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Old July 20, 2008, 08:08 PM   #1
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Handgun finishes-What's what?

O.k.,when I was growing up,you pretty much had two types of gun finishes.

1. Blued-the most common-varied from just o.k. to Derrn That's A Classic loking handgun!

2. Nickel-looked nice,real shiny but when it wore off,that was it you had to redo the entire gun.

Then along came

3.True Stainless Steel handguns and it changes everything.

But now I see guns with what looks like :

4. Painted on finish-really cheap looking that just keeps the gun from rusting until it's used alot.

5.High quality heat cured(I guess) polymer paint jobs on guns-that are rugged and look really great on the guns they are on.

6.The Wonder finish on Witness guns-which makes me Wonder what the heck it is.

7. and now there are what seems to be several types of aftermarket surface treatments that can be applied by gun reconditioners to maximize the outside life and function of a gun.

8. And lastly,just to throw a wrench into things- I am seeing guns with dark finishes on them marked stainless on the slides.

(edit-kudos to Saab1911 post #12 for mentioning this-)

(9.parkerized finishes-they have been around a very long time ,I would guess as long as nickel plated finishes or even older-and as per him-it is a very durable finish-sorry I missed that)

My questions are as follows:

A.Is this an oxide type finIsh to make the stainless look darker so the shooter is'nt so easily seen by a bad guy?

B.Do you have a favorite gun finish and:

C.Do you have any finishes that you simply will not buy a gun because they have them on them?

D. Do you know of any new gun finishes that are new and you're really happy that you chose them for your particular gun?

E.. What the heck is that Wonder Finish on the Witness guns?

Any info would be appreciated.

Last edited by B.N.Real; July 21, 2008 at 04:37 PM.
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Old July 20, 2008, 08:11 PM   #2
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Is this a poll or what??
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Old July 20, 2008, 08:25 PM   #3
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BN, 7/21/08

I can't answer all your questions but may have some input on several of them.

Favorite finish?- I live in the tropics so rust is a real issue. All of my blued guns have shown some surface rusting no matter how often I oil them. I finally resorted to having them hard-chromed at Techplate ( So far they have stopped rusting and look really good. Stainless is also a good option. There is a method to darken stainless but I am not sure how it is done.

EAA Witness Wonder finish- supposedly it is rust resistant and quite hard making machining difficult without carbide cutters. I had two, a compact and full size .45. Both started corroding- but a pitting-type corrosion as opposed to the surface rusting on the blued guns. I had both pistols hard-chromed which worked well until the frames and slides developed cracks at approximately a 3000 round count with each pistol. It's too bad- they were fun pistols to shoot.
Hope this helps some.

best wishes- oldandslow
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Old July 20, 2008, 08:43 PM   #4
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This is NOT a poll.

Answer any question you feel like answering.

I'm just after as much information as I can get from your collective experiences.

I am especially interested in the "sweat was destroying my firearms so I did this." type of responses.

Just like oldandslow posted.

(Thanks for that link,old and slow,I just found the firearms portion of that website and the current price listing for their ample services.

Looks like they know what they are doing.)

(Oldandslow also helped me make a decision about what PF-9 I would buy if I got one soon.

The hard chrome one.It's already got a $200 finish on the slide)
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Old July 20, 2008, 09:44 PM   #5
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Finishes.... hmmmm.... interesting

For me... no Chrome. I only want that on a motorcycle. And I don't like anything "shiny". Unless it's strictly for show. Of which I have none.

My favorite gun finish is Walter Birdsong's finish!!! See pics below of my latest. His is simply the best in my opinion. He has no web site and has never advertised and stays so busy it's usually 12 weeks turnaround. He is a defense contractor and finishes weapons for the best of the best. Do a google search and you can read about it in more detail. It is a beautiful finish and tough as hell. He does ALL the parts, all the internal springs, etc get coated. He offers Black-T, Green-T and now has Brown and Tan. BUT.... he really isn't doing much Tan because it is more of a pain in the arse than the others.

I've recently started doing DuraCoat in my small shop here. I ALWAYS tell them that if they want the best.... Walter. But if they want some color he doesn't do and/or don't want the wait time.... I am happy to oblige. They offer a vast variety of colors and even some camo stencils too. I've done 7 so far and am happy with the way the finish goes on. Am doing a Vietnam Tiger stripe Uzi now. You can read all about it on their web site.

Off topic: (but maybe it'll help someone)
Blued Finishes.... anything with light rust you can hit with oil and ultra fine steel wool. And now..... Duracoat has Clear Coat that you can coat over your blueing with to protect. ( Everyone else prolly knew, but I didn't )

If you'd like more pics, just PM me and I can shoot you some.


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Old July 20, 2008, 09:48 PM   #6
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(Oldandslow also helped me make a decision about what PF-9 I would buy if I got one soon.

