Gun Finishes: Do You Opt For Stainless, Cerakote or Not Bother?

Alien Gear’s Sam Hoober touches whether opting for additional premium gun finishes is worth it on your next everyday carry gun.

1911 handgun with traditional blued finish
1911 handgun with traditional blued finish
Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober

USA –  -( When it comes to gun finishes…would you rather pay the premium for a protective coating or do you skip worrying about it? There’s something to be said for both.

Today’s gun buyer can opt for stainless steel and similar alloy finishes as well as Cerakote and other durable coatings. Sometimes the coating doesn’t even run you much extra, if at all, depending on the make/model and the store you buy your guns from.

Or you can skip the extra spending on finishes, like cerakote, and throw precaution to the wind.

Keeping The Rust At Bay With Stainless And Other Gun Finishes

Old school wheelgun or revolver with classic nickel finish
Old school wheelgun or revolver with classic nickel finish

One of the biggest reasons a person would opt for a stainless steel or durable coating gun finish is to guard against rust. Guns are machines, after all, and rust is a direct threat to the long-term viability of any machine.

Rust is an oxide – an iron oxide, to be specific – which forms on the surface of metal as the molecular bonds of the metal are weakened by the presence of moisture. Oxygen molecules permeate the surface molecules of the metal and bond with molecules of iron, forming red iron oxide. As further molecules of steel are thus weakened, the layer of iron oxide deepens, weakening the metal.

Stainless steels are steel alloys with a relatively high concentration of chromium, usually 10.5% chromium content by mass though this varies by the exact steel used by the manufacturer. The distinct advantage it holds over mere finishes on carbon steel is that a sufficient concentration of chromium allows for passivation – where a substance becomes less reactive to the elements – by means of a layer of chromium oxide on the surface of the material.

That layer of chromium oxide prevents moisture from permeating the steel, thereby prohibiting oxidation and the formation of rust.

Likewise, durable coatings such as Cerakote Coatings can form a passivized or otherwise near-impermeable layer on the surface. This keeps rust at bay and can even act as a semi-permanent lubricant.

Alternately a person can always op to get stainless or coated guns for appearances sake. They sure do look purdy…

A lot of pistols come with a specific coating as standard, but some gun models are offered with a durable coating or stainless steel as an optional upgrade. The cost varies by manufacturer or gunsmith, make and model – sometimes the premium is a week or two of beer money and sometimes it’s a month’s utilities payment.

Are Additional Gun Finishes Worth It?

Modern 1911 handgun with a matt cerakote stainless Gun Finishes.
Modern 1911 handgun with a matt cerakote stainless Gun Finishes.

If you desire a Cerakote finish – and who doesn’t love Flat Dark Earth? – or in stainless steel for appearances sake, then you might as well because that’s an aesthetic preference.

However, for the person who isn’t concerned about how the gun looks…is paying more for a stainless or coated pistol worth it? Depends on how you look at a gun. Some people have sentimental attachments to certain firearms, others view them merely as a tool carried for a purpose. Since these tools can be obtained relatively cheaply – depending on the make and model of course – a person could be forgiven for not necessarily getting too attached.

So long as it’s cleaned, oiled and lubricated every few weeks, almost any EDC (everyday carry) gun will last for years with minimal rusting to speak of. Salt water is far more likely to rust a pistol than the typical rainstorm; that’s why marine shotguns and so on are a thing.

Kept in a concealed carry holster and regularly cleaned…the typical gun is going to be fine, with no real need for a premium finish.

Also, consider this: if you ever have to USE your carry gun, there’s a good chance you’ll lose it to the legal system. Do you want to spend much money on one or get too attached to it? That’s up to you.

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.

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Edward Hart

I keep my gun on my boat, so Stainless Steel is required.


Stainless IS worth the extra cost I clean my firearm every week whether it’s been fired or not !


HOT AND HUMID Southwest Florida combined with salty air makes this a very unfriendly environment for concealed carry. I always buy stainless or coated firearms whether pistols, revolvers, rifles or shotguns. It’s worth any extra expense. Mother Nature has combined all of her worst elements here to make gun ownership/maintenance a constant challenge. It can be hot enough any time of the year to make you sweat and either damage your holster and/or weapon. Leaving a brand new tool outside even for one night will result in surface rust. The extra protection is worth it to me.


AMEN !!!


I have carried firearms in all types of weather with oil as the only protectant for almost 50 years. Thete is not a spot of rust on any of them.


There was one (only one time; 5th paragraph before the end) where stainless steel was referred to as a “finish”. That comment did lose me for a moment and made me re-read this article. I don’t believe the author intended to mean stainless steel was a finish as it’s not. I’ve heard it said, some folks’ perspiration or body chemistry is more corrosive than others. I do wonder to what extent that’s truth or myth. I could do without the legal comment as it implies you won’t ever get your firearm back from the “legal system”, which may presume the… Read more »

Heed the Call-up

L-2, no his comment about getting your firearm back has nothing to do with the use being justified or not. It’s strictly about how once they have your firearm, they have no incentive to return it to you, and they many times make the process long and onerous, and sometimes must undergo yet another criminal background check. Also while your firearm is in custody (being held hostage, detained, confiscated, whatever), they are not taking care of it and often it isn’t stored properly, and by the time you get it back, it may be damaged and/or rusted, etc. The have… Read more »

2nd Amender

don’t forget that our EDC carry guns WILL SUFFER holster wear at sny tight points of contact.
I’ve spoken with “coating” people, and there’s no way to prevent a worn marking. It’s not a problem for me but some bloggers think a gun should stay new looking forever, i.e., the take down lever scratch mark on 1911s….it’ll show up, sooner or later.
Just keep ’em cleaned and oiled.


2nd amender you are right about that takedown lever scratch mark. However it shows that you have been routinely cleanint your firearm.