A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Parkerizing, Truth vs Tales

Parkerizing is a an electrochemical conversion coating, often found on military firearms as protection from corrosion. It is easily recognized by it's dull, black to grey appearance. It has, over the years, served the military well. It is a very durable, corrosion resistant finish. Parkerizing in civilian use, however, is often viewed as an inferior finish to blue. I often hear complaints that Parkerizing rusts, that it does not protect squat. I found this curious, and I began to investigate.

Sistema and GI pistols are often seen with Parkerized finishes that have lasted decades and which appear to have a slicker surface than modern Parkerized guns. At first, I thought that a different process might have been used, but I was wrong. The process was the same.

Then, I considered just what Parkerizing is. Parkerizing is an incomplete finish. The manganese, iron or zinc phosphating of Parkerizing is only a vehicle to contain the real protection for the firearm. What is that real protection? Grease. That's right.....Decomposed dinosaur products. Petroleum. Grease. All over the world, military firearms are packed in cosmoline. Then they are wrapped in kraft paper, placed in crates and stored in warehouses of armories. The temperatures in these places can reach extremes. During this storage period, the cosmoline soaks into the porous Parkerizing, thoroughly impregnating it with the best water/corrosion repellent yet devised.

Today, quite a few handguns wear the phosphate finish known as Parkerizing. These guns, however, are not treated the same way as military weapons. These guns are meticulously cleaned after each use by their owners, with products such as Gun Scrubber and brake cleaner. These products strip the oils and grease from the Parkerizing, assuming there was any to begin with. When a new Parkerized Springfield GI45 or old roll mark (Parkerized) Colt M1991A1 reaches its first owner, the finish is practically devoid of oil. It is dry. For many of these pistols, the only grease their finishes will absorb is off the hands of their owners. It is no wonder they rust. Without the grease in the Parkerizing, the coating will absorb sweat and humidity instead. The result is rust.

Several years ago, in 2003, I purchased a new Parkerized Springfield GI45.
I modified it to more closely approximate a M1911A1, but I also did something else. I disassembled the pistol, coated each part completely with Vaseline petroleum jelly, and I placed them all on a pizza pan. I then placed them in the oven at 350 degrees for half a day. The result was the pores of the Parkerizing opened up to accept the heavy lubricant. Once cooled, and totally impregnated with grease, the Parkerizing leeched grease for a month afterwards. Honestly, it was pretty nasty. I was halfway expecting that, which is why I used clean, clear Vaseline instead of black moly grease. When the leeching process ceased, however, I found that I had achieved that same durable finish that protected my Sistemas and the many old GI guns I have held.

I disassembled my Parkerized Springfield Mil-Spec and put it through the heated grease impregnating process as well. To this day, neither pistol has shown the slightest bit of corrosion, despite being ridden hard and holstered wet with sweat, in Louisiana humidity. Meanwhile, I listen to other shooters complain about the ineffectiveness of Parkerizing in the same environment. Remember........it aint the Park that protects, it's the grease that it contains that prevents corrosion. If you want the protection, you gotta accept the grease.

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Blogger Porta's Cat said...

Remington pretty much states the same thing in regards to their parked shotguns.

Basically, when you uncrate one, before you do anything else you soak the crap out of it in oil.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

fascinating stuff. I wonder how a properly greased-up parkerized finish compares to the modern finishes?

in order to properly get a greased-up parkerized finish, what greases would work best?

8:38 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I prefer Vaseline simply because it is colorless. The waxy quality of cosmoline probably gives it an advantage. I wonder how white lithium grease would do.......Hmmmmmm I smell experimentation in the future....

8:57 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

What is your opinion on polycoating (ala CZ)?

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is some good to know stuff. Next off day I might have to give it a try.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

There are so many forms of polycoating available, it is hard to say. I had two 1911s I built finished with a teflon polycoat. Prior to getting them done, i gave the gunsmith a washer, had him put his product on it, and then i carried that washer in my pocket with my change and such for two weeks. It wore fine on the washer, and it has done fine on both guns. There is some wear on the top of the Compact's slide, around the ejection port, and on the front slide corners from holstering. That is all.

