How to Paint Your AR-15: Skip the Camo Krylon!
Sick of your rifle looking exactly like everyone else’s?
Then it’s time to paint that bad boy!
Don’t worry, painting your rifle isn’t hard or scary. The best thing you can do to prep yourself for this is to lower your expectations and accept the fact that nothing is perfect and the paint will wear off to some degree.
Unless, of course, your rifle just lives in the safe…
If reading isn’t your thing or you want to see our mad painting skillz in action check out our video:
If that helped, please subscribe to our YouTube channel since we’re adding new videos every week!
Now onto the written tutorial…
Several brands offer great options for painting your rifle, but for this project we used Model Master Enamel paint for their extended choice of colors.
We’ve also used Rust-Oleum Specialty Camouflage, Brownells’ Aluma-Hyde, and Krylon Camouflage with great results.
In order of appearance in the video:
- Light Earth
- SAC Bomber Tan
- Dark Tan
- Olive Drab
- Africa Mustard
As for wear pattern, it’s pretty close to Krylon…meaning it will wear after a couple trips to the range.
Which for us is exactly what we want.
Before You Paint
There are only really two things that we strongly recommend you adhere to before painting your rifle: cleaning it and blocking off sensitive areas.
Give the outside of your rifle a good cleaning, wipe it down, get the dirt and grime off, then follow that up with a good spray down with brake cleaner to strip any grease and oil that might still be on the rifle.
We recommend going with chlorine free versions in case of polymer furniture.
Getting rid of this is critical to giving the paint a chance to stick.
But if you’re really into the taste and feel of paint chips, you can skip cleaning the rifle.
Use masking or painter’s tape to block off the ejection port, magazine well, and muzzle. Getting paint in any of these areas isn’t the end of the world, but can induce malfunctions until the paint is worn off or cleaned off.
Better to just not get paint there in the first place.
How to Paint Your AR-15 (or really any rifle)
Starting with the darkest color you’re going to be working with will help set the tone of the rifle and give a great background for the other colors to do their thing.
For us, that meant Dark Tan. Apply the color using sweeping strokes, careful not to hold in any place or to apply to much paint too quickly or you’ll leave globs of paint.
If you don’t get the desired amount of paint applied in the first pass, let it dry slightly before making another. This can be done until you’re satisfied and will prevent the paint from pooling or dripping.
Once you have a good base ready, it’s time to change things up. We like strips using our lightest color to give the rifle sharp contrasts.
For camouflaging properties, contrasts are what you want to avoid. But giving it these sharp lines now makes it easier to slowly blend in as more coats and colors are used.
Use the same quick sweeping motion you used before when painting the strips, too little is always better than too much!
Stencils, Foliage, Laundry bags
More passes with more colors will help to deaden the contrast and make your rifle blend into your surroundings more cleanly, but there is more to do than just color after color!
Using local foliage (leaves, stems, etc) or patterned objects as stencils will produce varied patterns on the rifle that will further break up the sharp contrasts and lines.
We used part of a mesh laundry bag to produce an ersatz snakeskin look to the rifle. Cheaper than a proper stencil and just as good!
It might not look it, but that mesh bag is great for more than just dirty gym socks!
Repeat the steps above until you have the rifle you’re looking for. Remember – you’re only limited by your imagination!
If you’re worried about messing it up, maybe try painting a Nerf Slickgun or water Slickgun first so you can try your hand at keeping the paint from dripping, running, or globbing up.
Have you painted an AR or something else lately? How did it come out? Let us know in the comments! And if you want more awesome ways to customize your AR-15 take a look at the Best AR-15 Upgrades!
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