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Refinishing AR15s with Norrells Moly Resin
I've been asked a few times about refinishing AR15s. I don't
claim to be an expert, but mine have turned out well, and seem to be holding up
to wear quite nicely. Here is how I do it.
To start, I picked up an airbrush kit. I had been told that ANY basic airbrush would work fine for spraying Norrells Moly Resin, so I went with the most basic version I could find. Oddly enough, that also meant the cheapest version I could find. Out to the local stores, and the Testors kit pictured below is what I am using. As it turns out, this little cheapo airbrush works very well.
Inside the box will be a small air canister, go ahead and pick up a larger can while you are there. Sooner or later you will need it, and the middle of a project is a bad time to go low on air...
Price for Testors Airbrush Kit-$20
Price for large air can- $6
Next on the list was to actually get some product to spray.
After checking around and reading just about every review I could, I decided
that Norrells Moly Resin would be the best finish for me.
Prices (including shipping)
$ 23.00 / 8 ounces
$ 50.00 / per quart
$150.00 / gallon
NEW Color ! GLOSSY BLACK
Very Glossy black that looks like an expensive black "blue-job" wet with oil.
Black in coloration with a non-reflective dull matte appearance. This a slightly darker shade compared to the above Grayish-Black Moly Resin™. Norrell Manufacturing supplies this Mil-Spec finish to the sub-contractors that manufacture US SOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) products for H&K and the U.S. Military such as the sound suppressor for the H&K Mark 23 SOCOM .45 Cal. pistol used by the Navy Seals and Special Forces. It is also used by a number of firearm manufacturers. Our most popular color.
Black in coloration with a slight gloss that is similar in appearance to the H&K (Heckler & Koch) type finish. Good match to H&K, UZI, and other similar semi-gloss black guns.
Dark gray-black coloration with a flat appearance. This duplicates the appearance of the early original Colt AR-15/M-16 finish. This is the same product that is purchased from us by the U.S. Military to refinish Colt M-16's.
A match to older gray military parkerizing including some very early Colt M-16 rifles. Gray flat in coloration with an almost unnoticeable (except under certain lighting conditions) a very slight tint of green. This is a lighter shade of gray than our Greenish-Gray.
This is an exact Mil-Spec color match to the U.S. Military parkerizing seen on older military firearms there are turned slightly green due to storage in cosmoline. Base color is grayish-black flat.
GREEN Flat (Olive Drab)
Olive (flat) drab green that is a match to U.S. Military OD green. Also used by a well-known U.S. handgun manufacturer for their .45 cal. pistols and shotguns.
TAN Flat, BROWN Flat, and OFF-WHITE Flat
Basic Camo colors (Tan is new U.S. Military mid-east desert tan 30118 color fed standard 595B)
Powdered stainless steel metal mixed with clear phenolic Moly Resin. Gives the appearance of brushed stainless steel when applied over any type of metal. A pleasantly surprising match to real stainless. Used primarily to color match small parts such as scope rings, bases, and other parts, etc. when they are not available in stainless. For best match to brushed stainless, this coating is recommended to be sprayed over a smooth non-abrasive air blasted surface.
Moly Resin phenolic resin with no coloration pigments or additives for lubrication. Can be applied over a cured colored Moly Resin coating or to bare metal.
Last on my supply/ shopping list was degreaser and gloves.
Actually, for a degreaser I picked up a bunch of carb cleaner cans for $1 each.
They grab all the oils out of the steel, which is exactly what we are looking
for. They also evaporate quickly, which is nice when we are trying to get work
Latex, or a similar type of glove is recommended so you don't paint your fingers. More important than you coloring your fingers, is that the oils from your hands/ fingers gets all over the metal as you are trying to spray it. This negates all the hard work you did on degreasing. Kind of pointless to not wear gloves...
Price for Carb cleaner-$1 each
Latex or dish gloves-$1 for a few pair
So right now we are in the realm of $45 for our gathered
supplies. Not bad, but spending the cash is the easy part. The hard part is
actually refinishing your AR (or other weapon).
Don't sweat it. Using Norrells is easy and simple, but like every finish, it is only going to look as good as you care to make it. Prep work is the key to ALL refinishing. You wouldn't paint your house with paint flaking off, just like we won't apply a finish until our base is ready.
The first step is cleaning your AR15 as well as you can. The insides should be fairly clean, but the outside is where we need to really clean everything. Areas to pay special attention are going to be your brass deflector, around and behind your D-ring, and your front sight assembly.
Clean these until you are no longer getting anything off. Not exactly rocket science it it?
Here is the AR15 we are going to refinish...
**Taken from Norrells website**
Moly Resin™ may be used for cosmetic refinishing and/or as a protective coating against the elements. When used solely as a cosmetic finish, it is unnecessary to completely disassemble many firearms to refinish. In many instances a large sub-assembly of parts may be coated without disassembly.
