The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Cerakote’s New Elite

Chemistry and Artistry in Oregon

Gray or FDE may indeed be the new black, but unless the gun comes that way from the factory, you’ll need a means to convert it from Henry Ford’s favorite shade. Many simply use Krylon or another off-the-shelf spray option, but if you want a more durable finish you’ll have to look elsewhere. Cerakote has been one of the standard high-end coating options for many years now, and recently they’ve come up with an entirely new formulation: Elite.

Cerakote invited us up to its facility to check it and everything else out it has going on. Cerakote is a division of NIC Industries, and its headquarters stands out among all of the warehouses in this industrial district of White City, Oregon. Inside is even better, and you’re greeted with a modern office center replete with all manner of custom-coated firearms and automotive parts. Guns and cars — what’s not to love?

Speaking of cars, Cerakote has consolidated talent from many other industries, and though I didn’t think about it at first, crossover from the automotive industry makes a good bit of sense. A lot of time and talent gets put into high-end cars, and we can reap those same benefits on the firearms side of the house. After all, we are talking about similar requirements: corrosion resistance, longevity, and let’s be honest: looking good on the rack.

While at Cerakote we were to go over testing, manufacturing, and some actual application.

For every different coating or treatment out there, there are proponents. Internet arguments abound (albeit not as passionate as 9mm-versus-.45 ACP). One can get the feeling that they’re all about the same or just variations on a theme. In order to demonstrate the efficacy of its own product, Cerakote breaks out science and empirical testing. On site, they have testing equipment for viscosity, density, adhesion, abrasion, coefficient of friction, corrosion — and more. Empirically valid testing is more boring than say, throwing a gun down a driveway, but it offers far more valuable, and repeatable information. You can check out the test videos for yourself on their webpage, should you find yourself awake at 3 a.m.

Furthermore, the folks at Cerakote keep a sample of every batch that goes out the door. While they do indeed test everything before it leaves the shop, having a sample on-hand allows them to track and eliminate any potential issues down the road. For example, if an applicator has an issue with Batch X of color Z not matching Batch Y of the same, Cerakote can check for themselves.

Everything Cerakote makes is done in house, and all of the Cerakote sent around the world is mixed by only five people. This isn’t a company that sends specifications to China or Vietnam and waits for product with a hope and prayer. Each color is mixed and prepared one at a time, in a process that looks a little like a combination of a distillery and an industrial bakery to our untrained eye.

cerakote_knife cerakote-color

Not to say it’s always perfect; many of the issues that we’ve seen in the past with Cerakoted guns and other gear such as the coating not adhering properly, chipping, etc., were all likely due to improper application. After all, you can simply buy Cerakote to use with your own equipment and there are N+1 local shops that perform services like that. Unless you go to one of the “big names” in the industry to have your gun coated, and go through the process of mailing firearms, etc., how do you know if they’re any good?

In the past this was all done via word of mouth, but Cerakote will actually help you out in this venture: They have a certification process. To find one in your area, you just have to set your browser to Cerakote’s webpage. Each certified applicator is listed, along with actual examples their work. With hundreds of certified applicators around the world, there’s probably one fairly close to you. Essentially Cerakote does some of the advertising for all of their certified applicators for them.

This is beneficial for everyone involved. The profits of local brick-and-mortar gun shops are razor thin. While they might make a few dollars on guns and ammunition, coating firearms is one of the highest margin services that they can provide. Here’s how it works: You go to the webpage looking for someone who actually knows what the heck they’re doing. In turn you travel to a local applicator for the work. The local applicator buys new supplies from Cerakote when they run out. That’s it. The local shops benefit the most from this arrangement, you don’t have to ship your gun across the country, and Cerakote continues to produce new colors and coatings.

If someone wants to become a certified applicator, they have to travel up to Oregon and learn the ins, outs, and nuances of the process from the very best at Cerakote. It’s a full two-day course, and while they can’t teach someone individual artistry, they can make sure that you know the exact process. They’re also given access to a massive library of vector graphics so they can easily re-create any number of patterns.

Probably to give them a challenge, I was sent up to get an abbreviated course from their training staff. I failed art in high school and have the steady hands of someone who consumes copious amounts of caffeine — what could go wrong?

To learn everything they have to offer, you’ll have to take the class yourself. We can offer some tips though:

> Metal preparation is the very first step, and the most important one. You can do everything perfectly right after, but if you mess up on degreasing and other preparation there is no fixing it without starting completely over.
> If you don’t take the time to properly mask your parts, it won’t turn out the way you imagine. While you can probably complete a Cerakote project in a day if you have the right equipment, you can’t complete a Cerakote project in 15 minutes. A little patience in the beginning will make for better results in the end.
> Practice on small parts and then intricate parts first before moving on to larger projects. The proper methodology for getting into all of the tiny cracks and crevices without building up too much Cerakote takes a little experience.
> Remove any masks while the parts are still warm; any adhesive backing gets harder to work with as it cools
> One perfectly even single color coating is much harder to accomplish than a camouflage or “battle worn” pattern. Any mistake in administering is immediately obvious.

In our time at Cerakote we didn’t become experts by a long shot, but we were able to make some badass coffee cups.

So what about the new Elite coating? There’s a lot going on with it. It can be applied at half the thickness of traditional H-series Cerakote, but with a lot of new advantages. Elite is harder, sports approximately 50 percent more abrasion resistance, and is significantly slicker; we’re told it maintains the same coefficient of friction as Teflon. The photos of Elite don’t quite do it justice (the black coffee cup is coated with Elite), and it’s decidedly more impressive in person where you can go hands-on.

Available colors are still limited, and the application process is slightly more complicated — you don’t want to throw out all of your old Cerakote products, but if you’re coating internals on a gun with tight tolerances it’s probably the superior choice between the two. You’ll be seeing Elite as an OEM coating for several manufacturers in the days and weeks to come.

As for us, we’ve learned enough to know that in the future we’ll be dropping guns off to be coated by someone with more artistic talent and a steadier hand.


[You can visit Cerakote Coatings online]


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