Robar Puts a Gunsmith in Your Shop

It’s hard for a small gun shop to compete with larger stores that offer a variety of products and services such as on-site gunsmithing. Fortunately, Robar has a solution for smaller gun shops that want to provide gunsmith services to customers.

Robar Puts a Gunsmith in Your Shop

Robar's experts can put custom finishes on a wide variety of firearms, from a hunting revolver such as this Smith & Wesson to a custom long-range rifle for competition. (Photo: Robar)

It’s hard for a small gun shop to compete with larger stores that offer a variety of products and services such as on-site gunsmithing. Fortunately, Robar has a solution for smaller gun shops that want to provide gunsmith services to customers.

Robar was founded by Robbie Barrkman in 1983 and located at the world famous Gunsite Academy near Prescott, Arizona. It was the first gunsmith shop at Gunsite and provided gunsmithing services to students. In 1986, Barrkman moved his operation to Phoenix and expanded services to include various metal finishing treatments. Some of these finishes were, and still are, quite innovative, especially as applied to firearms. For example, Robar introduced NP3 to the U.S. market in 1987 and was the first company to apply that finish to firearms. More about NP3 later.

In 2016, Barrkman sold Robar to retired Marine Lt. Col. Freddie Blish, and turned his attention to a new company, Coating Technologies, which specializes in metal finishing for commercial applications including aircraft and spacecraft. Meanwhile, Blish concentrated on the gunsmithing operations of Robar, which is still housed under the same roof as Coating Technologies. That makes it easy and convenient for Robar to utilize the metal finishing expertise Barrkman has developed.

But Robar is also a full service gunsmith operation and will perform complete custom builds to client specifications or perform specific work on a customer’s gun. All of Robar’s services are available to retail gun shops that apply for and are accepted into Robar’s Authorized Dealer (RAD) program.

Robar also has a line of what we will call custom production guns that can be sold off the shelf. Some are guns made by well known manufacturers, to which Robar has added special features or other custom work. These custom production guns include the Beretta 92 and PX4, Colt 1911s and Mustangs, Glocks, and the Springfield XD and XD-S.

Additionally, Robar makes custom production guns like the RC-1911 line of pistols as well as several precision rifles like the SR-21, QR-2, SR-60 and SR-90. These guns are built for competition or law enforcement use. Robar also manufactures a Precision Hunter and Multi-Use Hunting Tactical (MUHT) rifle for sportsmen and an AR-pattern carbine called the PolymAR-15 with polymer — not aluminum — receivers that reduce weight considerably. It is available in a number of models including an AR-15 pistol. The PolymAR-15, unlike some other manufacturers’ attempts at building a polymer AR-15, is strong enough to withstand hard use. And Robar guarantees sub-minute-of-angle accuracy with the PolymAR-15.

Through its close relationship with Coating Technologies, Robar offers various metal finishes including bluing, blackened stainless steel, electroless nickel, phosphate or Parkerizing, NP3, NP3 Plus and the newest finish, ArmorLube. ArmorLube is applied by Plasma Technologies, another Barrkman company. Other metal finishes available are Roguard, Poly-T2 which comes in various colors, Cerakote and Duracoat, all of which are applied in house by Robar. Some of these finishes are very high-tech and have applications outside the firearms industry.

NP3 and Finishing Touches

Most everyone in the gun business is familiar with blued steel, and it is still widely used. But it has been far surpassed by some of the newer finishes. Likewise, most are familiar with Parkerizing and the blackening treatment that can now be applied to stainless steel. Electroless nickel, which is tougher than hard chrome, is also a familiar finish.

But NP3 is an electroless nickel finish that is embedded with PTFE (polytetraflouroethylene, commonly called Teflon). The NP3 finish has a natural lubricity so it requires, according to Robar, little or no oil and is five times more corrosion resistant than electroless nickel.

It is surpassed though by NP3 Plus, which is 10 times more corrosion resistant and retains the same natural lubricity. NP3 is used on the international space station and is applied to firearms with the same equipment and at the same place as the space hardware. A particularly nice characteristic of NP3 and NP3 Plus is that they are much easier to clean than other finishes, often requiring nothing more than a wipe down with a clean cloth to remove powder residue. They have a matte nickel appearance and can also be used on internal parts, which makes a good trigger job even smoother.

