There are all sorts of reasons why you'd Cerakote your rifle, but in this case it was simply the fact that my gun was as ugly as a hatful of arseholes. The other benefits were almost incidental at first, although it didn't take long for them to shine through once I began using the Remington in the field.
Cerakote firearm coatings are like buying your weapon a flash new suit lined with armour, giving its immune system a magic pill and making it less reliant on you and your bottle of oil. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say it's a marvel of modern technology.
Produced by American's NIC Industries, Cerakote is a spray-on ceramic product that can be applied to metal, wood, plastic and many other substances, and it comes in a wide range of colours. It provides resistance to all sorts of chemical attack, from rust-bringing dampness through to petrol, paint stripper and even acids. It rules out the need to oil treated surfaces and it's tough enough to stay put even if you were to drop your rifle onto rocks.
Jason Hillier of ADJA Absolute (www.adja.com.au), based at Windsor on Sydney's north-western fringes, is an accredited Cerakote applier. Ex-navy, he keeps busy putting Cerakote on rifles, shotguns, handguns and other odds and ends like knives, scopes and bipods.
"Sniper Grey," he suggested when I arrived at his workshop with the Remington and new laminated stock I'd bought for it. "A lot of guys are going for that colour and it seems to suit most rifles."
He showed me a Mauser he'd just finished for a customer and the medium grey looked good with the peppery grey that made up part of the colours in my stock. That'd do fine, I thought, but I did want to know a bit more about the colour options. I'd checked out the virtual gun coater on the NIC website and played around with colours and camo patterns.
Jason explained the patterns are applied using stencils for specific types like woodland, tiger or digital camouflage.
"There's also the freehand option," he said. "I actually prefer the freehand stuff to all the stencil stuff. It's an easier process but you actually get a better effect. Nothing in nature has straight lines or anything like that, so a lot of those patterns don't really fit the bill for a camouflage environment, but a lot of guys like the look of it.
"The price starts to go up a little bit [with camouflage patterns] because there's more work involved.
"Your traditionalists like the midnight blue colours, like going back to a blued-type finish," he said. "Single colours are what most guys go for, for functionality as much as anything."
He has done things like pink triggers, a Remington 700 in Titanium with gold trigger, gold rings, gold shroud, and gold safety, and a Satin Aluminium slide on a Glock that "to me it was a bit bright but very effective when put back on the pistol".
Traditional sounded good to me, and I'd already taken a big enough risk choosing the multi-coloured stock. I'd thought about some of the earthy greens or browns but the Sniper Grey looked great and appealed to my conservative side.
Admittedly, anything had to be better than the pre-Cerakote look, with the Model 700's well-worn grey receiver and bolt, the new MAB barrel's shiny bluing and the reddish black of the scope mounts. The barrel had already been scratched and rubbed in a few places, too. I handed the rifle to Jason for a few days.
The Cerakote Process
The first thing Jason does with any job is strip and clean it. The trigger mechanism is put aside; some people will have the trigger itself coated but the rest isn't touched. All nuts, bolts, screws, sights, bases, everything comes apart except the barrel and receiver. Even the bolt is disassembled.
Then the decontamination begins.
"That can either be a pretty lengthy or an easy process," Jason says. "A lot depends on the rifle and how much oil has been applied over time – that's the major part. The decontamination is the most important part, the crucial part of the whole process."
I'm not big on leaving oil dripping from firearms, and Jason reckons the Remington cleaned up quickly, but he's spent a week on some rifles, baking them in the oven, bathing them in cleaner and repeating over and over.
Then the parts are sandblasted. Everything comes off, down to bare metal, leaving a good surface for the Cerakote to key to. Jason blocks the chamber and muzzle with purpose-built plugs.
If the stock was being given the Cerakote treatment, it'd be the same process.
"It just comes back to your preparation, making sure that stocks are clean and you can get a good coat on them," Jason says. "If you've got any dings in them you've got to do a bit of a fill but generally there's no issue with that. I've applied Cerakote to timber stocks on shotguns to make it a black tactical shotgun, things like that."
