AR-15 Specialty Finishes: PVD, Chrome, Black Chrome, and Gold Plating

The AR-15 rifle is one of the most popular firearms in the world. Its modular design, versatility, and adaptability make it a favorite among gun enthusiasts. Over the years, the demand for personalization and performance enhancement has led to the development of specialty finishes that not only beautify the firearm but also provide functional benefits. In this article, we’ll explore four prominent specialty finishes for the AR-15: PVD, Chrome, Black Chrome, and Gold Plating.

1. PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition)

Overview: PVD is a process used to apply thin film coatings to various materials, including firearms. It involves evaporating material in a vacuum and then allowing it to condense on the desired surface, creating a strong bond.


  • Durability: PVD coatings are known for their high hardness, making them resistant to wear, corrosion, and scratching.
  • Variety: The process can produce finishes in a variety of colors.
  • Low maintenance: Requires minimal upkeep compared to some other finishes.


  • Cost: PVD coatings can be on the pricier side compared to traditional bluing or Parkerizing.

2. Chrome

Overview: Chrome finishing is the application of a thin layer of chromium onto a metal object through an electroplating process.


  • Corrosion Resistance: Chromium is naturally resistant to rust, making it a popular choice for many firearms components.
  • Aesthetics: The bright, mirror-like finish is appealing to many gun owners.
  • Smooth Action: Chrome surfaces are slick, which can improve the action of moving parts.


  • Weight: The added layer can increase the overall weight of the firearm, though the increase is generally minimal.
  • Potential Flaking: Over time and with wear, chrome can potentially flake or chip.

3. Black Chrome

Overview: Black chrome is similar to traditional chrome but has a dark, almost gunmetal appearance. It’s achieved by adding specific chemicals or pigments during the electroplating process.


  • Stealth Appearance: For those who prefer a subdued look but want the benefits of chrome.
  • Corrosion Resistance: Like traditional chrome, it offers excellent protection against rust.


  • Maintenance: Black chrome can show scratches more visibly than traditional chrome, requiring careful handling.

4. Gold Plating

Overview: Gold plating involves depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, typically using electroplating.


  • Aesthetics: The luxurious appearance of gold-plated firearms is unparalleled.
  • Corrosion Resistance: Gold doesn’t tarnish or corrode.


  • Cost: Gold plating can be significantly more expensive than other finishes.
  • Durability: Gold is a soft metal and can be more susceptible to wear, dents, and scratches.

Conclusion: The choice of finish for an AR-15—or any firearm, for that matter—often comes down to a balance between aesthetics and functionality. While some gun owners may opt for a finish based purely on appearance, others might prioritize durability and corrosion resistance. With advancements in finishing technologies, the market now offers a wide array of options that cater to various needs and preferences. Whether you’re seeking the opulence of gold plating or the ruggedness of PVD, there’s a specialty finish out there to suit your AR-15 and make it truly unique.

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