Gary transforms a rusty BSA Ultra, and plays hide and seek with a friend
Whilst chatting over some very nice real ale, a good friend of mine and fellow shooter ‘CJ’ Foran, known to many shooters in Facebookland by his shooting blog title ‘617’, mentioned that a very tired and extremely rusty BSA Ultra multi-shot had been handed to him by an old friend, following the sad loss of her husband. As a result of her husband’s incapacity, the rifle had been sitting unloved and unused in a place that, through no fault of her own, wasn’t perhaps as dry as it should have been, and as a result, most of the exposed metal, and especially the blued areas had succumbed to the horrors of surface rusting. The woodwork though, aside from a few knocks and battle scars from previous hunting excursions, was essentially fine and, most importantly, the integrity of the air reservoir wasn’t affected.
AIR OF MYSTERY
It was clear that if this air rifle was to live again, it needed some serious attention. Not being one to miss an opportunity, I mentioned to CJ that I’d been wanting to paint a rifle for quite some time, and that if he were happy to lend it to me, I’d ‘do something’ to it. When asked by CJ to define what that something was, I have to admit that I was more than a little shifty, because truth be known, whilst I wanted to inject an air of mystery, at that point I didn’t really know myself what I had planned. CJ is a trusting sort of fellow so he placed the air rifle in my care, with only the promise of ‘a surprise’ with regard to the description of the end result to console him.
So, with the air rifle in my possession, I had somehow to stimulate the one or two dormant brain cells in the old noggin that are capable of artistic creativity. I dismissed thoughts of trying to restore the finish with aftermarket blueing products, or perhaps simply paint the whole thing black, or maybe create some kind of dodgy comedy dayglo zombie-themed gun, and settled down to more serious contemplation.
I knew that CJ liked to get out into the field, and that he was looking to use the gun for ratting, so it seemed natural then to create a camouflage effect of some kind, and after much deliberation, I alighted upon a sort of digital camo look.
I’m an MRI radiographer by trade, and as a result, I happen to know three things about the Stapes bone. Firstly, it is a bone of the inner ear; secondly, it is the smallest bone in the human body; and thirdly, it is where all of my artistic talent resides. Fortunately, though, my good wife, Marianne, is a classically trained artist, with a degree in fine art and art history, and although this isn’t exactly the Sistine chapel, her ability to visualise and create colour effects would, I hoped, come in extremely handy.
Once decided on a digital camo look, I then had to source the paint. Obviously, if this gun was to be used in the field I’d need it to reflect as little light as possible, so I’d need matte paint, and that pretty much ruled out the whole plethora of colours available at your local auto parts or DIY superstores. OK, so I could have simply ordered some Krylon paint on line, but I happen to be one of those old-fashioned types who believes in supporting local businesses.
Following a chat, and some good advice from my good friends, Jenna and Ash, at MASS (Military Airsoft Supplies and Surplus), of Grimsby, and £24 later, I found myself in possession of three cans of Fosco Army Industrial Paint. Now, this stuff is used a lot within the airsoft community, and as air rifles don’t generate heat in the same way that firearms do, it should be perfect for painting an air rifle. After much deliberation, I opted for Desert Tan (FDE), English Green, and Flecktarn Braun ¬– basically, a slightly reddish brown.
On my return trip from Grimsby, and with the rattle cans secured in the boot, my mind
“it was more important that the paint didn’t get into the mechanism”
turned to sourcing materials that I could use to create the geometric shapes I’d need to produce the look I wanted. I had in my mind a mix of zig-zags, circles and hexagons, but where would I find the materials to create this look? Well, as it happens, I’m the sort who tends not to throw stuff out. I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder as such, but you get the idea. I spent a few minutes rummaging around in the garage, and in the bottom of some least often explored drawers I found two old scrim scarves, a plastic mesh from around an old air bottle, and various hexagonal and circular metal cut-outs from back in my PC modding days.
