The Vortex How To: The $25(ish) Paint Job

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With the popularity of guns continually on the rise, that just means more people are getting guns that look exactly like yours. If you want to switch up your look or go for a functional camo, but aren’t looking to spend a fortune, here’s the way we do it!

1.) Supplies

We picked up everything here at our local hardware store for right around $25. Results may vary, but that’s a lot less than a full-blown Cerakote job.

Processed with Snapseed.



  • Gun – AR, Bolt Gun or Other. All will work; we went with the Mossberg MVP Flex in this example.
  • Paint – We used Rustoleum Camouflage tan, green and reddish brown (Super technical term) – You can use any colors you want!
  • Painters tape
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Towels
  • Old Mesh Laundry Bag (Optional)
  • Paracord (Optional – Not Pictured)
  • Leaves (Optional – Not Pictured)


2.) Remove Bolt and Apply Tape

  • Apply tape to the inside of the action
  • Make sure to tape the red safety indicator so it is still visible after painting.
  • Apply tape to all laser engraved portions of the optic – Magnification ring numbers, eyepiece engravings, numbers on illumination knobs and exposed elevation turrets
  • Tape up the glass! It’s pretty important ;)
  • Don’t forget to tape up the end of the muzzle!

3.) Apply Base Coat

  • It’s always best to start with your lightest color, so the darker colors can go over top and visually pop. We went tan in this case.

  • Get Creative! For this gun, we wrapped it randomly in paracord for a striped finish. You can cover the gun in anything you want to break up the lines of the gun.
    (For example: leaves, mesh laundry bag, random bits of painters tape, etc.)

  • Keep the rattle can about a foot away from the gun, and paint in shorter bursts rather than one long stream. It’s better to do multiple thin layers than one thick layer all at once.
  • Don’t forget to use a nice base to hold the rifle while painting. These PMAGS with the MagPod base plate are excellent for holding a gun without having anything touching areas where you would otherwise want to put paint. Mossberg came in clutch making Bolt Guns that can accept AR mags!
  • Lastly, NEVER paint your scope unmounted, outside of the rings. Paint adds thickness to your scope’s tube, which is precisely machined to a very tight tolerance in diameter. Your rings will not be able to properly grip your scope if that dimension is altered.

Processed with Snapseed.

4.) Start Layering

  • Dark colors come next – We followed up our tan with a little OD Green and this reddish-brown color from Rustoleum. Never used that one before, but it came out OK!

  • This was also the point where we covered the gun in an old mesh laundry bag. This is what helps give painted guns that “Snake Skin” look.
  • We like to do our darker colors in big, thick “Tiger Stripes” so they stand out, but also give plenty of room for the lighter base color to show through as well.

5.) Examine your work

  • In this case, we took off the laundry bag to see the rifle more clearly so we could see if we wanted to change anything. We did this about two or three times until the paint and pattern were just right.


Processed with Snapseed.

6.) Finishing Touches!

  • Watch your creativity come to life as you remove all the paracord, leaves, mesh laundry bags, painters tape (Unless you are clear-coating! See Below), or anything else you used to get yourself a pattern.
  • It’s best to remove all your coverings before the paint has completely cured. At this point, it is still soft and malleable. Once it cures, it is much more hard and brittle with a greater chance to chip and crack where you remove anything.

7.) Clear-coat or No?

  • If you remove your coverings and decide “I did awesome! I want to keep this paint job forever” it is a good idea to spend a couple extra bucks and get some **Matte Finish** Clear-coat. This will help seal in your new paint job and prevent it from chipping/wearing away over time. Get the Matte Finish stuff, especially if you just did camo, or you’ll have a great camo rifle that is extremely shiny… Ask us how we know…
  • If you don’t like your paint job, intend to change it in the future, or just don’t really care if your new paint job gets worn away, you can just leave it here and let it cure for 24-48 hours!

