Camouflaging a rifle is a great way to blend into your environment and make it harder for your target to spot you. Whether you’re hunting, in the military, or want to give your rifle a new look, there are several ways to camouflage your weapon.
Camouflage is an important tool for any hunter or shooter looking to stay hidden from their target. A camouflaged rifle can help you stay undetected and get the most out of your hunt. Whether you’re getting camouflage through painting, or using specialty tape or vinyl wraps, there are many options for customizing your rifle’s appearance.
How to Camouflage a Rifle
There are four main ways that I’ve found to camouflage your rifle, ranging from the very easy to the very time consuming. None of them are particularly difficult, and none of them are crazy expensive, either. That said, it may take a fair amount of time to get the exact look you want (if you’re picky).
The four main ways are: buy a rifle that already has camo, use anything from cerakote to spray paint to do it, use camo tape, or use vinyl camo prints. The only truly permanent method would be a ceramic coating, with spray paint close by as a “semi-permanent” option.
Methods for Camouflaging a Rifle
Option 1: Paint a Camo Pattern On the Rifle
The first way most people think of is to paint their rifle with a camouflage pattern. This is fine, but keep in mind it comes with some limitations. The first one is your budget. If you buy the $3 cans of spray paint from Home Depot, your rifle is going to look like you bought $3 cans of spray paint from Home Depot.
If you want a much more professional look, you’ll need to drop more money on something like Cerakote, in more than 4 colors, preferably.
The second limitation is your skillset. Are you a talented artist? If not, you may want to reconsider this option. Granted, if your ego isn’t attached to the appearance of the rifle and all you need is something the deer won’t notice as easily, then by all means just get some green, tan, and black on there and do your best. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Disassemble the Rifle
Before you start painting, you should disassemble the rifle so that all parts can be painted separately. And you should wear gloves for this. This will ensure that all the right areas of the gun are painted and no part is overlooked. You shouldn’t need to take it down further than you do for cleaning, since you’ll be covering over everything that shouldn’t get camo paint on it.
Step 2: Clean the Rifle
Once everything has been taken apart, give the entire gun a good clean. The exterior of the rifle is the most critical at this point, since that’s what the paint will be adhering to, but it’s good to clean the interior as well. All this will ensure that the camo paint adheres properly and doesn’t chip off easily later on.
Step 3: Cover Everything That Shouldn’t Get Paint On It
It’s also important to cover any areas that shouldn’t get paint on them such as optics lenses, trigger guards, magazine followers, springs, etc. Painters tape or plastic wrap work well for this, and you can just plop a foam earplug into the bore and end of the barrel before starting the painting process.
Step 4: Paint the Lightest Color
When painting your camo design onto the rifle, start by applying the lightest color first. It looks better if you do the lightest color first. Start at one end of the gun and work towards the other end until you’ve got all the areas covered with the foundation color. Allow time for each clear coat of paint to dry before applying additional coats or colors over them.
Step 5: Paint the Rest of the Colors
Once you have finished applying the lightest color, apply subsequent colors according to taste until everything has been painted and allowed enough time to dry completely before reassembly begins. As you can see, it’s all completely up to your own ability to paint a convincing pattern. You can accomplish that in whatever way you would like, but there’s not much I can do to help.
Option 2: Use Specialty Camouflage Tape
Another option for camouflaging your rifle is by using specialty camo tape like Camo Form Reusable Plastic Wrap which comes in multiple colors and patterns for you to choose from. It’s important to note that this is the least permanent of all the solutions, and while I’ve never taken it out on a duck hunt, my first concern would be how it maintains its utility after it gets wet.
That said, it’s basically just camo-colored athletic tape, and behaves exactly as you might expect. It’s quick, easy, and effective. As long as you wrap it tight enough, it won’t make operating your rifle more difficult.
Step 1: Clean the Outside of the Rifle
Start by cleaning off any dirt and debris off the outside of your rifle using your preferred method of doing so. The tape sticks to itself, not the rifle, so the gun doesn’t need to be polished and shiny, but the tape will still work better if it’s applied to a clean gun instead of a dirty one.
