AR-15 barrels have become quite the topic of debate, especially regarding what type of finish they have. Coating your AR barrel significantly increases its longevity and performance, and two coatings – nitride and parkerized – have become the go-to finishes for AR shooters.
Both these two finishes have their own unique attributes, pros, and cons. In this article, we’ll conduct a deep analysis of these two barrel finishes. We also look at some other barrel finishes and discuss whether applying a finish to your barrel affects the upper receiver or the mounted scope.
Table of Contents
Why Coat Your AR Barrel?
It is important to coat your AR barrel as it enhances its durability, improves performance, and significantly extends your barrel’s longevity.
When you coat your barrel, you enhance hardness and corrosion resistance, as well as increase protection against rust. You also improve its performance by reducing friction during intense shooting sessions. Plus, a coating puts a nice refined aesthetic appeal to your AR-15, especially when it’s a nitride or parkerized coating.
What Is A Nitride Barrel?
A nitride barrel is an AR barrel that undergoes a process known as Salt Bath Nitride, more commonly referred to as Meloniting/ Nitriding. The Nitriding process diffuses nitrogen into the metal surface, making the barrel’s surface significantly harder and corrosion-resistant.
What Is A Parkerized Barrel?
A parkerized barrel, also known as Parkerizing, is one that has been treated with a solution of parkerized acid, providing a textured, gray-to-black finish. The Parkerized barrels can hold onto oils and preservatives efficiently, making the barrel exceptionally rust-resistant.
What Are The Differences Between Parkerized vs Nitride Barrels?
The table below summarizes the six main differences between a nitride and parkerized finish.
|1. Life Span
|Generally longer life span
|Durable but shorter life span
|2. Use Case
|Suitable for harsh conditions, tactical/hunting
|Budget-friendly, regular maintenance, casual use
|Higher cost due to added durability
|More affordable, budget-conscious choice
|4. Shooting Accuracy
|Slightly better accuracy due to smoother finish
|Marginal difference, not a primary consideration
|5. Easy To Maintain
|Requires less maintenance, superior corrosion resistance
|Regular maintenance, cleaning, and oiling
|Black appearance, shiny and polished look
|Gray appearance, matte and rugged
1. Life Span
A nitride finish barrel generally has a longer life span than parkerized barrels. While parkerized barrels are durable, they don’t quite match up to the longevity of a nitrided barrel, which offers superior resistance to corrosion, wear, and heat. This is why many tactical and hunting shooters prefer nitride barrels, as they are more adept at tackling the elements.
2. Use Case
Nitride barrels are suitable for various applications, especially if you want to expose your AR to harsh conditions. In comparison, parkerized barrels are best for users on a tight budget, those who enjoy regularly maintaining and cleaning their firearms, and those who operate in casual conditions, such as range shooting.
With the added durability of the nitride barrel, there also comes an increase in cost. Nitrided barrels are 9 out of 10 times more expensive than parkerized barrels because of the complexity of the chemical process.
Parkerized barrels are more affordable, making them the go-to for budget-conscious buyers.
4. Shooting Accuracy
While the accuracy difference is very small, the smoother finish of the nitride barrel can contribute to slightly better shooting accuracy. However, the difference is marginal, and your decision on which barrel lining to get shouldn’t be based on the shooting accuracy.
5. Easy To Maintain
Nitride barrels require less maintenance due to their superior corrosion resistance. Parkerized barrels, however, require regular maintenance, especially cleaning and oiling the barrel.
Nitride barrels appear black and offer a shiny and polished look, while parkerized barrels are gray and give a matte, rugged appearance.
The choice of aesthetic preference boils down to personal preference, but it might be worth looking at other types of AR barrel coatings before making a final decision, as they, too, offer a unique aesthetic appearance.
What Are The Other Types Of AR Barrel Coatings?
Other types of AR-15 barrel coatings include stainless steel, painted, and chrome-lined barrels. Chrome lining is an internal bore coating applied to the barrel to resist the extreme heat and stresses of rapid fire.
Stainless steel barrels are designed for sub-MOA accuracy, and painted barrels are just a budget-friendly way to customize your rifle to make it stand out.
Are All AR Uppers Compatible With Nitride & Parkerized Barrels?
Yes, all AR-15 upper receivers are compatible with nitride and parkerized barrels. The coating on the barrel does not affect the compatibility of the upper and lower receivers. Instead, it’s important to ensure the barrel’s specifications, like length and chamber, match your AR-15 upper receiver.
Does The AR Barrel Coating Affect The Gun Scope?
No, the AR barrel coating does not affect your AR-15 gun sight. However, the barrel’s harmonics and heat can influence accuracy over time – nothing regular scope adjustments can’t fix.
Do You Need To Re-Zero A Gun Scope After Swapping Barrels?
Yes, you need to re-zero your AR-15 gun scope after swapping barrels. Remember, whenever you change a significant AR-15 component, like the barrel, you must re-zero your scope to ensure pin-point accuracy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Nitride Barrels More Popular Than Parkerized Barrels?
Can You Apply The AR Coating Yourself?
The Bottom Line
Choosing between nitride and parkerized barrels comes down to your needs, preferences, and, as with all gadgets and equipment, your budget. Both offer unique benefits. Nitride barrels might be superior in terms of lifespan and maintenance, but parkerized barrels won’t break the bank and still provide reliability. However, I would wait a little bit longer until I can afford the nitride barrel – you’ll just be more satisfied with this finish than the parkerized one. Nevertheless, whatever you choose, make sure it aligns with your shooting habits and intended use.