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Parkerizing -- essentially the application of a phosphate coating -- has long been the first choice of the military. The advantages of parkerizing are many: it is relatively long wearing, provides good corrosion resistance, requires little in the way of maintenance, and is easy to reapply. It is an excellent choice for "hard use" guns which may not (for whatever reason) receive regular care.

A matte finish refers more to the lack of luster or shine, and not to any specific formulation or application procedure. Parkerized finishes tend to have a flat "matte" appearance, as do many of the newer polymer coatings, such as Black-T or Armor-Tuff. The idea behind a matte finish is less light reflection, hence, greater suitability for tactical applications where stealth is important.

Blued finishes require somewhat more care (though not too much), are a bit easier to wear off of edges, and usually exhibit a deep, glossy appearance. They are more than up to the task however, and most folks tend to view them as the most appealing in a visual sense.

Which finish is right for you really depends upon what you plan to do with the pistol, what sort of climate you live in, and how often you are able to clean it. For what I would call a "normal" shooter, a blued gun is probably about as close to perfection as you will ever need to get. Those who carry on a daily basis or in adverse climates may have more stringent requirements, and opt for finishes with greater durability and corrosion resistance, such as hard chrome or parkerization.

Chuck
 
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