"Black Ice" Teflon Coating
Not much has been new in muzzleloading metal finishes for a long time. Over the last 30 muzzleloaders tested, the quality of the bluing has ranged from "magic marker" level tool blackening that you can rub off with Breakfree, to hot salt blue as good as found on most modern firearms. With the variety of residues left by blackpowder and synthetic substitutes such as Pyrodex and Triple 7, keeping a black powder arm looking as new has always meant rigorous care after every shooting session and lots of water sloshed around to irrigate away the fouling.
Nickel plating has found its way into inline muzzleloader land as a cheap alternative to stainless steel. Inspection of the current crop of muzzleloaders reveals that it too runs the full spectrum in quality the same as does bluing. The tinker-toy end of the muzzleloader offerings tend to have nickel plating that seems to flake while you look at it, and often it is not just the outside of the barrel that is plated, but anything that hits the tank. There are very few quality nickel-plated muzzleloaders out there, and it is apparent that many manufacturers want the look, appeal, and salability of a stainless gun without the added production cost. Many foreign imports offer the pathetic tool blackening or flaky, uneven nickel plating to buyers who don't look closely at what they are buying.
Though stainless steel offers an extra measure of corrosion resistance it can stain, as many muzzleloading enthusiasts have discovered. Personally, I prefer stainless steel barrels on most muzzleloaders, as I find them easier to clean and much easier to tell when they really are clean. One of the most recent popular combinations has been the stainless barrel / camouflage stock combination, or the nickel finish / camo combo. This has always struck me as a bit nutty, if not outright bizarre.
Are the sneaky muzzleloaders supposed to remain hidden with their camo stocks, while their glistening barrels blind their game into submission? Or, have the manuals that accompany these muzzleloaders just neglected the brand of camo tape that sticks better to stainless than blued barrels? In any case, nickel and stainless muzzleloading barrels remain too bright and shiny in the woods. Waterfowlers know full well the look of highly polished blued barrels jutting out of duck blinds up and down the river. There have been dull, machinery gray stainless guns available in center fire land, such as the barrels found on current production Ruger varmint rifles, but muzzleloaders have been left out of the loop. Various custom finishes have come and gone over the years, such as "Black T," but there really has been no reliable source for a quality, professionally applied, black Teflon coating. Now, at long last, there is.
The product is called "Black Ice" (http://www.blackicecoatings.com), and I've recently had this media blasted, hand applied, baked on matte black Teflon coating applied to three test guns: the barrel of a stainless steel Thompson Encore .50 caliber, the barrel and partial action of a Knight Extreme stainless steel .50 caliber, and the entire barreled action of an Austin & Halleck 420 including Warne scope bases. The results have been uniformly spectacular. Throw away the camo tape, and forget about ever having to oil the outside of your barrel again. Rinse away any outside residue with water, and you are finished. It is now a regular factory option on Austin & Halleck and White rifles, so you can get your new gun with Black Ice straight from the factory if these guns are your muzzleloading choice.
Associates who have had longer experience with this coating are big believers in it for its weather resistance, and ability to completely seal out moisture from the outside of the barrel. What appeals to me about this product is the way it dulls bright stainless steel or nickel plating; the weatherproofing is just a bonus. As it is Teflon, it has the added benefit of making bolt and plunger-action guns smoother to operate when fouled, and offers easier, water-only cleanup to these action parts. Not limited to muzzleloaders, some may find its matte finish a blessing on their bolt-action center fire rifle, or their old reliable pump gun.
Certain restrictions do apply. As a baked on finish, it should not be applied to springs that may lose their temper, and it is not recommended for gas-operated guns. It adds slickness and a bit of thickness, something that a sensitive gas-operated semi-auto distinctly does not need.
For stainless steel Knight, White, and Thompson/Center muzzleloading barrels I think it is ideal. While some may think it almost sacrilegious to cover up the beautiful blue or well-applied satin nickel of an Austin and Halleck, high-humidity may demand it. If you are near the coast, you might want to have Black Ice applied to every piece of metal you own. Also, it will make a gun with worn bluing look like new again. Turnaround is typically two weeks or less. As far as I'm concerned, just a barrel only application is a huge improvement to most stainless steel in-line muzzleloaders.
Copyright 2003, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.