Chrome? Nickel? Stainless steel?


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Mr. 16 gauge
October 8, 2008, 09:56 PM
What is the purpose of nickel or chrome plating a sidearm? I know that stainless will reduce the chance of rusting, and I thought nickel and chrome would do the same, but I was talking to a gun dealer today and was told that wasn't the case....that nickel & chrome will rust.
So why do it (other than to make the gun look 'pretty') ???

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The Lone Haranguer
October 8, 2008, 10:15 PM
Nickel plated steel can still rust, that is true. It still rusts far less quickly than unplated or blued steel. Nickel plating predates stainless by quite a few years, too. And stainless is not corrosion-proof.

Chrome plating is associated more with "affordable" (read "cheap") handguns. The aftermarket finishes using industrial hard chrome are a different matter.

dfariswheel
October 8, 2008, 11:09 PM
Nickel plating was used on guns as long ago as the 1850's.
Originally, it was used both for looks, and because it was more durable and rust resistant than ordinary bluing.

Today, bright nickel is used for appearance and tradition.
It's not very tough, and can scratch, crack, chip, and peel off.

Bright chrome is really not used much on guns, most people just mistake the bright shine of nickel for chrome.
When you do see real bright chrome, it's on a cheap gun.
It too is not is not a particularly durable finish for guns.

The most durable "finish" is stainless steel, because it isn't a finish, it's steel all the way through. Since there IS no "finish" there's no coating to damage or come off.
While stainless will rust, it's far more durable than either bright nickel or bright chrome.

Rmart30
October 8, 2008, 11:47 PM
Anything will rust if exposed long enough..... Stainless and hard chrome are more resistant to it.....Stainless is my first choice, but hard chroming a blued gun is a very close 2nd.
We have hydraulic cylinders at work like off of any forklift etc that have been sitting outside in the elements for at least 3 years with no sign of rust yet..... that says a lot for hard chroming...
Hard chrome on guns looks like Matte stainless.....I have 2 guns being sent out for HC now and will slowly have the rest of my blued guns hard chromed also.

dbriannelson
October 8, 2008, 11:59 PM
Nickel plating by itself is porous and can peel off. These days it's all "electroless nickel" which is another way of saying nickel over copper plating. Some of this stuff is incredibly durable, such as the proprietary plating used by Star. Others, not so good. I have a shiny new Model 21 in nickel, with flaws straight from the factory. They wouldn't show up if it weren't "polished" nickel.

Nickel does have a different color than stainless, so which finish is which is obvious, especially if the two guns are side-by-side. Nickel feels optically warmer.

Nickel is pretty. My problem with it is that I can't go hacking up a nickeled revolver (or a blued one) because then they'd need refinishing. Stainless makes it open season with a mill bastard file and emery cloth.

-Don

P.S. I don't think any factories do chrome. It was popular as an aftermarket thing a couple decades ago, but it's not a durable as you'd think for use on guns. In my aerospace job we do use it to plate bearing journals and such as it is very hard. Harder than the parent metal of guns, actually.

Mr. 16 gauge
October 9, 2008, 09:12 AM
Thanks to all for your insight; it's much appreciated.

KI.W.
October 9, 2008, 11:45 AM
Wait for me, please: Only blued steel, thank you!

presspuller
October 9, 2008, 06:52 PM
Armolly and Metalife are types of chrome and they will out last your grandkids.
I don't know enough of the metalurgy behind it but I have used them on machine tools and guns and the stuff just simply does not wear out. The more it rubs against itself the slicker it gets.
I personally don't care for nickel because its softer than the gun steel. If I want protection then I want it to protect the gun, not peel off.

makarovnik
October 10, 2008, 09:50 AM
Stainless is your best bet.

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:23 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dinged, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.)

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

-Don

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:27 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dinged, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.)

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

-Don

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:32 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dinged, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.)

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

-Don

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:37 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. It is slippery stuff. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dented, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Any incursion of moisture or solvents will weaken the bond. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used. Metalife says that it is a molecular bond, but I'm pretty sure that all plating is to varying extents. There is a reason why no manufacturers use chrome plating.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer, but manufacturers don't seem to warn about it and I haven't experienced it. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning techniques.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.) Stainless steel contains a huge proportion of nickel.

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

-Don

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:38 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. It is slippery stuff. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dented, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Any incursion of moisture or solvents will weaken the bond. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used. Metalife says that it is a molecular bond, but I'm pretty sure that all plating is to varying extents. There is a reason why no manufacturers use chrome plating.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer, but manufacturers don't seem to warn about it and I haven't experienced it. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning techniques.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.) Stainless steel contain about 12% chromium and a smaller part nickel.

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

-Don

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:40 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. It is slippery stuff. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dented, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Any incursion of moisture or solvents will weaken the bond. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used. Metalife says that it is a molecular bond, but I'm pretty sure that all plating is to varying extents. There is a reason why no manufacturers use chrome plating.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer, but manufacturers don't seem to warn about it and I haven't experienced it. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning techniques.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.) Stainless steel contain about 16-20% chromium and 8-14% nickel.

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

-Don

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:42 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. It is slippery stuff. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dented, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Any incursion will weaken the bond. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used. Metalife says that it is a molecular bond, but I'm pretty sure that all plating is to varying extents. There is a reason why no manufacturers use chrome plating.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer, but manufacturers don't seem to warn about it and I haven't experienced it. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning techniques.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.) Stainless steel contain about 16-20% chromium and 8-14% nickel.

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

Personally, I prefer stainless for handguns.

-Don

dbriannelson
October 12, 2008, 12:44 AM
Armolly and Metalife are good brand names of chrome finishes. And chrome will polish against itself nicely. It is slippery stuff. But the problem with chrome is that it is not ductile and if the parent metal gets dented, there will be continuous stresses on the plating which is unlikely to deform but instead trying to straighten back out. Any incursion will weaken the bond. Chrome-plated car bumpers that have been dinged illustrate the concept, even though it was a different process back when those were used. Metalife says that it is a molecular bond, but I'm pretty sure that all plating is to varying extents. There is a reason why no manufacturers use chrome plating.

Electroless nickel is tough and ductile and will bend with the ding. It is also much softer and certainly will scratch easily. I think copper solvents would be very bad to use on electroless because of the copper plating under it and the porosity of the nickel layer, but manufacturers don't seem to warn about it and I haven't experienced it. I'm pretty much convinced that almost all the problems with nickel have to do with solvents and cleaning techniques.

The major problem with stainless steel is that it galls against itself and harder steels. In S&W revolvers (my only firearms experience with it), clever design has prevented any such problem, but in all applications the designer has to take that into consideration. I have run into so many problems in aerospace where someone chose CRES for a part that should have been cadmium or silver-plated instead. (Silver plating, while tarnishing and such, is very much anti-galling.) Stainless steel contain about 16-20% chromium and 8-14% nickel.

Bluing is actually a very good finish for firearms. It can be done on steels of various properties, looks good, protects some, and all forms are relatively inexpensive. (The polishing is not inexpensive.) And dimensions don't change with the addition of bluing.

Personally, I prefer stainless for handguns.

-Don

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