Painting a Pulse Rifle


Here's a great Tutorial on how to paint a Pulse Rifle from Spellbinder. Special thanks to him for letting us use it here.

Painting a Pulse Rifle

Now that several of you are getting into building your replica Pulse rifles, both from scratch and from the various kits available, I thought it would be helpful to write down some notes on how to get the best from the painting phase. These are just my ideas that I have gleaned from many years of military modeling, and from study of the various parts that make up the Pulse Rifle. They are not necessarily the best way or the way you will choose to do the job, just take them as they are intended…. helpful hints.

For the purpose of this tutorial, we will assume that you are working with a kit that consists of multiple components such as Spat’s Spulse rifle. If you are painting basically a one piece P.R. such as that from Golden Armor then the painting is basically the same, just more masking of colors may be required.

In the case of a multi-part kit, it may be best to assemble the parts into subassemblies that can be easily painted and weathered without the need for complex masking.

The Shroud

Once the basic assembly and preparation is completed, ensuring that everything is firmly glued together, decide what the basic color scheme of YOUR P.R. is going to be. The only significant variation is in the color of the shroud area. The actual movie props like most of the U.S.C.M. equipment were painted in Humbrol enamel paint called Bess Brown. Despite the name the color was more akin to a green/brown shade similar to Olive Drab. The problem with Bess Brown is twofold:

1. It is sometimes difficult to obtain in the United States

2. It has somewhat peculiar drying properties, especially when airbrushed.

If you are going to use Humbrol paints, the best advice I can give you is to seek out the proper Humbrol brand thinners. Though others may work, the results can sometimes be disastrous.

The second option is to paint the shroud in Olive Drab. A standard military color, it comes in a wide range of shades, from almost brown, to a dark green. Almost every model paint company lists their own version so it is pretty much up to you to decide which suits. As an example, the Tamiya Company has the color available in enamels and acrylics. They also have spray enamel cans in several different shades from new O.D., through to faded Olive Drab. One of these cans is enough to give 2-3 good coats to the shroud area. I use two cans on the shroud of my Relics Pulse Rifle.

The third option is black, as seen in the third film. The main thing to watch if painting in this scheme is to ensure that the rest of the P.R. components are painted to visually separate them from each other. That is where weathering comes in.

First obtain a spray can of automotive spray putty and give the shroud area a smooth coat. This should fill any remaining pinholes and indicate whether any further heavy filling is needed. Rub down the coat with fairly fine wet-and-dry then apply another spray filler coat. The aim is to achieve a surface similar to smooth plastic or metal before applying the color coat.

Once you are happy with that spray on your first color coat. If you get good smooth coverage with the first or second coat, then stop there. Spray paints can usually be obtained in matte, satin or gloss varieties. Gloss tends to look too artificial and toy like and matte tends to show marks every time it is handled. For personal preference I use satin or semi-gloss paints. If they dry too dull for your liking then try polishing the final paint coat with a soft cloth or some crème auto polish.

The shroud features large, flat areas that in general would only show damage if something struck them. Most wear would appear along the edges of the shroud, due to rubbing on the marines clothing as he carries it, or due to the P.R. being placed down. Bearing in mind that the shrouds on the screen used rifles were aluminum rather than plastic, any weathering or attempt to simulate this should be determined by whether you want a factory fresh P.R, or a battle worn one. Factory fresh is simple and looks good but a well-weathered weapon will lend that much desired Con street-cred!

You are attempting to simulate wear, rather than out and out damage, so you want to simulate the paint being worn off by years of usage. This wear will only occur on points of contact, such as along the sharper edges and corners of the shroud. It is best to have the rifle mostly assembled to do this. Hold the weapon as you would as if you were on patrol, weapon at ready across your body. Support the grenade launcher with one hand and hold the pistol grip with your other. Look down and see where your clothes and body touch the weapon. That is where the paint and surface of the metal will be most worn. Take note, as that is where you will weather the most.

