All my handguns are S/S (mainly 1911s and revolvers) with the exception of my glocks. I am interested in adding a 38 super to my collection and found a very nice pistol from Colt. I believe
its called a "Special Combat Government". It comes in either hard chrome or blue slide / satin nickel frame. I like the 2 tone look this could someday become a pistol for some sort of action
shooting. My only hesitation is with the finish. I assume that before the days of SS guns, HC was
a rust preventative. My qualms with the finish is that I don't know how permanent of a finish it is?
Also, I think that a gun's action would eventually wear off the plating. Anyone ever see chrome
"peel" off? Why would colt still offer this finish instead of SS? Nostalgia possibly?? Is chrome and satin nickel interchangable terms?? The pistol is not cheap - $1400-$1600 so I want to know
what I'm getting before I plunk down the Kayshe.
Thanks for your replies !
First, there's a HUGE difference between standard decorative chrome as used on car bumpers and cheap guns, and true industrial HARD chrome.
Satin nickel is in NO WAY as durable as hard chrome.
Nickel typically has a slight "yellow" color to the finish.
Decorative chrome and nickel is applied in layers. Usually the metal is first plated with copper as a base coat, then the bright chrome is plated over that.
The problem with this process is, that it IS in layers.
Moisture can infiltrate under the layers and attack the steel.
The first sign you have of problems is the chrome starts bubbling up and peeling off, exposing rust under it.
A look at old bumpers in a junk yard will show this.
Second, decorative chrome will crack, chip, and peel off.
Look at decorative chrome like paint on wood. It's in layers ON TOP of the wood and peels off.
Hard chrome is quite different.
The hard chrome process deposits the chrome directly on the steel, with no base coat of copper.
In this process, the hard chrome actually "soaks" into the pores of the steel and bonds directly to the metal.
With hard chrome, there ARE no layers, and moisture cannot infiltrate under the chrome because there IS no "under".
Look at hard chrome like stain on wood. It soaks INTO the wood and therefore it can't peel.
Hard chrome, being bonded to the steel cannot crack, chip, or peel off.
Because of this, hard chrome is used to plate gun bores. Since it stays put there, it has no problem with the exterior of a gun.
Hard chrome is the closest thing yet to a true "lifetime" gun finish. Once plated, the finish is there to stay, and the only practical method of getting it off is to de-plate it by reversing the plating process.
Hard chrome is actually harder than a Swiss file, is more or less proof against most acids, and all solvents.
Hard chrome is "slick" and actually improves the trigger pull, reduces the amount of lubricant needed, and makes the gun MUCH easier to clean.
Cleaning is easier both because it's easier to see the fouling, and because fouling tends not to stick to hard chrome.
Wear of the finish is incredible. Bumps that will scratch other finishes, will at worst leave a shiny streak where the hard surface is burnished.
Hard chrome CAN be damaged by enough of a bump on a sufficiently hard surface like brick or concrete, but it really does take more than any other finish to do so.
While hard chrome CAN corrode, this takes so much to do so that it can be pretty well written off as something that's possible, but highly unlikely.
Sweating on hard chrome has little or no effect.
One early hard chrome process was tested by a gun magazine.
First the plated revolver was covered with wet salt for a week...no effect.
Next he tried to cut the finish with a file....it left a shiny streak but didn't break the surface.
Finally he carried the gun in his pocket for one month with the pocket full of keys, change, and a pocket knife......no noticeable wear.
Last, they had 1/2 of a nail plated and the other half left uncoated.
They soaked the nail in hot acid over night. Next day, the plated half was intact, the un-plated half was GONE.
Depending on who does the plating, you may have options on the appearance, running from a flat pearl gray, to a finish that resembles stainless, to possible a brighter polish.
The finish appearance is determined by the process BEFORE plating, since hard chrome usually cannot be polished after application without risking damage to the finish.
Some platers also offer plating inside the bore of the barrel and chambers of revolvers.
Many suppliers will offer masking of sights so they won't be plated and will retain their black color.
Bottom line, in spite of new "super finishes" that have been experimented with recently, hard chrome is still the best all-around gun finish of them all.
Years ago I had a good number of customer and my personal guns plated, and had great luck with it.
The only "problems" were:
One supplier had process control problems, and guns tended to develop "acid leech" where dark gray splotches would appear in the finish.
This was caused by improper cleaning and process control. Other suppliers never had this problem.
The other "problem" is, any gunsmithing MUST be done before plating, since once the finish is on, it's almost impossible to remove in spots, and once you do, the finish is compromised.
Whatever you intend to do, do it BEFORE plating.
