A ‘How To’ guide with a few things I’ve Learned While Using Duracoat Firearm Finish
I first started using Duracoat Firearm Finish in 2009 and have had great results with it. I believe that the product is so popular due to the fact that Duracoat is an air-cure product, requires no baking, can be applied to metal, wood, plastic, etc., and when applied correctly, can offer some great protection for your firearm.
Many people think that you cannot source Duracoat straight from Lauer Custom Weaponry because of the shipping requirements (at least when using Duracoat firearm finish in Alaska) due to the haz-mat properties of the paint. This is not true. What is true, however, is that you will pay a premium for the shipping because of said haz-mat properties. It is not uncommon to pay nearly $100 in fees for a small order. Splitting the shipping costs with a few other people who are interested in trying their hand at refinishing their own firearms can really help ease the oh-so-common pain of shipping things to Alaska. There are a few places locally that sell a small selection of colors and I believe you can get on a list for specific items on a ‘next time we order’ basis as well. The general rule of thumb here is that you should get more paint than you think you might need. It’s better to pay shipping once and it would really be the pits to run out of a color mid-project.
In this article, I’ll give a basic ‘how-to’ on using Duracoat firearm finish and some things I’ve learned along the way. I will show you three very simple techniques that you can use to make your end-results look great!
Regarding equipment for application of the Duracoat, this is my basic breakdown. I use a dual action Iwata HP-CS airbrush. This particular model has a slightly larger nozzle and a generous gravity feed cup that has served me well for a long time. I am currently using a 60 gallon upright compressor running through a water separator as my air source. That said, I had used a pancake style air compressor for almost a year before upgrading. If this is all you have, just be prepared for it to be running a lot! Another simple thing that makes life easy is a set of metal measuring spoons with 1 tablespoon and 1/4, 1/2, and 1 teaspoon . Duracoat requires a 12:1 ratio (you can go as low as 10:1 for a more glossy finish or up to 14:1 for a slightly flatter finish) and for ease of mixing, I haven’t strayed away from 12:1 at all.
When I first began to mix the paint, which is expensive, I was using a small childrens syringe for measuring cough medicine. This didn’t work well at all and now the minimum that I mix for paint is 1 tablespoon of paint for 1/4 teaspoon of hardener. 4 tablespoons of paint requires 1 teaspoon of hardener. Other calculations can be easily made with these requirements.
On the safety side of things, you absolutely MUST use a respirator fitted with organic vapor cartridges when applying this paint. The VOC’s are really high and you can take one whiff of this stuff and realize that it isn’t good for you. Along with a respirator, gloves can keep you from absorbing any into your skin.
After the paint, hardener, and other supplies arrive, it’s now time to gather your equipment and begin to prep your piece for paint. I recommend starting to get a feel for how this paint is going to work for you on a large piece with long swooping corners like a rifle stock. Doing a stock will allow you to not worry about how much paint is applied to the piece (versus other projects that might have clearance issues like revolver cylinders, for example) and will also offer more options for multiple colors, webbing, pattering, etc. Let’s begin to prepare the stock for paint.
In the two following examples, I’m going to refinish a stock that has had some work done to it by the owner and is generally looking pretty rough! A palm swell has been added along with some stock work around the bottom metal of the rifle and it’s time to give it a serious face-lift. I will also refinish a McMillan swirly stock that turned out poorly from the factory and the owner was not happy with it at all. The top rifle will be recoated in OD green and the McMillan on the bottom will be coated in Coyote Brown.
Just like any other paint job, preparation is key. Combine the prep time with dis-assembly and reassembly, the actual painting doesn’t take that long. Once I begin to prep the piece for paint, I put on gloves to protect the surface from oils on the skin. You’d be surprised at how dirty a seemingly ‘clean’ synthetic rifle stock can be once you begin the preparation process. Because of this, I prep all my pieces the same way, even though they might not look that bad.
I begin by giving the stock a ‘gross rinse’ with lacquer thinner/mineral spirits, wiping off with a shop towel. You will notice that I didn’t recommend using TruStrip from Lauer. I got this tip from a fellow Alaskan Duracoater who I truly think is likely one of the best in the nation (you read that right, and his name is Dylan Saunders), learning that it worked well for him, and it has worked well for me too. The other products can be found in large quantities locally and at a much cheaper price, compared to the TruStrip. After the piece is looking pretty good, I then start scrubbing the entire surface with a Scotch Brite pad. This will slightly rough the surface of the existing finish and will allow the paint to adhere to the stock better. Be mindful of areas like the top of the barrel channel, inside the space where the bolt closes, prepping absolutely everywhere you can. Now clean it again…and again, until you spray/wipe the lacquer thinner and your rag/towel is no longer picking up dirt and grime from the surface.
Last but not least, you must either remove the buttpad or tape it off. Since this pad was not removable, it must be taped. You can tape this off very precisely and it turns out great.