Now is the time to get out the gloves, and start spraying things down. I would do this outside if you value your brain cells. Don't go easy on anything, it is only a buck for the can, and it is important to get all the oils out of the metal and finish. Spray it all down, then spray it again. Pay particular attention to the areas where there are cracks, joints or seams. Your front sight assembly, Delta ring, and the inside of your ejection port cover are all areas that will need special attention.
Once you have it all degreased, hit it one more quick time, just to make sure.
Are you finished? Are you sure? If you have any doubts, now is the time to go back and recheck. If you are doing a weapon that may have been in grease or cosmoline, you may need to preheat it in the oven. Leaving it in the oven for 30 minutes will bring anything out of the pores that may be lurking about.
If you look close, you can see fingerprints on the upper portion of the carry handle and sights. This would be a mistake to spray it in this condition
So far so good. There really isn't anything that we have done so far that is very difficult, and even if you have never broken your weapon apart before, you are probably happy with how easy things have been.
Now we need to concentrate on our preparation. You need to run into your bedroom and grab the hairdryer, don't worry, we won't hurt it. Take your bottle(s) of Norrells, and start to shake them up. Shake it for a minute or so until you are certain all of the large chunks are broken down. Now go fill a bucket with hot water, and put your bottle of Norrells inside. We want to warm the liquid, so it will spray easier, dry better, and shake up well for us. Once it is warm inside the bottle, it is ready to spray. Before you spray it, you will need to shake it one more time. You will also need to shake it every time you refill your airbrush.
Preheat your parts. Using your hairdryer, get your parts nice and warm (borderline hot) to the touch.
Hopefully, you have an area setup to do your spraying. I do it inside my garage (with the cars outside), and a large fan going to keep everything well ventilated. Don't have a fan blowing in your face, as eating the sprayed finish won't taste good.
Once your parts are warmed, and your airbrush is filled and ready, take a minute and check yourself to ensure everything is laid out the way you want it. There is nothing worse than to forget something and go racing through the house while you are half way through a project.
Norrells lists sandblasting as a good way to prep the surface, but blasting the anodizing off AR15 receivers isn't a great idea in my book. Blasting would be a good prep for heavier metals.
Note the below picture has us coating the inside and outside of the ejection port cover. The inside center piece is what soaks up a lot of oil and grease. Get this part super clean, spray it a bunch of times. Get that section around the Delta ring clean as well.
The hard part is done. Spraying is a matter of using the airbrush, and getting familiar with the various spray shapes. I like to use a more focused spray pattern, while others like to use a wide spray. It is hard to explain exactly how to figure what is best for you. I set it slightly narrower than a can of spray paint, and that coats well for me.
One of the recommended way to practise spraying, is to fill the airbrush with water, and to spray cardboard. This is a simple method of seeing how your spray pattern is going to look. The cardboard gets wet, turns dark, and you get an idea of how things are spraying.
I spray each piece as an individual part. Then, when everything is complete and dry, I reassemble and spray it again. This gives the same finish, color and texture to the entire piece. Make sure when you do this that you have preheated the entire weapon, which can take awhile if you are using a hairdryer like me.
Norrells figures on three coats for maximum protection and wear resistance. For high wear areas, I try to go with an extra coat or two, which is probably over kill, but doesn't hurt.
Spray from as many different angles as you can. Use light passes, and don't try to get "heavy" coats on. With nooks and crannies in areas like below, you are going to need to figure out your angles while you spray.
Areas like the gas tube that you don't want to coat can be simply taped. I use blue painters tape as it doesn't leave any residue.
Small areas like the Carry Handle/ A2 Sight Assembly do not need to be pulled all the way apart if you are looking for a solid color. Roatating the elevation dial several times while spraying can ensure a even coating for the dial, and the Norrells finish is fine for most plastics.
The sight assembly seem to be a sticking point for a few people. I've done a few by pulling them all the way apart, I've done a few by leaving them together, and I have done a few by pulling the A2 Sight Assembly off the carry handle. I can't tell them apart anymore, with the exception of the ones I have done in different colors.
The end result is that if you preheat, and move the adjustment knob up and down, it is going to turn out fine. If you like the idea of having your rear portion of your sight a different color, it isn't that hard to pull the sight off the carry handle. Just remember where all the little springs and ball bearings go, because it doesn't work right without them. The manuals online can help you if you get forgetful.
This is a rear view of the A2 sight on the carry handle after it has been coated.
The barrel is a pretty simple piece of the weapon to do. I spray up and down when I do a barrel, mainly because the spray pattern is football shaped. It gives me a heavier coverage, and I waste less doing it this way. Under the handguards gets three coats, but the sight assembly forward portion of the barrel get a little extra. I figure this portion of the weapon sees a little more wear than much of the rest of the AR.
