To be clear, the Duracoat vs. Cerakote vs. Hydrographics debate is about three completely separate processes and each provides the ideal solution for individual unique goals and applications.
What is Cerakote?
Cerakote is a ceramic based finish that can be applied to metals, plastics, polymers, and wood. The unique formulation used for Cerakote ceramic coating enhances a number of physical performance properties including abrasion/wear resistance, corrosion resistance, chemical resistance, impact strength, and hardness.
What is Duracoat?
Duracoat is a two part chemical coating that can be applied to gun metal without specialized equipment or training.
What is Hydro Dipping?
Water Transfer Printing (also known as water immersion printing, hydrograghic printing, hydro dipping, hydro imaging, or fluid imaging) is a 3D decorating process where elaborate graphics like wood grain, Carbon Fiber, Kryptek Camouflage, Geometrical designs, etc. are applied to a product surface. The Water Transfer Printing process is extensively used to decorate items that range from entire all-terrain vehicles and car dashboards to small items like automotive trim and even firearms.
How do these firearm coatings differ?
Now that we have established that each of these proven gun coating processes are competely different from the other, let’s look at a few expert opinions regarding their use in firearms applications.
Duracoat is limited in its creativity, however it easy to implement and extremely affordable for the practical shooter. Both Duracoat and Cerakote are capable of creative design application, however, it should be noted that Duracoat lays different and will adhere to itself between pattern layers. Cerakote will not adhere to itself which creates an inherent problem for laying patterns.
Hydrographics provide the ability to easily apply 3D, and highly detailed graphics, created by third parties to a firearm. An example of this would be Kryptek Typhon, Highlander, or Mandrake.
Hydrographics do not offer real added “protection” to the firearm since the coating can be scratched much like the stock OEM coating of most AR 15s.
Cerakote does not offer the intricate detail of Hydrocoating without tremendous skill and expert application. However, Cerakote does provide added protection to the firearm by creating a scratch resistent ceramic coating that doubles as a lubricant.
Hydrographic durability is determined largely by the prep work and most importantly the clear coat that is applied to the final product. To create a certification process and a best practices governance to provide peace of mind to consumers, TWN Industries (the creators of Water Transfer Printing Process) created the WTP Training and Certification process. Make sure that the “hydro dipper” that you are hiring is certified as a decorator (more info here http://www.