Step 2: Apply Strips of Tape As Needed
For most of the rifle, you’ll wrap it the way you would your wrist with athletic tape, but there are parts of the rifle where that is not possible. Most specifically, the part of the stock under the optic and where the magazine is inserted and around the bolt. For these spots, just cut a strip of the tape to lay flat across (parallel to the barrel) the area. You’ll wrap over the ends of the strips in the next step.
Step 3: Wrap Tape Around Rest of Rifle
Now you just start at the butt of the stock and wrap your way up the rifle. Keep the tape nice and tight (but not too tight), and just roll it around and around as you work your way up. You should finish up by covering up one end of the strips you put on in step 2. Then start from the other end of the rifle and work you way towards the middle from there.
Supposedly you can even wrap your barrel with this stuff, but I wouldn’t recommend that with even semi-automatic fire, let alone full auto. If you’re on a bolt action and won’t be shooting more than a couple shots for the entire trip, you’re probably fine.
Option 3: Use Vinyl Camouflage Wrap
Vinyl camo wraps provide another great alternative for covering larger surfaces like stocks because they come pre-cut into large sheets already designed with various camouflage patterns printed onto them. Installation is (fairly) quick and easy without needing specialized equipment, unless you count a heat gun. If you want to remove a vinyl wrap, just get the heat gun back out and the vinyl will peel right off once it gets warm enough.
Step 1: Clean the Outside of the Rifle
Just like with the tape and the paint, you’ll need to clean the outside of the rifle. It’s a lot more important with vinyl than it is with tape, though, because the vinyl will be adhering to the rifle itself. Just make sure there’s no dust, dirt, or anything else getting in between your rifle and your vinyl.
Step 2: Lay the Vinyl Out
Lay out the correct vinyl sheet onto the first area (usually the buttstock) making sure all the edges line up properly. You want to get this in position before you start blasting it with heat, because it’s the heat that will get it to really grab all the way onto the rifle.
Step 3: Use a Heat Gun to Form the Vinyl
Use a heat gun set at a low temperature & slowly move it over the vinyl sheet. The vinyl will start to conform to the shape of the rifle and get stuck there. It’s this process that will keep the vinyl there until you want it off. You may need to put in some elbow grease getting any bubbles or creases out of the vinyl.
Step 4: Trim Excess Material
Once the vinyl has been heated & formed, trim away any extra excess material around the edges so that everything lines up nicely. Once you’ve gotten the first side of the stock done, you can flip the rifle over and do the other side or move your way up the rest of the rifle.
Option 4: Just Buy a Rifle That Already Has Camo On It
The simplest option is to just buy a rifle with camo already on it. Many gun manufacturers sell rifles with pre-applied camo patterns designed specifically for hunting. These guns usually come in either water-resistant synthetic stocks or metal stocks with protective coatings. You can even choose your color and pattern for all of you who want the purple + pink camo.
This is obviously the simplest option, but for most people reading this article, you probably already own a rifle and are looking for the best way to get it camouflaged.
Yes, but there’s a caveat. The more you shoot, the hotter your barrel gets. The hotter your barrel gets, the more likely you’re going to melt, burn, or otherwise distort whatever you’ve put on your barrel to camouflage it. If you just want camo for hunting, you’re probably fine since you’ll never be firing enough rounds in rapid succession to create a problem.
As usual, prices will vary, but to get the vinyl wrap and do it yourself will often be less than $100. If you want to pay a gunsmith or other pro to do it, be prepared to pay the cost of the excess material as well as labor.
To camo, or not to camo, that is the question. I’m fairly sure that’s how that quote goes. I’ll be honest, I’ve never personally understood when someone wants to go out of their way to camouflage their gun unless they are legitimately wanting to hunt with it. But for whatever reason you want to camo your rifle, you have some pretty good, easy options to choose from.
The biggest differences between them is probably going to be permanence and how they affect the functionality of the weapon. Vinyl is not particularly grippy, so you may not like how your gun handles with a vinyl wrap. Tape on the other hand, is very grippy but can slide when it gets loose. At the end of the day, if you want the overall “best” solution, you may want to look for a cerakote pro.