Hanging your pieces is generally the best way to get full coverage on the part. Once you have the piece prepped, taped off, and hung, you can mix your paint. You will get a feel for how much paint is required to get coverage on different base colors and surface areas. Lauer says that you can paint 2-4 firearms per 4 oz bottle of Duracoat and depending on what you are doing, this is true. If you are painting an entire barreled action, stock, bottom metal, bolt, rings and scope, I would say that you could get two complete paint jobs (or maybe even a touch more) out of a 4 oz. bottle.
Ensure the hardener and the paint have been mixed thoroughly and GET PAINTING!! For the air pressure that is coming out of the brush, I use 40 psi.
When using Duracoat firearm finish, Lauer recommends to let the paint cure for a full 24 hours before reassembly. If I am painting a revolver with parts that need to be fit back together, I generally try to adhere to this. If I’m laying down a base coat like these two rifles now have, I can usually let the base cure overnight and then start to add additional colors or webbing the next morning or when I get to it.
For the McMillan stock, I’m doing what I call a ‘grassy pattern’ theme with both OD green and black over the coyote brown base. For the grass, you can either find material naturally in the environment or do what I did and get big bundle of it from a craft store. This technique is VERY easy to do and I think when done right, can give a killer effect. I laid the OD green first and then filled in some more patterning with black. Ensure you get on top of the barrel channel tops, the underside of the fore-end, and up under the pistol grip area. There’s a theme here, and it’s ensuring you don’t have any omissions in the paint scheme.
PRO TIP: When you are working down on your piece while it’s laying flat (instead of hanging), fill the cup on your airbrush only partially full. The vent hole in the cap of the paint cup will leak out and if you aren’t paying attention, will drop paint right onto your project. Ask me how I learned this….it’s a bummer…
Another really simple way to add a little something is to put a webbing look onto your stock. This is way to easy and looks way to good to not share. I have used this on many projects and everyone seems to love it. Utilizing Krylon webbing spray paint, you can add various colors (Krylon offers this paint in black, white, silver, and gold) in various amounts to offset a base color. After a good shaking, you can get a feel for how the paint comes out of the can in a fairly wide pattern. You can vary the angle that you spray the paint on to get more of a wide fan-like look or more of a concentrated/glossy look. I first tried this on my Dad’s rifle with no Duracoat clear as a top-coat over the webbing and it has stood the test of many moose hunts, caribou hunts, and even a goat hunt and still looks great. Some of the Cerakote guys are gaining this same effect with their paint utilizing an HVLP gun at very low spraying pressures, but I have not been able to replicate this. At this time, once you are done applying your webbing, I think that your project can be called complete!
After laying the webbing on the OD green stock and the grassy pattern has been completed on the McMillan, I’d say these two projects look pretty good!
Regarding preparation and painting metal parts (barreled actions, bottom metal, rings/bases, bolts, pistol parts, etc.), I have successfully painted without blasting before I had my blasting cabinet, but now exclusively blast any metal part that I can before painting. The next example is a revolver that a buddy recovered that was lost off of a four wheeler and recovered but not before mother nature took her toll on the finish, badly rusting the entire exterior. Pieces such as this would be nearly impossible to prep by hand without the aid of blasting equipment. If you don’t have blasting equipment at your disposal and run into a project that needs attention like this one does, find somewhere to blast it or pay a small fee for someone to do it for you.
After blasting, there was some pitting from the rust, but overall, the pistol was in great shape even though it looked as bad as it did (the pistol was still in perfect working order in its rusted state).
Before and After Pics
The last quick technique that you can use to get an attractive end-result is to use mesh material to simulate scales. I have heard people using laundry bags, shower scrubbies, and other materials, but for this I was able to get some jersey mesh off of eBay and it has worked great so far. I see a lot of people lay the material on the surface of the project and spray it with the scales all the same dimension. I feel that if you are able to stretch the material and pull it a bit, the pattern will give the appearance of movement in the scales and I think it looks a bit better in some cases.
I hope that gives you a basic understanding of what you might be up against if you decided to go ahead and start using Duracoat firearm finish. It’s not incredibly difficult, but does require some patience when you are applying the paint. One thing to remember is that I have found the most difficult thing to pull off when doing this is to get consistency with the sheen of your painted piece. Go slowly, don’t over-apply the paint in certain areas and you should get the feel for it. I’ll leave you with another few photos of a couple of recent projects that I’ve finished. If you do decide to tackle a Duracoat paint-job, I’d love to see your photos! Definitely send them in via email or submit them to our Facebook page. Try it out, you’ll like it! Got questions? Drop us a line and we can see if we can’t help you out!
Using Duracoat Firearm Finish on a Ruger 10/22 with Matching Scope
Using Duracoat Firearm Finish on a Pair of Glock 22’s
Using Duracoat Firearm Finish on a Desert Tech .338 Lapua!
Refinished Revolver Using Duracoat Firearm Finish
Using Duracoat Firearm Finish on a Pair of Ruger Rifles in a Custom Camo Pattern
Smith and Wesson .500 Refinished Using Duracoat Firearm Finish
My Custom Camo Pattern ‘Alpine Advantage’ Using Duracoat Firearm Finish