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What Is the Best Aftermarket Gun Finish? A Guide to Some Colorful Options

scoapecoat

Looking to stand out on the range or to blend into the background while in the field?  It is hard to beat an aftermarket finish on your gun to get it done.

At no previous time have there been as many choices in colors, patterns and techniques to customize the look of your gun.  While modern firearms set a new standard for reliability and accuracy, some could argue that many of these same pistols lack a certain beauty that the finely blued revolvers of old had.  Consequently, many gun owners are seeking to personalize their guns for many reasons, be it operational necessity or purely vain pleasure.

Many aftermarket finishes can be applied to non-metal components of a firearm.  A polymer pistol, for example, can be finished in all one color, or in a camo pattern or other design.  This incredible degree of stylizing allows a gun owner to take an otherwise plain gun and turn it into a conversation starter.

A custom finish is not always purely a decorative function.  Many finishes offer corrosion resistance and a high degree of durability.  Applying a quality finish prevents sweat, water and other potentially damaging substances from damaging the metal of the gun.  For the beach cop or avid fisherman, one of these coatings could make all the difference in keeping a gun rust-free.

Cerakote

As the name suggests, Cerakote is a ceramic-based gun finish.  The ceramic base gives the gun a very hard and durable finish.  Manufactured by NIC Industries, Cerakote is offered in dozens of colors and can be applied to a range of materials including wood, metal and polymer.  Colors can be mixed and patterns applied to produce a wide range of results.  Intricate designs and camo patterns can be applied.

cerakote

Although an enthusiast can apply the Cerakote finish to his or her firearm, the process is more in-depth than other finishing processes.  Preparation of the gun requires sand blasting and baking of the parts, and after the coating is applied, additional baking is needed.  If you have experience and the tools needed for these techniques, the Cerakote process is straightforward.

Without the proper resources, a gun owner will be better served by contracting with an experienced finishing company.  Several companies specialize in the Cerakote process and have the experience and equipment to get the job done right.

ruined glock 19

Make sure you pick a reputable finisher. The above photos are from a second generation Glock 19 that was nearly ruined by a supposedly experienced finisher. It seems that the finishing process leaked into the firing pin channel keeping the pin extended (can anyone say slam fire?), coated the feed ramp and got into the barrel.

To top it all off, he installed the rear sight backwards. It was a disaster.

Note: A special thanks to Great Lakes Tactical in helping to get the gun right again.

DuraCoat

DuraCoat, from Lauer Custom Weaponry, is a two-part chemical coating that is applied like a spray paint to a firearm.  The permanent coating is available in a variety of colors, and it provides excellent corrosion and wear resistance to the weapon.  This finish is offered by many gunsmiths, but has also become popular with many shooters looking for a do-it-yourself option.

DuraCoat offers a wide range of color options.  The company has more than 100 standard colors, and dozens of specialized colors.  Colors can be mixed and applied with a range of templates to produce an infinite number of combinations to provide your gun with a finish unlike any other.

german flektarn

Lauer Weaponry offers DuraCoat products in pre-packaged kits for a variety camouflage patterns including military patterns used by the armed services around the world.  You can apply a Flecktarn pattern to your German-made SIG Sauer or a Spetsnaz print to your Russian AK-47.  Kits are also available for the hobbyist that include a spraying system.

DuraCoat is safe to use on the barrel of a gun, and is rated to withstand temperatures up to 600˚ F.  However, rapid fire can raise barrel temperature to more than 1,000˚ F.  DuraCoat makes a product called DuraHeat, which is rated to 1,800˚ F.

Water Transfer Finishes

For the application of camouflage patterns or other detailed designs, water transfer applications are hard to beat.  This method is also known as film transfer finishing or “dipping” as the object to be finished will be dipped into water during the transfer process.  In my experience, water transfer finishes are hard to beat for ease of application and precise pattern detail delivered.

Many hobbyists have excellent results with water transfer finishes.  The key is in the preparation of the materials that are to be finished.  They must be well cleaned, scuffed and primed for the pattern application to look and wear well.

