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How to Camo Paint Your AR15

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When I purchased my AR15, I never really considered painting it and I loved the nice black finish. Over the years though I have come to realize that this beautiful black rifle really sticks out in the woods or anywhere else for that matter. All black has a habit of doing that unless it is dark. I finally came to the conclusion that it only made sense for me to paint my AR15 after considering a number of factors. For starters, I wear camouflage when I am hunting to blend in with the surrounding trees, brush and vegetation, so why shouldn’t my rifle? Secondly, professional soldiers who are trying to blend in go to great lengths to camouflage their location so giving your rifle the same treatment only makes sense. Why spend so much time on getting into a nice hiding spot, possibly with a ghillie suit and not have your rifle dressed for the occasion?

I know why I hesitated in the first place. When you pay that much for something, the last thing on your mind is to take a can of spray paint to it. I started researching how to camo paint your AR15 probably 6 months ago and knew I would try this out on my rifle eventually, but I was still a little hesitant to pull the (spray can) trigger and change the stock color of my beautiful black rifle. Maybe one of the things in the back of my mind was that if I ever paint my rifle, I will never be able to sell it. I don’t know why I considered that a problem because as of right now, there is no way I am going to part with my rifle. You can read into that what you like but it is one thing to take into consideration if you are thinking about a camo paint job for your little rifle.

I went online and read a lot about the painting process which if you have ever spray painted anything is ridiculously simple. Krylon has a line of paint that is specifically made for camouflage. Their camo paint works great on Ceramic, Glass, Hard Vinyl Plastic, Wrought Iron, Wicker, Metal, Wood and Plaster. That covered all the bases I needed and the colors perfectly matched all the cammo patterns I would use. As an added bonus, they have good instructions on how to paint camouflage patterns and even provide the camouflage stencils you can download for your own paint job. The stencils look similar to the random designs you would see on multicam patterns. The great part is that this can be used on any weapon out there so if you want to camo paint your hunting rifle (something I plan to do) this paint and the stencils will be perfect.

Rustoleum makes camo paint colors too but I used the Krylon for my rifle.

How to camo paint your AR15

The first thing I did was to remove my sling, scope and light. The reason I removed the scope is that I just purchased it and I want to make sure it will work before I cover it in paint. That is one modification I am sure they wouldn’t take back. The scope is a Nikon P-223 that is designed specifically for the AR platform. I will be reviewing this scope in the future.

CamoAR1

AR Prepped for the camo paint job.

Once I had the extras removed, I used painters tape to cover the magazine well, the trigger and the ejection port cover spring so that no paint would get in these areas. I am sure it would have been fine if I painted them, but I took the precaution just in case. Then as everything was wrapped up and ready, I hung the AR up and sprayed it down with brake cleaner. You can buy this at any auto store. The Krylon instructions said you didn’t need any primer but I wanted to make sure I removed the extra oils so the paint would adhere as well as possible. Once the rifle had been sprayed with the brake cleaner, I let it sit for about an hour to dry.

BaseCoat

Krylon Khaki as the base coat.

The instructions from Krylon said to work your way from lightest to darkest color. I used three colors (Kahki, Olive and Brown) and I think these are a great match for this time of year and the vegetation we have around our home. The great thing about this camo paint job is that you can repaint the rifle when the seasons change or if you make a mistake. The Krylon went on beautifully and had a great smooth finish that covered nicely. I don’t even think I used a half can on the whole rifle and it looked so good I half considered just leaving it like this.

Camo stencils from nature.

Camo stencils from nature.

I did consider cutting out the stencils from the Krylon site. I know there are sites that you can download the ACU digital patterns and cut these shapes up for stencils, but I wanted to try something more natural. And, I didn’t want to sit there with scissors all day… So I walked out into the yard and grabbed some various leaves, grass and sticks to use for my own natural stencils. This will work great regardless of where you live because your camouflage will match your local vegetation or it will in shapes anyway.

Place your stencils on the AR15 and overspray with a darker color.

Place your stencils on the AR15 and over spray with a darker color.

This next part isn’t really scientific and you can’t do this the wrong way unless you spray too much paint I think. For my first stencil I laid a branch with some leaves on the main part of my lower receiver and sprayed with my Olive green. I then repositioned the leaves in other locations and used other elements like the grass to lay down different patterns. The Olive shapes lets the Khaki come through and begins to break up the shape of the AR15. Once I had a nice pattern on the first side I moved the the other side. After both sides had been painted, I started using the brown with these stencils to add additional camo pattern.

Finished product on side one.

Finished product on side one.

The process is so easy and I was really pleased with the results. I plan to do the same thing to my Hunting rifle next since I have so much paint left. You can see the difference a little spray paint makes. In the winter if needed I can tone down the green and just just more Khaki and brown. This is a simple project that anyone can do for less than $20 and it only takes a few hours max from start to finish.

Before and after shot of the Camo paint job on my AR15.

Before and after shot of the Camo paint job on my AR15.

 

The new paint job works well with the multicam pattern too I think and blends so much better now with the rest of my gear. It’s not perfect, but I think it is so much closer. This is a great project you can try with your rifles too. That is if you don’t plan on getting rid of them. You don’t do you?

CamoPaintAR15

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  • Lonerider

    Great job, I did the same thing with my 870 Remington with black and grey paint. I use this for home defense only. When you turn out all of your lights inside or go outside there are shadows of light and dark everywhere from street lamps to the night light you have in a hallway. The grey helps to break up the outline instead of just the flat black.

    • Thanks Lonerider! Mine is for home defense too, but the same concept will work on my hunting rifles or pretty much anything else you are looking to camo.

  • Scott

    Just an fyi, if you use your AR alot….(as I know you do)painting the grip is worhless as it will just rub off. As will the buffer if you move your stock frequently.Put a stripe or two on it and call it good. Same thing for the broom handle. Any area that gets a lot of attention will not hold paint for very long. Set up your furniture for the same base color as your paint job. Scary sh*t painting your rifle for the 1st time. Have to love the results though! Yours looks great!
    My hunting rifle has held the paint well. Obviously it does not get used as much. Go ahead and take the plunge and paint your optics. You will like your Nikkon and it will match your rifle. A scope is much cheaper to replace;-)

    • Thanks Scott!

      Yeah, I deliberated over that first spray for a few seconds… I am pleased with how it turned out though. I know you have a point about the grip and other places, but I figured I would go ahead and do it all at one time. The optic and light are getting painted this weekend most likely along with all my steel magazines. Gotta love that Krylon!

      Pat

  • Hartwood

    I just sprayed 3 80 percent lowers with Dura Coat. The only masking that I did was the fire control pocket and the buffer tube threads. I’ve assembled one and it looks great. I will camo it with Dura Coat when I get the others finished.

  • Schnuffleupagus

    Cool. I’m doing it.

  • Bolofia

    Pat,
    I’ve read your post, studied the photos several times, and I must say that your AR15 turned out very nicely. Now that it’s nine months since the article originally appeared, how is the camo job holding up? I will be painting my Bushmaster M15 this weekend, but there is still one lingering question in my mind: During periodic range practice I will usually put 200+ rounds into targets. Have you experienced any issues with the paint resulting from a hot barrel (such as flaking or peeling)? I will be using the same Krylon that you referenced.

    Also, how did the the paint work out on your scope? Did you encounter any issues?

    Thanks…

    • Thanks Bolo!

      So far the paint job is perfectly fine other than normal wear. I haven’t noticed any issues with heat from the barrel, but I haven’t honestly put it through a torture test. I have been to the range several times though and it still looks great. I think I may remove the bipod on the front or switch to something like a Harris that folds up and out of the way.

      The scope… I still haven’t painted that but I need to. I have flip up scope covers that I am not really impressed with and I keep thinking I need to up my magnification a little. That Nikon is a nice scope, but I keep going back and forth about what the best option is for my intended/envisioned use. Really I don’t want to drop over grand on something like an ACOG. I don’t think an EOTech will be perfect either and once you add a magnifier on the back you are at the price of a really good scope again. Might try something like a Burris BTR-1 or just a more powerful medium power scope from Nikon. Decisions decisions…

      • robert

        if you’re looking for a red dot, look at an aimpoint PRO on sale you can get them for $350 if you find a deal. If you are looking for a less expensive red dot you can not go wrong with a bushness TRS-25 for around $80 without a mount, I own both the PRO and TRS-25, both rock solid. If you want a magnified optic look for a bushnell AR optics 1-4x. I own that also and its a really solid optic.

        • Charles Boyd

          Why do most run Red Dot sights instead of Lasers? I really really want to paint one of my ARs….but still scared. But the one above looks awesome.

          • DirtyHarry.44

            Not sure but I believe a laser can be seen with night vision devices or infrared scopes, therefore can be traced back to the rifle, Red Dots can’t. I realize that that may not matter to a hunter, but if you are a Prepper, it matters. Besides, I don’t think many of us would be able to see the laser dot on the target at a long distance, whereas a Red Dot, well, it’s right there in the scope and you control the brightness for the light condition. Just my two cents.