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Have a firearm with a scratched or marred finish? You may need to get it refinished. In the past, this type of work required the intervention of a qualified gunsmith.
Today, however, there are plenty of tools and methods for refinishing your gun at home, DIY style.
Why DIY Refinish My Guns?
There are multiple, equally valid reasons to want to learn how to redo your firearm’s finish. Most shooters do it to save money on gunsmith expenses, but the satisfaction of completing a DIY project cannot be understated either.
Like assembling your rifle from hand-selected parts or stippling your pistol grip, applying do-it-yourself gun finishes can also be about the pleasure of completing a project by yourself, learning a new skill, or simply becoming more self-reliant.
Which Coating To Use?
First, you need to decide what type of coating you want to use. Most gun finishes you can apply at home fall into the category of spray-on coatings. Some are available in ready-made rattle cans, while others are sold in liquid form, intended for spray gun or airbrush application.
Some finishes require oven curing while others are air-cured. Keep in mind that oven-cured finishes are more durable and last longer than air-cured ones but require additional equipment.
Types of air-cured coatings:
- DuraCoat: Available in spray cans or airbrush liquid in a wide variety of colors, Duracoat can be applied at home and is relatively inexpensive. However, it may take up to 3 weeks for the cure to finish.
- GunKote 1200: A fast-acting coating that requires only 80 to 90 minutes of air curing at room temperature (70°F).
- Cerakote C-Series: Cerakote’s most popular air-cured coating product, Cerakote C-Series, is available in over 40 colors.
Types of oven-cured coatings:
- Cerakote H-Series: By far the most popular oven-cured gun coating in the United States, with more than 100 colors available and excellent corrosion and scratch resistance.
- GunKote 2400: A one-part, bake-on coating that requires no hardener to apply. Well-known for its extreme durability and resistance against corrosion, abrasion, and chemicals.
- Brownells Gun-Kote Oven Cure: An epoxy-based, ultra-thin gun finish designed to resist peeling, chipping, or dissolving that you can use for refinishing internal and external parts.
The best do-it-yourself gun finishes for you depend on your level of experience, access to equipment, intended uses, and personal preferences. Each product has its own tutorial and list of requirements. However, if you are a beginner or are on a budget, DuraCoat is the best choice, as it requires a minimal amount of equipment.
Which Equipment Do I Need?
The following instructions assume that you will apply DuraCoat to your firearm, as it is a much simpler process than other coatings. Note that the latest generation of DuraCoat aerosol sprays no longer need you to mix the coating with a hardener, providing you instead with an all-in-one can.
If you have another coating, refer to that product’s instruction or training manual, as the procedure may differ.
You will need the following equipment:
- Safety equipment (Goggles, nitrile gloves, breathing mask)
- Your firearm
- DuraCoat cans in the color of your choice
- (Optional) Spray gun or airbrush if you’re using the liquid version instead of the aerosol cans
- A degreaser that does not leave any residue or lubricating film (SafeClean, TruStrip, NST-100, brake cleaner, etc.)
- Sandpaper (220-grit and 440-grit)
- Abrasive pads (Scotch-Brite or equivalent).
- An abrasive blaster loaded with aluminum oxide or sand. If you don’t have a blaster, you can use your abrasive pads instead.
- Rags and toothbrushes
- Masking tape and plugs; for protecting parts of the gun you don’t wish to coat.
How to Refinish Your Gun With DuraCoat
Put on your safety equipment, unload your firearm, and visually inspect the chamber to ensure it is empty.
Preparing the gun for coating
Detail-strip your firearm (magazine included, if applicable). Use your degreaser to thoroughly clean and degrease all parts, using abrasive pads, rags, toothbrushes as needed to reach into every crevice.
- If you intend to coat a parkerized surface, clean your parts by immersion. Avoid using rags, as they may deposit lint into your finish, and avoid using the abrasive pad, as it may scratch and remove the parkerizing.
- For coating wood surfaces, sand it first using your sandpaper before cleaning it. Bare wood requires 220-grit sandpaper, oil-finished, lacquered, and varnished wood requires 440-grit sandpaper. Make sure your degreaser does not eat the lacquer or varnish away.
Once all of your parts have been thoroughly cleaned and degreased, use an abrasive blaster and blast your parts with aluminum oxide or sand. If you don’t have a blaster, you can manually rough up your surfaces with an abrasive pad during the cleaning and degreasing process.
Applying the coating
Insert plugs and apply masking tape as needed if there are any parts or elements you don’t wish to coat. Ensure your work environment is at room temperature (68-72°F). Hang each part of your firearm on a rack or wire mesh shelf as practical, as it will facilitate the coating process.
If you have aerosol cans, you’re ready to begin. Otherwise, prepare your spray gun or airbrush with the coating. Once ready, you may start applying the coating.
Spray each part liberally and evenly, making one complete pass. Wait a few minutes, then apply a new layer. Repeat until all parts have received three full passes.
For any exterior parts subjected to more wear and tear (e.g., pistol slides rubbing against holsters, AR charging handles), give these parts an additional 1 or 2 passes.
The coating process is now complete.
Drying and curing
After applying the coating, you may leave your parts hanging to dry and cure.
DuraCoat will dry to the touch within 20 minutes, individual parts may be touched and manipulated within 1 hour, and you may start reassembling and using your firearm in 24 hours.
The full protective effects of DuraCoat will only appear after 3 to 4 weeks of curing. If you must use your firearm before the end of this curing period, make sure not to subject it to excessive use or abuse.
Refinishing Your Gun at Home is Easy
Refinishing and recoating your firearm at home has never been easier, thanks to the constant advances in firearm technology.
Regardless of the finishes you prefer to use, remember to be as safe as possible when manipulating these products. Always follow all relevant chemical safety rules and avoid breathing toxic fumes.