Painting a rifle

The finished article DSC_0141.JPG

If you haven’t touched it yet, chances are that your rifle is either black, green polymer, a combination of both, or some nicely varnished Russian wood. But all of those are going to stick out a mile off, no matter how good your ghillie is. It genuinely pains me to see excellent ghillie suits but then a long black barrel protruding from it. So how do you go about changing that?

Well, firstly you have to forget about it being a nice display gun with a really flashy scope on it. It’s a tool and to do the job it needs to do, you’re going to have to make it look messy and cover it in paint and vegetation. It’s possible to buy rifle wraps from Amazon but you’ll find it’ll get caught on everything and create loads of movement while you try to wrench it free. You can use rifle tape, but the tape is a repeating pattern and tricky to do right.

There are plenty of good rifle painting videos on YouTube but I want to share my own thoughts on camo patterns first. If you Google “rifle camo” it’ll bring a selection of the good, the bad and the ugly. Immediately discount the ones with the diagonal parallel stripes sprayed on – you won’t find that anywhere in nature. Then you have the ones who try to mimic popular military camouflage, such as Multicam or marpat. The problem I find with patterns like that, are that they repeat, and digital patterns are quite a small pattern camouflage. That’s not to say large pattern camouflage like M81 is any better; the large flat blocks of colour aren’t ideal either, but repetition is bad. Also, I feel atacs type camouflage, with its excessive blending of shapes and colours, ends up blurring into a flatter colour at a distance (for the purposes of this article, being airsoft, let’s call it 20m). And lastly, an idea from an Austrian sniper, is laying vegetation over the gun and spraying around it. A fern pattern may look natural, but if you stray out of the ferns…

So does that leave anything? Yeah. I like dpm type patterns, especially for reliable old surplus kit, but mainly because of the way it creates hard lines between colours that chop and break up outlines, as well as the harsh contrasts between the colours. Contrast and sharp lines are good. DSC_0060_1

Dpm love. The pants at least. Although the green is a bit out of season, the tan and brown break up well against the forest floor.

Look at a pile of leaves. Do they have edges, or does nature break out it’s atacs brush and soften the edges, or digitalise it? No. If nature doesn’t do it, a sniper doesn’t do it. Keep the pattern random and remember you’re trying to break up the outline.

Onto the rifle camo then. First up, I bought some cheap plastic document wallets. DSC_0128.JPG

Note the craft knife. I decided to cut some angular shapes into it to make a stencil. The reason I’m not using vegetation shapes specific to a certain environment, is because I want this to work in multiple environments so I’m keeping things generic. Sharp lines will cut up the rifle outline, although I will angle the spray paint to create different textures too. DSC_0127.JPG

The other thing I noticed from hunting camouflages that are popular now is the “stick” effect on the pattern. Sticks and grass are everywhere, so I want some lines on the gun. I’m doing this two ways – DSC_0142.JPG

Using another bit of plastic, I cut simple twig shapes in. The second uses string which I’ll come to in a moment.


This is my colour palette. I have a Halfords ten minutes away, that’s why.  They do four colours in their matt camo range – black (not using), a very dark green (doesn’t match any vegetation I’ve seen, isn’t far off the dark brown, not using), khaki (tan, love it) and brown (dark earth, wet mud colour). In addition I picked up the textured green, but mainly because it’s a decent shade of green. The last colour is from, think it was listed as brown (001). It’s a really good “dry soil” sort of colour. Obviously I don’t want to blend this all together with hundreds of extra tones and hues because I want contrast. And it would upset the wallet. So these four will do fine.


To the shed then. First up, a base colour of tan with some blobs of the dark brown. Make sure before this that you mask your scope correctly and I take out the bolt and trigger, then push a thick roll of kitchen paper in place of the bolt, and push some into the end of the barrel (don’t want paint in there), and insert an empty mag to protect the internals there too. I also cover the mag release catch and remove the rubber butt pad because the paint never sticks to it anyway.


Although they won’t be greatly visible afterwards, I wrapped string around to create some lines on the gun and then sprayed the tan bit dark brown, and the dark brown bit tan, so it will alternate the colours underneath (tan with brown lines, brown with tan), just so that I don’t have a uniform colour and pattern the full length of the gun. Keeping the string on, I then sprayed the stencil all over with the lighter brown, then tan and dark brown on top of that, turning the stencil over and rotating it to create a random pattern. You’ll have to excuse the lack of photos during the process, I was covered in paint but I’ll try and describe things as well as possible.


To create a little bit of depth and texture, I sprayed some shapes from different distances and angles, then removed the string and painted over the top of some parts of it.


I also layered a bit of netting underneath, pulled into different sizes and shapes, to add further texture.


Kind of wish I’d stopped at this point, but I was having loads of fun (and too high on paint fumes) so it got a few more layers. Afterwards, a coat of matt varnish (please check that it’s matt!) to give it some protection and job done.

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