Saturday, January 29, 2011

Camouflaging Your Weapons

Often times the best way to avoid trouble is to be invisible. We've talked about camouflaging yourself, your vehicle and even buildings, but what about camouflaging your weapon? I recently read a post on a survival blog wherein a poster stated that MultiCam camouflage was so effective that often the only way he and his buddy could keep track of each other while hunting was to look for the black barrels of each other's rifles. As usual, there's an app for that.

Soldiers have a virtually unlimited supply of ammunition and fully automatic weapons, which can get very hot when firing full auto, so you don't see much about using strips of burlap or cloth to camouflage military weapons. Also, if you're not careful burlap can move around on the weapon during handling and obscure the sights.

[Here's a slightly redacted portion of the US Army's take on camouflaging weapons.]
"Rationale: You must be able to conduct tactical operations while reducing/limiting detection by the threat. Camouflage paints provide for reduced visual detection and enhanced survivability via neutral, non-reflective, and predominantly non-black colors. Weapon signature reduction (i.e., outline, and contrast with background, texture and color) aids in limiting your visual signature and makes it more difficult for the enemy to detect your position."

"The color, black, is highly infra red reflective and black-colored weapons provide a high degree of visual contrast when you carry it even if your are camouflaged. Not only is the weapon itself more visible, but the type of weapon and type of accessories are more easily identified providing indicators of your capabilities and position. Additionally, black color is more conducive to solar-loading (heat retention)" [don't you just love "Army talk"?] "than earth-tone colors. Some limited black color in irregular black shapes/patterns does provide for weapon outline breakup."

"TIPS: Good camouflage can be achieved many ways. Some may want to place netting or foliage such as grass or leaves on the weapon and paint around it to better blend into the environment."

"Others may just want to use a blending technique. When using the blending technique coat the weapon with the lightest color you will be using. Next take a darker shade that blends with your environment and paint stripes about 4 inches apart at a 45 degree angle. You can do this with 1 to 2 colors. Next you need to blend it in. Take a dark color like green or brown and from about 6 to 8 inches away from the weapon lightly dust the gun. After that take a lighter color (khaki, or tan) and lightly dust the gun from 6 to 8 inches away. This will blend everything together and dull the finish. Colors will depend on operational environment."

Notes for Soldiers – Weapons Painting 101

There are other reasons you may wish to camouflage your rifle or shotgun. Black stands out in a natural environment because it rarely occurs in nature, except in shadows, and black is among the easiest colors to see in movement. That fact renders even the best camo relatively ineffective if a black weapon like the "black guns" (M-4, AR-15 etc.) is visible; there is no black in the MultiCam pattern.

Black is highly reflective through infrared viewing devices and provides a high degree of visual contrast when carried by camouflaged persons.

Pretty’ is not the objective of good camouflage. The goal is to break up the visual signature of the weapon by blending your weapon in with your environment and clothing. No matter how pretty a weapon looks, it is more important that it work.

Remember to pick colors best suited to blend with the terrain where you are operating. If you'll be operating in a primarily green environment greens and maybe a bit of brown might be your best choice. If you'll be working in chiefly semi-arid or desert surroundings the colors you'd choose might be primarily tan, brown and gray.

Neither tape nor paint will stick to oil so you'll need to thoroughly clean the weapon and let it dry before taping or painting.

If your operating environment has just light sand, then just paint your weapon tan with limited black breakup. If you are operating in a woodland environment, brown and olive drab with limited black breakup may be appropriate.

Looking for a template? Look to your local environment. One option is to layer local foliage or grasses on the weapon and paint around them to leave a natural-looking pattern.

To blend colors effectively, first coat the weapon with the lightest color you will be using. Next take a darker shade that blends with your environment and paint stripes about four inches apart at a 45 degree angle. You can do this with one or two colors. Next, you need to blend it in. Take a dark color like green or brown and from about six to eight inches away from the weapon lightly dust the gun. After that, take a lighter color (khaki, or tan) and lightly dust the gun. This will blend everything together and dull the finish. Your color palette will depend on the operational environment.

Civilians may want to use the Rustoleum "camo" set, which is black, green, brown, and tan in ultra flat and plain Rustoleum primer for gray.

Remember there's not much room for artistic masterpieces on a rifle stock and the smaller the camo pattern the more the pattern disappears into a big blob at distances.