11:25 AM  
Blogger MauserMedic said...

I'm partial to automotive bearing grease in the 1 lb can. Wipe it on, wipe again with clean rag, and put away. Leaves a nice thin film that doesn't evaporate, the finish holds it nicely.

12:20 PM  
Blogger MauserMedic said...

Generic automotive bearing grease. Adheres well, doesn't run as temp goes up, protects from rust.

12:23 PM  
Blogger BobG said...

Sort of like curing a cast iron skillet.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very educational. Thanks!

5:26 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

"Sort of like curing a cast iron skillet"

Very good anaolgy.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Citizen H said...

Xavier, when you disassembled your 1911s to grease them, was it a field strip or a complete disassembly? I'm interested in doing the same to mine, but I lack the tools and knowledge to break a 1911 down into all of its constituent parts.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It was a detail strip Citizen..... You can do it.


8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are the places that parkerizing shouldn't be used? I've heard it is a big mistake to park a rifle bolt, because it will never cycle smoothly again. Is that true?

9:21 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

What are the places that parkerizing shouldn't be used? I've heard it is a big mistake to park a rifle bolt, because it will never cycle smoothly again. Is that true? Frankly, I do not know. Parkerizing holds lubricant. The real reason for jeweling mechanical parts is so they will retain lubricant on their surfaces. I fail to see why it would be OK to jewel a bolt but not Parkerize it.

Of course, jeweling is purty and gunsmiths charge for it......I would call BS on that one until further empirical evidence is available. The truth is though, I don't know for sure.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found that just about any oil will do on a parkerized finish. My P17 Enfiled rifle, M-1 Garand, Colt 1991A1 pistol, S&W 915 (slide) all were oiled and wiped down regularly. None are exhibiting any signs of rust, even after over 10 years of handling and use. The handguns are routinley carried in an IWB holster in the summer. By comparison, my Colt Delta Elite GC stainless needs to be carefully watched for corrosion under the grips under the same circumstance. I do like to use Break-Free or Tetra Gun oils.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's is a contraction for "it is." It does NOT show possessive case. That is shown by the word "its."

It's important to use the proper English for one's point to be respected by one's readership.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Thank you anon.

If my English causes you to lose respect for me, cest le vie.

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are of course correct and cosmoline is still available on occasion and is the absolute best to use if found

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My personal favourite is Waxoyl, give the part a good de grease and boil in clean water to get any salts out, get it good and hot for a couple of hours to get the coating properly dry and drop it in waxoyl. It works well for rusty machine parts too, they come up with a thick "blueing" and that holds the waxoyl.

As for free sliding, phosphate coating is used to hold the lubricant for deep drawing!

"Seasoning a Skillet" is an exellent analogy ok, a burnt on oil finish was used for No4 Lee Enfield receivers.

There was debate on one of the model engineering forums (?fora?)about chemical blacking and a few suggestions ranging from old sump oil to veg oil.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Kapten Haddock said...

Xavier, this sounds very interesting. I just had rust issues with my brand new blued 1911. I am going to parkerize it. Getting cosmoline is definitly on my priority list after reading this. But how neccesary is it to bake the thing in the oven anyway, can I just leave it soaked over nignt instead?

2:59 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

IMHO, the effectiveness of the grease impregnated parkerizing is because of the depth of the impregnation.

Grease is not liquid, but once heated, it becomes closer to a liquid, allowing absorbtion.

I think the combination of grease, time and heat is what did the trick. Take away time, and you have to increase the heat to compensate to allow adequate impregnation.

Make sense?

5:24 AM  
Blogger Kapten Haddock said...

Perfectly clear. Oven it is.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you have any problems with your cooking after cooking your gun? This is both a joke and serous. I would like to try this but I don't want to get sick over it. Thanks for the info. Nero

4:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did your cooking task funny after cooking your gun? This is both a joke and serous. I would like to do this to my 1911 but I don't want to get sick over it. Thanks. Nero

4:02 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

No probs, baked bread and roast beef afterwards. Tasted great!

