Several months ago, I was sent a set of A-TACS hydro-coated AR-15 furniture by SexyWeapon with instructions to use it for a while and then share my experiences with how well the coating held up. I installed everything on a new Dissipator style carbine that I built for a potential article since I knew I would be using it a lot. Now, just short of 1000 rounds later, I have a better idea of how these coatings will hold up with typical range use.
More on Hydro-Coating
Hydro-coating is called hydro-coating because a special film that contains the desired pattern is floated on top of water. The part that is being coated can them be passed through the film, transferring the film to the part. It sounds easy but…
We have all seen hydro-coating that is just poorly executed. You can usually spot it a mile away because the coating is flaking of in chunks and the coated surface is left shiny which indicates that there is likely no clear coat over the hydro-coating. If you want the coating to hold up well, it takes work, and work is something that not everyone is willing to do.
SexyWeapon starts by choosing the best color of the furniture that they will be coating to work well with the pattern that they are applying. Ideally, they want to minimize how obvious it is when the coating does wear off because, like all coatings, it will wear off eventually. This means they start with black for dark patterns like their Reaper pattern and something like FDE for their more brown patterns like A-TACS AU. My sample parts are A-TACS AU coated over black furniture. Due to this, the wear shown is more dramatic than it typically would be but it was helpful to me in my review so that I could highlight the wear.
The next step is prepping the surface. SexyWeapon preps with a solid color coating that, like the color of the furniture itself, is chosen to compliment the hydro-coating. This base coat is important in that will play a large role in how the final hydro-coating appears. If you try to put A-TACS AU over a green background, the pattern will have a green tinge to it. The color pallets in modern camo patterns are chosen very carefully. SexyWeapon does their best to make sure their coatings are rendered as faithfully as possible and that starts with a proper base coat.
Once the furniture color is chosen and the surface is prepped with a solid color coating, SexyWeapon dips the part to minimize the presence of seams in the coating. The goal is to have as much uninterrupted camo as possible and for the seams to end up in places where they will most be unnoticed.
The final step is one of the keys to the durability and good looks of the SexyWeapon parts. They apply a clear coat using a technique that gives the part a non-glare matte finish. There is no shine whatsoever (at first – more on this later) and the parts are left with a fine, pebbled texture that is fairly grippy.
Observations from Use
My main goal in using this furniture was to see how the coating held up to typical and some non-typical use. I wanted to observe how the wear progressed through the various coatings in additional to how well the entire product holds up over time.
I found the coating to have better wear resistance than spray paint and similar wear resistance to DuraCoat. That should give you some frame of reference for how durable the coating is. You will eventually start to wear it off, but it will be very localized and less noticeable thanks to the upfront diligence of SexyWeapon.
The wear seems to progress through stages over time. First, you will notice that some higher traffic areas wear smooth but they never really become as obnoxiously shiny as low quality coatings. It is more of a dull luster that you can feel more than you can see. Next, the coating starts to wear away so that the base coat shows through. This only happened on my sample furniture in places where there is fairly frequent contact with something hard like my wedding ring on the vertical grip or the charging handle on the leading edge of the stock. Finally, I did manage to wear through the base coating in the places that receive the most abuse like the bottom of the magazine where it contacts the ground when using it as a mono-pod.
Keep in mind that my carbine gets unpacked at the range, used, and then packed up again. If your typical usage involves something different, the wear patterns may be different. I suspect that bouncing around in the trunk of a cop car or being carried on long foot patrols will accelerate the wear considerably. Also, all of the parts that I tested were plastic and I am not sure if the durability would be the same on metal parts.
One thing that you may need to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to purchase coated parts is how the coatings will affect the fit of all the various parts. For instance, the coated Magpul MOE Hand Guards are marginally harder to install than not coated ones. Those three extra layers of coating (base, hydro-coating, clear coat) can make a noticeable difference. This is especially true if you know that the magazine well on your carbine is tight. If it is, you may find that magazines don’t drop free. In my case, the magazine that SexyWeapon provided for the test was double coated and it would not drop free (I was told about this before I ever received the parts). However, this should be a non-issue with in spec lowers and single coated magazines.
I found that the hydro-coated parts from SexyWeapon were of very good quality – better than what you typically see. SexyWeapon gets the details right and it shows in how well their coatings hold up to use.
Check out their ever growing lineup of coated parts SexyWeapon.com.
Disclosure: SexyWeapon provided these parts to me, free of charge, for review.