The AR-15 is praised for its modular design, allowing for some of the most inventive, and creative furniture to be placed on and around it. While we can spend all of the time we want to go over what the best accessories are, but in reality, personal preference and customization are what this rifle is all about. One thing that is universally important, depending on the type of shooting you will want to be engaging in is the finish of your rifle and its parts. So today, we will discuss the pros and cons of the three main finish types: Phosphate vs Nitride vs Chrome.
Keep in mind that AR-15 style rifles generally like to run wet, so each finish will be geared towards allowing the aluminum to retain lubricants, gain rust and wear protection, as well as decreasing the amount of friction between parts (especially in the upper receiver).
What is best? Phosphate, Nitride, or Chrome?
Let’s go over the characteristics of each type of finish:
Phosphate: This finish type was originally developed for metals that would come into contact with paint, however it wasn’t soon after that in which the military found great value in phosphating for weapons. It proved much more durable in comparison to bluing, another form of coating that offered minor resistance to rust and wear. That is because phosphating the metal allows it to retain much more lubricant.
However a phosphate BCG against a carbon steel or stainless steel barrel is not a good idea. That is due to the way phosphorus reacts with low carbon, which can cause embrittlement.
Nitride: Nitride is used to harden the metal which vicariously increases the lifespan of the barrel. That means its good inside the AR-15 or on the outside. It functions well with stainless steel as well. Nitride is especially good for those who like to use hotter rounds as the surface protection will solidify its lifespan.
Chrome: Chrome was first issued on the AR-15 during the Vietnam War, where the M16’s would constantly jam. On top of not being issued cleaning kits for their rifles, soldiers were given M16’s with chromed BCG’s. In this upgrade, the action could cycle on a much sleeker platform that could withstand the constant stream of bullets being fired. It is also very hard which increases barrel longevity. The carbon accumulation will not adhere as much to the finish either, which makes maintenance much easier to perform.
However, chrome finishes usually lack in the type of accuracy necessary for civilian, and professional use. They are optimal for military use, due to the lack of necessity for precise accuracy from fully automatic rifles.
Which is best for you?
When it comes to looking for the best AR-15 finish, you will have to determine exactly what kind of shooting you want to be doing. Phosphate is reliable, contrary to what you might be told. Nitride proves to provide better longevity and performance in most cases, but you will have to make sure the bore is clean constantly. However that doesn’t mean you can’t get near the same results with a phosphate finish.
Chrome will beat out both other finishes in terms of longevity, endurance, and rust protection. However, for precision marksmanship, hunting, target shooting, it is not the most optimal choice. Chrome finishes are also highly corrosion resistant. That does not mean a chrome finish will not be useful to the recreational shooter, but it does matter what kind of shooting you will be getting into.
So all in all, phosphate finishes are reliable, and optimal for recreational use. They are somewhat limited because they cannot be used with stainless steel or low carbon steels.
Nitride provides the great rust and wear resistance, but is not optimal for prolonged shooting without constant cleaning. That makes it great for precision shooting, as the barrel’s lifespan will be secured for much longer on an accurate platform.
Chrome is really the best option military-wise, but for civilian use, it is easy to clean, is much harder than nitride, sleeker, and corrosion/rust resistant. You’ll have to clean it less and the rifle will last much longer. However you will end up sacrificing accuracy for all these great benefits.
Remember, expensive does not mean better. Look for barrels and BCGs that meet your needs first. Ormond Arms is here to serve your needs. Check out our great selection of AR-15 parts and accessories!