The finish you apply to your
80% lower is an important aspect. The job of a finish is to protect your lower receiver. It protects it from the elements, from abrasions, rust, and a whole heap or chemical solvents and cleaners. Finishing is a crucial aspect in a long lasting firearm. One of the interesting things about 80% lowers is that you can buy them raw. Raw means the aluminum receiver is unfinished and has that ‘shiny’ look to it. This unfinished 80 % lowers are essentially a blank canvas for your wants and your weapon’s needs.
You generally have two options. The first option is you
anodize and the second is Cerakote. Since the vast majority of receivers are aluminum you cannot blue one like a traditional steel weapon. Your options are somewhat limited, but even so, the options are excellent.
Anodizing is what the majority of standard AR-15 80% lower receivers are finished with. Anodizing is an electrochemical process. Aluminum is the most common metal that is anodized, but titanium and magnesium can be anodized as well. Anodizing protects an 80% lower receiver from the environment, and is incredibly durable, corrosion resistant, and it can even be an aesthetic choice.
To anodize an 80% lower receiver you take it, and immerse it in a vat full of dangerous chemicals. More specifically this vat of dangerous chemicals is an acid electrolyte bath. Then, like Frankenstein’s monster, you apply an electric current to make the magic happen. The cathode is placed inside the vat, and a current is applied. The aluminum is your anode, and then, of course, you get oxygen releasing from the electrolytes. This combines with the aluminum atoms on the surface of the receiver. This is a complicated, and highly controlled form of oxidation.
Cerakote is an alternative form of finish for your 80% lower. It is somewhat new but has been around long enough to be established as a good product. It protects a lower receiver from the elements, is quite durable, and has become a standard option for some gun companies. Cerakote protects from bangs, dents, scratches, rust, and of course solvents and lubricants.
Cerakote is ceramic based finish that can be applied to a wider variety of materials, including aluminum, steel, plastic, polymer, and wood. It is applied via a spray. Typically a gun or gun parts would have to go through a long process to be ready to spray. However, a blank 80% lower is pretty much already ready to be coated. After the receiver is coated it most commonly need to be cured at a consistent temperature in an over.
Which is better?
There is not a clear answer to this question. This will really depend on what the end user needs. In some situations, anodizing will be the better option. In other situations Cerakoting will be the better option. Let’s look at a few of those situations.
Anodizing is the better solution is you want an overall more durable finish. If you want a complete mil-spec AR-15 build kit, then Type 3 anodizing is the way to go.
Type 3 anodizing is the hardest finish out there for an AR-15 lower receiver and is what the military prefers. Anodizing is also a longer lasting finish, that requires less maintenance. It’s also a cheaper finish to apply, and generally much longer lasting. The anodizing actually bonds to the aluminum. If someone wanted the toughest finish, anodizing is the way to go.
Cerakoting allows more customization for the end user and comes in more tactical colors. This includes traditional black, but you also have dozens of options for different browns and greens. There are dozens of different colors to choose from. If you wanted to finish your weapon with camouflage options you could do so with Cerakote. You could also finish a weapon with crazy, alternating colors. Make it pink, blue, or any color you can imaging.
Whichever route you take, make sure you use a professional coating service. If you do anything less the finish can, and most likely will look terrible. It will be poorly done and not as resistant to wear and tear. So remember to be discerning when you choose the person doing the finish.
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