Posted : Sunday Jun 6, 2010
The Army has OK’d painting your weapon; now it’s time to learn how to do it right.
As might be reasonably expected, the Army has produced a primer on painting M4 carbines and M16 rifles in the war zone.
Approval to paint came in March, soon after the switch to the MultiCam camouflage pattern for Afghanistan. It took several weeks for the rules to be issued.
Col. Doug Tamilio, the head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, said the Army reversed the ban on painting weapons in part because “the soldiers, of course, are doing it anyway.”
“Traditionally, painting weapons has been prohibited because of the risk painting could pose to the operation of the weapon,” Tamilio told Army Times on May 27.
Guidance on the proper way to spray camouflage paint on their rifles, providing much-needed concealment without inhibiting the weapon’s performance, was published in a message from the Army. The message was followed by a “cheat sheet” prepared by Tamilio’s group, complete with photos and suggestions of the most efficient — and effective — way to paint the rifle.
The Army has acknowledged for years that black stands out on a battlefield because it rarely occurs in nature, except in shadows, and is among the easiest colors to see in movement. That fact renders even the best camo relatively ineffective if a black weapon is visible; neither the Universal Camouflage Pattern nor MultiCam has black in the pattern.
The advice comes from TACOM Life Cycle Management Command in the form of Maintenance Information Message 10-040, which acknowledges that black is highly reflective through infrared viewing devices and “provides a high degree of visual contrast when carried by camouflaged ... war-fighters.”
“Warfighters must be able to conduct tactical operations while reducing/limiting detection by the threat,” the message reads. “Camouflage paints provide for reduced visual detection and enhanced war-fighter survivability via neutral, non-reflective, and predominantly non-black colors.”
Of course, none of this was lost on soldiers, who have been painting their weapons since the outset of the war, despite an Army policy that had prohibited the practice.
“However, the new TACOM instructions provide specific guidance that truly protects the functionality of the weapon system, which in turn protects the soldier,” Tamilio said.
The instructions are not a blanket authorization for soldiers to paint their weapons. Rather, individual commanders must approve the painting.
“The new policy gives commanders in the field options in deciding how to address war fighter needs to limit detection by enemy forces,” Tamilio said.
Program Executive Office Soldier issued a mid-May advisory outlining TACOM’s instructions on painting and giving soldiers tips on how to effectively conceal their weapon.
“Remember, ‘pretty’ is not the objective of good camouflage,” it reads. “The goal is to break up the visual signature of the weapon system by blending your weapon in with your environment and uniform.”
The regulations will not eliminate all black on the weapon. To keep the weapon firing and accurate, certain components shouldn’t be painted. The safety selector, magazine release, magazine catch, trigger and forward assist are all off-limits.
Additionally, TACOM said not to paint the barrel and front sight assembly because the heat from multiple discharges will burn the paint off anyway.
Officials are giving soldiers a good deal of creative freedom over how they wish to paint their weapon, a practice PEO Soldier said it expects will “soon be elevated to a fine art.” But soldiers are reminded to pick colors best suited to blend with the terrain where they are operating.
No matter how pretty a weapon looks, it is more important that it work, officials say.
“The bottom line ... is that it’s more important that a weapon be functional than invisible,” the advisory reads.