Do you have a gun that’s a little worse for wear? How about a gun you inherited that, truth be told, is really just a hunk of junk? Have you ever perused the racks of cheap, worn-out police trade-ins at your local shop and wondered if you could fix one up?
Well, the answer to all of those problems is a little bit of imagination and some Cerakote.
A little while ago I was talking to an old friend about our time spent in CMP competitions. We were prattling on about all the same things we talked about for years, just as if we had never discussed them in our lives.
We came to the point in that conversation where we began to lament the lack of good surplus guns out there these days. The discussion eventually veered off onto the process of rebuilding a 1903 A3 Springfield rifle that had, at one point, been disabled and turned into a drill rifle.
“You can’t Parkerize the area around the magazine cutoff. The welds make it so that you can’t do it.”
I nodded, as this was a primary reason I had not tried a project like that. “Yeah, I know. I wish it would be more feasible. I bet you could get a coating that would work. Cerakote would work, I’ve heard.”
“Cerakote? Son, have you been drinking curbwater? There’s something wrong with your brain if you think a coating like that belongs on a classic rifle.”
I thought on that for a while in regard to a rifle restoration project I had been kicking around. For a competitor like me, it would be nice to have a waterproof and durable finish on a rifle that will likely see plenty of rain, mud, and sweat. I eventually suspended the 1903 rebuild project and began prepping for other articles.
A short time later I decided to get out the Brownells 1911 project build I did here earlier this year and took it to the range for some fun. (You can read those articles here Part One and here Part Two for a complete list of the parts I got from Brownells.)
While the gun works fine, the exterior finish always bothered me a little. I mucked up a number of things when I was building it due to my lax placement of rotary tools and sandpaper. Needless to say, the gun was ugly and I had no affection for it as a result.
I decided that something had to be done and I gathered it up along with another gun that has appeared off and on over the years on TTAG: my blue-gripped Smith & Wesson J-Frame.
This gun has seen a punishing number of rounds — something in the neighborhood of 20,000 or so — and had been carried frequently. It was in what I could only call poor condition. Most of the finish was bare metal and it had an overall tired look about it.
I began looking for a place that could do something about these situations and I set my sights on the fine folks at West Michigan Cerakote.
Unlike many other companies in my area, West Michigan Cerakote is a coatings-only business. The are fully certified and were trained at Cerakote headquarters to do even the most advanced applications. They enjoy ongoing support from Cerakote and continue to train hands-on with Cerakote’s pros.
As I found out, not every Cerakote applicator is certified or trained. There’s a huge difference in consistent application as compared to work done by a non-certified shop.
Think of it this way: your wife may make a killer sandwich, but she can’t make as many exactly the same in volume as Jimmy John’s. Every Jimmy John’s has the same equipment and delivers the same consistent, reliable product.
West Michigan Cerakote uses the same equipment as the Cerakote company does so the results will be identical to what the manufacturer intended.
West Michigan Cerakote is one of the only multi-industry Cerakote applicators in the Midwest. They work with several other industries including automotive. Guns are a large part of their business, but the Cerakote material is so versatile it can be used to coat any surface including polymers. Yes, you can have your GLOCK or Ruger frame coated without causing it to melt, contrary to some opinions I have heard.
So what does getting your gun coated look like from a practical standpoint? I hear all the time that it’s a six-month ordeal and it’s not worth it. Well, a gunsmith that also does coatings may take forever (as most gunsmiths seem to). West Michigan Cerakote boasts a 2-4 week turnaround.
WMC also gives a lifetime guarantee against cracking, chipping, and peeling. This does not cover holster wear and abrasion in the event you decide to see how well your gun enjoys being tossed on concrete.
I got my two completely stripped guns here only two weeks to be processed. It will take longer if they have to disassemble your gun for you.
I decided to go with two totally different surface coatings on my guns. This was done for several reasons, both practical and cosmetic.
Most of the rifles and shotguns sent in to WMC are sent in for cosmetic and protective upgrades. Handguns are typically sent for what amounts to repair of worn surfaces and coatings and are rarely purely cosmetic.
You have several options when it comes to Cerakote. The first isn’t featured in this article. The C Series coating is rated for high temperature work. That coating is typically applied to automotive parts, barrels for high-volume competition rifles, machine guns, and suppressors.
H Series is what I had applied to the revolver in this article. This is the most common type of Cerakote and is the kind you see in artistic work. You’ve all seen rifles covered in everything from American flags to guns made to mimic the colors of Star Wars’ Boba Fett and his armor. Literally anything is possible and is totally up to you.
The H Series has the most colors available and has adjustable amount of sheen. My revolver displays Gold (H-122) and Jesse James Eastern Front Green (H-400).
The Elite Series is what was applied to my 1911. This coating is twice as hard and half as thick as other Cerakote products. The Elite Series is however only offered in a few finishes and there is only one sheen level available, which is satin.
I went with this finish for the 1911 because it’s a top-of-the-line finish for hard-use guns. This 1911 will be making numerous appearances in the months to come and will be used in testing ammunition, new 1911 parts, and in matches so the Elite finish was a no-brainer.
The color used on my gun is Elite Concrete (E-160).
Care must be taken when reassembling your freshly-finished gun. Although the finish is thin, it may be thick enough to give you problems in some areas. I had to remove a slight amount of material around the hammer pin on my revolver, but that was pretty much it.
The 1911 reassembled instantly and without issues. It’s slicker than it was before, which I am very excited about.
If you are the lucky owner of a beat-to-hell piece gun, you can sleep easy knowing that you can get your beater made pretty and back in your hands in just a couple weeks from the folks at West Michigan Cerakote. You’ll have a much greater amount of pride in your gun knowing that you’ve made it even more yours.
My opinion changed on my 1911 instantly. I resented the gun for being so damn hard to build and how bad it looked to me, but now I can’t stop looking at it. The next time you pass a $300 police trade it, perhaps don’t see it as a bargain bin special. Look at it as a potential blank canvass for your next Cerakote project.