Best Gun Finishes | The Ultimate Comparison Resource

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Best Gun Finishes Comparison Multiple Guns on A Table

When I first started learning about guns I knew which one I wanted, but didn’t know if it had the most durable, best looking or most protective finish. I also wanted to buy a gun that I could someday give to my son – that means it should have a finish that will last. And I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a gun that could get my dad as a gift (check out our new article about buying a gun as a gift).

All this made me wonder which finish is the best I could get for a gun. So, I thought I’d write this helpful article explaining the different gun finishes and which is best.

The different gun finishes are gun bluing, Parkerizing, anodizing, Cerakote, Duracoat, nickel boron, chroming, specialty plating, the quench polish quench method, hydro dipping & skinning, powder coating and ferritic nitrocarburizing. Of these Parkerizing, Cerakote, Anodizing, and Duracoat rated the highest based on our study.

Now, some finishes are better suited to different applications. So, below I’ll give you the exact details on the different gun finishes, and then a rating based on our research

What is the best firearm coating?

After pouring through our research we have come to following conclusions regarding the different firearm coatings available today. We have rated them below on a scale of 1 to 10 for durability, attractiveness, and how hard it is to do at home. A brief discussion of the results follows the table:

CoatingDurability
Score (1-10)
Attractiveness
Score (1-10)
How hard is it to learn?
Score (1-10)
Gun Bluing7103
Parkerizing988
Anodizing9810
Cerakote9810
Duracoat981
Nickel Boron9810
Chroming9108
Quench Polish Quench9810
Hydrodipping & Skinning581
Powder Coating258
Special Plating
(gold, white, etc.)
VariableVariable10
Ferritic NCunknownunknownunknown

What is the most durable gun finish?

The most durable gun finishes are Quench Polish Quench, Chroming, Nickel Boron, Duracoat, Cerakote, and Anodizing.

The least durable is bluing but is one of the most attractive tied with chroming and plating. Duracoat is by far the most cost effective and easiest to apply, and is also extremely durable.

Blueing and plating are considered the most attractive finishes, the only drawback is they don’t last as long as the other finishes.

Are any gun finishes waterproof?

All gun finishes are waterproof. They create a solid barrier between the underlying gun and the elements. When the gun is made care is taken to ensure the surface of the gun is completely clean. This is to stop any underlying water or air being trapped between the finish and the gun, which could begin to corrode the outer finish.

Some weaker gun finishes don’t remain waterproof for long, and in some cases only 2-5 years before showing obvious corrosion, scratches and dings.

However with the most durable finish technology that is available, a gun can go it’s whole life without ever having to be refinished and will show no dings or rust at all.

Gun Finishes Comparison

Below, I’ll give you a description of the major gun finishing techniques, how durable they are, the pros and cons, and whether you can do the method yourself at home. The exact step by step instructions for the methods which can easily be done at home is shown at the end of the article.

Gun Bluing

Gun bluing is by far one of the most attractive of the finishes, and is considered by some to be the best looking. It can be done by yourself very easily. 

The cost to gun blue your own gun is under USD$100. It will completely restore the finish of a gun that is rusty, and can be removed if the gun owner wishes to apply a different finish at a later date.

It gets its name from the distinctive blue shine which appears when it is done correctly.

I’ll outline the process below, however for the full details I would recommend looking at the manufacturer instructions of companies that provide bluing products. But, just briefly so you get an idea.

The process involves removing any rust using a metal scratch pad, then the following steps are done:

  1. The individual parts of the gun are cleaned of all rust
  2. The gun is then heated on a stove top until it is warm and then a clear polish is applied to the surface. 
  3. The surface is then wiped by hand using paper towels
  4. A cream solution which gives it the blue color is used on top a few times, until there is a beautiful silver blue finish 

Durability

Bluing does not last as long as some of the other finishing options but still holds up very well and depends on the climate around 2-5 years.

You will want to use a leather holster for a blued gun.

More humid climates will cause rust to develop much faster.

Benefits

  • Easy to do yourself
  • Fun
  • Can control the finish
  • Average cost for all the equipment = less than USD$100

Cons

  • Doesn’t last very long
  • Takes a bit of time

Parkerizing

Parkerizing is a method similar to bluing, and is about as durable, but is more complicated to do yourself. It still looks fairly attractive, and brings out the underlying metal color of the gun. This type of finish is used by some military for their weapons and equipment and gives a dull even finish which looks very satisfying. It is good for not giving away a person’s position in a combat or hunting scenario. A gun can be parkerized if it has been previously cold blued by removing the cold bluing finish.