THANK YOU for taking the time to educate me on this process. Appreciate it.I figured that HC is a good finish since colt is still offering it - just did'nt know any advantage over SS. Sounds like
I need not worry about the durability of hard chrome (yes, those old car fenders is what comes
to mind when I hear "chrome". Lord knows I've seen my share of rusty fenders.
dfariswheel, I have a Colt 70 that I would like to have hard chromed. Would you recommend somewhere to have it sent off to be done? I feel kind of funny sending a firearm somewhere that I did not get a couple of recommendations on first. Thanks for the education, I have been trying to figure out what to redo the Colt with.
I have a slide going to Accurate Plating and Weaponry... Rumored to be the best.
Done properly, hard chrome is actually harder than the metal underneath the finish. Done properly, it is pretty much welded to the metal it is covering. It should last longer than you do.
Accurate Plating and Weaponry:
They did my Beretta 92 (pictured above) and it looks better in person than on the picture. Great people to deal with. They communicated with me every step of the way and made sure I got exactly what I wanted.
Like most shiney gun finishes, they are generally visible upon draw by "everyone" (from those in your immediate AO to aliens just shy of the third moon of Jupiter, no binocs necessary).
Thanks for all the replies gents-
More questions: Are handguns stripped down to individual parts and then plated individually?
If so, is the plating thin enough NOT to cause clearance/tolerance issues? I guess I don't
understand the SPECIFIC tasks that go into HCing a gun.
John_wayne: that 92 looks very nice...
That 92 looks awesome.
Very very nice, John, probably my next handgun for sure.
Here is my BHP and P7M13 in chrome from Tripp Research.
Yes, the guns are completely dissasembled and chromed. A quality refinisher knows what to chrome and not chrome, what clearances must be maintained, and can actually improve the guns function by decreasing tolerances between parts where necessary.
Yes. Almost all parts of the weapon will be chromed, except springs, firing pin, (locking block on the Beretta) etc...
Someone who knows what they are doing can apply a uniform ammount of coverage on a weapon with no problem. My 92FS has almost all of its internal parts chrome plated, and it didn't effect the function of the weapon in the least. I had Ernie Langdon do a trigger job on that pistol before I sent it out to be chromed, and the Langdon trigger pull was not effected. It was exactly the same as when it went to AP&W.
It shoots better than it looks.
One big advantage of hard chrome is how thin it is. It's so thin, that it doesn't interfere with the fit of any gun part, and unlike standard decorative chrome and nickel, it doesn't build up on sharp edges and corners.
There are any number of places around that offer hard chrome, but the two I'm most familiar with are Cogan/Accurate Weapon and Plating, and Metaloy.
These also seem to be the two that are most used by custom gun shops.
Some platers offer a discount if you disassemble the gun yourself, but in most cases, I recommend letting them do that too. Seems to be fewer problems with "missing" parts or something damaged during disassembly.
Usually everything gets plated except springs, and the ID or barrels and cylinders.
Some platers will plate the bore and chambers too.
When having plating done, you need to be specific about what you want.
Some problems I had years ago were failure to plate everything.
The original Metaloy of Dallas was the service I used first and most, until their quality started to drop off.
They sometimes had odd problems like a failure to remove the bolt from a Colt Python before plating.
When I got it back, the underside of the bolt and the frame were un-plated, AND corroded from the acid used to clean the parts.
You need to specify exactly what you want plated, and if the plater offers masking, you need to tell them what you DON'T want plated, like sights.
Hard chrome is not corrosion PROOF, nor is it something that's totally "bullet proof". It can corrode under the right circumstances, and it can be damaged if you hit it against something hard like concrete.
Even if damaged enough to break through the plating, the finish can't start flaking or peeling off.
What it IS however, is the closest thing there is to a true lifetime gun COATING.
It's VERY rust and corrosion resistant, it's MUCH harder and more durable than any of the polymer baked on finishes, and it really does last a lifetime with moderate care.
I personally recommend that you still keep a thin coat of something like CLP Breakfree on all surfaces, inside and out, and that you don't treat it any rougher than you have too.
If you have blued magazines, be sure and send them too.
Hard chrome is worth the money just for the ease of cleaning.
These days I prefer stainless steel simply because there IS no coating. It's stainless all the way through, and it can be refinished with a Scotchbrite pad.
Even stainless used under really harsh conditions can be improved with hard chrome, but for a blued gun, my opinion is there just isn't anything that offers as much as hard chrome.
There are some new finishes being experimented with, like some sort of ceramic coating, and there was some sort of carbide?? "super-finish" a couple of years ago that ran into problems, but hard chrome is still the best in my experience.
Tripps and APW seem to be the most highly recommended. Fords reportedly does nice work as well but have had quality control issues in the past.
Thanks again dfarris....very informative