What's the deal on hard chrome?


January 15, 2003, 09:04 PM
Read a lot of posts about the virtue of hard chroming. But, exactly what does that mean? Can it be done to any finish? What does the finish look like? Why do it at all? Rather than ask a zillion questions I invite those who opt to answer to "wax eloquently" as I am really curious. Now, have at it! Good shooting

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January 15, 2003, 09:15 PM
Very durable, apparently. No first hand experience myself, yet, except noticing that stainless is very pretty.

Some complain about shiny guns being 'untactical' as the reflection could give away your position to a bad guy, but conversely a shiny gun looks larger, which could be a GOOD thing at night.

Check out Tripp Research's Website:


Doubtless others more in the know than I will chime in momentarily...

January 15, 2003, 09:19 PM
I don't do chrome. Click my sig link for why.

January 15, 2003, 09:34 PM
Boats: is your point that Robar is such a great product that... why refinish in anything else?

Sean Smith
January 15, 2003, 09:39 PM
Here is the deal on hard chrome:

Hard chrome is NOT the same as cosmetic chrome on car bumpers and cheap pimp guns. Hard chrome is essentially an industrial coating developed for things like dies, adapted to handguns.

It has alot of virtues: it helps protect against corrosion, and is VERY hard and wear resistant. It also looks nice, usually a bluish-tinged silver metal color. How shiny it is depends on how the base metal is treated; it can be mirror-polished, brushed or a flat matte appearance. It works well on carbon steel or stainless steel.

Downsides? Mainly that it is light colored. If you need the ultimate in rust resistance, something like NP3 can provide you somewhat more corrosion resistance and more lubricity (read: it's slick!)... but won't be as hard as hard chrome.

Example of hard chrome (not mine, unfortunately :D ):


Hard chrome guns look good for a LONG time, and have to take a hell of a beating to start to show wear. It won't flake off like nickel can tend to. In that respect, hard chrome is probably unbeatable compared to any of the other mainstream finishes. But there really is no "ultimate" finish... it just depends on what your priorities are.

January 15, 2003, 09:46 PM
Tactical schmactical, if you have a pistol out and ready it is too late to worry about being tactical I think.

Hard chome is extremely hard, it is the hardest coating typically used that you can put on your guns. Hardness is on the order of 62-65 on the Rockwell C scale if memory serves me. Wear even when run totally dry is virtually eliminated. It is virtually corrosion proof, it will not rust or decay. Makes for a nice carry gun that does not rust from sweat instantly, and can take weeks of condensation. I have several hard chrome guns, it is the only finish I have found that is wear proof, you just can't hurt it in normal usage. Corrosion? Never. Lube? Not needed if the gun is fitted decently, it is hard and slick all by itself.

I am a big fan of hard chrome, where it is appropriate it is THE best possible plating/finish.

January 15, 2003, 09:53 PM
Hard chrome is an industrial process whereby chrome (very hard stuff) is permanently bonded onto metal. It is not a plating which would normally flake off. It cannot be applied to polymer and is not generally applied to aluminum.

The stuff is for real. It is primarily for industrial usage. It will extend the life of heavy-use tools and machine bits. An example of HC useage is in the bits of a drilling rig. It also has higher corrosion/rust resistance than bare metal.

HC on guns is real overkill because a gun will never be subjected to the wear, vibration, shock, temperatures and pressures of industrial tools. It will make it beautiful and prevent scratching and additional wear such as along slide rails. People with HC'd guns haven't noticed wear on their pistolas after a decade of use. Thus it is popular with owners of 'high-end' guns as well as competition shooters who shoot thousands of rounds per month.

Contrary to those who have never seen it, hard chrome is the color of liquid mercury, it has a satin sheen and is less shiny than stainless steel. HC can be polished to a beautiful shine however, but this is an additional process and expense.

Knife makers have been using HC far longer than gun collectors.

A properly HC'd gun makes it slick and easy to clean.

Here is an example of one of my HC'd (as done by Virgil Tripp) HK P7M8. It is just wiped-down with a rag after shooting. No sign of wear.

Sean Smith
January 15, 2003, 09:59 PM
To put hard chrome's hardness in perspective (from the Tripp Research site...)

The Vickers hardness scale is normally used to test hard chrome. Since most firearm people are more familiar with the Rockwell C Hardness Scale, the apparent Rockwell C hardness of hard chrome is RC 70-75. A heat treated frame is usually RC 28-32. Hammers are generally RC 48-52 while sears are usually around Rc 56.