The hard chrome one.It's already got a $200 finish on the slide)
Yup , a step and a dollar ahead... Ive got 2 blued pistols Im going to send out and have hard chromed... looking back I wish I would have went ahead and gotten stainless to begin with. Id be money ahead.

here is where Im sending mine too.....
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Old July 20, 2008, 10:05 PM   #7
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Nickel now isn't what nickel used to be several decades ago. The old stuff was primarily decorative, although it did offer some corrosion protection until it wore off. Nickel now is electroless nickel, a very hard, peel resistant coating that will offer very good wear resistance and excellent corrosion resistance. It's not as hard as chrome.

Wonder finish is supposed to be a process similar to tenifer/melonite/tufftride/carbonitriding.

Stainless won't wear off but it's not as wear or corrosion resistant as chrome, nickel or carbonitriding.

Darkened stainless is done for cosmetic purposes. Eliminate glare, make the gun less observable, etc.

The new nitride finishes (especially titanium nitride, are VERY hard, essentially corrosion proof and slick. I like the idea, but the appearance can be a bit distracting with some of the finishes.

The ceramic coatings are hard and corrosion proof but ceramics are abrasive.

I tend to like NP3 because it's very slick, hard, very corrosion resistant, adheres well and it can be applied directly to aluminum without the need for an intermediate coating/strike layer. It's very similar to electroless nickel but slicker. It's also a bit less likely to peel than some of the other platings. That's all based on what I've researched. I'm not implying that I have the resources to test various finishes for hardness/corrosion resistance/adhesion/etc.
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Old July 20, 2008, 11:25 PM   #8
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DuraCoat and Alumahyde (Brownells knock off) are two of the spray-ons that I have toyed with. They're OK, work great on steel and aluminum, but I haven't tryed on polymer or wood, even though they are supposed to work just as well. You can really get a good finish with them if you parkerize a part before you paint it.

I have a Witness P-Carry in .45 with a wonder finish top. It seems to be pretty resistant to corrosion, but it's kind of ugly up close. When mine arrived, I noticed a few small spots of discoloration in the finish, like there was some deposits on the slide before it was finished. Dosen't hurt anything, and you can't scrub it off, seems to be as good as anything else, but it won't make a good finish for showing off.

I am interested in the NP3 process. I've only heard good things about it, but no personal experience.
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Old July 21, 2008, 06:22 AM   #9
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'95? / '97?

I sent an EAA Witness to Mr. Cogan for some custom work and hardchrome finish.
But, hardchromed guns can rust.
Mine does, just a bit.
Superb wear characteristics.


Sent my Caspian 1911 to Robar for complete finishing with NP3.
Zero rust.
Superb wear characteristics.

In my current brain I believe I'd have my next finishing get done with electroless nickel; certainly hard enough to vigorously resist wear, and more rust-resistant than hardchrome.

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Old July 21, 2008, 06:25 AM   #10
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on small additional note

All but one of my stainless steel guns rust.
The one solitary exception is my NAA mini; it shows absolutely no rust, yet has been worn daily for over ten years.
"all my ammo is mostly retired factory ammo"
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Old July 21, 2008, 12:19 PM   #11
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I like finishes like the Glock Tenifer which actually hardens the material surface. Some of the newer bake on finishes seem good also. Chrome is too shiny for me and so are some of the stainless firearms. I basiclly like non-shiny surfaces on firearms.
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Old July 21, 2008, 02:33 PM   #12
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My favorite finish is one you have not mentioned, and that is parkerized finish.

Parkerizing is durable, no nonsense, and if you oil it (like you should) it's
attractive in a manly way.

I do like a deep glossy blue finish, but blue-ing is too fragile.


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Old July 21, 2008, 03:30 PM   #13
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I have Robar's Roguard finish on one of my stainless revolvers. It is a fabulous finish, second to none. Some may dislike the fact that it's technically a "paint job", but that fact doesn't bother me a bit. After over a year of continuous usage, the finish still looks like a million dollars (well, maybe a thousand ), with the only visible wear being on the forward face of the cylinder around the charge holes.

Only the revolver "externals" were treated with Roguard - that is to say, the frame, cylinder, barrel and crane. Since the polymer-based finishes add some thickness (not much, maybe a thousandth or two??? if I recall correctly), Robar does not apply this finish to any internal parts because of issues with the action parts fitting together and working properly, which was just as well for me, as the only reason I had the gun refinished in the first place was to alter the external color. Note that small external parts like the ejector rod and cylinder latch are not done, so the gun will have some stainless "accents" that may or may not be attractive depending on your taste.

And what a color it is - very dark indeed, almost a true black, rather than the very dark grays that are the results of some other surface finishes that involve chemically altering, rather than coating, the metal's surface. It does lack the luster of classic bluing, so I'm sure that many purists would find it rather too modern in appearance for their tastes.

Another note about Roguard bears mentioning: Robar makes Roguard available with both a "matte" and "satin" finish. I chose matte, as I really wanted a true matte finish that was not at all reflective. When the gun arrived, it turned out the "matte" option was really more of a satin, with a definite sheen to it, though not by any means was it so shiny that I was disappointed. Just be aware that the matte Roguard is not like the dead flat, unreflective finish that you'll see on guns like Sigs and Kahrs (and the older Glock slides).

