So you want to know how 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 Rifle I Wanted to Paint
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:
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 paint it. I didn’t know how to paint a rifle and it seemed daunting to just spray paint a rather expensive rifle. 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.
How to Paint Your Rifle
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.
Painting your rifle comes down to X steps:
- Buy the Paints
- Make Your Stencils
- Disassemble Your Rifle and Tape Protected Areas
- Lightly Scuff Non-Metallic Surfaces
- Apply Adhesion Promoter and Base Color
- Apply Paints to Your Pattern
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!
Step One: Buy the Paints
The first obvious step to painting your rifle is to buy the paints. There are not that many paints that you’ll need to buy and they’re all quite affordable. You’ll save a mountain of money by doing this yourself rather than having your rifle shipped off to have it professionally painted. Remember, it’s apt to get dinged up anyway.
Pictured above from left to right is:
- 220 grit fine sand paper
- Dupli-Color “Adhesion Promoter”
- Krylon 1318 All Purpose Primer Gray
- Krylon Khaki Ultra Flat
- Krylon Brown Ultra Flat
- Krylon Olive Drab Ultra Flat
- Krylon Black Ultra Flat (I didn’t end up using this)
- Krylon Light Gray “Special Purpose” Camouflage
You don’t have to use these exacts paints, but Krylon is a decent brand and mine has stood up.
Step Two: Make Your Stencils
I bought a few sheets of acetate, then I just started cutting into it with an exacto-knife. I didn’t have much trouble cutting a pattern, but some people get frustrated getting it right (there is no right way). Don’t look at painting it as an exact science. Take your time, do it over days, ponder your next step, work it like art, work it like camo.
For those that want a little stencil help, I made a download-able pdf pattern. Print it on 8.5×11 paper and lay it across your sheets of acetate. Use it as a cutting guide.
Want to use my stencils to go by?
Step Three: Disassemble Rifle and Tape Protected Areas
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 carefully taped everything I didn’t want painted: internal parts exposed, sling studs, the scope lens (be careful with the scope), Browning logo, etc.
Step Four: Lightly Scuff Non-Metallic Surfaces
I lightly scratched the surface of the stock and the scope with the sand paper.
I did not scuff any steel whatsoever. I wasn’t sure doing so would be necessary, and – as it turns out – it was not.
Step Five: Apply Adhesion Promoter and Base Color
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. You can, of course, use any color you’d like as your base.
Step Six: Apply Paints in to Your Pattern
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. Many modern military camouflages leave black out 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.
Digital Camo Rifle Results
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. Losing it – I’m not kidding – is a real possibility if you mindlessly set it down, walk away, and then come back. It really does blend in!
I added a camouflage sling and called it done! I hope this article has been informative and has given you the knowledge on how to paint your rifle so that yours won’t shine in the distance giving away your location, blend in with your surroundings, etc.
Thoughts or comments? Let me know how you would paint your rifle, and – happy painting!
Update. A reader followed this post and painted his M4 carbine. He took a pic and wrote:
I pretty much followed your instructions on you painted your rifle. 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.
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.