Rifle Painting: Blending In

 The finished products are pictured here. The AR was painted using the sponging technique and the shotgun was camouflaged for urban environments using the masking technique. Several of the different techniques were used on the bolt rifle.

The finished products are pictured here. The AR was painted using the sponging technique and the shotgun was camouflaged for urban environments using the masking technique. Several of the different techniques were used on the bolt rifle.

Stenciling

“Stenciling” is about as easy as the sponging method. The prepping process is the same.

Again, start by laying down a base coat using at least two colors. Once it’s dry, use a stencil to add more defined patterns.

Stencils can either be positive — such as a section of fake plastic plant — or negative, created by cutting patterns from cardstock to create a silhouette or a negative stencil.
Attach the stencil to the rifle by the stencil to conform to the weapon’s shape, and tape it to the rifle. It doesn’t have to be perfectly formed to fit the rifle; anywhere the stencil is not touching will create a blurry area to provide a sense of depth.

With the stencil attached, spray the next color, being careful not to spray too heavily (once you remove the stencil, there’s usually too much contrast). Then move the stencil to a different location or attach another stencil and repeat the process.

Using different colors or stencil shapes will create a more random pattern. This technique works really well for field environments where you’re trying to reproduce the chaos found in nature. Let your wild side guide you.

This is the sponging technique pictured in stages. The AR is taped to protect the barrel, receiver and the light’s lens. The stock, handguards, light, and grip have been sprayed with the base colors, blending them together. The handguard, light, and grip have already been sponged.

This is the sponging technique pictured in stages. The AR is taped to protect the barrel, receiver and the light’s lens. The stock, handguards, light, and grip have been sprayed with the base colors, blending them together. The handguard, light, and grip have already been sponged.

Masking

“Masking” is a little more complicated and time-consuming, but also produces some of the best results.

Use masking tape to create shapes as you layer on your paint. I recommend starting with your darkest color and working your way to the lightest. You can always blend colors for depth.

Begin with your base color. Cut out masking tape to cover the areas that you want to remain that color. Any areas left uncovered will be painted over, so advance planning is necessary — especially if you’re trying to reproduce or match an existing camo pattern.

Once you have the areas masked off, apply the next color. Let it dry. Mask off the areas you want to remain that color and spray again. After completing all the masks and colors, remove the tape to reveal the finished product.

The cool thing about these techniques is that you can combine them to obtain a variety of results. Consider the environment in which you’re most likely to use your weapon and use colors and shapes that match that area. When in doubt, use lighter colors rather than darker.

For practice, use wood 2x4s until you have your technique squared away. If you run a paint application on your weapon you don’t like, you can always scuff it up and paint it over again. If you’re a little squeamish about painting your weapon, just paint the “furniture” (stocks, grips, and handguards), leaving the receiver and barrel plain.

Think about the practical “field” applications of camouflage: Don’t stand out and draw attention. For the sniper, this means blending into the environment for a successful mission. For a hunter, it can be the difference between putting meat in the freezer and just spending a nice day in the field.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in north Alabama, and author of The Book of Two Guns. McKee can be reached at  www.shootrite.org.

This article is an excerpt from the new Winter 2012 issue of Living Ready Magazine. To read the full article and get more rifle painting tips and techniques download the digital issue here.


Living Ready Magazine Winter 2012If you liked this article, you’ll love Living Ready, a new magazine providing credible and practical advice for emergency and family preparedness.

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7 thoughts on “Rifle Painting: Blending In

  1. Wild Bill H

    Best way to camo your equipment is cover it with gaffers tape then paint. Gaffers tape is similar to duct tape EXCEPT its got a matte fabric backing and….most importantly, does not leave any tacky residue when removed. Change of seasons?? Tack off the tape, put on new gaffers tape and paint your new scheme.

    You’ll likely have to order Gaffers Tape on the net as it doesn’t seem to be carried locally. Self cling medical type tapes can be used in a similar fashion. Gaffers is more versatile since it doesn’t have to cling to itself.

  2. DJnRF

    Camouflage of a fixed color, such as by painting, is only good IF the paint scheme exactly matches the background. In the example of the picture of the black rifle against a tree background, no paint scheme would NOT show up against that tree other than an exact tree bark match paint scheme. In reality, the same rifle would show up less if it were against a background as is behind the figure in the picture. Why is this true?

