There are a lot of ways to protect your guns, but one of the most popular for both manufacturers and owners is a little product called Cerakote. But why is it so good? How do you use it? Is it really worth the up-charge? All this and more are coming right up!
What Is Cerakote?
Cerakote is a polymer-ceramic-based paint that is baked at high temp to cure it into an ultra-durable hard coating.
With enough skill and prep work, you can apply Cerakote to wood, plastic, polymers, and metal.
Cerakote has been around for a while now and has become very popular in the firearm industry and in other outdoor applications, especially fishing and boating.
Advantages Of Cerakote
The hard finish of Cerakote gives a huge boost to the durability of whatever it is protecting.
Cerakote is highly resistant to corrosion, chemicals, abrasion, and improves the impact strength and hardness of what it coats.
Basically -- if anything wants to damage the firearm under the Cerakote, it has to get through the Cerakote first. And that is harder than it seems like it should be.
Cerakote’s website has a lot of cool videos and information about their testing results. While you might expect them to be biased, their testing was done by using standardized testing methods that you can put some faith in.
According to their ASTM D4060 testing, Cerakote lasted for 5,023 abrasion cycles -- for context, blueing lasted for 50 cycles and Duracoat lasted for 449 cycles.
That is a LOT of protection!
[See our selection of Cerakote AR-15 uppers here!]
Popular Cerakote Colors
Cerakote can come in basically any color you want, mixing custom colors isn’t as hard as you might think.
However, by far the most common colors are a simple black, tan (FDE), and green (OD Green). But burnt bronze and silver are also pretty popular these days too!
From gold to chrome to pinks and purples, if you can think of it, Cerakote can come in it.
Doing multiple colors is also very doable, but takes more skill from the person applying it. Using stencils and a lot of care, doing multicolor patterns can make a firearm really stand out.
What About Other Coatings?
Maybe you don’t have the room or the tools or the skill or the budget for Cerakote, there are some other options on the market that you might want to think about.
This is acrylic resin, but it functions basically like fancy spray paint. Apply it either with a spray can or with an airbrush, Duracoat goes on easy and doesn’t require an oven to cure.
It offers many of the same protections that Cerakote does and it comes in a boatload of colors, but it isn’t nearly as durable as Cerakote is.
You might get a similar level of protection, but that protection wears off a lot quicker.
That said -- a can of Duracoat normally costs about $60 and is enough for 2-4 firearms. This might not be the cheapest option, but it is a great value.
Normal, everyday, spray paint. Ultra cheap and easy to apply, but it offers almost nothing in terms of actual protection. It also wears off really fast. Like, REALLY fast.
Don’t think of this as a protective coating, because it isn’t. Instead, look at this as something fun to add some color to your life. Expect it to be gone within a few range trips and don’t feel bad when it is.
A bit newer to the firearm industry, vinyl wrap has been around for a long time and has become very popular for cars, boats, and outdoor signs.
Easy to apply with just a heat gun and a razor blade, this is a protective coating that comes pre-printed with the color or pattern that you want.
Simply peel, heat, and stick to the firearm of your choice and you’re good to go.
Vinyl offers a lot more protection than something like spray paint, but it doesn’t give you a hard finish like Cerakote will. It is tear-resistant, but it still tears and scratches.
The huge advantage of vinyl wraps is they are super easy to remove and leave zero residues and won’t damage the underlying finish of the gun.
This makes it easy to replace often either with new colors/patterns/camos or just because you feel like it.
Depending on who you ask, powder coating is as good or better than Cerakote is. But it’s harder for the common man to apply since it takes more specialized tools, so it’s normally something only applied at the manufacturing level.
Powder coating is basically a polymer paint but very dehydrated. Applied as a dry powder using the magic of electrostatic magnetism, powder coating is then cured with either heat or UV light so that you’re left with a hard coating. The finished product is very similar to Cerakote, just a different process.
Fun fact! Bear Creek Arsenal has a huge line of powder-coated AR-15s with lots of colors, (16 I'm told!) that are super durable and look great.
Make sure to keep an eye out for those!
[Check out our powder coated and cerakoted AR-15s here! More colors coming soon.]
This is a pretty crash course in Cerakote, but it should give you the basics so you can decide if it’s right for you.
I always recommend letting a pro apply Cerakote since the prep work and tools needed aren’t easy to do at home, but it absolutely can be done if you’re feeling super DIY.
[We'd like to extend a huge thanks to David Lane for his hard work on this article! Comment your favorite AR-15 camo or color below and check out our other guides like 300 Blackout vs. 5.56 and Parts of an AR-15.]