Today’s Small American Business article comes to you courtesy of a guy who looks like he just stepped out of a Wuxia movie. He’s somewhat less fearsome than SMG Lee, a great deal brighter than HoTac and he shoots like he’s practicing Zui Quan, but he’ll do if you need someone to take with you to a fight. Or an Annabel Chong party. In any case, you can thank SureFire for the read — they and all their lumens sponsored it. Mad Duo
A Visit to Los Angeles Cerakote
by Fifty Shades of FDE
With all the ways to customize your firearms these days, it can be hard to choose which way to go.
I’m a fan of DIY methods that fall within my personal skill set. DIY saves you money and gives you a feeling of accomplishment when your work is a success. It’s also a gamble because you’re probably not a professional in the firearms field. That’s why I mentioned that whole thing about your own skill set. You know yourself better than anyone, so you have to make that call. Let’s face it, most quality firearms aren’t cheap and most of us aren’t made of money. So if you screw it up, hopefully you didn’t damage your investment. And it actually is possible to screw up a gun with a bad paint job.
What’s the purpose of adding a finish or paint job to your firearm? There are two main reasons: aesthetics and the protection from the elements. If you’re going for aesthetics alone and possibly some protection, you can DIY with some rattle can magic. I did this to my personal rifle and here’s a link to my DIY write up.
Although my rifle came looking pretty badass, it’s a temporary finish and can wear away with time and use. Wear on a rattle can job is acceptable since it adds some character to your rifle. I would recommend rattle canning a rifle, but when it comes to pistols, you need something more durable since they come into constant contact with holsters and hands.
If you want something permanent with the absolute best protection, your best option is to Cerakote your firearm. Cerakote is a ceramic coating that protects metals, plastics, and composites from wear, corrosion, and chemicals. It is thinner than powder coating, making it stronger and more flexible.
My Kimber Raptor II 1911 was showing a lot of finish wear on the slide and frame from kydex holsters and use. I decided it was time to refinish it and while I was at it, I’d give it a new look with some FDE. I’ve always been a fan of the Kimber Desert Warrior, and wanted to somewhat replicate that look.
It took a few minutes of research on Cerakote’s website to conclude I was nowhere near qualified to apply Cerakote myself. I lack the skills and don’t have the necessary equipment. So I got in contact with Phil, the owner of Los Angeles Cerakote, located in Marina Del Rey, a few miles north of LAX. Phil is a factory-certified Cerakote applicator. No matter where you decide to get your firearm Cerakoted, make sure that they have this certification! You can find your local certified applicator on Cerakote’s website. If you go anywhere else, good luck!
Phil invited me to check out his facility when I was ready to have my Kimber worked on. When I arrived at the Los Angeles Cerakote facility, I got the full access tour and saw how serious Phil was about offering the best possible service to his customers by having the best state-of-the-art equipment. Everything was overkill, including an enormous air compressor with four motors. This was necessary to provide the cleanest air possible by pulling it into a dryer, where all of the moisture is taken out, making the air super dry. The air supplies the Blast Cabinet, where it controls the the media through the nozzle and also the Cerakote spray booth. Then there’s the laboratory grade oven that’s accurate to half a degree. All this equipment shows why you couldn’t have done this at home in your garage. Phil is also a full FFL and certified gunsmith, so he can hold onto your firearms while he works on them.
Let’s go through the Cerakote process with my Kimber Raptor II.
1. Take-down: I took down my pistol down as far as I could, which was a field strip. That’s where Phil took over. He took the rest of it apart, removed the the trigger components, springs, hammers etc. off the frame and then the firing pin and night sights off the the slide. He has all of the armorer tools to accomplish this including the MGW sight tool. Even with the sight pusher, the rear sight took a lot of muscle to remove. Once the take down was complete, the parts were kept in labeled bin with owner’s name and type of job. The loose metal parts were stored in a separate magnetic cup in the bin.
