Selecting Finishes — And Great New Parts!


Two custom 1911’s by Greg: The bottom Colt has a case-hardened frame and blued slide. The Springfield Armory .45
has an IonBond slide and hard chrome frame. Finishes can change the entire presentation of a pistol.

Get all of your gunsmithing tools at by clicking here.

For a long time in gun manufacturing and ’smithing it was “blue.” Today there are more colors and finishes than in the rainbow. Spray finishes have been a boon to small shops. These finishes offer a variety of colors, along with small start up costs. They also take up less shop space than a bluing set up.

FNIC Industries, creators of Cerakote, offer 150 shades to meet any need, from black to hot pink. A spray and bake ceramic coating is very easy to use, offers the ’smith an easy in-house finish, and when done properly looks good and wears well. All you need is a small low-pressure spray gun and toaster oven for handgun parts. I use the graphite black and flat dark earth colors for law enforcement pistols and have secretly used Tiffany blue for a project.

Cerakote now offers a new Elite series laying down thinner, and is harder after baking than the original H-Series. The Elite “Blackout” color is the best deep black I’ve used, and the thinner finish does not build up in rollmarks or serrations. Cerakote is the go-to finish for polymer pistols.

Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coatings use a vacuum chamber to vaporize host nitride materials and transfer onto parts. This type of coating is very hard and wear resistant, but is not cheap given the equipment used to produce it. There are many shops providing the service under a variety of names and IonBond is the one I use. The black is very nice and leans toward graphite in color but is super tough. Preparation is key here, as any blemish will show up after coating.

Chen’s “Shooter Installed” magwell in blue, featuring a perfect blend with the frame and compound cuts at the front.

Cylinder and Slide’s new“spring” steel extractor for the 1911 fit perfectly on a Colt slide with no clocking or gaps.

Old And New School

Color Case Hardening has made a huge comeback. Not just in single action revolvers but also on the 1911 and other autos. Turnbull Restoration in up-state New York offers the service for gunsmiths. He provides the “bone charcoal process” used a hundred years ago on Winchester lever rifles and Colt revolvers.

The process produces colorful blues and bronzes, is an elegant contrast against blued slides or barrels and is not a small shop process. Turnbull also offers charcoal bluing done prior to the 1930s by Colt. Turnbull, a full restoration shop, takes pride in using the original methods for both.

I think Hard Chrome is the most durable finish for handguns, at a Rockwell hardness of 65. Don’t confuse it with “bumper chrome” which is thick and soft. Hard chrome is tough as nails and elegant. It will provide a variety of sheens based on surface prep. In my shop if it’s silver-toned, it’s hard-chromed. The finish can be applied over carbon or stainless but it’s not recommended for aluminum. APW Cogan Custom specializes in hard chrome finishing.

Titanium nitride is a gold-toned coating similar in properties to hard chrome. It’s very tough and used on machine tools. For the gunsmith it offers a durable substitute to gold plating, which is soft and not durable. Richter Precision offers coating services for gunsmiths.

Chen’s “Shooter Installed” magwell is precision CNC machined out of heat-treated 4140
carbon or 416 stainless steel billets. Photo: Roy Huntington

Stan Chen hits another home run with his new “Shooter Installed” Magwell. The new barstock SI magwell requires no machine work and features perfect Pete Single 25 LPI checkering. I tried the unit on a number of frames and it slips in the MSH grooves easily, mating with the bottom of the frame at near perfect angles. The frame is proud just enough to make for quick blending by hand. The compound curve at the front of the chute matches the magazine tunnel with no sharp edges. Chen magwells come in blued carbon or stainless, smooth or checkered.

Bill Laughridge of the Cylinder and Slide shop makes a new extractor to last a lifetime. The spring steel extractor is made to the original 1911 blueprint with correct spring steel. Each extractor is individually hardness tested and hand polished. Designed to last upwards of 20,000 rounds, it has a perfect nose and hook shape. Available in both series 70 and 80 styles, the firing pin plate slot is snug and can be filed or stoned. I tested it using an EGW stop plate. It fit flush on a Colt slide with no clocking and ran flawlessly with one pound of hook tension. Available at

For more info:

Get all of your gunsmithing tools at by clicking here.

Purchase A PDF Download Of The American Handgunner July/August 2019 Issue Now!