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How to Paint an AR-15

If you would like to alter the appearance of your AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, you can accomplish your goal by refinishing it with the appropriate enamel. Before you start painting, understand a critical point. The AR-15 is composed of both metallic and nonmetallic elements. You must condition each surface a different way, or you will end up with chipping and flaking. In addition, you should employ meticulous preparation, or you may compromise the rifle's functionality.

Sand nonmetallic portions of the AR-15 to promote adhesion.

Step 1

Unload the rifle. 

Step 2

Use a screwdriver to remove the folding bipod from the AR-15.  Skip this step if your rifle lacks this accessory.

Step 3

Place the AR-15 on a heavy-duty fabric drop cloth. 

Step 4

Sand nonmetallic portions of the AR-15 with 180-grit sandpaper.  Stop when these areas feel slightly rough to your fingertips.

Step 5

Cover sensitive mechanisms, including the trigger, barrel hole and ammunition loading area, with painter's tape.  Use scissors to trim the tape if necessary.

Step 6

Cover all nonmetallic portions of the AR-15 with masking paper, using painter's tape. 

Step 7

Coat metallic portions of the AR-15 with galvanized metal etching spray primer.  Maintain an 8-inch distance between the AR-15 and the spray nozzle as you apply. Remove the masking paper immediately after application.  Wait 4 hours for the etching primer to dry.

Step 8

Coat the entire rifle with acrylic spray primer.  Maintain an 8-inch distance between the AR-15 and the spray nozzle as you apply. Wait 4 hours for the acrylic primer to dry. 

Step 9

Coat the primed rifle with acrylic enamel.  Maintain an 8-inch distance between the AR-15 and the spray nozzle as you apply. Remove the tape from the rifle's sensitive mechanisms immediately after application.  Wait 6 hours before handling the rifle.

Warnings

  • Don't paint an unprimed AR-15, or flaking will ensue.
  • Don't use acrylic spray primer on metal portions of the AR-15, or the finish will peel.

About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.