5 minute project: Camouflaging a rifle, part 1

Being able to camouflage yourself and your equipment is a basic fieldcraft skill. We cover this as well as the skills to detect camouflaged people and equipment in The Fieldcraft Course. One piece of gear that absolutely needs to be camouflaged is your rifle. Attempting to blend in with a 2 foot long black stick is very hard to do.

A good start to mitigating the shine, contrast and silhouette of your rifle is to paint it. I’d like to detail my method for camouflaging my rifle. I’m a big fan of the Krylon touch, it’s simple and effective. I used to do Cerakoting and understand the process, and while it is a superior coating, it’s also very time consuming and labor intensive, and I don’t feel the juice is worth the squeeze for what I’m trying to accomplish. As our operating environment changes throughout the year we need to be able to adapt our camouflage if necessary. This is why I like spray paint.

I recently finished assembling a new upper for my go to AR, which I’m now calling my “Bush Patrol Rifle”, or BPR. I assembled this upper with a lot of thought based on 10 years of use with my last upper, contributing to a lot of improvements.

Today is a sunny day, getting into the 90’s. This is excellent painting weather. I start out by laying my parts outside to warm up in the Sun for about an hour. This warms up the metal, releasing oils and other grime left over from assembly. Once everything is nice and warm I hose it down with brake cleaner. I work my way from top to bottom so it washes all the contaminants down and off the parts. I then lay them back out in the sun to warm back up, and repeat this process until all the oils are gone.

Once I’m satisfied that everything is degreased enough, I mask off any sensitive areas like the muzzle device and I stuff some paper towel into the opening of the upper receiver.

It’s now time to start painting. I like to paint from light to dark. I think it’s better to be on the lighter side than to have too much dark coloring, since that’s what we’re trying to mitigate to begin with. I grab the khaki tan color and begin painting in light coats, putting a light coat on each side. One nice part about having the metal warmed up is that the paint flashes off very quickly, making it hard to get any runs. I don’t focus on total coverage anyways, I’m just getting started. I let this first coat dry in the sun for about ten minutes.

Next I grab my next darkest color, which is a light brown. With this color I want to break up any straight edges or corners. I work my way down the gun, putting this second color on any corners and also randomly along the edge to break up the outline.

My next color is my darkest, OD green. I’m going to use this to disrupt the larger areas of tan that are left. I just use light passes of the OD right through the middle of the tan areas.

I let this dry, then check it all over to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I make sure I’ve hit the muzzle end of the handguard to ensure I didn’t leave a black circle.

I’m satisfied with the overall paint job so I leave it to sit in the sun for another hour to cure the paint. The final outcome will serve as an excellent base to further camouflage if needed.

It looks like my lower could use a touch up, the oils from my hands have made that paint shiny again. I sprayed some brake cleaner on a rag and wiped the shiny areas down, touching the paint up as needed.

A note on optics and other sensitive items

In the above photos were a few items I should have taken pictures of while I was painting them. For the ADM mount, I painted it exactly the same as I did the upper. For the laser and scope I used a slightly different approach. The scope I painted last year and didn’t do it today, but I used the same approach back when I did paint it. I didn’t want to degrease these more sensitive items by hosing them with brake clean, so I sprayed the brake clean on a clean rag and just wiped them down.

I used masking tape over all the lenses, turrets and anything else I didn’t want to get paint on. I like to stick cotton balls inside my scope lenses with the caps shut just in case any paint should get past the scope cap. Later, I make sure to paint the inside of the scope caps as well, to keep from creating a black circle when they are opened up. I like to mask all the manufacturer logos and other information to preserve them as well. If I did get overspray on anything I didn’t want to, I just used my rag with some brake clean on it to wipe it off.

Paint the inside of your scope caps. I also like them to open down onto the hand guard instead of sticking up in the air.

That’s it really, keep it simple. No stencils, no gunsmithing, no blast cabinets. Just follow good camouflaging principles and you’ll do great.

17 comments

  1. There are several good videos out there on Youtube that cover painting your rifle. I’ve watched about 3 dozen of them before taking the plunge. IMO, some of the best out there include 9-Hole Reviews, Kit Badger and Garand Thumb.

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  2. Question for those live in the snow belt as does Mr. Badlands Rifleman. For the winter months what are you guys doing to break up camo pattern of your rattle canned black rifles? BTW great how to instructions!

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    • Thanks man! White athletic or duct tape placed randomly works good on the rifle and on your gear too. I’ve also cut up white laundry bags and used them like sniper veils. It’s easier to blend in the winter but you still have to match your environment. For instance you don’t want to be the only dark splotchy object in a solid white field.

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  3. Thanks for the rifle painting article Badlands. Recall seeing when it initially came out and great reminder catching it again on AP’s site today.

    Recently did a bunch of rifles.

    I find the first thing guys have got to get over is stop worrying about it looking pretty and too light up close. Where I live it’s very bright green in summer months, other 3 months are ever changing mixes of vibrant colours to muted. Typical very distinct 4 seasons.

    Next thing to get used to is more or less MIST your paint vs strong blotches. Takes a bit of getting used to doing that all the time, at least it was for me. Exactly what you’re doing.

    I start with the typical Krylon Khaki (don’t make it solid) and do light misting here and there with Krylon dark brown, OD Green and a little bit of Avereo bright green. I don’t even worry about making a pattern, just break it up. Just a little misting goes a long way to make things blend and confuse.

    Guys way over think this because who wants to make an expensive rifle “ugly” 🙂

    All my rifle buddies typically say “it’s too light for around here” . Then I take it out little bit and it disappears, theirs doesn’t.

    The more you have darker colours the more they COMBINE at distance to basically make a single colour dark rifle again, exactly what you’re trying to avoid.

    Liked by 1 person

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