Cerakote or Duracoat?
I am often asked “What is the difference between Duracoat and Cerakote?”, so I figured it was time to write out a decent answer. The short answer I always give on the phone is that Duracoat is better for impact damage and Cerakote is slightly better for abrasion damage, but that both products are good for most users. It should be noted that both paints can be damaged or show wear over time, neither is impervious to everything. That said, lets go into a deeper review.
I have been refinishing firearms (and car parts, knives, electronics cases and scientific equipment) with Duracoat for about 10 years now. In a nutshell, I love this stuff! The colors are easily blended and I can often color match a paint chip from a home improvement store with a good bit of accuracy. It is an air cure formula, but can be rapidly cured in an oven. The air cure takes about two weeks for a full cure, but a firearm can be used/shot within 24 hours if needed. There have been a number of handguns that survived a four day pistol class at Front Sight with only 24-48 hours post spraying. Why they waited til the last minute to submit their firearms is another story. During this cure time, the paint is more susceptible to damage, especially from scratches. Customer service at Lauer Custom Weaponry (the makers of Duracoat) has always been fantastic. Of the hundreds of bottles of paint I have ordered, I think only two were not quite right. A simple phone call had new bottles coming, no questions asked. Their products play well with each other and have consistent spray qualities, regardless of color. Duracoat stays slightly flexible, so it handles impact well without chipping or flaking. The nature of this product allows me to do many different painting techniques that are more difficult with Cerakote.
I have used Cerakote for almost 3 years, and while I tried my best to like it, I’m not heartbroken to say that I will probably never use it again. Wow, that sounded bad… Actually, Cerakote is an interesting product and has some good qualities, but there are just too many cons that outweigh the pros. It seems that everyone has heard of Cerakote as that is often what people ask for first. And to their credit, Cerakote has done a great job marketing it’s product, especially to the tactical market. But this is where I start to take issue with Cerakote. The average Joe thinks that Cerakote is bulletproof, then is disappointed when they start getting holster wear after the first month. In my experience, Cerakote is not as durable as they claim. Some might be thinking, “maybe you did not apply it correctly or did not do proper surface prep, bla, bla…”. Well, due to the nature of working as a gunsmith, I have had the pleasure to see many Cerakoted firearms not painted by me. Some were painted at the factory, some by other gunsmiths or “certified finishers”. All exhibited similar wear. But hey, these days if you have a bearded man in camo and sunglasses tell you that product X will survive a nuclear blast and/or being urinated on by Chuck Norris, the consumers wallets open up faster than a rockchuck meeting a 55 gn JHP. Once you can clearly see through the cloud of unrealistic expectations regarding durability, Cerakote is still a pretty tough product. From a production point of view, the oven cure is nice and re-assembly can take place sooner. Their metallic colors (specifically Burnt Bronze) are beautiful, but Duracoat just released a new line of metallic finishes, so this edge may not last long. Blending colors is a hit or miss affair. Some play nice with others, while some colors may react to others. Their tech support was less than helpful when I called them inquiring about reducers for some Cerakote that was almost too thick for my airbrush. The gentleman stated that different colors may have non compatible formulas and he could not recommend an appropriate reducing agent. Not helpful… Spray quality varied greatly with color and often required tuning of air pressure to get the results that I expected. Cerakote is a very hard finish, which makes it prone to chipping if there is impact damage. And to top off the cons, this stuff is more expensive than Duracoat.
Please keep in mind that this is purely my opinion based on using both products in a full time professional gunsmithing setting. I am not endorsed by either company (and definitely wont be by Cerakote after this..). Both products are tough and add character and protection to any firearm. But, in my shop, Duracoat will be the only finish that I offer. If you are a DIY’er and want to do your own paint job, Brownells carries both Cerakote and Duracoat. If you want an awesome Duracoat job on your favorite firearm, give us a call!