January 15, 2003, 11:28 PM
I like it for pocket guns, especially during the summers here.

If you don't like the color you can always have one of those dark finishes applied over it. It's only money.


January 16, 2003, 02:18 AM
Do most of you leave the sights black on a hard chromed gun?

January 16, 2003, 02:40 AM

January 16, 2003, 10:04 AM
here is a pic of 2 slides side by side. The bottom one is hard chrome, and the top is nickel plated.
http://www.1bad69.com/gallery/GunStuff/kel-tec/dcp02364.gif (http://www.1bad69.com/gallery/GunStuff/kel-tec/dcp02364.jpg)
(click to enlarge)

the finish of both can be shiny if the metal is smooth before the plating...

January 16, 2003, 11:32 AM
If you GOTTA have "tactical", I guess there's always black chrome (http://www.apwcogan.com/Refinishing.htm).

January 16, 2003, 02:11 PM
Great responses! Learned a great deal already. The pics were great too. Keep 'em coming:D Good shooting:)

January 16, 2003, 03:01 PM
Hard chrome is great, but it will show wear. I'm sold on it for a carry gun, as I sweat like a pig and this stuff doesnt rust. I was told by my smith that it can rust if its degreased and not re-oiled, hasnt been a problem for me, but I still wipe it down twice a day.

The pic below is my Colt Commander. Its carried everyday and shows it. It was a blued gun to start, but constantly wet leather took its toll. I now swear by hard chrome and kydex. You can see that chrome will wear. Its still chromed at the rub points but just polished, no longer matte. Its not totally perfect, but its pretty close.


Sean Smith
January 16, 2003, 05:47 PM
Kydex will ruin ANY gun's finish. :D

January 16, 2003, 05:58 PM
The kydex isnt the problem, the leather is. Once its wet, it stays wet, and so does your gun. Kydex keeps everything nice and dry. Its also a lot more comfortable against your skin if you dont have cloth behind it. They both leave wear marks on your guns finish, only one protects it from you.

January 17, 2003, 09:25 AM
I sent my P32 back to KelTec.
For $20 they exchanged my slide, barrel, and assembly pin for hard chromed parts.
The finish reminds me of the "matte stainless" on my Ruger and Kahr guns. I'm glad, because I didn't want a shiny gun.
It is durable, and rust resistant.

Perfect for a pocket gun.

January 17, 2003, 12:24 PM
Hard chrome will rust. I can attest to that. My hard chromed P7M8 has some black pits that I can't get rid of.


January 17, 2003, 07:04 PM
Those black pits could be inclusions in the plating too, that corroded.

January 17, 2003, 11:46 PM
Regular industrial hardchrome is full of microsopic cracks which is why it can rust stain. IMHO the "Chromium SS" process is much better. You should check it out before you get a refinish job done.

Mahovsky's Metalife Ind.
Ron Mahovsky
RD 1, Box 149-A Eureka Rd.
Grand Valley, PA 16420
{Inventor of a high-tech in-surface chrome finishing process, hard coating of guns}

January 18, 2003, 09:48 AM
I have hardchrome; it wears and rusts.
I have NP3; it wears but hasn't rusted yet.
I have stainless; it wears and rusts.
I have blue; it wears and rusts.
I have "I don't know"-coating, dark almost-totally-black; it hasn't done anything yet, including rust. Figure that alone means I'm ahead.

I have heard exceptional results possible using Metalife.
May give them a try.
(I still have this burning desire to have Mr. Cogan at www.apwcogan.com gold-plate something for me.)

Your results may vary.

January 18, 2003, 09:53 AM
The Glock has probably the best finish going for a carry gun. But they wont do guns other than their own, I called and asked. The biggest problem with it is, its on a Glock! :)

January 18, 2003, 09:59 AM
Robar probably has the best finish going for a carry gun: NP3.

They'll do Glocks.

Kentucky Rifle
January 18, 2003, 03:16 PM
...I'm not going to have any choice in the matter!:D


January 20, 2003, 03:26 PM
... I've never worked with hard chrome PER SE, but I HAVE worked with a bit of chrome (bein' as I spend 8 hours a day refinishing metal). I've also never heard that hard chrome is applied in a manner other than plating: the problems people see with plating are due to several things (poor polishing beforehand, bad chemistry, etc)...

If you don't like the silver colour, you can get others. I know that there is black (already mentioned), yellow, blue, red and (I think) green.