In addition to your firearms, water transfer finishes can be applied to a wide range of products: from your cooler to your Kydex holster.  The object to which the finish will be applied will be submersed in water, so don’t try this on your laptop computer.

KAT Performance Coatings

If you are looking for a state-of-the-art camouflage gun finish, take a look at the Kameleon Kamo process from KAT Performance Coatings.  The finish uses a holographic pigment to redirect light based on ambient colors and brightness.  In effect, the finish adapts to the surroundings.  This gives the shooter the ability to effectively conceal the weapon over a wider range of terrain and lighting conditions.

kameleon kamo

The Kameleon Kamo is only one of several different firearms coatings the company offers.  Kat-Kamo is a series of custom camouflage patterns that are not repeating patterns and are unique to each gun.

Another finish option from the company is SIMWOOD, a wood grain finish that can give your handgun grips or other gear a classic appearance.  SIMWOOD can be customized in both stain color and wood grain type.  Like many other aftermarket finish providers, KAT Performance Coatings offers completely custom paint jobs with colors limited by only the imagination.

Protect Your Finish

Applying an aftermarket finish is often a cost-effective way to keep your gun looking good for years to come.  DYNA-TEK makes a clear protective coating that a shooter can use to protect both factory and custom finishes.  The Gun Shield is a coating that applies easily in about 30 minutes with nothing more than a lint-free patch, yet it has an 850-hour salt spray rating.

In addition to corrosion protection, Gun Shield makes cleaning the gun easier.  Gun Shield can be used on internal and external parts.

scopecoat for pistol

You can further improve the lifespan of a finish applied to any optic you might have mounted on your firearm with the use of a Scopecoat protective cover.  Scopecoat offers a number of neoprene and nylon covers for a variety of optics including both traditional scopes and modern holographic sights.  Depending on your needs, a Scopecoat cover can be had in thicknesses of 2mm to 6mm.  The company also offers covers for binoculars and spotting scopes.

If you decide to apply a finish on your own, keep in mind that applying some coatings to your firearm can change the tolerances on moving parts.  For the outside of the slide, this is not very important.  However, coating your slide rails with several mils of finish, may affect reliability.  Areas such as the bore and chamber typically should not be coated with a finish.

Talking with a professional prior to having finishing work done will help clarify what can be done with each of your product options.  This will ensure you get the exact product you need for the finish you want on your gun.

Disclosure

GunsHolstersAndGear.com is a for-profit website. I do not charge readers a dime to access the information I provide.

Some of the links on this page and site are affiliate links to companies like Amazon and Palmetto State Armory. These links take you to the products mentioned in the article. Should you decide to purchase something from one of those companies, I make a small commission.

The links do not change your purchase price. I do not get to see what any individual purchases.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

4 replies on “What Is the Best Aftermarket Gun Finish? A Guide to Some Colorful Options”

I am glad that your article brings to light that with Cerakote, more maintenance work is required in order to get the best outcome. My father is an avid gun collector and is looking into ways to ensure that they can continue to look as pristine as they do now. I think that I will look further into Cerakote for him to assist him in the process.

Cerakote wears horribly. Cerakote fan boys always say it’s all about how it’s applied….ive had five guns that were cerakoted, three from the factory, two sent out to aftermarket pros….everyone of them is chipped and dented and scuffed. All five of them my fingernail can pull up the coating once it starts wearing. I baby them to a STUPID point and they still look like shit. The Velcro on my edc bag is eating off the cerakote on a $459 Glock slide ive had for three weeks. Cerakote is for a gun you coat and put straight in the safe and will never brush against anything but flesh.

Do you stock a Chrome colored finished? I searched you WEB for one and could not find one. Please reply.

Hi Robert,

I don’t sell anything, so no, I do not stock any chrome-colored finishes. You might want to reach out to Brownells and see what they have on offer. Since they are one of the go-to suppliers for gunsmiths, they should carry (or be able to point you in the right direction) for any chrome kits for a firearm.

-Richard

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