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can do the same thing by spraying the whole gun with something like Tri Flow lube and allowing the carrier to evaporate. It soaks into the metal and protects it very well. Then after shooting just wipe it down real good with a oil soaked patch and the carrier will evaporate again leaving another good coat of oil in the metal. I have done this for most of 15 years and love parkerized finishes for their durability. In fact, I won't buy anything but a parkerized finish on a handgun, with the exception of Glocks finish, which I treated the same way. I don't like Stainless, it is too shiny and will actually discolor due to perspiration. When it does, you just about can't get the discoloration out without machine polishing, and that can mess with the hardness.

I just bought a Stag AR and the finish was horribly dry. It would show even fingernail scratches. After treating like above, everything just wipes right off.
Good stuff!

9:06 PM  
Blogger perlhaqr said...

If there's a problem with parkerizing rifle bolts, I'm guessing it has to do with the fact that the parkerization coating has some small but positive thickness to it, thus affecting the dimensions of the bolt.

9:26 AM  
Blogger The Lucky One said...

what is the best way to coat a parked slide without removing the sights? I've got tritium's on my 1911 and dont feel like removing them just to heat and coat my slide in grease. Will just soaking it for a few days or weeks allow the park to absorb enough grease?

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So just to make it easier for my small brain.
1. Degrease/Sandblast/etc
2. Place in bath (heat/time)
3. Rinse in water
4. Apply oil of choice


3:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Xavier, just to clear up the why it is OK to jewel a bolt and not to parkerize one.

Parkerizing leaves a rough surface that completely covers all of the bolt, including areas that would not normally be jeweled. This makes the bolt less slippery/smooth when you are working it since it is like a piece of sand paper instead of a piece of relatively smooth metal floating on a cushion of oil.

The Jeweling, if done right is not only pretty to look at but helps hold and channel the lubricant so that this cushion of oil will be present on in the action on the surfaces that are moving past each other.

This is why you shouldn't parkerize the bolt of a rifle. I hope that makes it a little clearer for you.

As for the rest of your idea here, after reading it I am going to strip my Springfield Armory 1911A1 and coat it with good ole Cosmoline. Then warm her up. Then I'll strip it off with diesel fuel just like they do in the service most of the time and guess what? I should get that nice, greenish look like an old military gun. I should also now have a completely protected finish on my baby. Thanks for the tip! That was a good one that I will be passing around to the guys and gals at the range.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Thanks Gary

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. Funny about the parkerized bolt thing. I just bought a rem 700 with a parkerized bolt. Functions fine. Seems just as smooth as any other 700 to me.

On to my next point. PLEASE do not exceed 250-350 degrees when "baking" your gun. Hotter is not always faster. Anything above these temps can start to change the properties of the metal and you may end up with a weak or brittle slide or barrel.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Xavier, could you list the parts you oven-treated?

3:02 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Slide, frame, barrel, thumb safety, slide stop, grip safety, hammer, bushing, trigger, mainspring housing, extractor, a couple of magazines. Basically all exterior parts that had parkerizing got slathered and baked.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

thanks xavier; considering using your method with my new ria

11:05 PM  
Blogger gunworx said...

If the part it put in a vat of oil right after it comes out of the sollution it will not rust.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grease is not from dead dinos, it is from dead algae and plankton.

Also, I use park as a base for Norrell's moly kote or Kal-guard gunkote.

This works even better than grease.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't want to use your kitchen oven. Make yourself one by mounting lightbulbs in a box. My setup uses four 100watt bulbs and reaches 200-225 degrees using just two of the bulbs, 275-300 with all four on.


3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did this in an oven, that you cook food in? Did it leave any lingering odor or residue anywhere in the oven? I think I might do this outside, with it offset on my grill, with lower temperature for longer time (just like someone's skillet examplt).

