An idea that has been going round for years and years, I’ve seen tree bark camo done many ways by many people. The idea is to disguise the gun as a stick or branch, adding a texture that hides the smooth barrel that gives away a sniper rifle. In this article, I’ll go over a few ways to make it yourself, the materials you’ll need, and then tell you why it’s a shit idea from a camouflage perspective.
So, as far back as I can remember, there were people who used modelling clay and something I think was used to make decorations for reptile tanks which was similar. These added a lot of weight to the gun, but could be moulded and didn’t break. Unlike those who attempted to use real bark which was usually attached to the gun with wire, to hold it in place. Real bark obviously looked the part, but was impractical unless you were playing from a fixed position with little movement. More recently. I’ve seen tape applied to rifles, creased and with padding underneath to mimic the imperfect shape of branches, then painted (there are some seriously good artists out there).
It looks great, and if you view it at one metre (like most photos, or at your workbench when you’re making it) it can be a very convincing natural object. So, why does it not work? Well, if your game is replicating natural objects, it does. It works very well. But camouflage is about disguise, which is a little more complicated than looking like you fell out of a florist. Explanation time…
I can pretty much guarantee that the rifle is the first thing people will see of a sniper. Especially those who don’t camouflage their gun because they love the “tactical black” look. It’s the furthest forward element of the sniper, and it’s the bit that moves the most as well, as we reload and aim (if you’re shooting from kneeling or standing). It’s the most important bit to hide but usually receives the least attention in terms of camouflage. It’s also quite an eye-catching shape for those players looking for you.
The biggest problem with the tree bark camo idea, is that beyond the one metre photo range, you’re turning your long, dark rifle silhouette into a long, dark branch silhouette that looks like a rifle. It’s not actually breaking up the outline or shape of the rifle, it’s matching it. The lovely bark effect that you see at close range is lost past ten metres, and with MED you should always be at least twenty metres from other players anyway. Nobody at normal ranges is going to see it as the branch that you want it to be. And that long shape is going to be constantly moving – if a tree branch is moving in the environment then you’d notice it anyway because it’s unusual.
This is the problem with always judging your camouflage up close.
What you need to do (I’m in the middle of rebuilding my VSR at the moment, internally and externally so I’ll do a demonstration once that project is finished) is try to hide that long, dark, distinctive rifle silhouette by breaking it up into different shapes.
I’ve used green and tan here just to show it more easily, you can adjust to your environmental needs. The light and dark contrast at a distance is going to hide that outline by breaking it up into smaller elements, much the same as we do with ghillie suits. Same principles apply to all your kit. If you can coordinate the camo to match, using haloscreen and dyed cotton for example, then it’ll accentuate that breakup, as well as adding much needed 3D texture.
A note on spray painting rifles, even using matt paint and no matter how good the pattern is, it still leaves a smooth flat sheen because of the plastic and metal surfaces underneath. Unfortunately, you can’t just paint your way out of it.
Camouflage. It’s more than just trying to replicate nature. Shape, colour, pattern, breakup.