8.) Showoff to Friends

Everyone else with their boring, plain guns will be so jealous ;)

Here is the finished product. Our rattle canned Mossberg MVP Flex in .223. Ready to go blast some varmints!

Processed with Snapseed.

What paint jobs have you done on your rifles? Send us some pictures! We’d love to see them!

18 thoughts on “The Vortex How To: The $25(ish) Paint Job

    Jimmy said:
    October 20, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Looks good i to have painted my remington,browning boss & shot gun.Awesome. job.


    Scott V said:
    October 20, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Looks good
    If you want to practice you can use an old stock. I practiced on a mil-surplus stock a few times to test out pattern ideas.


    Brian Rudolph said:
    October 20, 2016 at 7:15 am

    I did mine pretty much the same way with same products last winter. It turned out amazing. I’ll try to get a pic to you guys. Does involve a Viper scope too.


    Charlie Jewell said:
    October 20, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Awesome!!! I’ll be doing this with my AR-15!!!


    IRA DUNCAN said:
    October 20, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Good write up! There’s a few types of pine needles that will also allow for a good pattern. The last paint work I did I used the pine “brush” that look similar to bristles on a broom. They’re much thinner though and if you have one in your front yard, you can pick off a whole branch and use it like a stencil.

    Thank you Vortex for showing new ideas off. God bless you guys.


    Adam Reever said:
    October 20, 2016 at 9:17 am

    What is the denatured alcohol used for. To clean and prep the gun for paint?


    Mike said:
    October 20, 2016 at 9:35 am

    If I paint my Vortex scope will it void the warranty?


      vortexoptics said:
      October 21, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Painting your scope will NOT void your VIP Warranty. Thank you for choosing Vortex!

      Liked by 1 person

    Ted said:
    October 20, 2016 at 11:25 am

    I’m impressed with both the results and the fact that an optics company readily encourages users to paint their scopes (with obvious precautions). I think that is awesome!


    Adam Reever said:
    October 20, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    What is the denatured alcohol for. Cleaning pieces before paint?


      Jeremy Cusick said:
      October 21, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Yes. On steel parts, you can also degrease with acetone, but do NOT use on anything plastic.


    Jeremy Cusick said:
    October 21, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Instead of taping over the muzzle, stick an earplug into the end of the barrel.That way, you not only keep paint out of the bore, you’re also able to paint the end of the barrel. That black circle will stick out in a SHTF situation.
    Also, when taping the scope lenses, I covered the lenses with clean cotton balls before I put the tape on.
    One more thing: Don’t forget to paint the inside of the little doors on scope caps (Such as Butler creek), and if you have an anti flash device for your objective lens, use a slightly lighter shade of color to offset the shadow from the lack of light behind it (same color on the honeycomb will appear darker when mounted to your scope).
    I ended up using aluma-hyde II from brownells. It’s not as tough as ceracoat or guncoat, but much tougher than krylon or rustoleum. You could even use the Alumahyde for your base coat, then use krylon for your pattern, which would allow you to remove the krylon, but leave the basecoat for a pattern change.

    The options are endless.


    Philip Osborn said:
    October 21, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Is the Rust-Oleum Camo pint heat resistant enough to use on a barrel or muzzle device?


    […] a side note – if you like this paint job, check out our last newsletter article!  Our very own Jimmy H rattle canned this rig for about […]


    […] that camo look? One of the Vortex staffers performed a spray can overhaul on this optic. Image credit: Vortex […]


    Tom said:
    December 5, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Looks good, you’re giving me all kinds of ideas, thanks.


    Dave said:
    May 21, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    How easy is it to remove paint on an AR? My only concern spraypainting my gun is that it’ll be a permanent change (not necessarily the color, but that it’ll never be able to return to “stock black”).


      vortexoptics said:
      May 22, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Hey Dave! Thanks for reaching out! I would find the paint you want, and check the instructions, they will most likely have “How to Get off” instructions.
      – Kelly,


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