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coat it with CLP/Breakfree same stuff. CLP stands for Cleaner, Lubricant, Preservative. It will soak into the Parkerizing without having to "Melt" it in. Heating metal can have an effect on the hardness of metal as it realigns the molecules (if you heat it too much). Every time you clean your weapon use CLP and; when you wipe off the oil it will come off dirty. when you tire of oozing "Dirty CLP" (especially around the bolt and trigger housing), wipe it off and then wipe it with a thin coat of CLP. Parkerizing holds it better than bluing but, if you care for your weapon it will care for you and you won't have corrosion problems.
There is such a thing as over cleaning. I have seen Marines clean their weapons to the point where the bluing starts wearing off. The machine guns, pistols, Kabars, Rifles that have Parkerizing vice bluing hold the coating longer. I admit, I don't clean my personal weapons as intensely as the government weapons. I just keep them clean, lubed with CLP and in good working order. By all means if you are going to pack it in a box and warehouse it for 20 or 30 years, then pack it in Cosmo line. It is a Thick preservative. When you unpack it you'll have to clean all that gunk off though. Too much goop will make sand and other nasties stick to where you don't want them. I personally like Parkerizing. If I buy a weapon and it is blued, I don't change it though. I would never Parkerize a bolt or any of the internal close tolerance workings. Think of it like this. You have a wooden peg that fits perfectly into a wooden hole. No slop to it. Spray it with multiple coats of pain and it won't fit anymore. You have changed the close tolerances. Semper Fidelis, Very Respectfully, Frank Gar Gunnery Sergeant USMC

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. Funny about the parkerized bolt thing. I just bought a rem 700 with a parkerized bolt. Functions fine. Seems just as smooth as any other 700 to me.

On to my next point. PLEASE do not exceed 250-350 degrees when "baking" your gun. Hotter is not always faster. Anything above these temps can start to change the properties of the metal and you may end up with a weak or brittle slide or barrel. this is true to a point, but its called tempering which actually replaces brittleness or hardness with elasticity and toughness so that impacts or shocks are more tolerable, but increasing the temper past even 200 degrees is not good for it as it becomes to replace qualities of the steel you want in the barrel. if heating past this were true, then shooting would have the same effect, just for a comparision, because my old 1942 mauser gets just that hot after 20 rounds. i would suggest the researching the rockwell hardness and tempering on your barrel steel before experimenting on baking oil into it, as were handling explosives that can and will remove parts of your body if the proper toughness, hardness mixture is not reached. this is something to consider before baking a gun part in an oven. it may work just as well as to oil it down and fire it as it will still get warm and to oil it down till the oil absorbs into the metal.as parkerizing is a controlled rust, and metal will absorb oil either way, it is a porous material, and also another point i though of is that cosmoline may soak into the metal from being stored for long periods, but not as far as it being hot. this post is not meant for being smart or sassy, but as a second thought on what you may be doing to your weapons.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Firehand said...

Just to note: guy had an old revolver with a parked finish, looked rather dry and uneven, so gave it a short version of the treatment: took off the grips, wiped it all over with grease(in this case Lubriplate SFL-0, good stuff) and put it in the oven on 'warm' for a couple of hours. Cool down and wipe off.

Amazing difference, it almost looked refinished; the parking is darker and more smooth & even in appearance.

He plans to detail it later and give it the full treatment at a little higher temperature.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happens if you gease a gun without Parkerizing and place it in the oven? Won't the steel pores open up as well?

Has anyone tried NiBore? I herd it is expensive but worth it.


11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

boiled linseed oil works the best,don't need no oven-cures in about 12 hrs,or quicken it up with hair dryer--also on wood stocks,**not on ,composits stocks,make it slicker than glass

5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would soaking a detailed stripped 1911 in warm motor oil or hydraulic oil for a couple days work to prevent rust from forming and "season" it adequately? Instead of baking it covered in grease.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

This is Very interesting information about parkerized or phosphate finish. I am thinking about having several vintage military rifles phosphate finished (Light Gray)
Now I know there is one more step to do....Grease/oil w/heat.
The one guy had it right. It is like curing a new cast iron skillet.
I remember my mom used to do that.
Thanks tons !! Mike

1:46 PM  

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