Flat Dark Earth vs. Black
When it comes to the way a gun looks, it is truly a case of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There aren’t cultural beauty standards for this type of stuff, so the curves on the Smith & Wesson Model 60 revolver aren’t perceived by most gun folks to be any more attractive than the boxy GLOCK. Apart from the Liberator and Hi-Point, the way a gun looks is pretty much subjective. Traditionally, guns were blued, steel and wood but since polymer started reigning supreme, most guns now come in a wide variety of finishes—if you decide to send in your gun for Duracoating, you can have your gun look like whatever you want it to. Light, dark, patterned—you name it, you can get it!
I think the popularity of Duracoat comes from each of our desire to personalize or individualize our firearms, especially black rifles. Most popular semiauto concealed carry guns only come in one finish from the factory—black. Duracoating, colored accessories and furniture is a way to make it ours.
Some colors are more popular, or at least more marketed than others—there hasn’t been a shortage of pink, purple, or Tiffany Blue firearms marketed toward women and there are plenty of OD green, FDE and some urban gray to choose from if black gets boring. The most popular of these alternative colors is the Flat Dark Earth (FDE) which has remained an in-demand color for firearms and firearm accessories for years.
Proof is in the pudding—GLOCK’s anticipated 2018 release of the 19X is GLOCK’s first time to release a factory gun in a different color other than black. Because there are no standard specifications for FDE color matching, you’ll find it called different things. GLOCK calls its finish Coyote Brown. You’ll also find it called Desert Tan and Coyote Tan with lighter and darker variants. You can see and discuss the differences on this AR15.com thread.
What is Flat Dark Earth?
FDE is an earth-toned color resembling the soil and sand found in the desert, most often in the Middle East. Militaries around the world have incorporated this muted, khaki color in their uniforms forever. In fact, “khaki” is the Persian word for the soil’s color in what is now Pakistan. Tan-based camo was officially adopted by the United States military in 1977. It looked like cookie dough and was nicknamed “chocolate chip.” It wasn’t very successful in real life desert climates, though, so in the 1990s, the military introduced the Desert Camo Uniform (DCU) when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
What are the Advantages of FDE vs. Black?
There are a few advantages to FDE vs. black. This earth-toned tan or sand color is practical and subdued and less easier to spot than black. Scratches and marring are less obvious. It doesn’t get as hot in the summertime cooking under the sun at the gun range. It is aesthetically pleasing to many and most of its popularity is due to it being a color SOCOM and Special Forces utilize. And, like some FDE fans like to say, “just like red sports cars, FDE firearms are more accurate.”
Sightmark introduced Flat Dark Earth products in 2014 to meet customer demands. Many AR-15 owners like to match the furniture to the optic for cohesion. Unlike some manufacturers, Sightmark meticulously color-matched the Ultra Shot M-Spec line of reflex sights and the LoPro laser light combo to the extremely popular Magpul’s FDE. It also matches the FDE factory finish on the Tavor.
Sightmark’s Executive Vice President of Sales Jeff Murray says, “There have been many different colors of ‘tan’ called everything from Coyote Brown, Military Tan and the more popular FDE. Magpul really made this movement commercial some years ago when they started offering all their aftermarket parts in this color. Tens of thousands of AR-type rifles are sold every year and I think people just got tired of matte black, so with the U.S. Government starting to source some rifles in this color and Magpul making their furniture in FDE, it was a natural step for optics companies to start offering other color options. Sightmark has been very pleased with the sales of our flat dark earth finishes and is always looking at new functional and fun colors to adapt to our optics.”