Now, if anyone needs some polishing done for refinishing, feel free to PM me... ;)

January 20, 2003, 04:44 PM
Soft chrome for bumpers is soft and consists of copper then nickel then chrome. This does have microcracks. I have never heard of microcracks in hard chrome. Hard chrome is hard and it is definitely electorplated. They start the process by reversing the leads and "deplateing" this produces a chemically clean surface. In plating if you don't get a clean surface you don't get a good bond and it peels. The leads are then returned to the plating position and the plating begins. If hard chrome is done properly it is an excellent and durable coating. But there are many variables and problems can occur , I saw a gun jam in an IPSC match because the hard chrome was not done properly. If you get a gun chromed make sure you find someone who has a excellent reputation.

January 20, 2003, 11:06 PM
So, everyone, please post links and reviews if possible of some places that do hardchroming or other finishes. This might save some people some time in doing research on the net. I know some have already been posted in this thread.

August 17, 2012, 11:16 PM
Hard Chrome Plating vs. Decorative Chrome Plating
Hard Chrome Plating & Decorative Chrome Plating are 2 different animals.

The chrome itself is the same in each, but the process, thickness, and function of each type are completely different. Hard Chrome provides wear-resistance & lubricity while Decorative Chrome is aesthetic (i.e. “pretty”). I help operate a Hard Chrome facility, so I have answered this question many times.

HARD CHROME PLATING (often called "Industrial Hard Chrome", "Thin Dense Chrome", or simply "Chromium Plating") provides wear-resistance and lubricity on bearing surfaces, seal surfaces, and wear surfaces for parts like hydraulic cylinders, industrial rollers, machine pistons, and yes, gun parts. It is applied directly onto the substrate (“substrate” = the material/part that is being plated) via an aqueous electroplating process done in a tank full of water, chromic acid, and other chemicals to balance (watch out for the EPA in disposal of these chemicals; seriously). Hard Chrome is measured in thousandths of an inch (.001”) and tenths of an inch (.0001”). For reference, a sheet of paper is .003” thick. Typical thickness is .001-.005” thick/side for industrial parts, .0002-.0008” thick/side for a chrome “flash” (when there are complex surfaces being plated together that you cannot grind or polish), and .005-.030” thick/side for many military parts. A hardness test of Hard Chrome Plated surfaces often results in 65-70 Rockwell C (“RCH”). The RCH will be lower if you apply just a flash to a softer substrate. Also, carbon steel results in the strongest bond with Hard Chrome. Tool steel also responds well, but if it is extremely hard, adhesion may be an issue. Aluminum cannot be flashed since you must hit about .003”/side thickness before a solid bond results. So, you typically must finish-grind and/or polish after Hard Chrome plating aluminum. Copper, bronze, brass are eroded by Chromic acid, so you have to plate the entirety of the surface very quickly or else you risk damaging, distorting, or otherwise ruining the part. It’s a tricky process and not many facilities can do it. If a gun part has a serial number on it, a facility cannot plate it unless it has a FFL (“Federal Firearms License”). If not, then any facility can do it. But be careful who you let handle your piece because muriatic acid is used to strip chrome, and multiple trial-and-errors with multiple strips could devastate the integrity of the parts. Typically, gun parts are plated .0001-.0004” thick/side so that they will fit back together, and this results in an EXCELLENT durable finish. Get someone who knows what they’re doing because there are some tricks to plating these parts that will make ALL the difference in the result.
Hard Chrome Plating is the most durable finish you can put on a gun. It makes the gun almost scratch proof. Even after years of holster carry, the gun will look about new all the time. That is, unless you drag it across some concrete or something.

DECORATIVE CHROME PLATING is used for automobile hub-caps, bumpers, pipes, show pcs, as well as sinks, motorcycle parts, various medical pcs (like I.V. hangars), etc. It is applied with a very thin under-flash of Copper and/or Nickel. The thickness of the Chrome itself is measured in millionths of an inch (.000001"). This results in a brilliant, shiny, silvery finish. It holds up relatively well in weather, but is not very wear-resistant over time (I'm sure you've seen cars with peeling/cracking/chipping plating). You cannot conduct a hardness test on Decorative Chrome Plating because it will crack like an egg shell due to it being very thin.
It is very rare to find both processes under one roof because they require different setups, serve very different markets, and a small mistake could easily result in mixing chemicals incorrectly, resulting in expensive contamination.

Frank Ettin
August 18, 2012, 12:09 AM
Nothing new here.

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