A Complete Guide to the Different Firearm Finishes

A Complete Guide to the Different Firearm Finishes

Finishing your firearm with a protective coating is essential to ensure the weapons you produce are long-lasting for your customers. Firearms undergo a lot of wear and tear when in use, and they also need to resist corrosion and the elements, making a finish a must-have part of the manufacturing process. However, there are an incredible number of firearm coatings to choose from.

Read on to discover a complete guide to the different firearm finishes.

Why Are Firearm Finishes Important?

Almost any manufacturer with the right equipment can produce firearms that function (at least initially), but it takes extra care to create a lasting product that will stand the test of time. Firearm finishes are the final piece of the puzzle when you want to make a gun that can hold up against the effects of nature and the harsh wear and tear of regular use.

Without a good firearm finish, you’ll have customers writing and calling you about malfunctions within no time.

In addition to providing protection, firearm finishes can also impact the aesthetics of your weapon. An unfinished gun may work, but there’s something to be said for the visual experience of a nicely finished gun. A good-looking firearm commands a higher price from consumers and will result in more positive reviews, too. With that said, let’s look at the different firearm finishes.

Bluing/Black Oxide

Bluing has a few benefits, including corrosion resistance and glare reduction. Black oxide finishing and bluing are synonymous, and this coating style oxidizes the surface of a gun, converting the iron on the surface to magnetite. This is achieved through an electrochemical reaction and must be accompanied by frequent oiling to prevent rust.

This coating does not alter the dimensions of the firearm as some finishes do, meaning that you don’t need to factor in the finish to your manufacturing process. Another benefit is that this is among the more affordable gun finishes. If you’re willing to consistently oil up your firearm to save some money, bluing is a great option.

Bluing also comes with a few options for the final look of the gun. You can use cold bluing for a dark grey color, or hot bluing for a blue-grey finish.

Hard Coat/Hard Anodize

Hard coating, otherwise known as type III hard anodizing, is when you submerge an aluminum product in a bath of chilled sulfuric acid. This results in an electrochemical process where the material’s hardness increases to 330-450 Vickers.

While black oxide does not change the dimensions of the product, hard coating does—it increases the oxide layer and penetrates the base metal, meaning that you need to change the tolerances of your product to account for this expansion.

This finish allows for a hardness second only to diamonds and creates a gun that is highly resistant to corrosion.

There is also a secondary benefit in that anodized metal is the perfect canvas for paint and glue, so you can make the gun look however you want after applying the protective coating.

Parkerize/Manganese Phosphate

Applying a phosphate coating, better known as parkerizing a firearm, is a type of conversion coating that uses submersion, just like anodizing. In this case, the product is placed in a solution of phosphoric acid. One major benefit of parkerized coatings is that they are self-lubricating. Phosphate provides a porous finish that allows oil to become interlocked after everything dries.

Phosphate-coated guns are much more protected from corrosion than firearms coated in black oxide, and their lubrication properties are great for reducing regular wear and tear. While there is a slight change to the dimensions of the firearm after a phosphate coating, it is barely perceptible.

Cerakote/DuraCoat/KG Gunkote

All of these are different brand names of spray-on coatings. They all have slightly different makeups and will all increase the dimensions of your product slightly. DuraCoat was designed specifically for firearms and is marketed as a user-friendly option—this is a do-it-yourself solution, not something that manufacturers would usually apply.

KG Gunkote was formulated with military use in mind, meaning that it holds up well in different environmental conditions. Finally, Cerakote uses a polymer-ceramic composite that comes in a variety of colors, depending on your preference. Cerakote offers good corrosion protection, like KG Gunkote.

Nickel Boron

Nickel Boron (or NiB) boasts corrosion resistance coupled with reduced friction. The NiB enters the surface of the material, becoming one with the metal of your product. This bond creates a final product harder than the material on its own and has a resistance greater than hard chromium. Because this process also reduces friction, NiB brings down the heat that comes when metal interacts with metal.

This reduces the chance of overheating and makes the gun last longer. All these reasons make NiB perfect for use on the internal components of a firearm, like bolt carrier groups.


DLC coating, or diamond-like carbon coating, is a method that combines two of the best forms of carbon: diamond and graphite. If you thought that anodized metal was hard, DLC takes that hardness to a new level. In addition to high hardness, DLC coatings have a host of other benefits, including high resistance to wear and tear, corrosion resistance, and they are chemically inert.

As if all that wasn’t enough, we can’t forget about the graphite part of the equation. Graphite is what puts DLC far above the other coatings because it gives your product low friction. As you know, firearms must undergo intense friction when fired, and graphite allows your components to glide smoothly without issue.

Internal Coating

Firearms are tricky to coat because you need to contend with internal components. Not all coatings can be easily applied to the inside of parts, which is why you need internal coating equipment. ArmorLube manufactures high-quality internal coating equipment, so you can effortlessly apply coatings wherever they’re needed.

With fast deposition rates, remote support, and multiple coating recipes, our CS-10 is the perfect addition for any manufacturer who needs their products coated inside and out.

Now that you have this complete guide to the different firearm finishes, choose which coating is best for your weapons so consumers can enjoy the best possible product. Work with an industrial coating company to ensure that they coat your firearms effectively.