What is Cerakote and why is it on the rise?

A collection of Cerakoted firearms featured on Instagram. (Photos via Instagram; Graphic: Guns.com)

Though black never goes out of style some gun owners are finding its classic look a little too bland, instead turning to Cerakote to achieve a flashy and fun firearm vibe.

Cerakote is, simply put, a ceramic and polymer coating applied to hard finishes in order to achieve bold looks and better protection.

Developed by NIC Industries for firearms in the 1980s, the coating provides a heightened level of durability to hard surfaces making it ideal for firearms and related gear. The coating specifically protects against abrasions, common when training on the range or traipsing through the woods, in addition to delivering corrosion resistance.

As most firearms feature a certain level of steel and/or aluminum, the extra coat of Cerakote reduces the interaction between oils and liquids and the firearm itself. This prevents nasty corrosion from setting in and harming not only the look of the gun but its functionality as well.

The Cerakote finish is thin, measuring only 0.001-inches thick, making it ideal for firearms use. It also bonds well with steel, aluminum and polymer — common materials also used in modern firearm production.

“The unique formulation used for Cerakote ceramic coating enhances a number of physical performance properties including abrasion/wear resistance, corrosion resistance, chemical resistance, impact strength, and hardness,” Cerakote explains on its website. “Cerakote ceramic coatings utilize state-of-the-art technology to out-perform any competitive coating in both laboratory settings and real world applications.”

While the practical applications of Cerakote are appealing from a protective standpoint, the art behind it has driven a new generation of gun owners to seek out the finish. From bright colors to funky patterns, Cerakote has opened the door for consumers to express their personalities through their guns and gear. The process has exploded in popularity with more and more Cerakote artists and shops cropping up online and on social media, showcasing their creativity. The result — a wide variety of rich colors, fun patterns and unique looks designed to be the envy at any gun range.

“Cerakote is available in over a hundred different colors and because it was originally manufactured for the gun industry, where tolerances matter, it achieves this amazing protection while applied at only a mil of thickness,” Mad Custom Cerakote explained in a blog post on its site.

Unlike many other aspects of the gun industry, applying Cerakote to a firearm or part isn’t a do-it-yourself venture. The process takes a certain level of know-how to successfully complete, according to Cerakote.

“Cerakote is a professionally applied OEM finish, it is not a DIY finish. NIC Industries offers the only one-on-one training program for Cerakote in North America,” Cerakote said on its site.

The Cerakote process begins with the gun disassembled — field-stripping alone won’t do. Cerakote emphasizes during its training sessions that the firearm must be completely and fully disassembled in order for the coating to work properly. The firearms’ components are then de-greased, followed by a blast with garnet sand to ensure no oils remain on any surfaces. Any residual oils left on the gun can cause issues with the coating, thus extra care has to be taken in order to ensure the weapon is free and clear of any oils.

After all oils are successfully removed, the Cerakote finish is then applied using a HLVP spray gun. Skill and finesse are required to ensure the proper thickness of the coating is achieved. Too much and the finish interferes with proper firearm operation. Once applied, all metal parts are oven-cured at 250-degrees while polymer components are oven-cured at 150 to 180-degrees.

Though Cerakote offers advantages, the process does require gun owners to surrender guns to a custom shop; unless, the gun is purchased straight from the manufacturer with a Cerakote already applied. In addition to time spent away, the cost of Cerakoting is another factor that prevents some gun owners from achieving anything other than standard black. Cost, of course, depends on the style and complexity of the design; but even just a basic flat color can knock the price of a gun up by a couple hundred dollars.

For those that choose to Cerakote, however, the price is worth it. “The styles and designs vary from shop to shop but the best custom work is undeniably impressive. In fact, the unique taste and approach each shop brings to the table just serves to create a rich tapestry of beautiful firearms,” Stephen Gutowski said in a piece for The Washington Free Beacon.

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