Our most popular finish with forty plus years of experience is commonly used on blued and stainless handguns.
Blued to create a more durable and better looking outside.
On stainless for it’s lubricity and wear characteristics.
Hard Chrome offers the best all-around properties of any finish available for firearms that exists today. Hard Chrome, when applied to a steel, or stainless steel surface that has been properly prepared, will not chip or peel. Again, and I might be repeating myself, no mis-understanding here, Hard Chrome is not Bumper Chrome. We are not talking about thick layers of soft Chrome made to flow and will many times eventually peel if a substrate layer metallics is not applied.
This is INDUSTRIAL Chrome used to make tooling stronger and more wear resistant. How hard? The hardness rating averages 65 R.C., or about 1000 on the Vickersscale. Most better Chefs Kitchen knives end at 61RC.
Its friction co-efficient is .1 (point one) when working with all surfaces chromed. Polishing the surface decreases the friction co-efficient even further. The salt spray ratings average around 100 plus hours. The surfaces available are Matte hard Chrome Finishes are a light grey and completely non-reflective, Brushed Hard Chrome Finishes are the easiest to clean and have a very low reflectivity.
The stainless alloys they manufacture firearms from have a high level of Chrome-Moly Steel in them. These are used so that they can be adequately hardened after machining. You were told stainless steel is not magnetic. There are hundreds of varieties of stainless. If you don’t believe me, put a magnet near your firearm, it will jump on it.
While gun stainless is far more corrosion resistant than any Blue Steel Chrome-Moly firearm construction, it is not as corrosion resistant as the stainless used in hardware cutlery or, surgical instruments. Also, when stainless firearms rust, they usually pit deeply where the Chrome Moly part of the alloy is concentrated. Those pits are very difficult to remove.
Stainless alloys have an inherent tendency to gall or bind when the two working surfaces are in the same alloy family. Gun manufacturers try to limit this problem by varying the hardness of the parts that work against each other and increasing the tolerances between the parts. For the most part, they are successful using these methods. However, you pay a price in accuracy potential and having a tight, smoothly functioning firearm with these methods.
Many firearm owners think stainless guns are harder then Blue Steel firearms. This may be true of certain moving parts due to the mentioned galling problems, but, is not true of the overall construction of the firearm. Consequently, stainless firearms will scuff, or scratch at about the same level as Blued firearms. Any flaws on a stainless firearm are much more noticeable than on Black Finished firearms.
So what does chrome do to help these inherent stainless faults.
It imparts to the surface an additional coating that has to be attacked and penetrated before it can attack the base metal. Due to the type of bonding chrome plating has with a base metal the overall corrosion resistance increases more than the rating for each metal. This may be the best combination of the two elements involved when corrosion resistance is a major concern.
Hard chrome with its inherently low friction co-efficiency allows for smoother operation of the matted stainless parts with tighter tolerances and decreases the possibility of galling. You now can have a tighter, smoother, more dependable operating firearm. Third, due to the hardness of chrome, wear and tear is less noticeable and takes longer to happen. You have a better looking firearm with less maintenance.
Nickel Plating, has been extensively used in the firearm’s industry for close to 100 years. Nickel finishes have a slight yellow cast to them and this coloring gives Nickel a softer appearance when applied to firearms. The only time we recommend Nickel over a Chrome Finish is to do restoration on older or classic firearms, or when a firearm is so heavily pitted from neglect that full flaw removal would create a dangerous firearm.
Matte Nickel Finishes do not show flaws like Chrome does because of softer coloring. Also, Nickel Plating solutions have chemicals in them that enhances the ability of the plating to fill in and fully cover the flaws that cannot be removed. Nickel Plated Finishes, in general, run about a 45 R.C.
This is as hard as most of the parts in firearms manufacturing, but way off of the standard Hard Chrome at 65 R.C. Also, Nickel can tarnish, or stain like silver. Even some cleaning solvents can damage Nickel Finishes. Chrome, on the other hand, will not change its appearance unless attached by certain dangerous strong acids, or bases.
Also, Nickel is more prone to show wear due to the lower hardness of the deposit, similar to Stainless Steel Firearms. Nickel and Chrome Finishes cost the same at AP&W. So unless there is special reason to choose Nickel, frankly Chrome would be the better choice. Salt spray ratings are about the same…100+ hours.
Note: Bright Nickel solutions, due to their chemical make, create a more brittle and less ductile deposit on the base metal. This can cause the deposit to actually blow off, or crack where high pressure gas from the cartridge igniting come into direct contact with the plating.
This problem mainly occurs with magnum handgun cartridges. AP&W uses a Semi-Bright Nickel solution that can be maintained with low levels of brighteners. This allows for a much less brittle and highly ductile deposit. We have used our tank to base coat magnum high power rifles and have not experienced any separation at the muzzles.
Blue is the oldest and most common finish applied to firearms. Because it was simple and economical. But it was the only oxide available at the time and somewhat was better than a rusted gun. It does wear but it is closest to black that can be achieved.