The electroless nickel is better for pure appearance in a gun that is mainly a safe queen.

Here is my Colt Gold Cup series 70 in Colt factory electroless nickel. This gun is unfired and close to 30 years old, but the finish is unmarked and has a golden tint to the nickel.



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Old July 22, 2008, 09:41 AM   #16
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similar gun in hard chrome... with scratches ( I got it that way )

sorry about the pic quality...

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Old July 22, 2008, 12:39 PM   #17
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"It sounds like you may have some misconceptions about industrial hard chrome and/or have it confused with the decorative chrome plating used in the automotive industry. If it looks like the bumper on an old Chevy, it ain't hard chrome. Hard chrome is thinner and harder than nickel, 20pts higher on the Rockwell scale, which makes it superior for internal and close fitted parts. If applied correctly it does not chip or peel and is superior to nickel in every way. Except looks."

Sorry Graig, I can't agree with ya.
Hard chrome DOES NOT plate evenly, it builds in corners etc., it is not better than EN for close fitting parts and is not recommended for use on close fitting parts.
I'll give you that its harder---thats the only thing it is over EN.
Nitride EN if you want harder.
Hard Chrome is fine for your average revolver frame I guess.
The guys at Robar and others would also argue with you about the benefits of hard chrome--on something like a semi-auto handgun or precision rifle.
I just recently had that discussion with a few coatings companies and went with EN on a couple of firearms and NP3 on a couple others---after speaking with the pros.


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Old July 22, 2008, 01:05 PM   #18
Bill DeShivs
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That's interesting. I plate EN for profit, and if I wanted the best protection for my guns I would send them out for hard chrome.
IHC is difficult to plate properly. Anyone can do EN.
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Old July 22, 2008, 01:23 PM   #19
dipper
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You plate firearms or knives Bill?
Two different things and applications.
Yes, anybody that wants to spend a few bucks can buy the equipment to apply EN---Brownells is one supplier.
So, whats that mean that anyone can EN--does that take away from the desirable properties of EN?
Hard Chrome is harder to apply properly--like I said, it is not an even coating and it builds in places you may not want it to.
If the question is which is better for a non-mating surface--like a knife--whats the difference--if you want a hard coating on the surface of something, go with hard chrome if you like it.
Oh, by the way, one of the best engravers in the world uses EN all the time for his work.

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Old July 22, 2008, 02:47 PM   #20
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I've got two EN Colt handguns, both bought new. A Python bought in 1981 and a Combat Commander bought in 1983. I'm not hard on my guns but I do use them. Both look like new today. I've got some stainless S&W that have rusted under the grips after a few days of summer carry. Rust has never been a problem with the EN finish.
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Old July 22, 2008, 06:58 PM   #21
Bill DeShivs
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I plate both firearms and knives.
EN is an easy finish to do. IHC takes an expert plater.
EN has many desireable properties. Hard chrome simply holds up better.
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Old July 22, 2008, 08:43 PM   #22
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dipper

I've got to say that of all the finishes I've had on guns over the years, hard chrome plating is the best. This Beretta Model 70S was plated nearly 30 years ago, and still looks as great as the day I got it back from the plater. It has seen countless rounds through it and many trips in and out of a holster. Not a single mark, scratch, any other indicator of wear. I have never detected any build up on any of the guns I've had hard chrome plated, nor have I had any problems with uneven plating on any of the internal parts as well. I would choose it any day over electroless nickel.
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Old July 22, 2008, 08:58 PM   #23
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I will go with the facts that hard chrome is...well why it's called hard

Keeping this HC...........NP3 has a Rockwell hardness in the area of RC48-51.
Hard Chrome is in the area of RC65.



This one now on GB...for sale
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Old July 23, 2008, 07:50 AM   #24
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I believe! vs ignoring reason

I believe NP3 is hard enough.

And it doesn't rust as easily as hardchrome.......

I mean, even the base metal before any finishing is hard enough, right?

I am not arguing; I am asking.
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Old July 23, 2008, 08:46 AM   #25
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Quote:
I mean, even the base metal before any finishing is hard enough, right?
Depends on what it is. If the part has been case hardened, it's plenty hard but few parts are anymore and fewer still have case hardened frames and various small parts. A harder surface promotes lubricity and wear resistance. Hard chrome is especially useful to prevent galling of stainless steel parts. That's why nickel plated guns scratch so easily but hard chrome plated guns are extremely resistant to scratching. My above-pictured custom Ruger has seen a lot of holster use over the last 8yrs and shows almost no wear. Just a tad bit shiny in a couple high spots.

I think "doesn't rust as easily as chrome" is a very misleading statement. Considering that hard chrome lasts 400hrs in the salt spray test. It's FAR more corrosion resistant than bare stainless.
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