Please activate the Breadcrumb-NavXT plug-in to use the section.
Modern camo is no longer a simple pattern of three colors; it’s a hi-tech, multilayered process, a combination of detailed lines and vague, shadowy color blends. Many hunting (commercial) camo patterns look like a photo of a forest scene: realistic trees and leaves, blurred backgrounds to add depth, and of course the company logo every square foot or so. Camo is big business. Hunters, especially new hunters, are convinced the newest, most highly developed camo will make it possible for them to bag a bigger buck. I don’t know about that, but what I do know is a confident hunter is a more effective hunter. If a specific pattern helps in that regard, go for it. I have my favorites, too.
My goal was a medium dark, grass/tiger stripe camo, more suited for ground-level predator hunts than deer stands. I wanted something that would disappear on the edges of field or forest, something that would work year-round. It snows here, but not enough to consider a snow-based pattern.
My main reasons for painting the rifle? I like how it looks, and now it’s unique.
Let’s get started… You will need:
- Krylon or similar flat spray paint in Tan, Olive, and Brown.
- Various leaves and grasses.
- Masking tape.
- Knife for cutting tape. I used a kitchen knife and cutting board.
- Tissue paper.
- Card stock for stencil. (optional)
First step: Safety check your rifle.
Second step: Safety check your rifle.
Remove bolt… or not. You may opt to leave the bolt in and mask the handle, or even paint the handle. It’s up to you.
Tape off important areas: scope dials, lenses, gas ports, trigger, safety, and the chamber. I stuffed the chamber with a plastic bag and taped carefully to avoid painting any surface that moves or supports movement. Use the earplug to plug the bore.
Now the painting begins:
1. Spray the entire gun with your base color. I used tan, you could also opt for olive green. I let the gun sit overnight after the initial base (tan) coat; this may or may not have been necessary.
2. Masking: I started with a tiger-stripe type mask, using thin strips of masking tape. I used a cutting board for the tape strips. As you work, keep in mind to not strive for perfect lines. Nature is not perfect; imperfections make for a perfect product. I tried to make sure each tape strip had one edge that was torn a bit and not perfectly cut. Instead of cutting, I tore several of the strips by hand, or tore them after cutting. You want strips in a variety of widths, ranging from 1/16″ to the full width of the tape.
Keep the orientation of the strips in mind. Try to keep the pattern oriented vertically. Don’t wrap tape horizontally around your turrets (note the tape strips on the elevation turret…).
I leave my scope at 10X. If you change magnifications, make sure you mask off the increment indicators. And yes, it’s a cheap BSA. But it holds zero.
This step will take some time, but it is an important step in the layering process. Use long strips; the loose ends will help with removing the tape later.
3. Arrange the real grass and leaves on the rifle. Now you have the rifle with base coat, tiger stripe masking, and real foliage masks. With the tiger-stripe mask and real foliage, the entire gun gets a thin olive coat. I purposefully avoided a uniform coat, letting the underlying tan come in and out of the olive.
Note: In hindsight, I would have skipped the leaves as the end effect wasn’t what I thought it to be. Here in TN, we have leaf litter on the ground almost year-round so I thought it would be a good part of the camo, but the leaves didn’t translate well. The spray blast blew the leaves off; I found this out the hard way. If you opt for leaves, tape them down with double sided tape or rolled tape pieces. Making a leaf stencil or two may prove to be more effective.
4. Remove the real grass and foliage. I kept all of the foliage in a cardboard box.
5. Remove the tiger-stripe mask. I put so many small strips that I missed a few; throughout the process I was removing stragglers.
At this point I could have stopped and had a decent light green camo treatment. I wanted something a bit darker so I forged on…
6. Mask the rifle with wide strips of tissue paper, only leaving small areas exposed for the next paint layer. I chose olive. I used more tape and tissue paper. The tissue paper gives flexibility as far as how the edges looked; it can be shredded or crumpled easily.
Remember: dark color attracts attention; leave only small areas exposed. Paint. Let dry. Remove paper.
One specific area that seemed a good choice for dark green was where the bolt handle comes down against the stock. The green will serve to break up the outline of the dark bolt handle.
7. Next I added small contrast details. I chose brown but Krylon brown tends to have a lot of red so I used it sparingly. I used real pine saplings as stencils.
8. Final details: I made a stencil and used the original base color- tan- and put a few final details.
Remember to allow sufficient time for drying between coats; most cans suggest 15 minutes. While waiting for the paint to dry on the rifle, I painted an ammo can to match. My daughter came out and helped me with the can!
The bulk of the work will be preparing and applying your masks. Don’t rush this. Work in batches: I cut lots of strips then masked so I didn’t have to switch back and forth from cutting to masking.
Spray paint has a strong scent; I wouldn’t suggest painting right before a hunt. Wait until the gun can sit for a week or more to cure. As a final step, spray with a generous coat of matte clear.
This was my first attempt and therefore a learning experience; I documented it as best I could. I like how the rifle turned out. I’m not perfectly satisfied with it; in hindsight I wanted more of a dry earth/gray type scheme, but I like it much more now than before. I suppose I can always repaint it or add a dry earth layer. I haven’t applied a final matte clear coat just in case I decide to add that final layer.
All in all, a great use of the time taken. Now the other rifles seem a bit lacking; perhaps after deer season the muzzleloader will get a new look.
A few more photos…
For those who are wondering: Spray paint will not cover your serial number or other etchings.
Matching ammo can.