    Human and animal eyes can identify two primary things. First is movement. A paint scheme that exactly matches its background may only be seen as natural movement of the background. This would be great!
    However, if the background does not match exactly to the paint scheme the second feature identified by the eye is the silhouette. This silhouette feature has been the primary reason for a police officer to be shot by a citizen that had called in a complaint of someone outside their home, and the officer shows up wearing a ball cap (like a suspect might), or no hat at all (also like a suspect). Without the traditional police style hats, how would his silhouette be any different to a frightened resident than that of the possible suspect? The issue of a silhouette is important under all circumstances, even a paint scheme
    on a rifle. Whereas the silhouette may be concealed under perfect background circumstances, it still
    exists, and may be seen against a different background. A ;paint scheme may appeal to a person
    viewing it, but is not a good, true way to camouflage a rifle, or anything. There is an answer, however!

    The person in the picture is wearing a method to ‘blend in’ with the background. This is the same
    method used to ‘hide’ the silhouette of your rifle. Just as with the suit for a person, the rifle ‘suit’ can
    be constantly changed to match the surrounding background very easy, and quickly. A good one can
    even hide the rifle silhouette even if the wrap on the rifle doesn’t exactly match the background. It could
    just appear to be some limbs, or brush blowing across the tree background.

    The whole idea here is for a real camouflage and not merely a pretty view from the imagination.
    Movement, and silhouette alone can cost you your game, or your life.

  3. bhp0

    Remember this: Any time you alter a factory firearm you decrease its value tremendously. What is the ‘cats meow” to you will be a “frankenmonster” to the majority of future prospective buyers. You may very well end up getting half of what the gun would have been worth if you had left it in its original factory configuration.

  4. Armor-hyde

    NOooooooooo! Painting with rattle cans (Krylon, et al) or Automotive Paints is quite often a recipe for disaster!

    Pony up the extra $$$ for real applied finishes such a KG Gunkote, Cerakote, or Duracoat! Your prep & application times will be similar & everything ultimately relies on the prep!!!

    The spray cans will NOT hold up & will not be repellant to abrasion & solvents used on firearms! As a professional firearms finisher, the only time we advocate basic spray paints is for temporary use by “operators” for mission specific camo. Even in that instance, we recommend a base coat of a true applied finish, followed by VERY LIGHT spray paint patterns…this enables the spray paint finish to be flushed off back to a base coat by simply spraying the firearm down with carb/brake cleaner!

    Ultimately the mil thickness of spray paint can gum up internal workings, especially if it gets loosened by solvent!

    If you’re gonna spent the time to do it…do it right the first time…You won’t be sorry!

  5. mh2329

    Although I haven’t painted a rifle yet, I did conduct some tests a while back with camo patterns and coating durability. The results suggested that slow-dry (4-10 hours drying time in hot sun) enamel and epoxy paints exhibited the best long term performance. Paints from Aervoe Industries, which has a wide variety of hunting camo and military pattern paints, come to mind. If flat finish paints are not available in the desired colors/patterns, you can overcoat with a compatible matte finish clear coat.

  6. Armor-hyde

    Arrgh…NOOOOOO!

    As an experienced Applied Firearms Finisher you need to be VERY cautious when using any “rattle can” or automotive finish on a firearm. Simply put, they are NOT intended for these surfaces & will not endure!!! If anything, they will gum up & make a firearm unusable if allowed to get into internal workings!

    “Krylon” & similar over the counter finishes can make a decent temporary finish but if you want an effective finish pony up the extra $$$ for the correct product or send it to a professional finisher. KG Gunkote, Cerakote, Duracoat, & the like are what you need to use. When properly applied they will NOT chip, abrade, or run with solvents.

    We do however, occasionally provide base-coated applied finishes to operators so that they can use the “rattle cans” for a mission specific camo, which can be rinsed off back to its original applied finish via a good dousing with Carb/Brake Cleaner!

    The few extra $$$ for the correct product will save you TONS of time! TIP..A Successful finish is in the PREP!!!

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