So you want to paint your rifle camouflage. I painted mine 2 years ago and this is how I did it. The information in this post could also apply to equipment you may want to paint. Chances are high you’ll have paint left over anyway.
The idea to paint my rifle came from a local gun dealer. The rifle is a bolt-action Browning A-Bolt Stainless Stalker in .308 caliber. It’s all stainless steal with a black synthetic stock. I hump the woods with this thing, so I wanted stainless and synthetic. I’ve had bad luck hunting shitty weather with a blued rifle, and I’m always cautious about banging up the wood stock.
On the rifle I mounted a Leupold Vari-X III 2.5-8 x 36mm scope. The scope matched the stainless barrel. I took it to a local store for scope rings. The store owner looked at it and said, “Dude, why don’t you paint that thing?” I admit, it looked …. space-age-like. Here it is before I painted it:
And look – deer meat!
To read more about those sexy boots click here.
The guy then goes into the back and brings out a rifle that he painted. It was camo – sort of. It was a rough job, let’s just put it that way. But it certainly wouldn’t stand out in the woods. This set about my desire to eliminate the beacon of light reflecting off the shiny gray whenever the sun shone down. At first I was reluctant to painting it, so I thought I’d go temporary with some sort of camo tape, but then I figured it’d just collect moisture under the tape and the tape would become slippery in the hands when wet. Then I thought about sending the rifle to a professional to have it painted entirely in Real Tree. I eventually found a place, but the prices were totally outrageous, plus the shipping, and every part you added on bumped up the price big time. Screw that.
So I set about searching the web for good information on how to paint it. There were no perfect directions, so I blended the information from many and used the following approach. Leaf, twig, and grass stencils are readily available if you don’t want digital camo, but it was my view that digital would look the best. (Download a free digital camouflage stencil I made.) Let’s roll!
To replicate my approach you need the pictured paints:
From left to right is 220 grit fine sand paper, Dupli-Color “Adhesion Promoter”, Krylon 1318 All Purpose Primer Gray, Krylon 8141 Khaki Ultra-Flat, Krylon 8142 Brown Ultra-Flat, Krylon 8143 Olive Drab Ultra-Flat, Krylon 8140 Black Ultra-Flat, and Krylon 8149 Light Gray “Special Purpose” Camouflage. It was a little tricky assembling them all. If I remember correctly the 4 cans of Ultra-Flat came as a package purchased somewhere online. The Adhesion Promoter and Primer I purchased at a local auto parts store. The Krylon special purpose light gray I ordered as an individual can – somewhere online.
In addition to this you’ll need masking tape and stencil material. I made my own stencils (read here to learn how).
I took the gun apart, the scope, rings, bolt, trigger guard, stock, etc. I stripped some electrical wire to hang the stock and barrel with. I lightly scratched the surface of the stock and the scope with the sand paper. I carefully taped everything I didn’t want painted: internal parts exposed, sling studs, the scope lens (be careful with the scope), wicked cool Browning logo, etc.
Then I applied the adhesion promoter to the stock (helps the paint bond to the plastic). Then came the Krylon primer over everything, a few coats. I decided to use Khaki as my base and I covered everything in it, the barrel, the stock, the parts.
Mind you I was in no rush to do this, so I did it over the course of a week, giving each layer plenty of time to dry. I just started in with the stencils, alternating colors, bit by bit:
You’ll notice that I used NO black. The military eliminated black in camo for a reason – it stands out. I favored light colors. The darkest I went was brown. When I did apply paint to the scope I went exceptionally light where the magnification numbers are. I can still read them fully.
I painted until I was happy with the stencil pattern, but something was still missing. The “digital” lines were too sharp. It didn’t blend as well as I liked, so from about 3 feet back I sprayed a real fine olive drab mist over everything. I let it fall in place very lightly and it made a big difference.
Be careful where you set your finished rifle down in the forest. I added a camouflage sling. After finishing the job I told the Mrs. I wanted to paint our son’s room this way, only with bigger stencils . . . it didn’t fly.
If you see someone in the November woods of Maine with this thing say, “Hey, Ranger Man!” and tell me where the deer are.
– Ranger Man
BTW: If you want to read an update on how the rifle looks now, click here.
December 13, 2010 update. A reader followed this post and painted his M4 carbine. He took a pic and wrote:
I pretty much followed your instructions. The only difference is I didn’t tape the template down. I held it on the flat area’s and allowed the spray to just blow through onto the other area’s. This gave a fade effect to the digi pattern. That is the only thing I did different. I also used a medium to pattern air brush, (used for touching up vehicle paint). It gives the same spray pattern as a shaker can but the paint is thin so you don’t have to worry so much about runs or taping off numbers, name brand, etc.