Cerakote vs. Duracoat vs. Bluing. Fight!

Cerakote vs. Duracoat vs. Bluing. Fight!

 If you find yourself saying ‘never again’ every time you find a scratch on your firearm, it may be time to make good on your resolution before you add to your collection of inevitable blemishes again. While we all might dream of a manufacturer sped’d, fully nitride-coated firearm, few of us can afford the luxury. But don’t let that discourage you from other options. If you’re looking for the best way to protect your investment, your best bets might be Cerakote, Duracoat, or bluing. There’s no best coating for everyone, so hopefully the following information will help you decide what’s right for you.


If you’re a consummate do-it-yourselfer who wants only the best, you may be tempted to try to spray Ceracote yourself. But be warned: it’s not an undertaking to be taken lightly. Besides requiring an oftentimes pricey airgun to apply, Cercote cures rather than dries, which means many of the color choices require some serious heat to harden. Sure, your trusty kitchen oven can reach well over the required 250 degrees Fahrenheit, but Ceracote is toxic stuff when it’s baking. You don’t want VOCs lingering in your home, and you definitely don’t want them in your oven. Every blueberry muffin that comes out of there will be forever suspect afterward, and there’s already enough guilt attached to baked goods without a new health risk to further frustrate the issue.

Thankfully, some of the available Cerakote colors can air-cure without the aid of an oven. If you’re looking to create a statement piece though, some of the more ostentatious colors like  ‘bazooka pink’ don’t come with the air cure option, sadly. Now, if anyone out there is actually spraying Cerakote on a bazooka, please send me pictures immediately– especially if you chose bazooka pink. Or prison pink for that matter! Yes, you did read that correctly. Prison pink is an actual color. I’m not sure if I should laugh or be offended, or even what the order of those two reactions should be, but prison pink is a real Cerakote color.

Anyway, aside from choosing the right color, the really formidable challenge with Cerakote is getting a smooth finish. Spraying it too closely, too quickly, or applying it in a room that’s too humid will likely result in a gritty finish. It should have a smooth sheen to it to let you know that it’s been applied properly. Judging the sheen, however, is something that comes with practice. To the untrained eye, wet things pretty much always look smooth, and its not until they dry that it becomes apparent there’s an uneven finish. And that scenario is more frustrating than the scratch that prompted you to start this journey in the first place! ‘There must be an easier way,’ you say.


Enter Duracoat. Is it easier to apply than Cerakote? A little. They have options already in spray cans, so there’s no sprayer required. Is it more effective at preventing scratches? Not quite, but it’s still an effective barrier. While it does protect the surface its been applied to, Duracoat itself is more prone to scratches, dings, and general wear and tear. Cosmetically speaking, it’s not the most ideal option. So, what’s the benefit of using Duracoat?

For most, it has a little longer longevity than bluing, and it’s a process that’s meant to be more accessible to a novice. However, that’s only because it usually requires less equipment overall. The care and expertise needed to disassemble and prep your firearm for the process cannot be overstated. Before you endeavor to apply anything to your firearm, resolve to challenge yourself by practicing your finishing skills. Try it on something small, metal, and geometrically complex before getting anywhere near your weapon with a sprayer. Getting the right distance, speed, and PSI is nothing short of an art. And just like doing anything else, practice makes perfect. If you’re at all new to taking firearms apart, I recommend checking out out Kurt Martonik’s article on firearm disassembly here.

It cannot be overstated how clean your firearm must be before you spray Duracoat (or any other coating, for that matter). Any excess oil or debris can interfere its ability to adhere to surfaces, so inspect everything carefully before you start spraying. Keep a heat gun handy so that you can speed up dry time and coax any paint runs or drips off of your firearm. If you haven’t used a sprayer before, prepare yourself for the inevitability of paint runs. They’re an unavoidable speed-bump along the way until you’ve gotten used to the ideal setup and distance needed to achieve the finish you want.

If you’re looking to create unique color patterns, Duracoat probably isn’t the way to go. Color options are more limited and it isn’t made for layering the same way that Cerakote is.


If you’d like your firearm to retain a more traditional look, re-bluing may be the way to go. Like Ceracote and Duracote, bluing a firearm offers a similar thin layer of protection. Instead of using a ceramic or urethane finish, bluing involves the application of either a selenium based coating or an acid. The iron oxide created in the process is what gives the steel its bluish color. If it’s not too humid where you live, and you’re the type to baby your firearm, bluing might last for years or even a lifetime. But that’s a best-case scenario.

Gunsmiths are more divided than the Korean peninsula when it comes to the issue of cold vs hot bluing, and while both methods are effective, hot bluing tends to last longer. Hot bluing involves submerging your weapon in a hot bath of bluing salts, while cold bluing is a wipe-on process that doesn’t require heat. While bluing offers long lasting results, it’s no substitute for cleaning and oiling. Whether you choose to hot or cold blue, it’s a preliminary step that you’ll be glad you took. That said, it may be a step to skip when dealing with vintage rifles that may have silver solder or other components that may not react well with your chosen cleaning solution.

Ben Baker has an introduction to gun bluing here that’s well worth checking out.

Long Term Maintenance

While Ceracote can be removed by sandblasting, its ceramic makeup is very durable and should be considered a more permanent solution. In short, it’s a pain to get it off if you don’t like it. If you like to change the colors of your firearm like a fashionista, it might not be the right product for you.

 Duracoat can also be removed by sandblasting, but acetone or MEK (butanone) and no small amount of patience also works. Duracoat is meant to last a long time as well.

As for bluing, it’s difficult to say how often you have to re-blue your firearm. If you live in a dryer climate and you treat your firearm with a lot of TLC, bluing might last for years. If you use your gun regularly in damp and salty environments, you’ll probably need to have it blued at least every year – if not much more often. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Regardless of the solution you choose, liberal use of lubrication on the moving parts and proper cleaning of the firearm before and after use is always recommended. And no matter which finish you choose, be confident in your choice. Protecting your firearm is always the right thing to do.


Written by: Lanna Perkins, Education Writer

Cerakote vs. Duracoat vs. Bluing. Fight!