You can only parkerize with ferrous metals. Examples of ferrous metals are:

  • Carbon Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Cast Iron
  • Alloy Steel 

The equipment required to do parkerizing:

  • Manganese Phosphate
  • Degreaser
  • Parkerizing gloves (strong chemical resistant gloves)
  • Parkerizing tank
  • A LPG gas burner

A kit with everything can be purchased for just over $300, one which we recommend is this one from Brownells.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Durability

A leather holster improves the life of a gun. As long as a leather holster is used this type of finish will last at least a few years without showing any wear and tear. If the gun is left wet or dirty this will shorten the length of time before the gun must be refinished.

Benefits

  • Can control the finish
  • Can do it yourself
  • Quite attractive
  • Can apply oil which is absorbed and helps protect the finish

Cons

  • Is a bit more expensive and requires more equipment than bluing.
  • Takes a bit of time

Brief step by step how a gun is parkerized (the full video and step by step can be found at the end of the article):

  1. Degrease the stainless steel tank using a rag, wipe out the entire interior of the tank and lid.
  2. Add 1 part Manganese Phosphate to 4 Parts Water To the Tank until it is almost full
  3. Light burner and heat the tank.
  4. Lower the gun part into the tank using a metal holder to suspend it in the solution for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Rinse it off with water.

Anodizing

Anodized guns can be done with a clear coat, any color. It looks very attractive. It also looks very nice if the gun is to be engraved.

This is because when the surface is scratched it reveals the shiny silver underneath which makes the engraving stand out. Anodizing a gun yourself is extremely difficult and requires a lot of knowledge and equipment. 

An alternative which gives the same look is to use black spray paint, but would be more for a hobbiest. Using spray paint is the most cost effective method there is. It most closely resembles an anodized finish and still looks good, but is nowhere near as durable as an anodized finish.

Durability

Very scratch resistant, and can withstand salt water. There is also a variation called hard anodized which is more scratch resistant.

Benefits

  • Uniform finish
  • Any color you want
  • Professional looking
  • Very scratch resistant and will last forever.
  • The individual pieces are coated inside and out making it last longer than other methods.
  • You can make the outside more shiny by buffing it lightly with a scotchbrite.

Cons

  • Can be a little expensive
  • Can’t be done easily at home

Briefly below I will explain how a piece of metal in anodized, however this is best done by a professional:

  1. A complex solution is made, there are a range of mixes that will work.
  2. A electric charge with very specific metals are used to generate a current through the mixture
  3. A mixture of black die is heated on a stove
  4. Complex temperature controls are used
  5. The part is then submerged in the complex solution from step one and electric current is passed into the water for about 1 hour.
  6. It is then put in the dye mixture for about 20 minutes
  7. It is then put in a bowl of distilled water to seal it for about 5 minutes

I left out a lot of the complex steps involved, but it is a very laborious and complicated process and for this reason most people have their gun anodized by someone else.

Cerakote

Cerakote is one of the most durable gun finishes, and can come in any color. It is reasonably attractive, but not the most attractive finish. It must be applied by a professional so can’t be done at home.

The general process involves roughing up the gun surface so that the cerakote can adhere to it. It is then sprayed on with some other preparation steps.

Durability

Very scratch resistant and durable. Lasts a lifetime.

Benefits

  • Uniform finish
  • Come in any color.
  • Very scratch resistant.

Cons

  • Requires a lot of equipment, and training.
  • Can’t be done easily at home

Is Cerakote bad for your gun?

It can be debated that any finish applied incorrectly to a gun can cause it to malfunction. 

Cerakote is a registered trademark and they recommend to use only very strict methods for applying it which include a lot of expensive and specialist equipment. 

A person should be fully trained in how to apply their products before using them. Full details of their accreditation and training and can be found at their website:

Does Cerakote chip? 

Cerakote has done lab tests and has determined the hardness of Cerakote to be 7H which is the second hardness finish possible on a scale from 1 to 20. Therefore, it is very unlikely to chip. Anecdotally people have said that it is very durable even after being banged around. This is surprising given that cerakote is applied very thinly.

Does Cerakote stop rust?

The things which rust are gun are the contact with the metal and oxygen and water. This is why finishes have been used to create a barrier between the two. This stops oxidation occurring which shows as rust. Cerakote is a finish and much like other gun finishes, they have been designed to prevent rush and damage from wear and tear.

