Whether You’re Looking For New Parts Or Starting From Scratch You Will Encounter Different Coatings For Your AR-15, AR 10-308 80 Percent Lower Receiver, Or Similar Firearms.
Mostly this comes down to two major options: Anodizing and Cerakote. But, what do each of these coatings do and why does it matter if your 80% receiver is covered in cerakote instead of anodized? We’ll answer some of these questions in this article.
Which Coating and Why?
Bare metal of any kind is more likely to degrade due to environmental factors. This can be rust or abrasion and everything in between. To prevent this damage, anodizing and Cerakote are used to coat your rifle’s parts in a protective surface layer.
This doesn’t really mean anything unless we understand what each is. Let’s start off with anodizing
What is anodizing?
Anodizing is a process of controlled corrosion. Sometimes called “Hardcoat”, anodization is an electrochemical process where the part is submerged in an acid bath and an electrical current applied to it.
This essentially flash-corrodes the surface of the material, producing an anodic oxide finish that won’t flake off and still provides protection to the material below the finish. The type of finish used on firearms is Type III anodizing and is the most durable form of anodizing.
What are the benefits of Anodizing?
The major benefits are resistance to corrosion and increased durability. An anodized part will be able to take more scratches and dings than a non-anodized part. This makes the firearm that you’re building from an 80 lower receiver last longer whether it is an AR-15 or an AR10-308.
Another benefit of anodizing your rifle parts is that anodizing creates a very hard, low friction surface. This allows parts to slide across each other more easily, cutting down on wear while increasing the effects of lubricants. It also makes it easier to wipe down or clean the rifle.
Lower friction means less heat is produced during the firing process of the gun. This means more shooting over a longer period without damaging the rifle or the temper of the materials.
Anodizing is also a relatively affordable finish to put on your AR-15 making it great for budget builds.
Downside of Anodizing
Anodizing aluminum changes some of the tensile strength of the material. Depending on how much is changed or how poorly the anodizing process is done, this can impact the fatigue rate of the aluminum over time.
Anodizing also has a very limited coloration range. This means you will only have a handful of colors to choose from and those colors will not be extremely consistent if you want a particular shade for your parts.
Additionally some forms of the process can produce hazardous fumes, specifically when using hexavalent chromium. However, other methods and materials are replacing hexavalent chromium.
What can you anodize?
Anodizing can only be done on specific materials. These materials are aluminum and titanium. Aluminum is your primary concern since most AR-15 receivers are made from aluminum.
If you are using an 80% lower, you may need to anodize it yourself. While this can be done at home, it requires a MIL-A 8625 Anodizing kit and a power supply that can provide the 25-40 amps at 50+ volts per square footage of your part. This means a commercial power supply and a lot of patience.
It’s recommended you fully research the process and what is required before you attempt to anodize anything.
What is Cerakote?
Cerakote is a more modern take on protective coatings. It is a liquid ceramic that has to be baked into place. This means a piece needs to be sprayed down with a layer of Cerakote and then put into an oven in order for the liquid to harden.
What are the benefits of Cerakote?
Cerakote has very similar benefits to anodizing. It provides corrosion resistance in addition to higher heat resistance while reducing friction. Properly applied Cerakote will be as smooth,if not smoother than anodizing the part.
Cerakoting your rifle parts will allow them to run longer, with less friction, and make them easier to clean. It will also allow you to have specific parts treated without worrying about too large of a change in dimensions for your AR-15 or similar patterned rifles.
Another benefit is related to customization. Cerakote is extremely consistent in its coloration and offers a wider variety of colors than anodizing. This means you will probably be able to find any color you want to have on your rifle.
What are the Downsides of Cerakote?
The downsides of using Cerakote is that it is harder to do at home. While you will still have trouble anodizing parts at home, Cerakote requires more specialized equipment to do correctly.
If you apply Cerakote poorly, you’ll waste time and energy removing the Cerakote or it will wear down prematurely. This is why most people send off their firearms to be Cerakoted by a professional.
This adds to the cost of getting a Cerakote finish which is higher than anodizing to begin with.
What can Cerakote be used on?
Cerakote can be used on almost every material you find on a firearm. This includes steels, aluminum, titanium, plastics, and composites. You can even apply it to anodized aluminum, all it needs is a rough enough surface for the liquid to build up on.
Which Is Better, Anodizing Or Cerkote?
In general, Cerakote is better than anodizing. Cerakote lasts longer and does not affect the tensile strength of the aluminum. It has better coloration options than anodizing and it is more consistent in general. Its only major drawback is that it requires consistent temperatures for the curing process.
However, if you are looking to make a retro style AR-15 or AR10- 308, anodizing is going to be your best option since it was historically used. Additionally anodizing is still used on a wide variety of AR-15 brands since it is relatively cheaper to do than Cerakote.
For the best of both worlds you can have your anodized receiver or parts Cerakoted for added durability.