Refinishing the Rock Island Armory Tactical with DuraCoat
September 9, 2007
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.