Duracoat

Duracoat is a trademarked company who provides Duracoat products. It works much the same way as cerakote but requires much less equipment and can be done very quickly, cheaply, and easily at home.

Durability

Very scratch resistant – 9/10

Benefits

  • Uniform finish
  • Any color you want
  • Professional looking
  • Very scratch resistant.
  • You can make the outside more or less shiny by sanding it.
  • Very cheap
  • Very easy
  • Very fast
  • Can be done at home very easily

Cons

  • Requires a bit of training.

The process for Duracoating a firearm:

  1. Disassemble the firearm
  2. Sand it down with 200+ grit sandpaper
  3. The Duracoat can, must be shaken for at least 3 minutes
  4. Pop the bottom to mix the two solutions
  5. Mix again for at least another 3 minutes
  6. Spray the Duracoat over the piece, ensuring you are in a well ventilated area and have appropriate protective equipment.
  7. Let it sit overnight before reassembling it
  8. Don’t use any harsh or degreasers near it for at least a few weeks.

Nickel Boron

Not much is known about this coating. It is generally held in good regard. It is produced from gun stores and individual pieces can be purchased. No information regarding the suppliers is easily available online. 

Durability

It is very hard, and is equivalent to other types of gun coatings.

Benefits

  • Special technology keeps the gun cooler
  • Special technology lubricates the gun better
  • Professional looking
  • Very scratch resistant.

Cons

  • Only comes in silver color.
  • Can’t be done easily at home

Chroming

This is a very durable finish and can be applied with some complex equipment from home. It has a very nice shine to it and for the most scratch resistant finish go with hard chrome. It can withstand tens of thousands of rounds and be dropped and concrete with no blemishes.

Durability

It is very hard, and extremely durable.

Benefits

  • Very durable
  • Attractive extremely shiny silver finish.

Cons

  • Only comes in silver
  • Can’t be done easily at home

Plating (gold, silver, chrome)

Plating is very attractive but you should choose this finish gun you intend to carry everyday. This is because the durability of this finish is very low. 

A gun that is plated has more metal added to the surface of each part, before this is done steel needs to be removed from the gun.

A specialist is used for this type of finish, because removing the correct amount of steel and adding the correct amount of finish can cause a gun to not fit back together.

Durability

The more common plating metals:

  • Hard chrome will last a lifetime and is extremely resistant to scratching
  • Decorative chrome has a mirror like finish, but is not as durable as hard chrome. Copper is very corrosion resistant. 
  • Gold and silver are softer metals, and should not be used on a gun intended for daily carry. However, you can get a gold-colored plating by using a process similar to chrome plating but the chemicals are slightly different – while not using expensive metals as the base.

Benefits

  • Variable Durability.
  • Variable attractiveness depending on the metal used.

Cons

  • Can’t be done easily at home
  • Can be expensive.

It is recommended to have a gun professionally plated.

Quench Polish Quench

This method of finishing is extremely durable and is reasonably attractive. It is made by a layer of specially formulated hardened metal that is applied to the gun. It gives a dull attractive black finish. It is more resistant than stainless steel which has meant that it has been also been used in:

  • Oil and gas
  • Hydraulics
  • Automotive
  • Industrial tooling
  • Construction equipment manufacturing

Because of the dull finish it is well suited to hunting, and military. It does appeal to some tastes but in general is not the best looking finish.

Durability

It is very hard, and extremely durable.

Benefits

  • Very durable
  • Has good resistance to wear and corrosion
  • Performs better at reducing heat and friction
  • Has improved fatigue strength
  • Dull black finish

Cons

  • Only comes in black
  • Can’t be done at home

Hydro Dipping and Gun Skins

These are a low cost option which can be used to completely camouflage a gun, or for a custom pattern and they all have a matte finish.

They are temporary finishes and don’t last as long as some of the other finishes.

Hydro dipping will last about 10 years, whereas gun skins will last about 5 years.

Durability

One of the least durable gun finishes.

Benefits

  • Can choose a custom design
  • Very cheap
  • Durable while it lasts

Cons

  • Doesn’t last that long
  • Only comes in a matte finish

Powder Coating

Powder coating is a finishing process where a liquid like powder is blown onto the gun using an air compressed spray gun. The part being powdered is electrically charged so the powder adheres to it. It is baked for roughly 30 minutes and the process may be repeated a few times. It is a valid method for finishing a gun, but not recommended because of the cons, which I’ll talk about below.