Want'a see a beautifully camouflaged rifle? Take a look at the picture in Gunnery Sergeant ryanm's second post on this page.

A tan or gray rifle or shotgun with (as seen from the side) brown or green blobs that DON'T go above or below the halfway point will help turn a long straight weapon into an indistinct group of blobs. Particularly if multi colored burlap is warped around the barrel.

Painting an all black rifle or shotgun gray or tan helps make it harder for the human eye to distinguish from the background. Adding a few splashes of other colors works even better.

If, like me, you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars pimping up your gun you can (when push comes to shove) simply keep a roll of OD duct tape handy so as to wrap parts of the forearm and stock when the balloon goes up.

On AR-15 type guns just replacing the black "plastic" parts (stock, pistol grip, forearm and forward pistol grip) with gray, tan or OD green parts will go a long way towards breaking up the outline of the weapon. Gray, green or tan 30 round magazines will help a lot too. If you use duct tape on your mags remember it too comes in gray (not silver) green and tan.

Just tying a bit of burlap (it too comes in camo colors) around parts of the weapon not normally handled will help break up the weapons shape (long black thing that looks like a gun becomes several little dark things) and outline (straight lines like rifle barrels seldom exist in nature bumpy branches do).

Whether using paint or tape you've got to be sure your coverings don't interfere with the weapon's operation (feeding/ejecting) or your operation (aiming, loading and clearing it). Use a foam ear plug to keep paint out of the barrel while painting the rifle. "Before you break out the spray paint, be sure to protect your weapon so that your weapon continues to protect you."

The bottom line is that it’s more important for a weapon be functional than invisible.

There are also several Self-cling Camouflage Wraps: McNett Camo Tape and Marine Digital camo tape are just two examples.

The advantage of wraps is that you don't have to permanently paint your gun to camouflage it in the field. And you don't have to contend with all that sticky stuff you'd get if you used camouflage duct tape.

The disadvantage of foam is that if left on for long periods of time moisture may collect under the wrap which could damage the finish on your weapon or even cause rust. Fortunately wrap tape is advertised as being reusable.


J writes:
"I look at camouflage of weapons from a more utilitarian standpoint which impacts me more often. That's how to camouflage an appropriate weapon in one's position as a hidden or "mistaken identity" article that will be unlikely to attract attention (unless that is deemed desirable). Since the weapon has to be capable of projecting sufficient damage to neutralize a threat of a likely order of magnitude, it requires imagination.

Nowadays, with the frequency of weapon's checks, it is far more difficult to get away with this sort of thing as getting caught with a weapon specifically designed to evade metal detectors, etc. is too difficult to explain. That means that weapons tend to be quickly detachable parts of carrying cases which are edged or designed to be swung and not likely to be picked up by various detectors. "

J is, of course, writing about carrying concealed weapons in cities in our civilized society whereas I was writing about camouflaging battle rifles and carbines in the field.

"The key is to make all similar parts appear the same on a symmetrical basis so edges don't stand out on a scan bet look like simple chamfers. While traditional coiled springs are generally metallic, and plastic helical ones can only be used for "advancement" purposes, flexed plastic bars can substitute in various designs as long as the tendency of "form memory" of most plastics is taken into account."

By eschewing firearms J exchanges the option of striking beyond (I think) arms length for concealability in populated areas.

"The above does not apply to [gun] powder actuated firearms as the risk of getting caught with one designed to be concealed in a covert fashion is generally greater than the threat you are trying to defend yourself from (and there are plenty of non-powder actuated weapons that approach the same effectiveness at close ranges with a bit of practice)."

Right, illegally carrying a concealed firearm is a good way to get arrested.
K writes:
Reminded me of Sniper School. During field trials, many of the sniper students were spotted because they failed to camouflage the heel of their boots! When the sniper student is in the prone position the heel is easily identifiable to an observer / counter-sniper.

Yes, BLACK is seldom found in nature. Likewise movement attracts the eye and since the heel has to move when the boot wearer does…
J.R. writes:
One caution about the Kane Gun Covers. My brother left his on a Remington 600 stocked rifle which (presumably) has an RKW finish. The cover over several months damaged the synthetic wood sealer. If you plan on using covers on your firearms, consider they may damage the finish on them as well.

Thanks, J.R.; According to Randy Rowley Kane has gone out of business.

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