Rags and Rattle Cans – How to Camo Up

Well, I finally took the plunge. I’d thought about it for months, maybe years here and there, but just never had the actual courage to do it: I finally painted some of my own guns.

Now, for many of you who do this all the time, painting your own weapons with spray paint is probably no big deal. Rattle canned guns are Instagram famous, and “operators” around the world have been doing it since ‘Nam… and earlier. But for me, the proposition of spray painting several thousand dollars worth of equipment with $8.00 worth of Home Depot spray paint was a little daunting. But I finally gave in to practicality. Black rifles stick out, appropriately camouflaged weapons don’t.

I researched high and low, watched hours worth of various “how to” videos on YouTube and probably started to develop chronic high blood pressure trying to figure out the best way to spray paint my blaster. So I thought I’d take a quick minute and share with you what worked for me. Fortunately for both of us, it’s not rocket science.

To start off, you’ll need some quality paint. Although any spray paint will wear pretty quickly on a firearm, that’s fine – you can always reapply it later. It’s not really a protective finish so much as a cosmetic thing, but a quality paint will adhere a little better and stick around a little longer than the off brand special. I used Krylon and Rust-Oleum paints from their “camouflage” line. It’s a flat matte that doesn’t reflect light, important qualities for a camo paint job.

You’ll also need a quality painter’s tape and some 550 cord. The tape you’ll use to mask off whatever you don’t want painted like optics lenses and the magazine well, so make sure you get a tape that adheres well and creates a good seal. The 550 cord is good for hanging the actual weapon up to paint it. The use of the cord isn’t necessary, but it helps keep the weapon from contacting anything else during the process and smudging the paint.

Nice, but not necessary – a cheap, “portable closet”. The kind that’s just PVC piping and cloth surrounded by a few zippers. It works really well as a paint station to contain everything if you paint in doors.


  1. Start by degreasing your rifle. I just wiped down the exterior of the rifle with an old rag and some mineral spirits. You could also use gun scrubber or break cleaner I suppose, but mineral spirits work and it’s cheap.
  2. Tape off areas that you don’t want covered in tape. I removed all optics, lights, sights, and any foregrips from the rifles and painted them separately. I did this to get maximum paint coverage on the guns in the even I change optics or something, I’m not left with a bare black spot on the rail. I also mask off the muzzle device since I frequently use a suppressor, and a tape up the trigger as well – it keeps the trigger group cleaner and less gritty if you don’t blow paint up into it through the lower receiver’s trigger cut.
  3. Spray – get creative. Use a pattern that makes sense for where you are – if you live in the Arctic Circle, it probably doesn’t make sense to use a woodland pattern, and if you live in a temperate climate, you probably don’t need a dusty, desert looking patter. As a general rule, if you plan on using a base coat, I’d start with the lighter color first. That way if the darker colors wear down over top, you can always reapply darker pain that wont mix over the lighter paint underneath. I started with a tan base coat on one rifle, and alternating brown and OD green coats on the other rifle. paint3
  4. Drink beers while you wait for the base coat to dry.
  5. Using native foliage or in my case, an old laundry bag from boot camp, lay a creative “micro” pattern over your primary colors. I used opposite colors on opposite base coats: browns on greens, greens on browns, etc.  Hold the foliage or netting approx. 4″ off the rifle and spray to create a disruptive, “three dimensional” pattern. The netting gives a sort of snake-skin texture… sexy. paint2
  6. Enjoy your rifle and finish your beers. Just don’t go fire it after consuming beers. You know… guns and alcohol don’t mix.

Is a minor note, if you plan on painting some plastic, it might help to “rough up” the surface before you prepare it. The same techniques can be used to made your plain jane black Safariland holster look dope! paint4

That’s it, enjoy! Give it a shot. Maybe practice on a piece of old cardboard first (I’ll admit I did), and find a pattern you like. I found that the lighter base resulted in a more “intermediate” color scheme and the alternating green and brown base created a darker, more “woodland” look. I dig it.

Until Victory.


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