Category Archives: Refinishing Kits

Cerakoted 1911

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to cause rust on a variety of finishes or materials that most consider to be quite rust resistant.

Last year I finally found a finish that would resist the attack of my sweat – electroless nickel. However, because I got tired of an all-silver firearm, I recently decided to see what else was out there, and found Cerakote.

Though I’m normally the type to do it myself, the price was definitely right – about $60 for everything but the frame, including return shipping. I also wanted to make sure that the application and curing processes were done right.

That they were, for I was quite impressed with the finished product (frame retains satin electroless nickel done by me):

The real test came when I carried the pistol, and it passed with flying colors. Over several months, in both leather and kydex holsters, not a speck of rust has appeared on any of the Cerakoted parts (or the frame, for that matter).

As I expected, it has shown wear – as has the nickel – but this has not affected the corrosion resistance of those parts, as far as I can tell. Frankly, it’s not showing as much wear as I thought it would, so that’s a pleasant surprise – though I’ve only put 800 rounds through it. I wiped it down several times along the way, mainly because I don’t like getting carbon all over my hands just because I picked up a firearm. I noticed that the Cerakote was easier to clean than the electroless nickel. Neither was difficult to clean – the nickel just took a little extra pressure and a few extra passes with a rag to remove carbon.

What was greater than originally expected was frame to slide fit. It was exceptionally tight at first, but to be fair, Jim at Cerakoter.com only had one of the two major components to work with. I worked the two parts back and forth by hand several hundred times before I fired a round through it – and haven’t had a single failure of any kind, so that’s definitely no longer an issue. If anything, the action feels “slicker” than it did before, or when comparing this 1911 to other 1911s I own. However, I don’t have any issues with the slide being too slick to manipulate, even when sweaty or wearing gloves.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the work Jim did. I would like to note that I sent it to him without identifying myself as a “blogger” or telling him that I was going to do a review. This is representative of the work he did for a “regular customer.” I don’t think he could have done better.

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Krylon How-To

I’ve received a fair number of requests for a tutorial or explanation as to how I painted the rifle you see at the top of this page. I have to say, I’m a little surprised, but thankful. I’m no artist – I used Krylon.

Why Krylon?

Well, it’s easy to do. You can paint a rifle in 15 minutes or less. You can also remove it fairly easily with common chemicals and a brush if you get tired of a brown or green rifle. You can paint over it if you need to. It’s also cheap – $15-20 max, depending on the number of colors you want to use.

Why should you not use Krylon on your rifle?

Well, if you want a durable, protective finish, Krylon is not what you’re looking for. It’s going to wear pretty fast if you use the rifle continuously. It won’t protect the rifle from anything but the weakest of scratches. It may help prevent rust, but if you’re worried about rust, have the steel parts of your rifle properly refinished with manganese phosphate, IonBond, etc etc. If you want to do a pattern with leaves, straw, or netting, you can definitely do that with Krylon, but when it gets worn, it’ll be difficult to “repair” the worn areas. Obviously, you could just redo the entire thing – but I’m throwing this out there so that you can make an educated decision.

So, now that I’ve covered that, here’s the how to. For this, I used my trusty – and very well used – S&W 5.45×39 upper on a Bravo Company lower receiver assembly.

First, and most important, degrease the rifle. I use a can of brake cleaner and some paper towels. Also, get some paint! I use “ultra-flat” camouflage spray paint – dark brown, dark green, light green, light tan.

After that, cover up anything that shouldn’t be painted – optics, flashlight lenses, night sights – and ensure that the ejection port cover is closed. You might want to paint a mag at the same time, this will kill two birds with one stone. I found some electrical tape to cover the optic lenses on this rifle.

Next, find a safe place to paint the weapon. I use the lid of my garbage can inside my garage. Remember to give yourself enough breathing room that you don’t pass out from the fumes and die.

The victim.

Next, start with a single solid coat of a dark color. I use dark brown. I contemplated stopping after this step and just calling the rifle “Chocolate.” If you haven’t painted anything before, don’t go too heavy; spray from 8-12″ away and roll your wrist as you spray in short bursts. This will help avoid runs.

Since this is a solid coat, let it dry for 10-15 minutes before turning it over and doing the other side.

I then use dark green. Not a solid coat – just what I’d call “misting”. Split-second hits from various angles and at least a foot away. I wanted to avoid the impression of any one solid color.

