Refinishing the Rock Island Armory Tactical with DuraCoat

September 9, 2007

Rock Tactical

Rock2

I’m sure by now you all know how much I love Rock Island Armory pistols. A short while ago I decided to refinish my Tactical model using Lauer Weaponry’s DuraCoat. It was a fun project and one I can recommend to anyone with even a moderate amount of experience with 1911′s. I chose the DuraCoat finish after doing considerable research on the net and determined this was the best finish out there for durability and good looks. If you need help in disassembly of your 1911 check my video at the top of any page on the blog on “disassembly of the 1911″.
To begin you need to get all the materials you’ll need. I ordered a 4 oz bottle of matte black liquid DuaraCoat from MidwayUsa. It comes with a 2 oz bottle of hardener. I also ordered Lauer thinner just in case the liquid was to thick for my airbrush. I got on the internet and found an airbrush with airtube for $8 plus shipping. At this point you have a choice of using an air compressor or canned air from Lauer. I already had a modeling air compressor so it was no problem for me. The airbrush arrived with two sizes of bottles for the DuraCoat as well as a small wrench to take the airbrush apart for cleaning (very important). I also purchased some 1200 grit wet dry sandpaper to rough up the parkerized finish on the gun. I now had all I needed to start the project. One thing I need to add at this point is something I left out on the original post that someone on the M1911 forum pointed out and that is degreasing the gun before you start to put on your spray coats. I use Break Free Powder Blast. This is much easier on you than most of the other products that are frankly pretty toxic especially if you have a breathing disorder. Break Free Powder Blast doesn’t burn your skin or cause breathing problems. After you liberally spray the frame, slide and other parts they will turn a lighter shade of gray with some areas lighter than others. Not to worry it won’t harm the gun or finish. Also, after you use the sandpaper, detailed below, you need to degrease again to remove any loose articles left behind.
If you have a non parked gun (blued) you will need to use a little rougher grit sandpaper to strip the finish down so the DuraCoat will adhere to the steel. Once the finish is almost completely removed go back to the 1200 grit and smooth things up a little. Of course you must tear the pistol all the way down and set all the internals off to the side. You will be working on a bare frame and slide. If you don’t know how to do this don’t be tempted to spray it with all the parts in the gun unless you feel comfortable putting tape over any opening the spray will get into.
Once you get all of this done it’s time to mix the DuraCoat. The mix is 2 tablespoons of DuraCoat with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of hardener. Practice some with the airbrush before going on to spraying your gun. Just use some cardboard and practice from different distances as well as adjusting the amount of air you use. Before long you’ll get the right combo of air and distance. Normally about 5 to 6 inches away from your gun will be about right. You want to use light coats. Don’t be concerned with covering the entire gun the first coat you put on. If your spray is to heavy it will effect the way the slide fits to the frame as well as filling in all the nomenclature on the slide as well as filling in the serial number. After you spray the slide, frame, mag release button, grip safety and thumb safety place the small pieces on some tin foil after it dries enough not to rub off when you put it onto the foil. As you spray move the spray gun back and forth in even smooth strokes. For the slide and frame use two pieces of coat hanger (plain not painted) and bend them so you can hang the slide and frame on the oven rack. Have your oven heated to 110 degrees. After the coats are applied place them in the oven for 15 minutes. Then you remove them and hang them up to cool down. After cooling apply another coat. Remember, light coats! On my gun I applied a total of four coats. Yours may vary depending on finish. A parkerized finish is ideal for this type of refinishing.
A couple of hints. As you spray you may notice the spray coming out erratically or no spray at all. At this point you need to stop place the parts in the oven as if you completed the whole part. You need to use a regular paint thinner, take the airbrush apart and clean it completely. Put it back together and test spray to get the same setting you had before cleaning the airbrush. Another small problem that may crop up is the airbrush clogging often. If this happens use 1/4 teaspoon of Lauer thinner and add it to your mix. Normally you won’t have to do this. I didn’t on mine. If you have an instance where the finish gets some gunk sprayed on it not to worry. Let it dry and sandpaper the area and just spray as usual. You’ll never know it was there. Now it may seem complicated but it really isn’t. I just wanted to make sure I covered any and all gltches you might run into.
After you finish the gun and are satisfied with the results let it cure overnight before assembling the gun. I would also advise you wait about a week before putting the finished gun in a holster or shooting it. I know the Lauer website doesn’t include some of this information but from my experience it’s a good idea to be patient and allow the finish to cure even though you used the oven to cure it to some degree. The finish gets harder and more durable as time passes. It actually penetrates the steel to some degree making it adhere better over time. Mine has had approximately 2000 rounds fired through it since I refinished the Tactical and the finish is tough. There are no marks or signs of wear at all.
I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions please feel free to post a comment and I’ll email you and help as much as I can.

