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Old April 4, 2021, 12:40 AM   #1
ghlaq33
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Trying to decide between 5 protective surface gun finishes - your thoughts?

I'm looking to add a surface finish to at least one of my guns to strengthen the gun's durability. I know this question has been asked to death, but I've done as much research as I can understand, and I'm still a bit confused and lack perspective and so wanted to ask here. I know the answer also depends on what I'm looking for, and the broad "the best finish" (or the most durability + the most corrosion resistant) is probably not going to cut it - so maybe the best balance of the two? I'm in a relatively humid climate, but not too salty.

The five services I've narrowed down to are below. This is a question about the type of protection, but by extension implicates the company that offers that service:
  1. NP3+: Electroless nickel plating with Teflon. I see that Wright Armory does this now after Robar's closure, and they seem to have a good reputation. I'm familiar with NP3 Plus' reputation.
  2. Ionbond: Diamond Like Carbon Black finish (http://www.jabuie.com/ionbond.html). I've read that this is very hard - harder and more scratch resistant than NP3 Plus, but not as corrosive resistant.
  3. ARMORLUBE: "ArmorLube is applied using a plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition process (PECVD surface treatment)." Also offered by Wright Armory (https://www.armorlubecoating.com/)
  4. Armoloy: Two options, "Thin Dense Chromium" and "BiProtec." BiProtec is described as using "a two-step process that combines electroless nickel with an overlay of Armoloy TDC® or XADC®. Excellent for highly corrosive applications, this dual coating involves an initial layer of electroless nickel at a thickness of .0002/.003″ followed by a .0001/.0005″ deposit of thin dense chrome." Is this better than all the above options since it combines them? (https://armoloy-il.com/biprotec/). I've seen some description of TDC as "an EXCELLENT durable finish." (https://thefiringline.com/forums/arc...hp?t-7574.html)
  5. MAHOVSKY'S METALIFE: Hard chrome plating or electroless nickel plating - doesn't seem much different from the other options listed above, just a different service. (http://www.mahovskysmetalife.com).

I'm going to start with a rifle, and if it turns out nicely, maybe another gun or two.

I'd greatly value any input on these different options, which you'd recommend, and why.

Thanks very much, I really appreciate it!
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Old April 4, 2021, 04:42 AM   #2
hemiram
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I've only seen two of the above finishes, NP3 anf Metalife electroless nickel. The NP3 was a very early gun done with it, a Beretta 84, and it still looks new decades and thousands of rounds later. The Metalife gun is an S&W 19 and it looks great too. I would have no real preference, they look similar, and while the NP3 gun might be slicker and runs fine without oil, I don't see a huge difference once a little Breakfree is applied.

I don't think you would be making a mistake with any of your 5, according to what I've read.
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Old April 4, 2021, 07:34 AM   #3
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So, you've worn out a lot of guns, for lack of a premium surface finish?

Me, I'd just buy more ammo to see if I could wear one out.

Good luck
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Old April 4, 2021, 07:41 AM   #4
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Ok, I've got to ask...what guns are you considering having coated with one of these services?
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Old April 4, 2021, 08:27 AM   #5
RickB
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I take care of all my guns as if they were blued, even if they're stainless, or have a more durable coating, so I can't attest to the ultimate superiority of any particular process.

I have a gun finished in Armoloy, and one in Boron Carbide, the latter a black, PVD industrial coating that failed as "the next big thing" in gun coatings, but which spawned Ionbond.
Both guns are now about twenty years old, have tens of thousands of rounds through them, and they still look great.
Both guns look almost new on the exterior, but inside the magwells, where stainless mags have been slammed into them repeatedly, the finish is heavily worn.

Rust resistance was Boron Carbide's bugaboo, and Ionbond was developed to improve on that. I have a few Ionbonded small parts on blued guns, and they show zero wear.

What I like about both finishes, is that they can be applied over metal prepped in whatever level of surface finish you prefer, heavy matte to mirror polish, while a lot of modern wonder finished must have a "dull" surface finish on the underlying metal.

I'd choose Ionbond over Armoly because I much prefer dark finishes to bright "silver" ones.
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Old April 4, 2021, 08:43 AM   #6
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NP3+ is great for moving parts like BCG’s and slides. I wouldn’t do an entire pistol in it, but the parts I mentioned, sure. Just be mindful of the cleaners and solvents.
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Old April 4, 2021, 09:28 AM   #7
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Anything but Pepto Bismol pink Cerakote can work depending on the particular long gun or handgun that you are talking about.
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Old April 4, 2021, 10:14 AM   #8
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Trying to decide between 5 protective surface gun finishes - your thoughts?

I did the slide, barrel, and internal parts of a HK P2000 in NP3+ back when Robar was still in business. It came out very nice. Were I to do it again I wouldn’t do the slide in NP3+ because it’s a bit slick.


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Old April 4, 2021, 12:48 PM   #9
ghlaq33
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Guys, thanks a ton for these responses!

I've read that Ionbond is very good, and I know NP3+ has a good reputation also. I see either of those as viable - and whether I want the gun shiny silver color or not.

I'm very curious about ArmorLube - what that is. More so, I'm interested in BiProtec - theoretically, that seems like it'd be the best option since it combines electroless nickel with chrome. However, that could be one of those situations where you don't have full coating thickness of each, so the combined benefit is less than 100% vs. if you had only one in its entirety. But if no one has tried or heard of it being used, I'm not sure I want to take that risk.