I also had Robar blacken a stainless revolver of mine. By "blacken" I mean a surface treatment of chrome sulfide, which, rather than being a genuine black, turns the gun a very, very dark gray. Close enough. And, unlike the Roguard, this finish was dead flat. There is not a single speck of light reflected from the gun's surface. Also unlike the Roguard treatment, the blackening is done to almost all the parts in the gun, so there is none of the two-tone effect from having the small parts retain the bright stainless look. Everything is black. I haven't had the sideplate off, so I don't know if they did the internal parts such as the hammer and sear, but suspect they did. Since the blackening is chemically-based instead of being a coating, there is no dimensional change, at least none that would ever affect function.

Robar claims that not only does the treatment of a stainless gun with chrome sulfide not decrease the corrosion resistance of the stainless steel, it actually increases it. I don't know how this is, but I take their word for it.

They do bead blast the gun before blackening it (they offer only a matte finish when blackening stainless), and the resulting rougher surface finish compared to the original, standard S&W satin stainless would typically make the gun somewhat more susceptible to corrosion. But then again, there's the supposed corrosion resistance increase of the chrome sulfide itself. So maybe things balance out.

The Roguard job - revolver externals - set me back about $250.00. The blackening was only half that, at $117.00.
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Old July 21, 2008, 09:08 PM   #14
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PVD coatings are perhaps the best for wear. They are Titanium Aluminum Nitride and Tungsten Diamond Like Carbon. Sig uses the latter as do Kahr Arms, Remington and Magnum Research among others.

I abhor Roguard. I had on a Kimber and it flaked off - twice. The adherence is not good on that pistol and I'd never recommend it. My buddy had it on his Glock and it wore of in just one shooting session. Mine did the same just not as bad as his.
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Old July 22, 2008, 05:07 PM   #15
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WESHOOT2,you stated that your stainless guns rust.

How does that look when they rust?

Are you talking about a powder corrosion coming from the stainless finish or pitting on the finish or actual good old red rust on the sides of the firearm?

I though stainless steel was very rust resistant but sounds like it's not so tough,as to what you're having to deal with-with your stainless guns.
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Old July 22, 2008, 06:18 PM   #16
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I tried to get Glock to do a couple of my non Glock pistols in their ttenifer finish, but they wouldnt do it. Its a great finish, even if I dont like the guns it comes on.

Hard Chrome is second. I've put a lot of hard miles on a couple of blued guns that rusted and were then hard chromed and never regretted it. Its tough stuff, but as WES said, you still do get rust. Its not a pitting type rust yo get with stainless, but more of a surface powder type rust. The usual place for it is under and around the grips.

Stainless isnt as durable as many seem to think, although it does offer better protection than blue and park in constantly wet and caustic environments, like a sweat soaked holster. You still have to stay on top of it though.

A good blue isnt realy all that bad, if you stay on top of it, and it sure can be pretty on a well prepped gun, something you dont usually see these days.

Park is pretty good, and tends to lend itself well to utility type guns, but as was mentioned, you have to keep it well oiled. It is a fairly easy finish for a home tinkerer to apply and get good results.

As far as paints go, I've been painting guns since the 60's, and any cheap old paint will work well at protecting the finish underneath. I've used mostly Testors model paints for most of the paint jobs, but I've also used gun type paints like Aluma Hyde II, with very good results, but they are not easily removed like the model paints. I've totally stripped the paint off a number of guns and repainted them more than once. I've also stripped guns that were painted for over 15 years and got constant use in all types of weather, and thet didnt have a spec of rust on them when it was removed.
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Old July 22, 2008, 07:30 PM   #17
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You can obtain Melonite services here in the USA. Glock USA won't do it because they merely assemble the pistols in Smyrna.
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Old July 23, 2008, 07:12 AM   #18
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My rust looks red.
Sometimes it's just wee small dots, sometimes a hazing.

My stainless guns are Ruger revolvers and Springfield Armory 1911s.

I do not rigorously maintain my guns.
The shop (where my small safe lives) has higher-than-'normal' humidity purposely to alleviate ANY concerns with static charges igniting stored primers (WARNING: PRIMERS WILL EXPLODE).

My hardchromed gun has a wee bit of pit rust.
My NP3'd gun has no rust; zip zero nada none.

I consider all such 'changes' to be "character marks" LOL.
Every so often ("rarely") I clean the rust off, with solvents or stainless steel wool.
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Old July 23, 2008, 09:02 AM   #19
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character marks....I like it. Seeing a gun that doesn't look perfect makes me trust it a little more...makes me feel like its had its fair share of work.
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Old July 23, 2008, 09:06 AM   #20
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Tennifer/melonite is not a finish. It is a surface hardening process.
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Old July 23, 2008, 09:12 AM   #21
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Whatever it is, its the best I've come across so far for a gun thats likely to be subjected to hard use.
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