The Best Black BCG Finish – Phosphate vs Nitride vs DLC

The Best Black BCG Finish – Phosphate vs Nitride vs DLC

AR15 Bolt Carrier Groups

AR15 BCG finishes (l-r) Toolcraft Titanium Nitride, BCM BCG with Robar NP3+, Toolcraft Nickel Boron, Toolcraft Black Nitride, Colt BCG refinished in Chrome with Nickel Boron Gas Key, Toolcraft Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) Finish, Toolcraft Chrome Phosphate

There are a wide variety of finishes available for AR-15 bolt carrier groups (BCGs). Each has its own unique characteristics including color which ranges from silver to gold to black and various shades of each. Let's compare three of the best BLACK FINISHES and see how they stack up against each other including head-to-head comparisons and I'll make some recommendations along the way! 

Phosphate

Toolcraft Chrome Phosphate BCG with Carpenter 158 Bolt

Toolcraft BCG with Manganese Phosphate finish

Phosphate, also known as manganese phosphate or parkerizing, is a MIL SPEC finish for bolt carrier groups in military rifles like the M16 and M4. Phosphating involves submerging the metal parts into a phosphoric acid solution at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Properly manufactured BCGs with a phosphate finish will have a chrome lining inside the gas key and inside the carrier where the gas rings ride. For this reason they are often called Chrome Phosphate BCGs. 

Closeup - Chrome Lining of Toolcraft Phosphate Carrier

Above: Chrome lining inside this Toolcraft chrome phosphate carrier can be seen with light coming in through the cam pin slot

The phosphate provides a long lasting resistance to corrosion. It is very common because it is inexpensive, durable and easy to apply. A phosphated surface generally has some texture to it which can allow it to "hold oil" better than other finishes. This rough surface can be more difficult to clean though. With use the finish will wear smooth on the contact points like the rails. 

Pros

Very economical

Durable and corrosion resistant

Mil Spec

Cons

Rough finish that requires more lubricant to run smoothly

Rough surface makes cleaning more difficult 

Recommendations

Colt Bolt Carrier Group (Brownells)

Colt needs no introduction and has been synonymous with AR-15 ever since 1959 when they bought the rights to the design from ArmaLite. A Colt BCG is considered by many to be the Gold Standard.

Bravo Company Bolt Carrier Group (Rainier Arms)

BCM has a well earned reputation and their BCGs are top of the line.

Toolcraft Chrome Phosphate Bolt Carrier Group (SpiceTac)

Toolcraft is an OEM provider of BCGs to many firearms manufacturers. See our review here: Toolcraft Chrome Phosphate BCG Review.

Black Nitride

Toolcraft Black Nitride BCG 5.56 NATO/223 Rem

Toolcraft BCG with Black Nitride finish

Also known as Melonite, Salt Bath Nitride, Tennifer, Quench-Polish-Quench (QPQ) or simply Nitride, this is a heat treating process that creates a case hardened surface by diffusing nitrogen into the metal surface. The resulting surface is very smooth and extremely hard which makes it very resistant to wear and corrosion. Because nitrided bolt carrier groups do not require chrome lining of the gas key or inner areas of the bolt carrier, manufacturing costs are reduced. Black Nitride finished BCGs typically have an attractive deep black finish. 

Pros

High durability and corrosion resistance

Smooth finish requires less lube 

Easier to clean than phosphate

Cons

Can cost more than phosphate

Recommendations

Aero Precision Black Nitride BCG (SpiceTac)

Aero products are top of the line.

Toolcraft Black Nitride BCG (SpiceTac)

Toolcraft is an OEM provider of BCGs to many AR15 manufacturers. See our review here: Toolcraft BCG Review - Best Black Rifle Secret Ever?

 Diamond Like Carbon (DLC)

Toolcraft Diamond DLC BCG 5.56 NATO/223 Rem

Toolcraft BCG with Diamond DLC finish

Ionbond Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) Coating is a state-of-the-art metal finish applied through a Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) process. It is an extremely tough, corrosion proof coating, with excellent low-friction properties. Ionbond Black DLC will not chip, crack or peel, providing you with years of reliable function and protection against wear. It is so strong that it is virtually scratch proof. It has an attractive gray graphite-like appearance. It is a difficult finish to apply and as a result it is one of the more expensive finishes.

Carpenter 158 Bolt Finished in Ionbond Diamond-Like-Carbon (DLC)

Above: SpiceTac specifies MIL-SPEC Carpenter 158 steel for the bolts in our Toolcraft Diamond DLC BCGs

Pros

Extreme hardness and corrosion protection

Smooth with low coefficient of friction

Cons

Expensive

Recommendations

Ballistic Advantage DLC BCG (Ballistic Advantage)

BA products are top of the line.

Toolcraft Diamond DLC BCG (SpiceTac)

Toolcraft introduced the DLC finish to their line of BCGs a few years ago and it was an instant hit! This is one of my favorite BCGs! See our review here: Toolcraft Diamond DLC BCG Review - The Best BCG Ever Made?   

Phosphate vs Nitride

These are two of the least expensive finishes available. Nitride has the edge when it comes to smoothness and hardness. It also requires less lubricant to work well and is easier to clean. Nitride has many advantages but it is not mil-spec for BCGs and that is an important consideration for some. 

Phosphate has been serving the military well for many years and it works very well. For the traditionalist, a phosphate BCG has a texture that just feels right. Either will get the job done. On the basis of performance, nitride wins. For nostalga, phosphate wins.

Nitride vs DLC

The battle between these two smooth finishes comes down to cost vs performance. Both are excellent finishes that are very hard, smooth and high performing. DLC outperforms nitride by about the same amount that nitride outperforms phosphate. This is on the basis of hardness and corrosion resistance. It is just a question of how much performance you want to pay for. Both are far beyond ordinary. On the basis of bang for the buck, nitride wins. If you have the money, DLC wins. 

DLC vs Phosphate

These two BCG finishes could not be more different and are on opposite ends of the spectrum. For hardness, corrosion resistance, smoothness and ease of cleaning, DLC wins. For nostalgia and tradition, phosphate has no competition.

Summary

All of the finishes listed here are quality finishes and a good BCG will work fine with any of them.  Each is a great option if you are looking for a BCG with a black finish.  

For a detailed look at Nickel Boron see: Top 3 Reasons You Might Want a Nickel Boron BCG

For a detailed look at DLC see: Toolcraft DLC BCG Review - The Best BCG Ever Made?

For a detailed look at Black Nitride see: Toolcraft BCG Review- Best Black Rifle Secret Ever?

Thank you for visiting. 

Aug 18th 2019 David Blazek

Recent Posts

>