Regarding gun type, I was hesitant to include that since I didn't want to embarrass myself - but I'm thinking my SLR-95. My thought process was that the gun is very durable, so let me go all the way and max that out. Plus, just something I've been thinking about doing for like 10 years, so that's as far away from impulse decision as you can be....it won't break the bank, so why not.
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Old April 4, 2021, 02:03 PM   #10
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Since finishes can be applied to any firearm, not just to semi-automatic handguns, we've moved this thread to The Smithy.
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Old April 4, 2021, 03:27 PM   #11
dakota.potts
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I am partial to nitride and PVD finishes. They provide case hardening, wear resistance and lubricity and make it harder for carbon to build up. From the list I would probably personally choose the IonBond. ArmorLube sounds worth investigating to me but it's the first I'm hearing of it
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Old April 6, 2021, 12:38 PM   #12
T. O'Heir
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Nickel plating is a 19th Century solution for rust prevention. Tends to come off eventually. And rifles look silly with nickel plating.
Had my .243 Lubrited(black phosphating. Same idea as Parkerizing and the same thing used on Our FAL.) years and years ago. Hasn't changed in over 40 years.
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Old April 6, 2021, 03:41 PM   #13
Jim Watson
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I don't think he mentioned straight nickel plating, just a couple of places who apply a nickel strike first. A common method of getting chromium on aluminum, too.

Lots of stainless rifles, do they look silly?
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Old April 6, 2021, 06:51 PM   #14
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Hard Chrome is still the most used heavy duty gun finish, but there are the newer Ion and Nitride finishes that are ultra hard, but may not offer the corrosion resistance of other finishes.

It comes down to hard finish/rust resistance and hard chrome is still up there with the best.
Hard chrome can be applied in final finishes from the original satin Pearl-Gray, to a brushed stainless look, to a full mirror polish.
The preparation of the steel before plating determines the look, and the finish can't be changed by polishing after plating so you choose the final look first.

If I was going for most plated finishes I'd go with Cogan.
He's probably the best in the world.

http://www.apwcogan.com/

A number of hard chrome services have various brand names for it, but it's all hard chrome.
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Old April 7, 2021, 04:18 PM   #15
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Since you've listed the "who's who" of elite metal finishes, what exactly are you trying to accomplish?

Abrasion resistance? Firearms shoot thousands of rounds with little appreciable wear to the exterior of the firearm. Most of the wear on the exterior is due to abrasion or rough handling.

Corrosion resistance? Unless you are in a hostile environment (concentrated salt spray, high sulphur vapors, presence of vapors of nitric or sulfuric acid, high dust/abrasive particles, etc) you are going to gain very little over a GunKote or Cerakote finish as long as you perform regular maintenance. That said, I send a few concealed carry sidearms off every year for hard chrome to protect from sweat and condensation rusting.

Wear resistance? Melonite/nitriding is common enough and the price has come down from a high several years ago, but even Melonited and hard chromed guns show wear so I have to assume the other finishes are not immune to it.

If you're looking for bragging rights, well then any one of those finishes will get you there, especially if you memorize "plasma enhanced vapor deposition" and use it to describe it to your buddies.
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Old April 9, 2021, 03:55 PM   #16
rmantoo
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I've had 5 complete guns, and a BUNCH of parts done in NP3+ and i'm 100% sold on it... OH, and several reloading press parts (dillon 1050 shellplates, primer shuttles, etc).

I cannot say enough good things about NP3+. On a semi auto pistol, if the frame and side are both NP3+ you really don't have to worry about lubing them, ever.... assuming you had the forethought to have huge scallops or something cut in the slide and you can still rack it after having it coated

I have an HK squeeze cocker that Bruce Grey worked on, and all of the parts in the fire control group are NP3+ treated, and it took an amazing trigger to unbelievable.

NP3+ is my first choice, every time, for firearm finish where a light color is ok.

Last edited by rmantoo; April 9, 2021 at 04:15 PM.
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Old April 10, 2021, 02:34 PM   #17
Shane Tuttle
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I'm sold on the NP3. Had my CZ82 done with it. It's one of my carry guns. I've noticed it's been easier to clean. As far as corrosion resistance: I know you stated you're not in a salty environment. But humidity alone is bad enough. I haven't seen any corrosion. However, to disclose, all of my firearms have Eezox applied to them. IMHO, that's the main reason why I don't see any as compared to whatever coating I have on them.
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Old April 14, 2021, 04:38 PM   #18
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I have a Blackhawk and had it coated (Cerakote) by a pro every one said he was the best . The Ruger came out nice that is until i started using it . the coating was black and after a month it faded badly and the metal was showing .

I took it to a second gunsmith and he coated it again it has been three years and it still looks as new . It is all about prep i shoot this Ruger alot every week and the Cerakote looks like it was just done very nice .
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Old April 14, 2021, 08:07 PM   #19
Bill DeShivs
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For what it's worth NP3 is simply electroless nickel with Teflon suspended in the plating solution =so that some of it is deposited by the plating. Other than that, it's just nickel plating.

Cerakote and other paint finishes are not in the same class as plated and vapor deposited finishes, and the paints cost just about the same as the other finishes.
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Old April 15, 2021, 10:15 AM   #20
Jim Watson
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Yup, Teflon. A post on another thread on the subject reported all-over NP3 making a pistol slippery to handle. A rifle would be less subject to that.
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