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Well for everyone who is reading this I found out about Boron carbide quite by accident. I had recently bought a Knife magazine at the local bookstore, Blade December 2001. The article was saying how hard this stuff was and that it can withstand serious abuse, fairly good article I recommend getting it. I though to myself that there might be an application in the gun world for this Boron carbide, so I gave Darrel Lewis of Bodycote Diamond Black which is the proprietor of this stuff a call and left a message. Before I knew it Darrel Lewis returned my call on a Saturday and we talked in depth about this finish and how it might work in the firearms industry. We talked about abrasian resistance, the color, temperature it is applied (250 deg.), its flaws and its strong points. I was told by Mr. Lewis the temperature at which Boron Carbide is applied is not high enough that it will affect the temper of hardened steel, and it applies very thin, much like hard chrome or thinner. Before I knew it Mr. Lewis offered to plate a 45 slide for my evaluation. Well it only took between 1-2 weeks including shipping both ways before it was back on my doorstep. Overall I really liked the color, a nice soft dark grey/black. Darrell had told me that this new finish reflects how the metal was prepared, much like how hot blue works. IE if the steel was bead blasted prior to plating then it would be matte in color. If the metal was polished then the finish would be very deep glossy in color. Well I had blasted my slide in my bead blaster then threw it on a piece of 600 grit sandpaper and took several swipes to slightly polish the sides of the slide before I had originally sent it. The finish on the returned slide was more matte on the tops than the sides, which were slightly polished. Overall I really liked the looks of the slide, It was a dark grey in color and when I oiled it up, it was even more attractive, bordering on black now. Next I thought for several days of a way to evaluate this finish compared to other finishes, I decided that rubbing this stuff against the rough side of kydex might do the trick. I found in my scrap pile slides finished in hot blue,Nickel,Parkerizing and hard chrome to compare the Boron Carbide to. You can see in (Fig-1) the slides before I started the test, the Boron is the topmost one. For the first part of my test, I rubbed the left side of the slide against the rough side of Kydex for the full length of the slide up and then down 100 times, I then evaluated how the finish on all slides was holding up. You can see in (Fig-2) how they did, realistically they all did very well, with the blueing doing the worst in my opinion. There was minimal wear on all finishes so I had to brainstorm a way to accelerate the wear. I decided that some glass beads from my bead blast cabinet would be perfect. I turned the test Kydex over and with smooth side up I applied a handfull of glass beads to the top of the kydex and worked all slides 50 times back and forth with moderate downward pressure. I then re-evaluated them for finish wear (Fig-3) and (Fig-4). You can definately see the wear on the blue and parkerized finishes, and I was seeing the Nickel was taking a beating also, the chrome and Boron Carbide had no finish wear that I could detect whatsoever. I snapped some photos and retested all slides for another 50 strokes for a total of 100 strokes on kydex with 60/100 grit glass beads. At this time I could see the Parkerizing and hot blueing were really not holding up to this abuse very well at all and the Nickel was doing just as poorly. The Chrome was holding up fairly well and the Boron Carbide was practically uneffected except for the rearmost of the slide were there was a very small amount of wear on the corner, it can be seen in (Fig-7). The Hard Chrome also was affected in the exact same area as the Boron Carbide, a little cold blue showed me that the Hard chrome had also started to rub off in the same area that the Boron Carbide was affected. Fig-6 shows a good vantage point of how the hard chrome was affected. After this last 50 strokes I snapped some photos that can be seen in (Fig-4,5,6,7), I then realised that the finish wear on the Nickel slide could not be seen well in the photos so I cold blued the slide to show where the nickel had worn off. The photo with the cold blue applied to the nickel slide is (Fig-7). Overall I was quite surprised at how well the Boron Carbide held up, much much better than the Parkerizing and Hot blueing. I think that I can easily say that this is the most durable black finish I have used or seen so far to date. Now bear in mind that I am not attempting to sway anyone one direction or another, just pointing out that there is another finish on the block to look at and in my opinion one worth considering. I do not know how this finish will work for others or if it will stand the test of time, but I do know that I will very soon have my personal pistol done in this stuff for a long term evaluation to determine if I want to start using this for my customers pistols. I also know that it will outlast the other favored black finishes many times over so I personally think this stuff is looking like it might have found a home in the firearms industry. I recommend other Pistolsmiths look into this and give it a evaluation also.
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If anyone else decides to consider this stuff or wishes to talk to Mr. Darell Lewis about this new finish he can be reached at (828)327-7442 the companies website is WWW.Diamondblack.com and Darell's email is Darrellglewis@cs.com. I am not sure what the total damage will be for a full pistol coated in Boron Carbide yet but a call or email to Mr. Lewis will probably get you an answer.