Guns as Art: Cerakoting My 1911

How I turned my firearm into a masterpiece

My Cerakoted 1911 / Zach Hanover

Some guns should be considered works of art based on the efficiency and beauty of their design alone. A masterpiece of industrial design can transcend its utilitarian purpose and become something more. Many guns throughout history meet that mark. Hell, pretty much anything John Moses Browning ever brought into this world is a treasure.

Guns have long had but a single color scheme: black on black on more black. Every once in a while a brave company would come along and slap some flat dark earth or olive drab green or purple or pink on their guns and people would be impressed by how different and colorful they are.

Cerakote is changing all of that.

Actually, to be more precise, it’s the artists who toil in the backs of gun shops with a paper-thin, high-tech ceramic coating and steel canvases changing the face of firearms—figuratively and literally. They’re the ones reimagining and then remaking what a gun can and should look like.

Cerakote describes itself in the same utilitarian and industrial terms you’d see in any gun maker’s description of their firearm designs.

"Cerakote is a Polymer-Ceramic Composite coating that can be applied to metals, plastics, polymers, and wood," the company writes on its site. "The unique formulation used for Cerakote ceramic coating enhances a number of physical performance properties including abrasion/wear resistance, corrosion resistance, chemical resistance, impact strength, and hardness."

And while the utilitarian uses of Cerakote are numerous and impressive, I’d say the fact that it comes in a wide variety of vibrant colors and that it can be applied in multiple layers is what actually sets it apart from other industry-standard firearms coatings like bluing or anodizing. The multitude of colors and the ability to layer them is what frees those with an eye for it to make art of guns.

The popularity of Cerakote has exploded recently. There are now dozens of gun shops creating high-end, stunning designs all across the country. While there are many popular design themes stretching across these shops, each shop has its own unique style.

To give you, dear reader, an idea of what can be accomplished with Cerakote, I selflessly volunteered my own Remington R1 Enhanced 1911—my favorite gun, mind you—for a makeover. The gun is, frankly, flawless straight from the factory. But after spending a few days in the hands of an artist it was something else altogether.

The distressed P-51-inspired design, which makes the gun look like a workhorse that’s been through the fire more than once, was the creation of Weapon Works in Burlington, North Carolina. It’s a one of a kind, custom design that came from the mind of Zac Harward after we discussed what I was looking for. Once Zac finished painting the slide and frame, Tannerman’s Weapon Systems in Martinsburg, West Virginia, assisted in painting the barrel and reassembling the gun.

The end result shows what can be accomplished when you put a gun and some Cerakote in the right hands.

Of course, my 1911 and its World War II theme is far from the only custom paint job out there. The styles and designs vary from shop to shop but the best custom work is undeniably impressive. In fact, the unique taste and approach each shop brings to the table just serves to create a rich tapestry of beautiful firearms.

Whether they’re taking cues from venerable American fighting aircraft or patriotic symbolism, like these other Weapon Works designs…

Or the color-shifting candy tones that rappers like to paint their cars with (you know, the kind that changes every time you switch lanes), like these Gun Candy creations…

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Or these pop culture-inspired designs from Cerakote Chick, Whiskey Tango Firearms, NF Cerakote, and Evolved Tactical Coatings

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They’re all creating their own masterpieces and generally making the world a more colorful and interesting place.