2. De-Grease. The slide and frame were placed in an acetone bath to de-grease (remove all of the oils and grease). They stayed in there for a minimum of thirty minutes. My Raptor II was extremely greasy so it had to soak beyond the thirty minutes.
3. Blast cabinet. The parts were blasted with media (aluminum oxide) through a nozzle. This removed the existing finish down to the bare metal.
4. Gas Out. The parts were placed in the laboratory grade oven, set at 300° to remove any remaining oils or contaminates.
5. Cool Off and Blow Out. The parts were taken from the oven and allowed to cool off until it got to room temperature. Then they were blown with cool dry air to remove any particles present.
6. Spray Booth. Now light coats of Cerakote were applied thoroughly.
7. Curing. The parts were moved back into the oven to cure.
8. Reassembly. Everything was checked to ensure fit and the pistol was reassembled.
9. Test fire. Phil took the pistol over to his magical shoot box and fired three rounds to ensure it was functional.
10. At this point my gun was ready for pickup. Any customer who goes to Phil for a Cerakote job picks up their firearm with a big smile.
Phil mentioned that Cerakoting isn’t rocket science, but requires attention to detail. From my observations, he does everything in a thorough and methodical sequence. By doing so, he makes sure that it’s done right the first time. The usual turnaround time for a Cerakote job is two weeks, or three to four during busy seasons. With all of the gunmageddon fears in California right now, LA Cerakote is extremely busy.
I spent almost the entire day at Los Angeles Cerakote and am truly impressed with the facility, equipment and professionalism shown by Phil and his employees. I appreciate how serious he is about the quality of his work. He stands behind the service he provides, which includes much more than Cerakoting firearms. LA Cerakote works on plumbing, car, aerospace and other parts because Cerakote is heat resistant, thin, hard and flexible. Those are necessary qualities in many different fields.
I left my Raptor II with Phil to finish the rest of the process. A week later, he gave me updates with pictures. When he was done with the cerakoting, curing and rebuilding, we set a day for the final steps: installing the night sights and pick up. The pictures looked great but I couldn’t wait to go see my pistol in person.
A few days later, I went to pick up my Raptor II. I was simply amazed with the outcome. Phil brought out the sight pusher and we started to install the night sights, which was a breeze compared to removing them. Not only did everything look good, racking the slide was smooth but tighter. The slide was tight before the cerakote process, but now it’s similar to a Wilson Combat or Night Hawk Custom 1911.
If you’re familiar with custom 1911’s, you known that they have tight tolerances and the very thinnest layer of cerakote adds thickness on the surface. In order to make sure that the pistols don’t lock up, Phil explained that he had to relieve certain areas of the slide where there was increased friction. One area that needed a lot of work was where the barrel bushing lives, and let me tell you, that bushing is in tight! The colors I choose for the slide and frame with the Zebra Wood Grips added more shades of FDE to the Raptor II, just like I intended.
It looks and feels good, but does it work? For this we go to Phil’s magical shoot box. I let him have the honor of test firing three rounds of 230 grain .45 ACP ball into the box. You can watch the video here:
Now I have Customized Kimber Raptor II that’s like no other out there, because Los Angeles Cerakote made my vision into a reality.
If you couldn’t tell, I had an awesome experience at Los Angeles Cerakote. Phil was a wealth of knowledge about firearms and is very enthusiastic about working with them. He set the standard very high and I personally wouldn’t take my firearms anywhere else. For pricing, please contact him at the number provided below. On another note, if you’re unsure whether you should have Phil perform the disassembly of your firearm, I highly recommend you allow him to since he has the right tools and experience to do it correctly. He even offers a discount to customers who choose to go this route for cerakoting. Phil is a fan of all firearms and another big part of his business is gunsmithing and restoring firearms to their factory finish and function. He installs night sights with a very fast turnaround time (days not weeks).
Special thanks to Phil for his hospitality and professionalism. Whatever questions I had were answered, whatever I wanted to see was made available without any hesitation.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.