Black coffee, black rifles. But if our objective is to blend in with our terrain, black blends in with exactly nothing aside from, black. Black is only found in one instance naturally- when things are burned. Our eyes are naturally drawn to it, just as we are with bright red, as a warning signal from our amygdala. Black also creates a well-defined silhouette that’s easily recognizable- something that’s bad if our objective is hiding in the bush and taking shots only on our terms. And since camouflaging relies on masking shape, killing shine, and reducing silhouette, black is an instant no-go.
One of the demonstrations I put on for the students in the Scout Course is placing one of my rifles against a tree in the foreground and having them turn around taking one step forward until they find it. It usually takes a bit, but its a great demonstration of how to effectively camoflage your equipment to avoid detection. And a big part of that is knowing how we see and how to manipulate colors to pick up shadows. Its easier to do than you think.
I’m not a fan of duracoat or ceracoat. Wait, what? But how am I gonna be ultra-Gucci if all my gucciflage don’t match? Both of those coatings are shiny. While they look cool and the duracoat evangelists tell me it lasts forever (it doesn’t), a shiny finish on a weapon is a dead giveaway. For a weapon I intend to do business with, Krylon is the way to go. Cheap, disposable, and not shiny. Bowflage works fine too, and as long as you’re using the muted camo colors any brand of spray paint works. Yeah, its going to wear off with use. That’s a good thing- it makes the pattern more natural.
I only use two basic colors, light tan and a darker green for woodland environments, or dark brown for desert. Dark brown works fine in the woodland too, but green picks up the ambient colors in spring, summer and fall around here a little bit better. When we are camouflaging ourselves and our equipment the rule of thumb is to go from light colors to dark. We want to introduce shadow while melting the outlines, and light colors do this far better than dark. I use that light tan as a base coat, let it set for a couple hours, lay a mesh netting over it, then spray on the darker colors in alternating diagonal stripes and distances away from the weapon. This eliminates any clearly defined lines and gives the pattern a ‘snakeskin’ look.
Once we’re done with the overcoat, take it into the woods for a practical exercise. Lay your weapon against a tree and walk back inside and grab a beer. Take a few slow sips and think about anything else but where you left your weapon. After a few minutes walk back outside and stare in the direction of your weapon with your eyes unfocused- make sure there’s none of those three things we highlighted in the beginning. Next we need a second opinion…get someone else to try to pick it out of the terrain. If they have a hard time, you did it right.
The whole idea is to create a base for later layers of camo, whether that’s tying netting or strips of burlap to the handguard to further mask the outline during movement or to lay a mesh veil and vegetation over it once you get into your final firing position. As long as you follow this very basic guideline, you won’t do it wrong. Don’t be scared to get a little dirt on it, and most of all, get out and get some training.