The Cerakote is then sprayed on with a touch-up gun, left for a few minutes and then baked in the oven. Only the one coat is needed, leaving a layer just 24 microns thick.
"That's how you can get away with doing your bolt face and bolt bodies," Jason says. "You don't interfere with head spacing. It's such a fine application that all your tolerances remain pretty well in place."
The bolt body, firing pin, spring and cocking piece aren't Cerakoted, they're Micro Slicked. It's a similar product but with self-lubricating qualities – effectively a dry lubricant that's bonded to the metal surface.
"Once you apply Micro Slick you give it a polish and that's it, it's a maintenance free thing," Jason says. "It alleviates any lubrication problems in there and, because you don't have to put oil, grease or anything else in there, you're not going to attract any unwanted dust or anything that's going to have a long-term effect on the functionality of any of those parts."
The Cerakoted action doesn't need oiling, either. In fact, the only oil or solvent the rifle now needs anywhere is in the bore, which retains its original finish.
The Price and the Pay-Off
This rifle was a $300 job, given that it had a blind magazine and no sights. Costs can vary, although there are some price packages.
"It depends upon how much or how little guys want done," Jason says. "A barrelled action – you're looking at around $150-$170, depending on what it is. You're looking up around $210 if it's got sights that you've got to remove because it becomes a little bit fiddly.
"A Remington works package is $485 and that's all your metal: bottom metal, barrelled action, all the screws, bolts, springs, bases and a treatment on your bolt.
"When you start working on the Weatherby Mk Vs, Winchesters and that, you're up around the $590 mark, and then for Brnos and Sauers and Steyrs it goes up to $650 for a single-colour application for a works package. So it does start to creep up but there's more time involved and they're a fair bit more fiddly, unfortunately.
"Your pump-action and lever-action rifles are around $630-$650.
"Once you start looking at second colours it's generally done per quote because a lot of it depends on what guys want to do, how many colours, what sort of patterns they want."
The bolt-action Remington is typical of Jason's Cerakote work, but shooters of all kinds are coming to him.
"A lot of tactical rifles and tactical builds are coming through," he says. "That said, there's a lot of deer hunters and that sort of person having rifles coated – like Tikkas – just to get rid of that bright, shiny surface or do away with the cam tape they had on the barrel, just to get more of a natural look.
"We get a few handguns through – a few semi-autos and the occasional revolver. Pump-action shotguns have come through. You get a fair mix of everything, generally."
The result made this old Remington look brand new again. I was stoked. The fact that it was a fairly neutral tone and matte ensured it blended into the bush more effectively. The finish was flawless and it has proved to be as tough as promised, with not a mark on it after a dozen trips into the bush and almost 100 shots fired.
NIC Industries claims Cerakote is many times more durable and damage-resistant than its competitors, a claim I can't measure, but on the evidence I've seen with this and other rifles, I have no reason to doubt them. Wear and corrosion resistance are particular strengths, according to NIC, which has the details on its website. NIC also publishes the specifications for the different types of Cerakote (H-series is the firearm coating) and even for individual colours, which vary in hardness, impact resistance, gloss level and more.
The Micro Slick added to the bolt's bits may have contributed to a notable improvement in accuracy, too, although it'd play a small role compared to the new stock and the separate work Jason did to the trigger. I'm never surprised by the little things that help the cause.
The one negative side effect is that the bolt now emits a little squeak as I drop the handle. It seems to be coming from the locking lugs. Closing it slowly makes no noise, and the more I work the bolt the more it's fading.
We'll run a story soon on the whole process behind the rejuvenation of this Model 700, which is almost complete. Meanwhile, it's fair to say the Cerakote was a crucial part of the process, one that paid off in a big way and did more than I'd expected for instilling a new pride of ownership in the rifle.
It wasn't just the cosmetic answer I'd been looking for, it provided very practical benefits as well.