Aluminum-alloy frames and refinishing


June 8, 2009, 12:22 AM
Basic question: What is a good, durable refinish that will adhere to aluminum-alloy frames? Both revolver and semi, I wouldn't *think* it would matter as to the platform, but I dunno for certain.

Reason I ask is that I'm sending my Kimber back to the factory in the morning (for some desired factory "upgrades," no issue with the firearm), possibly including a spiffy refinish....but all I think they offer that would adhere to the aluminum alloy frame is their KimPro finish (of which I know very little). And it got me thinking ahead---what happens if/when the finish on my S&W Airweight wears, and I want it refinished? What if I decide (potentially in the near future) that I want to refinish my 1911?

So, anyhow...what potential refinishing options will work on an aluminum alloy frame? What will adhere the best/last longest, etc? And, what business will perform such work?

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June 8, 2009, 12:26 AM
I carry my air-lite for self defense, keep it well maintained and really don't care about the finish. It's aluminum/scandium so rust isn't an issue for me to worry about.

That "powder coat" black from S&W seems to be pretty durable though.

June 8, 2009, 06:53 AM
Alloy can be refinished as long as it is done properly. You should not have the anodize removed

I have seen a lot of Kimbers KimPro finish and I don't think it is very durable or abrasion resistant at all

We have been refinishing alloy frames for over 20 years. If I can answer any questions please feel free to ask

June 8, 2009, 11:33 AM
I keep hearing good stuff about CCR. I also have a Kimber CDP that needs it frame refinished. Kimber lists a frame refinish at $300! I'm sure you can beat that.

The rest of the gun looks brand new except one little pit on the barrel hood. Some brake fliud and tlc should take care of that though.

The anno on my frame just faded off with holster wear. What kind of finishes do you recommend?

I was planning on just having it reannodized in something dark, black, gray, hard, it deosn't matter. My grips are Alumagrips in Olive drab gray and the slide and small parts are stianless so anything dark should look fine.

June 8, 2009, 05:04 PM
I would suggest usng my Cera-Hide on the alloy frame. Cera-HIde is our own formula. It is a Ceramic enhanced self lubricating finish that offer untold rust and corrosion protection along with durability and abrasion resistance. Much better then the factory finish.

The cost to refinish a complete handgun is $159 including one mag
The cost to refinish your frame complete with its parts is $98
The cost to refinish your frame gutted is $79

June 8, 2009, 09:35 PM

looks like I'll be sending ya my frame soon then.


June 8, 2009, 10:56 PM
CCR---I could just be missing it, but why include the refinishing of a mag? Aesthetics?

What if we wanted the controls and MSH of a 1911 colored differently than the frame (i.e. controls/MSH black, frame silverish)? More money, two finishes....?

And, on your website, Cera-Hide for a frame + controls is $119, here you listed $98. Do THR members get a discount? :D

June 10, 2009, 03:22 AM
I would use Walter Birdsong "Black T" or an electrolys nickle finish like "Robar NP3". Most other finishes are not as good IMHO.

Tom Fury
June 11, 2009, 12:10 PM
I had a bad experience with Black T.

Cheers, TF

Zach S
June 11, 2009, 12:32 PM
Any kind of DIY finishes like GunKote hold up well on aluminum?

My fixed sight Ceiner shot so high that I had to take quite a bit off the top of the rear sight, the notch is now only about .060" deep.

I was thinking about having the slide dovetailed for a taller front sight and replacing the rear.

Its on a dedicated frame, so I've already got a bundle in it, and would rather not pay for a professional refinish.

I had a bad experience with Black T.
Explain. I've heard nothing but good things about Birdsong's finish.

June 11, 2009, 08:48 PM
Yes $98 is the THR members price. It is for the complete frame with its parts done. Two tone is the same price

THe price for a gutted frame is THR price $69

June 12, 2009, 08:08 PM
I had my 1911 frame done in Cera-Kote by Rogers Precision about two years ago. That was in addition to the frame repair (stainless ramp insert) that was the primary driver.

I am very satisfied with the job done by Chuck Rogers, and the finish has held up well through some not-so-gentle use and handling.

There are others and there may be something better out there, but I have not seen it yet.

June 16, 2009, 09:16 AM
Another +1 for NP3 and/or Rogard. Robar does great work and turn-around times are usually quite reasonable.

Besides being extremely tough, NP3 has the added bonus of slicking-up the action feel and being very nearly self-lubricating.

Tom Fury
June 16, 2009, 04:42 PM
I had a LW P-12 with a stainless slide done in Black T; My experience was that great swatches of it peeled off in the shipping box even before I got it back. I will say that it was not Walter Birdsong who applied it, but a major gunsmith working under license, but it was Black T and it did peel,
MJM, but you can tell I'm still unhappy about it. I was shocked, because it always seems to get such rave reviews, I tend to want to disbelieve my own experience; sent it directly to Robar for chem strip and NP3, and no, I did not give them a chance to redo it, because I took a chance on them in the first place; came away feeling "shoulda gone to Robar in the first place."

