NICKEL BORON VS MELONITE
Everyone wants the best for their rifle like they do their kids but with all the advertising and claims it's very difficult to know what is best. Nickel Boron type coatings (aka NiB) are probably the hottest buzzword these days and offer a lot of bling to the party. The second most popular newer coating these days is Melonite. Both offer superior corrosion resistance to a standard mil-spec phosphate coat. This article hopes to add some clarity and useful knowledge but is by no means an in depth highly technical review. I personally prefer the VDI Lifecoat parts over NiB and still recommend small amounts of high quality lubricant. In short, Lifecoat BCG is a multistep process that creates superior end product compared to NiB alone. The 1st stage of coating is to deposit a layer of pure Nickel on all surfaces of the carrier. This gives superior Lubricity and Corrosion Resistance. The shortfall of Nickel and/or Nickel Boron is wear on part-to-part contact surfaces where intense friction takes place. To overcome this shortfall and retain the integral properties of the Nickel, VDI permeates a 2nd layer of coating. This is a Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) type Melonite application that adds superior outside wear resistance during surface-to-surface contact and adds a Dark Grey/Black Pigment. The collaboration of these 2 coating processes, along with the superior surface preparation unites in sequence to offer superior lubricity, corrosion resistance, surface hardness and texture for the optimal functional performance of this part.
Nickel Boron formulations are all designed to reduce friction, minimizes wear, offer superior corrosion resistance and "eliminate the need for lubrication" (you may still use lubrication and I recommend it). There are a number of different nickel boron coating process techniques, material formulation and finish appearances. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of fly by night companies that are getting into the nickel boron business now since the benefits are becoming well known. Nickel boron is a trendy thing these days, and a lot of companies have/want to jump on the money band wagon. However, many of the cheap Nickel Boron plated components out there are from anonymous third party vendors. Some of these are automotive plating companies and other anonymous finishing and plating companies with questionable coating quality. The problem is that some of these processes are just mixing nickel with boron without knowing the correct process and formula to do it right or paying attention to metalurgical requirements of these critical firearm components. The result is a sub par finish without all the true properties of Nickel Boron but obtaining the silvery appearance. True FailZero (FZ) Nickel Boron (one of the highest quality manufacturers of this process) is by contrast actually a dull and mottled looking grey. Some of the inferior process manufacturers put out a product that comes out looking mirror like and beautiful but the long term durability is very poor. The only two companies that I know of that do Nickel Boron coating right are Fail Zero and WMD (broke off from FZ). Those are the manufacturers I am offering for sale and recommend. Spike's Tactical uses Fail Zero which is one of the best coaters out there and the inventor of the process for AR15 parts.
MELONITE NITRIDE (ADAMS ARMS PROPRIETARY "LIFECOAT" FALLS UNDER THIS CATEGORY BUT IS MORE ADVANCED MULTI-STEP PROCESS USING PVD INSTEAD OF LIQUID NITRIDE)
This finishing process provides a surface hardening condition that protects against corrosion and wear better than hard chrome or nickel plating. While liquid nitriding is a surface modification technology, Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coating involves the deposition of thin (2-10 microns; 0.0001”–0.0004”) proprietary films (i.e. TiN, CrN, Ti(C,N)) on the surface of components.
VooDoo Innovations (VDI) has trademarked the term LifeCoat. The term is used to describe a multitude of coating processes that best fit the application of the specific AR15 part. Since each part serves a different purpose, it has different applicable needs for surface protection, lubricity, hardness and color. Some coatings are “Line of Sight” coatings and can only coat outside dimensions of a part. While other coatings are baths and therefore have the ability to coat blind holes as well as other internal cavities. All coating processes have an intended purpose. Some coating processes offer superior lubricity, but may not be hard enough to hold up over long periods of time on point-to-point contact surfaces. VDI has taken their years of experience in the world of Mechanics, Engineering and Firearms’ Technology to apply these processes to their best intended application. Having the ability to offer specific materials, machining techniques, coatings and apply them to the purpose of the part is what allows them to offer Life-Time Warranties on the parts produced. Many variables come into play when applying various coatings; from heat and surface preparation to friction on mating contact points. Below are the specific coatings for the Bolt Carrier Group (most often compared/stressed about in deciding between Nickel Boron and Melonite).
DIRECT IMPINGEMENT CARRIERS
Adams begins with an 8620 Forging on the carrier, which is then machined on High-End Lathes with Multi-Access Live Tooling. This allows machining more of the carrier without changing the fixture and hold points a multitude of times, thus giving a more consistent, higher quality part. The carrier is then Media Blasted on an automated, custom built blaster using a proprietary blend of media. This allows them to control the consistency of each part while maintaining redundancy in production. It’s critical to the adhesion of these advanced coating processes to have a consistent surface finish prior to application. Once the carriers are prepped, they are individually packaged to prevent contact during shipping. Any part on part-to-part contact could contaminate and compromise the finish, therefore reducing aesthetic and potential functional integrity. The 1st stage of coating is to deposit a layer of pure Nickel on all surfaces of the carrier. This gives superior Lubricity and Corrosion Resistance. The shortfall of Nickel and/or Nickel Boron is wear on part-to-part contact surfaces where intense friction takes place. To overcome this shortfall and retain the integral properties of the Nickel, VDI permeates a 2nd layer of coating. This is a PVD type Melonite application that adds superior outside wear resistance during surface-to-surface contact and adds a Dark Grey/Black Pigment. The collaboration of these 2 coating processes, along with the superior surface preparation unites in sequence to offer superior lubricity, corrosion resistance, surface hardness and texture for the optimal functional performance of this part.
Adams begin their bolts with Mil-Spec C158 material that is machined using some of the most technologically advanced equipment available. This allows them to machine the bolt without multiple touches, therefore reducing the potential for human error while driving down the overall cost. Once the bolt bodies are machined they go through a rigorous internal inspection to confirm they meet strict guidelines and prints. After the bolts have cleared QA they are then put through MPI testing and are Shot Peened to eliminate any sharp corners as well as harden the outside of the bolt. Next the bolts are sent to be processed in Nickel. This seals the bolt both internally as well as externally. Once the bolt has been sealed in Nickel, they are sent through a PVD process to harden the outside of the nickel as well as give it the added protection and color. All VDI bolts are laser marked and come with the standard Life-Time Warranty.