I coat the flash suppressor separate from the barrel, but there is no reason why you couldn't do it all assembled. If I were doing a completed weapon, I would do it together.
There is no reason to get super excited about protecting your barrel when doing this work. A simple Q-tip or other similar object down the barrel will be more than enough to protect it. If you are leaving a FS on the end of your barrel, it should be a moot point.
If you are coating a bare barrel, I would simply spray at an angle. You don't want to be spraying directly into your barrel extension, or chamber. I have found spraying from the side is is a fine way to avoid overspray into these areas
Drying and Curing
If you have been heating your parts as you spray, you should not have any wet or damp items. Nor should you have any sags or drips in your finish. About the only thing I've seen with Norrells is when I have let the paint get too low in the sprayer, and it sputters and throws a blob of paint instead of a nice spray.
I can't blame the finish for mistakes I've made. Thankfully, a few passes with the sprayer and it was looking fine again.
Heating your finished is done in three stages. First is making sure it is dry to the touch. Even though the finish dries as it is applied to a warm surface, I hit every area with the hair dryer again, just to make sure it dried all the way. Second, I let it sit for awhile. I try to wait overnight if possible. This just ensures that all the solvent is out. Then it is into the oven at 300 degrees for an hour. Lastly, I let everything cool down before I try grabbing anything out of the oven.
The temperature setting of 300 degrees is important. Norrells Moly Resin is not a paint, and it will not cure on its own. It may seem to dry, but it won't cure, and the curing is what gives it a hard and durable finish. My new oven is right on when I check it with an oven thermometer, but my old one was off by 30+ degrees. This is enough to ruin an otherwise good project! Take the temperature and make sure it is correct. A $5 oven thermometer is a cheap investment if you don't have one.
Once you have taken it out of the oven, and everything has cooled, there is a simple way to check and see if it has properly cured. In an area that isn't easily viewed, take cloth with lacquer thinner or acetone, and rub on the surface. Nothing should come off, even though Norrells say a minimum amount of color should be visible.
Here are some comments and suggestions that people have made...
Stickman I found your guide very easy to follow and not lacking in any way, the only thing I did different was I kept the hair dryer going on other parts while I sprayed the one already heated, that way I didn't have to worry about stopping and having the material in the airbrush separate. I also filled 2 other airbrush bottles with the warmed and shaken material and then just had to give them a quick shake before screwing them on the brush.
Also it helps to place the canned air in a pan of warm water while you are spraying, it keeps the pressure the same no matter how long you spray.
I find if you heat the moly resin AND preheat the part to 300*F, the moly drys as soon as the droplets hit, and it results in a fuzzy finish that rubs off. Underneath is a semigloss finish.
I preheated to 170*F as that is as low as my oven will go. By the time I took the parts outside, I am sure they were down to 130*-140*. This worked out well.
The only time I've preheated to 300 degrees was to make sure all the grease and oils were out of an item. I have not tried to spray at the 300 degree mark, so I never would have known this! Thanks for passing it along, I think I'll stay with my hairdryer or lower temp methods. I find the product to be a matte finish anyway, especially if you are misting it onto your surface (using the flat finishes). Heavier coatings always tend to take on a bit of a sheen.
Great info, thank you!
UPDATED INFO- Part of that is going to be the sprayer settings. I strongly recommend that people get some experience using their sprayers before they start on their AR15 or other weapons. Spraying water on a piece of cardboard can help show your spray pattern. I've found that a thicker coat can often result in a heavy finish and a "slightly off" spray pattern can make this textured look and feel happen.
Here is a picture of the Norrells OD Green on a project I built, in this case
I did the M4 handguards in the same color as some other parts of the weapon. A
lot of people have been sending me questions asking how the Norrells adheres to
plastics, and if the heat will damage anything.
The end result has been that the product is holding up very well on the handguards. Prep work was simple degreasing, nothing else was done. As with everything I coat, I preheated it with a hairdryer before I sprayed.
Here are some pictures of a little work I recently did. I have picked up a
regular compressor, and adapted it using some (comp x npt) fittings available at
your local hardware store. The compressor was set for 30psi when I sprayed
these, and I worked them a little differently than usual. By warming the item
higher than usual, the finish becomes very flat, and for the OD Green, this
seems to look even better.
Plastics were baked at 250 for 90 minutes, while the rest was at 300 for 60 minutes.
Here is the OD Green weapon outside in its natural setting....
Here are a few pictures of other Receivers, magazines, and parts that I've
done using Norrells. Proper application is always key, and the finished products
have been holding up well.
This thread is in transition, and I will try to put in a few more pictures, along with a few other changes.
Last update 25 Aug 2005