The Best Finish for a Defensive Handgun (PART 1)

The truth is, it can depend on where you live. Read on for expert advice on the best finish for a defensive handgun as well as proper maintenance.

Defensive Handgun

Keeping a base layer between your firearm and body helps keep sweat away from the metal…and improves comfort. Photo by Dave Norman

Dispensing with the obvious right up front, there is no such thing as a universally “perfect,” or even a single “best” handgun for concealed carry and personal protection. Should anyone suggest otherwise, he’s either a salesman or a self-appointed expert, neither of which is a reliable source of life-saving information.


Let’s look at one crucial aspect, then. What is the best finish for a defensive handgun? Does stainless steel best suit your needs, or would you want a blued steel pistol…or perhaps a polymer-framed handgun with a blue-black slide? What about those state-of-the-art factory or aftermarket finishes that are seemingly indestructible?


Well, where do you live? This isn’t about your street address, but your environment. Are you in a coastal region near saltwater? If that is the case, your choices should lean toward stainless steel and either polymer, aluminum alloy, or one of the space-age lightweight alloys because these materials are less likely to suffer trouble in a humid coastal environment where salt air can be just as damaging as constant rain. Those polymer components are impervious to most conditions, but don’t get over-confident.


If you live inland, west of the Appalachians and east of the Cascades and Sierras, then a blue carbon steel handgun should suit your needs quite well.


Either way, do not be lulled into thinking that you will get away with neglecting your firearm. Over the years, it has been stunning to see the number of people who allowed their stainless steel firearms to corrode on the inside because they thought the material was impervious to all weather conditions.


Some of the worst offenders were police officers. Truth be known, most cops are not the “gun experts” that the public, and especially politicians, reflexively believe them to be just because they wear badges and carry guns. You can tell the difference between a person who is a shooter and one who just carries a heavy piece of steel by looking for dust and grit around the hammer, or other signs of indifference or neglect. Even a dusty striker-fired pistol is sometimes easy to spot if you’re deliberately looking.


You need to give your concealed carry pistol routine maintenance whether or not it seems to get wet, and whether or not you fire it. Clean and oil it inside and out because a very thin coat of oil will keep moisture from forming down in those tiny corners inside the action where rust spots appear and, like cancer, by the time one notices it, corrective measures may be a little late.


Let’s be frank about this. We’re talking about taking care of a piece of emergency survival equipment that may mean the difference between going home or going to the morgue. In an emergency, you want that equipment to work flawlessly.



holster wear

Blued finishes show holster wear more apparently over time, but are also straightforward to refinish yourself.


What constitutes proper “routine maintenance”? Certainly after every range visit, you’ll need to clean your handgun. If you’re using a revolver, get some aerosol cleaners and shoot a good jet down into the action. It’s a good idea to remove the grips for a really good cleaning to allow the solvent to drain out.


I’ve found that aerosols also work for semi-auto owners who are not really savvy enough to completely dismantle their pistols. There are several good spray-type aerosols that really clean the gunk out of a firearm, so spend a few dollars and save yourself some grief.


After your handgun dries, add just a few drops of oil to moving parts. Don’t use too much oil, because that will attract and hold tiny particles of dust or powder residue and after a while, that just turns into a mess.


For the semi auto user, there is one slick trick that I picked up several years ago from a superb gunsmith pal that might seem to run “against the grain” of light lubrication. Get a tube of white lithium grease and use a toothpick to add just a dab of this stuff to the slide rails of your pistol. This has worked for me, and I’d guess my shooting regimen far exceeds that of the average person.


Never believe that just because you have a stainless steel pistol that you can skip a cleaning and walk around with a dirty gun. It’s not clear how this myth got started, but I know that it didn’t begin with the firearms manufacturers! I’ve never met a gun maker who suggested that a stainless gun does not need to be cleaned, lubricated and protected.


Be sure to check back for Part 2, which will tell you all about how to properly wear and treat your holster and also cover perspiration and sights! 


Story & Photos by Dave Workman

One thought on “The Best Finish for a Defensive Handgun (PART 1)

  1. What do you recommend as far as keeping a round chambered in a semi-automatic pistol. Keeping a round chambered or just having the loaded magazine in the pistol, with no round in the chamber? This is a 2 adult household.

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