I have just two words from the good people at the Harley Davidson of American Firearms, Smith & Wesson Inc, Those words are...Burlington Melonite
Melonite is the finish found on the super advanced, highly ergonomic Smith & Wesson 99 Slide.
Melonite™ and Melonite QPQ™ are thermochemical processes intended for the case hardening of iron based metals. These processes are categorized as molten salt bath ferritic nitrocarburizing. During these processes, nitrogen, carbon, and small amounts of oxygen are diffused into the surface of the steel, creating an epsilon iron nitride layer (e - FexN).
A degraded form of this nitride layer (gamma prime: g' - Fe4N) is obtained during plasma or gas nitriding. The nitride layer is composed of two principle zones. Zone 1, called the compound or "white" layer, extends to a case depth of ~0.0004" to 0.0008". The compound layer is porous, which lends to the lubricity of the finish, and hard (~700HV to 1600HV). Zone 2, called the diffusion zone, extends to a case depth of ~.004" to 0.008".
In addition, small quantities of substrate carbon are pulled from deeper within the substrate toward the surface. The diffusion zone demonstrates a decreasing gradient concentration of carbon and particularly nitrogen as the gradient extends deeper into the surface of the substrate. This property yields a tough outer surface or shell, yet alloys the material to retain ductility, thereby lending to the overall strength of the material.
Resulting properties from these chemical and structural composition changes are increased surface hardness, lower coefficient of friction, enhanced surface lubricity, improved running wear performance, increased sliding wear resistance, and enhanced corrosion resistance. Naturally, the alloy of the substrate will influence which properties are principally affected and to what extent they are affected. The following chart demonstrates what properties are best enhanced by varying the Melonite process: