View Full Version : Painting a AR-15

June 23, 2012, 04:20 PM
So i wantto paint my M4gery.

It is properly lubed(read that dripping) so I'm guessing i would have to hose the whole down with brake cleaner right?

I have a lot of rustoleum i use at work and around the house, would that be a good paint to use on the AR-15?

Also what parts should i remove when painting and can i just paint the gun assembled or do i have to completely take it apart?

June 23, 2012, 06:22 PM
I did my G3 years ago. I used a no gloss auto paint. I painted it while assembled. Before you paint it think about where you're likely to be using it. Green doesn't work as well in the desert. White isn't good in South Texas.

June 23, 2012, 07:01 PM
for painting your M4. get some wadding and masking tape. (lots of newspaper makes good wadding so do cotton balls, but you'll need a few of them b/c they have to be tight).

wad the muzzle brake (pack it tight inside, acutally the first few shots will burn any excess off the inside of the crown)wad this tightly. This is your moneymaker.

wad the inside of the receiver tightly. TIGHTLY. ESPECIALLY the chamber. Don't let the paint get in there. also wad the magazine well, and use wadding and masking tape to cover the trigger assembly and stuff wadding tightly into the buffer tube. (remove bolt assembly and buffer assembly. Trigger assembly if you are comfortable in RELIABLY reassembling it... if you don't feel you can reassemble it, wad and tape it) Remove the charging handle. Keep your dust cover closed to avoid a weird shadow on your receiver. (tape this on the INSIDE just to kinda weatherseal the gap).

For the charging handle, tape the body of it and leave the actual handle unmasked.

Sights can be painted..... with a thin coat. (if it isnt too late, you might consider just getting some DE finished sights.... if not no worries, it won't really mess anything up)

this shouldn't be need to be said, but any optics should be removed, wadded and masked and painted separately.

remove the buttstock, and paint separately from the rest of the weapon. (assuming this is a telescoping buttstock... if it's a fixed m-16 style buttstock, leave it in place)

try to paint your weapon with the upper and lower receivers wadded, but still assembled so you get continuity of pattern.

Technique: Krylon cammo paint works well. really well. Rustoleum cammo works well too. You can buy it at walmart, home depot and lowes. Go look at the paints and pick the ones (3 or so, maybe 4, don't get carried away)) that best match your environment. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what brand you use as long as it's matte, flat or ultra flat finish. Also note black is a terrible color for cammo. TERRIBLE. NOTHING in nature is black. NOTHING. except coal and obsidian. Not even at night.

Primer it if you want, it's not really necessary. if you do, use a thin, even coat.

1. Go get whatever you're going to use to make your pattern: pine boughs, yeti net, leaves, whatever. the best nets to use are the nets with 1/4-1/2" spacing between the threads. anything larger, I'd use pine boughs, anything less, it's just going to look stupid like a DIY ACU pattern. play around with combinations using a piece of scrap cardboard box or some old ply wood to perfect your color combo and technique before going to town on your rifle.

2. Put your base layer down. If you're making leaves, or pine needles, this ought to be the color you want the leaves to be. this will be your "top" layer (even though you put it on first). Spray it evenly, and THINLY over the whole rifle. Wait for it to dry, then put on a second coat. This coat does well as OD green for woodland. Beige for desert.

3. Apply your texture material. This is your pine needles, net, whatever. Try not to place them evenly. This is especially true for netting. It will look really nice, but stands out if the net is evenly stretched. This is applied by laying the material over the weapon. Yah I know you can only do one side at a time.
Art takes patience.

4. apply darker green and brown in a tiger stripe pattern to disrupt the horizontal lines of the rifle. You're going to apply this paint over the leaves or net, so don't use your prized fishing net or anything like that. you can get creative with how you apply these colors.

5. Let it dry, then do the other side. Thin coats are the key to it not flaking. Though note, spray paint doesn't have the endurance of the finishes on guns, so it'll scrape, and you'll have to reapply every so often.... or keep the sweet battle worn look.

****Figure out a color combination you want FIRST. If you want dark leaves, put the dark paint on as a base coat, and then follow up with lighter colors in step 4.

FOR OPTICS: What I said about taking them off earlier only somwhat applies. If you want to be able to swap optics, paint them separately to avoid the weird black shadow on your upper rail. If you have a dedicated optic, you can leave it in place. If you have uncle mike's lens covers, paint with them in place. Do whatever you can to protect the glass b/c if you get paint on it, it ain't coming off without f-ing up your optic. Also, try to protect the zeroing screws. a couple black spots on the sides aren't going to compromise you (this is mostly an issue on EOTech where the screws are exposed... on other optics with covers on the adjustment screws, this isn't an issue, just piant with the covers in place)

Remember your keys to cammo:
1. Natural color
2. No shine. *note.... this is not telling you to paint the shiny parts inside your weapon.... those are supposed to be shiny, and therefore are on the inside where nobody's going to see them.
3. break up the unnatural lines of your rifle. Not much in nature grows in a straight line, and if it does, it does so vertically.
4. Eliminate unnatural shadows. let the light colors show on the bottom of your rifle.

*EDIT. I forgot to mention. Any sort of oil or crud will cause your paint not to stick. I clean mine with carbeurator cleaner first (The ONLY time that stuff gets near my rifle), and then wipe with dry rags until there is NOTHING left on it. NOTHING. just to get all the CLP n stuff off. Simple Green, shaving cream, or any other degreaser will work also with a HOT water bath....... just please if you love your rifle, only clean it like that once, you'll have to clean and lube the interior to ensure there's no rust afterwards.

relube it when you're done. Correct, you're not going to ever paint the inside of your receiver where the oil goes, but you really don't want any sort of residue leaking out onto any part of your rifle while painting or it'll ruin that part of the paintjob.

June 23, 2012, 08:19 PM
Good post above.

Got in a huge argument here about black in camo on another thread a while back.

Insomni is correct. Black was removed from the Universal Combat Pattern for that reason, and the fact that it stands out as "unnatural" -too dark- under night vision.

The Krylon Camo rattle can jobs are easy, wipe right off with mineral spirits if you want to remove or change the color scheme.

Put on several coats of MATTE clear coat for additional protection.

June 24, 2012, 03:07 PM
Watch what paints you choose. Some are more permanent than others and can be a bitch if not impossible to get off if you change your mind later.

I used to get all technical with disassembly of the gun and parts, but after years of doing it that way, these days, I'm lazy, and have better things to do with my time. Its really not necessary for your general camo job. Now for something a little more detailed, that may be a different story. I just tape off anything I dont want paint on, like the tops of the sights, etc, and have at it.

If you have it dripping with solvent and lube, Id wipe things down with a dry rag or patches, then degrease the external parts of the gun where you intend to paint. I ususally use Gun scrubber. Do it a couple of times, and degrease your hands while youre at it, and especially just before painting.

For paints, I usually use Testors Military Flats, but lately, Ive been using Krylons flat camo colors too. I have removed both, and they do come off completely. Testors has pretty much any color you might need if youre trying to match a specific pattern. Krylon is pretty much just your basic tan, brown and green. As was mentioned, two or three coats of clear flat lacquer when youre done helps protect things and evens out the flatness.

As far as the black thing, and contrary to some opinions, there are a lot of things in nature that are "black". There are a lot of other things that are close enough in the color spectrum to be considered to be black, so if youre trying to mimic something along those lines, it can be appropriate.

Personally, I spray the whole gun in the lightest color as a base. From there, I usually then go light to dark with the other colors. Some patterns work better with a brush, others work OK with patterns. Lately, as Im again, lazy, Ive just been using sheets of printer paper with random patterns cut out.

Brownells has some video tips that are worth watching. They are geared towards Aluma Hyde II (good paint, but basically permanent), but they work well with everything else too.

Right side of the page under "learn more".....


Just be aware, this tends to become addictive. Once you get a couple under your belt, youre likely to be painting everything in sight. :)

This was my last, my M&P in Multicam....



June 24, 2012, 04:46 PM
Thanks for all the awesome inpu everyone.

Last question is rustoleum ok for barrels? I have a ton of colors of rustoleum so i wouldnt be out of pocket any

June 24, 2012, 05:19 PM
I bought a few cans of Aervoe and basically did what others have posted here.

June 24, 2012, 06:00 PM
I don't really see any problem with Rustoleum.... just make sure it's a matte enamel, glossy looks good on cars and outdoor furniture, bad on a gun in the woods.

If you want to remove the paint though, as mentioned by a couple other guys in this thread, it might not come off as easily as the Krylon Cammo. to test this, I'd paint some non rusty scrap metal, let it sit, and then try to remove it with mineral oil and greenpads.

If you're cool with not taking the paint off, it shouldn't matter. Most spraypaints are enamel paints anyway, which is what you want.

also I freehand my gear cammo jobs, but if you want here are some stencils

AK, I've said it before, I'll say it again. I love your invisible rifle!!!!!

June 24, 2012, 06:29 PM
Thanks. :)

Heres a couple more.....





June 24, 2012, 08:20 PM
Here's a solid Khaki color lower I did with Rustoleum. Not very impressive compared to the others.


June 24, 2012, 09:50 PM
all of the rust-oleum I have is the automobile primer, now it says not to use on metal that gets above 200*F but I have not seen a reason to this.

June 25, 2012, 08:20 PM
i have a llama .45 that i was looking to practice on before i paint my AR. has anyone tried painting a pistol before?

June 25, 2012, 09:45 PM
no but I imagine the principles are the same: Wad everything a bullet passes through, and tape /cover/ remove any moving parts, or shiny surfaces.

June 26, 2012, 05:03 PM
I havent had any troubles with paint and heat, even on guns with big mags and shooting them until to hot to touch the barrels.

If I was gong to paint a handgun, or a rifle/shotgun for a more traditional look, Id probably use one of the more permanent paints as they tend to be more durable. Ive used Brownells Aluma hyde I with good luck on a couple of guns, and a bunch of other stuff, and it works well. Its pretty tough stuff once cured. You do have to follow the directions to the letter for best results. If you dont, it might get ugly.

June 26, 2012, 05:39 PM
thanks everybody i'm going to paint it friday after work and i'll post some before and after pics.

June 26, 2012, 06:02 PM
Cool! :)

Have fun, the fist one is always the hardest, and the hardest part isnt actually doing it, its getting up the nerve for that first push on the nozzle. :D