Durability

Powder coating is the least durable of the gun finishes. Once it chips or cracks it loses its strength and will break and chip very easily where the crack or chip occurred.

It is primarily used in finishing appliances and other industrial uses, and is very rarely used in gun finishing because of its inferior durability.

Benefits

  • Can apply a thicker layer of material than a liquid finish
  • The powder comes in any color.
  • Colours can be mixed creating some unique patterns.

Cons

  • A very thick layer must be applied to be effective, with a minimum thickness of 2.5mm, ideally 4mm thick.
  • Aggressive sand blasting prep required.
  • Requires more equipment and knowledge than bluing or Duracoat, which offer the same or better finish.
  • Very easy to ruin the finish by cracking or chipping.
  • It can ONLY be applied to the exterior, and must be taped off very carefully before being powdered.
  • If any gets into the barrel or the inner parts, the gun won’t fit together, and it is very difficult to remove.

Equipment required:

  • Powder Gun
  • Powder
  • Compressor
  • Regulator
  • Air Filter
  • Oven

This method is difficult to do at home easily, because it requires equipment which the average person won’t have. We thoroughly do not recommend this method for finishing guns.

Ferritic Nitrocarburizing

There have been rare cases of using this method for guns, but very little information is available on the topic.

Full Step by Step Instructions On How To Perform These Methods In Your Own Home:

How to DIY Cold Gun Bluing

Full step by step instructions can be see in this video:

If you prefer written instructions:

  1. Remove any gunk inside the barrel, it is one less thing to do before bluing your gun. If you skip this step you will have to start from the beginning again. Do not skip this step
  2. Use a scotch brite heavy duty scouring pad. If it is your first time restoring your gun using this method then start with sandpaper until you are comfortable that way you can avoid leaving scour marks on your gun.
  3. It doesn’t matter where you start, just place the pad on the method and start rubbing, you will see orange rust turning into dust.
  4. If you come across areas that are heavily rusted then take a piece of Coarse metal sandpaper, and sand them down first, and then continue over the top with the scouring pad.
  5. After that take a towel that you don’t mind getting dirty, or a paper towel and wipe the surface down. It does not have to be degreased, or sterile, don’t use any products when wiping it down.
  6. Two solutions are used to get a really nice finish, one that is clear and one that is a cream, a popular product is Brownells oxpho-blue that you can find on Amazon. Using two solutions gives a much better finish that using only one, and you can control how blue your gun will be.
  7. Place the metal piece you are polishing on a stove which is on a setting of between medium and high for 20 to 30 seconds, you want to get it as warm as you can, so that you can still pick it up with your hands from an edge piece. You will want to have an oven mitt or tea towel nearby to remove it if it gets too hot. 
  8. Pour the clear solution (from Step 6) onto one of the pads until it completely saturates it.
  9. Start wiping down the piece of metal. Cover the entire piece. As you do you will see the color of the gun get darker and the rust will be wiped away by the cloth or paper towel, give it about 30 seconds to dry before moving onto the next step.
  10. Now take a paper towel and wipe off any excess solution.
  11. Now use a dry piece of fine steel wool and lightly buff the surface it will give it a slight sheen and even out the surface.
  12. Don’t worry at this stage if it appears uneven because as you apply subsequent layers it will even out and have a uniform finish
  13. Apply the clear liquid another 2 times.
  14. Repeat the process with the cream solution, however you should pour the cream directly onto the surface of the metal.
  15. Be careful not to get any cream that has touched the metal back into the container.

How to DIY Spray Paint Your Gun (looks like Cerakote)

  1. Choose a color
  2. Disassemble your gun
  3. Thoroughly clean all parts of the gun
  4. Make sure they’re COMPLETELY dry.
  5. Shake the can well
  6. Spray the entire surface with the spray paint
  7. Let dry overnight
  8. Don’t apply any degreasers or harsh chemicals for 2 weeks.

Conclusion

No matter which finish you choose it’s important that you understand what you have to do to keep your gun in excellent operating condition. You’ll want to make sure that you know how to care for the finish you get so it doesn’t rust, tarnish or chip. But most importantly you want a finish that lasts no matter how much shooting you do with it. After all, that’s what you bought the gun for in the first place, isn’t it?

Now might be a good time to plug our latest article discussing the best way to prep your new gun for your first outing to the range. Check out our “Proper cleaning and break-in for you new gun” article.

ATLAS