Is your rifle showing its age? Do you want to protect it from scratching, dinging, or even rusting during heavy use? Cerakote may be the answer. Although many sports people will send their rifles to specialty shops to have Cerakote applied, it can be a fun DIY project. We’ll review the step-by-step process.
What is Cerakote?
Cerakote is a ceramic-based finish that can be applied to many surfaces, including metal, plastics, polymers, and wood. It resists abrasion, corrosion, chemicals, and heat and dries to a hard finish. It comes in a wide range of color options so you can customize your gun. Due to these features, it has become a very popular after-market finish for a wide range of items, including tools, automotive parts, boats, and firearms.
There are plenty of choices when finishing or protecting your firearm, so why is Cerakote a better choice? Because it offers the best features of almost all the other options in a single product. Generally, it outperforms other products, and is usually cheaper than comparable options.
Powder Coat vs. Cerakote
Since powder coating is one of the more prevalent alternatives for firearms, let’s see how it compares to Cerakote.
Cerakote outperforms powder coating in three critical areas: performance, looks, and temperature stability. Due to its thickness, powder coating often interferes with tight tolerances in high-quality firearms. Following the directions, you can obtain several different types of finishes and color matches from one batch to another. Plus, it performs better when exposed to high temperatures.
Additional advantages include tolerance to chemicals, the ability to apply multiple colors to a single firearm quickly, and the ability to cure at a lower temperature.
Cerakote is now available in a no-bake, air-dry formula for curing at a lower temperature. Perfect for the DIYer without access to an oven to heat parts in. Although there has been some speculation regarding how this air-dry version compares to the original formula, it appears to be very comparable. Some reports indicate air drying does not produce as hard a finish as baking (which makes sense); it is still outperforming other options.
Although DIY Cerakote is not for everyone, it is an option. The DIYer can become proficient with a bit of practice, access to the right equipment, and moderate skills.
- Cerakote kit
- Oven (unless using air-dry formula)
- Sandblaster (you can often rent time on a blaster at a local hobby shop)
- Acetone or brake cleaner
- Soaking trays
- Wire for hanging parts
- Disposable gloves
- Disassemble the rifle – every part, spring, and screw must be removed.
- Clean, clean, clean – any parts you plan on coating must ultimately be oil-free. The recommended means of doing this is with acetone. Let everything soak for at least 30 minutes. If you do not have acetone access, brake cleaner is an excellent substitute.
- Sandblast. Using play sand or 120 grit cleaners, blast every surface. For most parts, the goal is to expose bare metal. If the item is anodized, bare metal is not necessary. Still, every surface must be roughed up to ensure Cerakote adheres. DO NOT sandblast inside the barrel. It is recommended you plug the barrel to prevent damage.
- Get the nooks and crannies. Using a Scotch Brite pad, make sure all corners, edges, etc., that may have been missed during sandblasting are roughed up.
- Clean, again. Clean in acetone for 15-20 minutes and remove all remaining oils or grit.
- Glove up. If you have not done so already put on your disposable gloves. You do not want any oils, even from your hands, on the surfaces to be treated.
- Apply heat. This will aid in the evaporation of the remaining acetone
- Apply Cerakote. You must follow instructions regarding mixing to ensure consistent color between batches. Using an airbrush apply light, even coats providing all surfaces are coated.
- Apply heat again. This time the goal is to dry Cerakote. Metal parts will require 250 degrees for 4 hours. Plastic or polymer pieces will require 180 degrees for 4 hours.
- Let cool
If you are using the air-dry formula, skip the heating process.
Is It the Right Choice?
Is Cerakote the right choice for every firearm user in every situation? No, although it is a versatile product, there are times when another option may be better to meet your needs. But, the results are second to none if you have a moderate level of DIY skills, some essential equipment, and a desire to learn a new skill.
We recommend also watching several videos online to get a better understanding of the process.