On to the painting: Don’t go thinking I’m an expert here, or that my technique is anything remotely close to a ‘gold standard’, this is simply how I went about it, and yes, I’m sure there are probably better ways to do things. Anyway, I’m sure you all know that the first and most important stage in any paint job is preparation. I doubted that I would never get rid of the surface blemishes completely, but I set about the rifle with fine-grade sandpaper in an effort to bring back the finish as much as possible.
The stock would also be painted, so I gave it a very light rub over with fine-grade sandpaper to give it a key for the spray paint to stick to, and with this all done, and believe me it takes a lot less time to type it than it does to do it, it was time to mask off the areas I wanted to keep paint free. I appreciated that a few unpainted black areas might detract from the overall look, but felt it was more important that the paint didn’t get into the mechanism or the breech area, and so a few minutes with some strategically applied masking tape saw the rifle ready for spraying.
Although it seemed counterintuitive, I was informed by Marianne that the colour that you want to see the most of, should be the one that you apply first. For me, this was the light tan colour, so on it went. When using spray paint, the trick is to shake really well before use, and to keep the can moving so that you don’t get drips and runs – less really is more. Hanging the rifle from the washing line is also a good idea because it enables you to access all sides of the rifle without having to touch it to turn it over and risk ruining the paint job.
With the coat of Desert Tan applied, I then laid down a zig-zag pattern of the brown on both sides of the rifle, making sure to wrap it round from one side to the other. This zig-zag would be the guide pattern for the rest of the painting. Following this, I grabbed a cut-off section of the green scrim and stretched it irregularly over an area of the stock, then picked up the green paint and sprayed along the same zig-zag as the original brown pattern beneath, making sure to cover both sides of the rifle, and ensuring that the pattern
wrapped around, to flow continuously from one side to the other.
Having laid down the basic pattern, it was then just a matter of switching materials and paints to provide varying colours and patterns within the original zig-zag. If you do this on a reasonably warm day, and don’t lay the paint down too thickly, it dries almost instantly, which in my case meant that the entire painting job took less than 15 minutes. Once the paint was touch-dry, I chose to leave it overnight to cure completely and then, when fully dry, it was time to remove the masking tape carefully, and re-attach the rubber butt pad.
Paint has a habit of flaking off rubber, due to its elastic nature, so there was very little point in painting that. I have to say, I was pretty pleased with the result. Maybe a fourth colour would have looked a bit better, or should I perhaps have laid down the green first to give a more woodland appearance? Maybe, but then we all have 20/20 vision when it comes to hindsight. At the end of the day, I was pleased with the result.
WHERE IS IT?
The proof of the pudding, though, is in the eating. Would the efforts I had made to break up the lines of the rifle do their job? Would CJ be pleased with the result? I decided to put both these questions to the test at the same time and pray for a positive outcome. I propped the gun against an old tree trunk and invited CJ and his good lady, Dawn, around for an afternoon. After a few cups of tea, we went for a walk around the garden. I’d told CJ the rifle was out there somewhere, but he didn’t know where it was exactly. How close would he get before he spotted it?
Bear in mind that he was actively looking for it, as opposed to not being aware it was even there. Well, he got to within ten feet of it before his face lit up and he announced that he’d seen it. I have to admit I was more than a little nervous. Just because I liked the effect didn’t mean CJ would, and I had no way of knowing whether or not CJ would like it, so I deliberately left off the matte clear-coat finish that it would so desperately need if the paint job were to survive in the field. That way, should CJ choose to remove the paint, it would be a lot easier to do. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. My prayers were answered and CJ was delighted, because after being presented with his rifle, and I’d explained to him about the clear coat, one of CJ’s first questions was, “So where do I get clear coat from then?” Job done!
A few of the items I would use to create the effect I was after.
An initial light coat of Desert Tan, and the rifle is already looking worlds different.
Looking better already. The layers are starting to build up quite nicely.
The initial zig-zag patterns would provide the patterns for the rest of the paint effects.
As it’s a nice sunny day, why not work outside?
The stock would just need a light keying to enable the paint to get a grip.
There’s a whole host of paints available, just make sure you buy matte finish. Is rust infectious?
The BSA will enjoy a second life with its new owner, my good friend CJ ‘617’ Foran.
Hidden in plain sight; can you see the air rifle?