Never been unhappy with Robar NP3 or Roguard, have had both done several times.

Cheers, TF

June 23, 2009, 12:46 PM

Have you done Airweight Revolvers? Specifically a 642? If so, do you have to remove the barrel from the frame? I have heard Smith and Wesson won't do that for fear of cracking the frame.

From what I hear, I'll have to refinish mine eventually.

Any thoughts? Thanks!!!!

June 24, 2009, 12:11 PM
Email sent

July 15, 2009, 12:44 AM
I just ran across this on another site:
NP3 is the "slicker" and glossier of the two and that does make it more difficult to rack the slide on some pistol types, especially if your hands are sweaty. NP3 has a slight yellow hue while Cera-Plate has a slight bronze hue. NP3 has a tendency to pick up oils and fingerprints and leave marks on it that can be wiped off. Cera-Plate being the more satin finish does not.

Cera-Plate is the closest match to SIG's factory electroless nickel coating and I have it on some slides that have SIG factory nickel controls and you can not tell one from the other for all intents and purposes. It is better than SIG's standard electroless nickel finish, however, in that it has the Boron Nitride in it which is a lubricant. NP3 uses Teflon as a lubricant. Both finishes will make the slide glide smoother in my experience.

Robar will plate alloy SIG frames with NP3 where CCR will not. That said, CCR's "BTM" Cera-Hide applied Ceramic coating is a good match and can be used to refinish a SIG frame. Most experts, including Bruce Gray who has publicly stated so, agree that plating an alloy frame is a bad idea because it requires the removal of the anodizing which may cause realiability issues, fit issues or even a frame failure at some point.

Is there any truth to the "NP3/removing the anodizing might cause frame failure" bit? I've never heard of this. Would that be a problem exclusive to SIGs, or would it apply equally to an aluminum alloy 1911 or S&W Airweight?

July 15, 2009, 01:13 AM
yes it is true

the surface finish on your alloy frame is anodizing which hardens the surface of the metal. removing the coloured portion, removes that surface strenght. the electroless nickel that Robar applies does not have the same strenght.

the most common frame failure, not just Sigs, would be the cracking of the rails

July 17, 2009, 12:32 PM
9mmepiphany said

the surface finish on your alloy frame is anodizing which hardens the surface of the metal. removing the coloured portion, removes that surface strenght(sic). the electroless nickel that Robar applies does not have the same strenght.

I'd never heard this before and make absolutely no claim to being a metallurgist, but I remember reading Jeff Cooper in the 1970s era Cooper on Handguns saying that he buffed the anodizing off (presumably) a .45 Commander and not have any problems: anodizing wears off the high spots fairly quickly and the aluminum was naturally corrosion resistant. I also knew a fellow who did the same with a Smith & Wesson 39-2 without any adverse effects. Certainly I've seen plenty of aluminum framed semi-autos with the rails rubbed white that don't seem to suffer any structural or excessive wear problems.

I bought on this forum an S&W Bodyguard that has badly peeling nickel plate on the frame and plan to get the gun beadblasted and a new finish applied. I was thinking about DuraCoat because the price is so reasonable (read: cheap).

July 17, 2009, 12:54 PM
do you then believe that the the only reason that the factory hard coat anodizes frames is for the colour?

if that were true, you'd think they'd go with the cheaper spray-n-bake

not to disparage Cooper's writings, as he certainly had more experience than i, but he also thought you should thumbcock the hammer, or fire in to the ground, the first shot with a DA/SA pistol and could never accept that the best tactical shooter he'd met wouldn't defeat all comers in IPSC

you can base you finish decisions on your experience, i simply offer a word of caution to those who would care to research further into the matter before making the decision

July 17, 2009, 07:53 PM
Well... I know this for certain:
the frame/ramp on my Stainless Kimber Ultra Carry was anodized at the factory. However, a prior owner sanded the anodizing off to "smooth the feeding" and as a result, either hollow points or (more likely) the brass case edges gouged the soft alloy ramp sufficiently that I had to send it to Rogers Precision for their stainless ramp insert (which is a fantastic product).

That said, my un-molested Kimber Ultra CDP, with the identical factory anodized frame/ramp, has had no problems at all. As long as no-one takes a piece of sandpaper to it :rolleyes: I don't imagine it will.

They call it hard-anodizing for a reason. It's a bunch harder and more wear-resistant than the aluminum alloy underneath.

All that said, for an aluminum alloy frame, I'd go with anodizing as a first choice, perhaps a Cera-Kote or Cera-Hide as a second choice, or a hord-chrome if you are willing to accept the very limited color choice.

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