Poly-T2 is very tough, highly resistant to corrosion, and is also embedded with PTFE for lubricity. It comes in black, tan, dark green, OD green, burnt bronze and gunmetal gray. Corrosion resistance tests show that it withstands more than 1,000 hours of exposure to salt spray, and is virtually impervious to solvents, oils and degreasers commonly used on firearms. It is also highly resistant to acids.

Roguard, another finish offered by Robar that also has uses beyond firearms, is a molybdenum disulfide-based polymer finish that increases lubricity and corrosion protection. It comes in satin or matte black and is very thin, so there is virtually no dimensional change to parts when it is applied.

ArmorLube is the latest finish offered by Robar and Plasma Technologies. It was developed by a subsidiary of Duralar Technologies for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Center and is now being offered as a firearm finish by Robar. It is extremely hard, and has a very low coefficient of friction virtually eliminating the need for liquid lubricants, which can attract dust and dirt and cause malfunctions. It is very wear resistant and offers excellent protection against corrosion. It can be applied to interior and exterior firearm surfaces at an extremely uniform rate through a plasma gas technique requiring very expensive, specialized equipment. Part dimensions remain essentially unchanged. The color is black, making it a superior substitute for bluing or Parkerizing.

The first customer-owned firearm to receive the ArmorLube treatment was a well-used Ruger Blackhawk that dated from 1969 and had lost much of its bluing. After the application of ArmorLube, the gun looked better than new. And in holster wear tests where sample guns were drawn 1,000 times, ArmorLube proved to be much more wear resistant than the very tough Glock Tenifer and Ion Bond finishes.

Robar warranties Roguard, NP3, NP3 Plus, Poly-T2 and ArmorLube metal finishes unconditionally against corrosion and peeling for the life of the gun to which the finish is applied. 

Custom Work

The gunsmiths at Robar can work on just about any firearm including, but not limited to, 1911s, Glocks, Browning Hi-Powers, Springfield XDs, Kahrs, ARs, M1 Garands, shotguns and revolvers, both single and double action. The Robar gunsmiths also work on other semi-automatic handguns, break action guns, lever actions, pumps or slide actions, turnbolts and AK-pattern guns. In other words, there aren’t many guns they won’t work on.

For example, a customer purchased a well-worn surplus Fabrique Nationale Hi-Power built in 1985 that was used by police. The customer turned it over to Robar for custom work including a trigger job, removal of the magazine disconnect safety, adding a beavertail to prevent hammer bite, the installation of nightsights, a new hammer and barrel, and refinishing with new metal finishes including NP3, Roguard and OD Green Poly-T2. The result was a stunning, better than new Hi-Power with a much better trigger and great improvement in accuracy. Even though the 33-year-old gun was nearly worn out when acquired, it was perfectly suitable for self-defense duty after Robar’s work.

Another example of Robar’s work is a trigger job on a Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum revolver with a 4-inch barrel. The exterior and many interior parts were finished with NP3 and a new brass bead front sight replaced the factory ramp sight that sported an orange plastic insert. This improved the sight picture immensely. The double-action trigger pull weight was reduced by about 2 pounds, but more importantly the already-good trigger pull was smoothed tremendously.

Glocks are everywhere, and Robar has some special treatments for them, including a grip reduction package. Robar was the first to offer a Glock grip reduction. It was first done in 1987 for the Scottsdale (Arizona) Police Department. In addition to reducing the circumference of a Glock’s grip to make it easier for small hands to grasp, Robar offers texturing for Glocks and other polymer-framed handguns, undercutting the trigger guard to permit a higher handhold to reduce muzzle flip, magazine well cutouts to make it easier to pull a stuck magazine from the gun, and trigger jobs. 

Dealer Program

Dealers joining the Robar RAD program are classified in one of three tiers.

Tier 1 is the highest rated tier and its members enjoy the largest discount, 25 percent, on metal finishes. To qualify, the dealer must buy at least $5,000 of finish work in a calendar year.

Tier 2 dealers receive a 15 percent discount and must purchase between $2,500 and $4,999 in a calendar year. Tier 3 dealers get a 10 percent discount. All dealers must have a business license and Federal Firearms License.

In addition to a discount for finish work, Robar also discounts labor rates, providing dealers with a profit on their customers’ work that is sent in.

(For more information, contact Robar Companies,, 623-581-2648.)


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