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15 Responses to “Refinishing the Rock Island Armory Tactical with DuraCoat”

  1. mauro antonelli Says:

    i am italian and i had the chance to buy an RIA 1911. and i am very satisfied with it. it was a good choice. At the range i really enjoyed shooting it great 45! bye bye fellows.

  2. mauro antonelli Says:

    …and again: what is the price of a RIA 1911
    A1 in the USA? It ToOk mE 800 eUrO To GeT iT. I’D LikE tO kNoW hOw mUcH iT cOsTs In ThE USA. ThAnK yOu!

  3. Gunner Says:

    Mauro,

    That’s wonderful you’re enjoying the RIA! It certainly is a great buy as well as being very accurate and well made. I hope you enjoy it for many years to come!

    All the best,
    Phil

  4. mauro antonelli Says:

    HI,HERE I AM AGAIN WENT TO THE RANGE THIS MORNING AND FIRED 450 ROUNDS WITH MY NEW RIA,ALL OF THEM WERE LEAD SWC 200 GRAINS ALL THE ROUNDS WERE FIRED SUCCESFULLY ,I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT.I AM VERY SATISFIED WITH MY NEW 1911.HAVE A GOOD DAY TO ALL OF YOU.GOD BLESS ALL OF US.

  5. Gunner Says:

    Mauro,

    It’s good to hear you had such a good time with your new RIA. 450 rounds is a good range session:-)That 200 grn SWC is an accurate round. You won’t find to many guns that brand new will feed that bullet with no problems.
    Have a great day and God Bless you as well!

    Phil

  6. mauro antonelli Says:

    HI PHIL THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE VEB SITE YOU TOLD ME ABOUT.AS SOON AS I WILL HAVE TIME I WILL BE SPENDING SOME CHATTING WITH THOSE GUYS.I HAVE FOUND YOU VERY FRIENDLY ,THIS IS GREAT .LET ME TELL YOU THANKS AGAIN. AS I ALREADY TOLD YOU I AM AN ITALIAN BUT I WOULD LIKE TO LIVE IN THE STATES,BECAUSE IF YOUR MAIN SPRING HAS A BRECAGE..YOU TURN THE STREET CORNER AND YOU CAN FIND A NEW ONE..

  7. Gunner Says:

    Mauro,

    My pleasure sir. I hope you enjoy the forum. I appreciate your comments. I try and help when I can. You certainly are right about gun parts. It takes me a couple of days by mail to get any part I need.
    I hope one day you can come to the USA.

    Take Care,
    Phil

  8. Gunner Says:

    Mauro,

    The last comment didn’t come through for some reason but I picked it up on the blog. Geez I can’t believe it but 800 EU is $1100 dollars US! Here in the USA they cost $339 for the GI model and the Tactical is $379 US.

    Phil

  9. Richard Kerr Says:

    Mauro,

    I bought my RIA .45 here in Michigan for $380 and have found it to be every bit as reliable as my 70 series Colt Combat Commander once had.

    Enjoy your pistol for many years to come!

    M. G. Kelly

  10. Richard Kerr Says:

    Mauro,

    I bought my RIA .45 here in Michigan for $380 and have found it to be every bit as reliable as my 70 series Colt Combat Commander I once had.

    Enjoy your pistol for many years to come!

    M. G. Kelly

  11. Michael Haskins Says:

    Gunner,
    Two days ago I decided on what 45 I wanted, I have heard nothing but good things about the Tactical RIA. I was going for the RIA 1911 but when I wrote in to your site Phil recommended that I spend $75 more and go for the Tactical. So I went to our sporting goods store and ordered it. 20% down was all they wanted, but I paid in full. I want to replace the recoil spring because I have heard that the standard 16# may be lacking. The wolff 18.5# has been recommended over and over. your opinions anyone.

    Thanks,
    Michael

    P.S. What is the easiest way to purchase on of these springs?

  12. Outdoors Guy Says:

    Thanks for the detailed explanation of your Duracoat on the RIA pistol.

    Keep writing!

  13. Gunner Says:

    Glad you found it helpful! I’ll keep it up:-)

    Phil

  14. Xader Says:

    Hey Gunner,
    It’s been over two years since you performed this refinish, and I was wondering how the Duracoat held up for you.

    I have a RIA Tactical and the park is getting some pretty bad holster wear and needs refinishing, and this is the route I’m planning on taking.

    So any word? Thanks.

  15. Gunner Says:

    Hiya,

    Well it held up fairly well but I have found something much much better that is easy to apply and wears like iron. It’s a nice finish as well. Very smooth application and nice matte coating.

    http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=1150/l=y/Product/GUN_KOTE_trade__OVEN_CURE__GUN_FINISH

    Phil


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