How To Paint Your Rifle

If you’re the kind of AR15 owner who doesn’t want their AR rifle, stock and grip, and handguard to look like all the rest on the market, you may want to consider giving your rifle a fresh coat of paint.

It could also be that after years of abuse, the original finish of your AR15 has worn off from the beating. Either way, painting your AR15 is a simple process and doesn’t require all that much expertise.

If you’re willing to follow a few basic steps, you’ll have that rifle looking like you just bought or built it. Keep in mind that the original finish of your rifle eventually wore to the point of requiring a fresh paint job, and this new paint job you’re about to perform will ultimately do the same.

The only way to ensure your new paint job goes unblemished is to wrap your rifle in a velvet cloth and let it take up permanent residence in your gun case. Which entirely defeats the purpose of owning your AR15 in the first place.

Picking The Right Paint

There are a few things you’ll want to get before you begin lathering paint on your AR15. Starting with the most obvious, you need to select the color and quality of your paint. If you enjoy a more tactical look to your rifle, you may want to consider Light Earth, African Mustard, Dark Tan, or even the ubiquitous Olive Drab.

For assorted paint colors, Model Master Enamel offers one of the most extended ranges of colors on the market. If you intend to stay with the original classic black matte finish, Brownell’s Aluma-Hyde spray-on paint will more than fit the bill.

If you want to give your AR15 a stylish bit of camouflage, Rust-Oleum offers great aerosols you can use as well as picking up a few cans of Krylon Camouflage. Whichever paint you end up using, all three will provide excellent results.

The Place for Space

When working with aerosol paints, a well-ventilated area is a must. If you didn’t think of a mask or regulator, you might want to chip in a few dollars to protect your lungs.

Although you can paint your AR15 by holding it with one hand and using the other hand to wield the paint, there are other options. If your budget is open and you intend to refinish your AR15 a lot, consider purchasing a paint stand.

Using the frame allows you to hang the rifle in place and allows you the freedom to move completely around the gun as you coat it with paint. For those with a tighter budget, you can quickly build the appropriate stand from two by fours that will work just as well.

Here’s another helpful hint if you decide to take the painting chore outside. A windy day is not your friend. The trick is to get more of the paint on your AR15 than yourself, and errant gusts of wind will make the job a lot harder than it is.

Clean Before You Start

As with anything you intend to spray paint, your AR15 needs to be free of dirt and grime. There are two aspects to giving your rifle a thorough cleaning.

It would be best if you gave it a good rub down with a few clean, lint-free cloths and then a once-over with brake cleaner to remove any oil or grease accumulation.

Like most AR15 these days, polymer configurations are everyday pieces, so you’ll want to ensure your brake cleaner is chlorine-free, so it won’t tear into your plastic parts.

If you want your paint job to stick, ensuring the AR15 has clean surfaces to work with is extremely important unless you’re going for that chipped and cracked look and feel. If that’s the case, then don’t bother to clean and start spraying.

Protect Your Ports

There are a few functional parts of your AR15 that won’t need painting, and if they do get painted may not function as you intend them to work. For those items, you’ll need to pick up an inexpensive roll of painter’s tape.

Carefully cover your ejection port, magazine well, and muzzle with a few strips of painter’s tape. Ensure the tape is masking these items only and that the painter’s tape doesn’t cover items you wish to receive a fresh coat.

While it’s true that any of these more sensitive areas of your AR15 may not function as planned if you get paint on them, you can wipe the paint free if necessary or just let daily wear take care of the problem.

The logical choice here is to ensure the paint doesn’t make its way to the parts in the first place, so cover them up before you drag out your spray cans.

Base Coat and Contrasts

Whether you’ve built or bought your stand, now is the time for the initial application of your base coat. The base coat sets the background tone for any other color applications if you’re going for the camouflage look.

Hold the spray can far enough away from your AR15 and apply with smooth, sweeping strokes. The trick here is not to paint too quickly or hold the nozzle in one place too long. The last thing you want to see are globs of paint running down the length of your rifle.

Another rule of thumb is that on the initial job, less is more. If you don’t get the coating you want on the first pass, let your artwork dry before trying a second or third coat.

One important thing to note is that any camouflage paint job requires complete avoidance of contrast. The desired effect is to blend into the surroundings. Anything with sharp contrast will stick out like a sore thumb.

When spraying on the camo lines, remember to use the same sweeping strokes and that you should apply the paint in stages. Less is perfect when it comes to painting your rifle.

Stencils, Leaves, And Patterns

Once you’re satisfied that most of the contrasts of your paint job have been eliminated, you may want to add various patterns. Using stencils or even leaves and foliage around you is excellent for producing multiple prints to break up any remaining contrasts on your rifle.

Stencil patterns are readily available and inexpensive, and trees usually have an overabundance of leaves at your disposal. However, it’s not recommended you use dried-out foliage as it will crumble and crack and end up sticking to your rifle.

Whatever you use, the intent here is to create patterns that sufficiently mask any contrasts the resulting paint job made.

Rodney Heaton

I'm Rodney Heaton and I love hunting in the wild. In the past, I was in the military for over 5 years. After that I became a licensed hunter and a mountain guide.