“Misting” dries almost instantly and you can turn the rifle over moments later with little to no consequence, or continue on to another color right away if you want.

After that, I move to light green. Again, misting.

Finally, I use the tan spray paint. You guessed it – misting. This is where you fine-tune the shade you want. Here you can see a comparison of the “new” paint job with the one seen above.

Here they are on the wall. Warning, it’s a big picture!

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Electroless Nickel Plating for Firearms

You might be surprised to learn that, while living in Southern Arizona, I sweat a little bit in the summer.

I’ve had problems with many carry guns rusting. At first, I thought it was just inadequate finishes. My Kimber 1911 with its blued finish quickly rusted in a leather holster, and even a switch to a kydex holster didn’t help. I bought stainless firearms – Sigs, Kimbers, and Smith & Wesson revolvers. They developed rust as well. I even had a Smith & Wesson M&P – stainless steel with a Melonite finish – rust. I’ve also caused Glocks to rust, as you can see from the following photos. All of this happened on the very first day that I carried the firearm, and all were properly wiped down with CLP before carry.

You can see here how nasty my Kimber looked after several years of carry and hard use.

Obviously, I could have had any of my firearms refinished by Robar in their NP3 finish, but with several carry guns, I would have spent close to $1000 doing so, and would have been without my firearms for several months. I was about to give up and just live with the rust, when I found the Caswell Plating website. They offer many different do-it-yourself finish kits, and I finally settled on their electroless nickel plating kit. I ordered the “standard” kit, which was about $125 after shipping costs were added in.

Here are the contents of the kit. They also include an excellent manual which is a great reference for all kinds of refinishing, and a 2.5 gallon bucket suitable for firearms refinishing. You have to mix the chemicals according to a very simple formula. Basic math here.

The first step is removing the old finish. There are several ways to do this. The easiest is with a 5% muriatic acid and water solution. The bottle was $3 at Ace Hardware.

The finish literally slid off the slide, without any scrubbing. Thank you, Kimber, for putting out a product with such a high quality finish…I’m rolling my eyes right now.

I’ve done several more firearms since, and have decided to use blasting media to remove the finish from anything that I plate. This is better for getting the last little bit of finish out of a crack or pin hole. It’s also faster and less hazardous/smelly, but if you don’t have access to a blasting cabinet, you might want to stick with the muriatic acid solution.

One other benefit to blasting, I’m told, is that the finish is more likely to “stick”.

Once you’ve stripped the finish, you need to degrease the part. I’ve found that the “industrial degreaser” concentrate sold in a purple gallon jug at Home Depot works very well for this. I try not to touch the items after I blast them, and I use a hooked dental pick to “swish” them around in the degreaser solution for about 15-20 seconds.

After the part is degreased, thoroughly spray it down with distilled water. If there is any oil or grease still on the part, the water will bead up. If not, the water will sheet off evenly. This is called the “water break test”, and it’s very important. Don’t plate something that has oil or grease on it anywhere; the nickel won’t plate there.

I should say that I start to heat up the solution before I degrease the part and spray it down, or in the hour or so it takes for the solution to reach 185 degrees, the part might rust. You can fix this, but it’s simpler to avoid it in the first place.

So, once the solution is at least 180, and preferably 185-195 (but NO HIGHER than 195!), I place the parts in the bucket. Those balls are “mist control balls”, designed to limit evaporation. You can keep adding distilled water to bring it up to the original water mark, by the way.

At this point, you just wait. Sometimes I flip parts upside down or on their sides at regular intervals, because the portions touching the bucket might not plate at the same rate. I do this with a clean dental pick, no hands in the bucket, gloved or not.

The parts plate at a rate of 1 mil per hour. 1 mil is 1/1000 of an inch. Robar apparently does 2 mils when they do NP3 and Electroless Nickel. Caswell says .5 mil for firearms, but this is not enough for me, as I’ve caused rust on firearms with .5mil of electroless nickel. I had to redo the process and ended up with 1.5mil as “good enough” – a balance between corrosion resistance and fit.

After the hour or so, I pull the parts out and put them in a small bucket of distilled water.

They’re going to be hot, in case you didn’t know.

That’s pretty much it. It’s a simple process, but the prep work is the most important and determines your success or failure. And the methods – blasting, scrubbing, polishing – determine what the finish looks like after you’re done. I prefer the frosted, matte finish that comes from blasting. This is most evident on the two Glocks below.

Here are some of the items I’ve plated.

Oh, and that ugly 1911?

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