For the next step you will need a can of silver enamel paint, a fairly stiff 1 inch brush and some scrap cardboard. Old packing boxes will be fine. Dip the brush in the silver paint without getting too much on it, then vigorously scrub the brush on the cardboard until there is almost no paint left on it. Then flick the brush across the edges of the shroud at right angles to the edge, so that a small amount of silver is deposited. Concentrate on the areas of wear that you established before, building up as you go. The desired effect is not to paint the edge silver, but rather to simulate the illusion of the green paint wearing off, leaving the bare metal behind. A simple rule is when it looks like it is too little, it is usually just right!

The Thompson

Most replicas’ I have seen that do not feature real Thompson SMG parts seem to tend to paint this area straight flat black. Bearing in mind that the real parts were metal, I would tend to favor a satin metallic black as looking more suitable. The slot where the cocking handle slides and the bolt itself are a brighter metallic color, better represented by a dull to shiny silver. The selector switches and magazine release catch are again a similar color, but darkening them down with some straight black added will tend to lift them out and highlight the detail.

To accentuate molded detail such as the serial numbers and the safe/arm writing, a wash of very thin black paint is useful. If you have painted your components in enamel, then try using acrylic paint for this as you can then remove any excess with acrylic thinners if you add too much or make a mistake. Take a small amount of black acrylic paint and mix it with a lot of thinners. I generally find that a medium sized modeling brush loaded with paint rinsed out in about a film canister full of thinners gives the desired density. It should look black but be the thickness of watery ink when you place it on the painted surface. Using the same brush, dip it in the black wash and apply it to the edges of the bolt cutout, around the cocking knob slot and around the trigger and selector switch writing. Then take a paper towel and wipe off as much as possible. The underlying paint will not be damaged and the wash will have settled into the edges and detail areas, lifting them out. Then taking our silver dry brush, apply a subtle amount to the trigger and surround, the edges of the selectors and knobs.

The Thompson is pretty much submerged in the shroud, so wear will only be apparent on items that are regularly handled. The ribbed surface of the magazine release catch would be a graphic example of this.

The SPAS cage and pump Grip

The genuine pump grip is made of a molded phenolic style plastic that has a fairly matte, rough cast finish to it. If you are cutting down a real one, then obviously there is no need to worry about painting it. If you are working with a resin cast item or one of Golden Armor's fiberglass pumps, then you must paint them. For this I would choose a satin black finish, primarily because a true matte black would mark from use and handling. A primer will help to identify any spots needing filling followed by several coats of satin black, rubbing down in between. What this will do is buff up the flat surfaces while leaving a slightly rougher paint finish in the grooves. The thing to remember is that we are trying to impart a finish to the black parts that will make them look less like one large black blob....

The SPAS hand cage that I received from S.D. Studios has a gray-green finish that actually suits the look of the gun. However, to match the screen used look of the P.R. it as well requires some sort of refinishing. Black is the natural choice, but again I would aim to achieve a slightly different tone of black...........

At this point you are probably all looking at me like I am crazy and saying "But black is black!". True, but it is amazing how a slightly more or less gloss finish can alter the look and make the parts stand out from each other. Adding a small amount of white to the black so you end up with a very dark slate gray is another option. Even small tonal variations can do a lot for the look.

Your options for weathering the cage again vary according to whether you are painting metal or resin. If it is a solid resin hand cage as in Spat's, Golden Armors, Gary's stunt version or some of the older resin kits then some way needs to be found to emphasize the holes. I personally would paint them in a dead flat black and lighten the rest of the cage so they show up more. A light dry brushing with silver to accent the hole edges will complete the look. Heavier dry brushing along the length of the pump groove and around the ejection port and loading port will create the impression of use. How much you do is a personal choice, but it is dependent on how heavily used you want your P.R. to be. A metal SPAS cage is easier, in that your options are primarily about what type of finish you use. Weathering can consist of rubbing down the wear areas with wet-and-dry paper to expose the bare metal. Try to avoid making it look like it has been thrown across a concrete floor...

The options of how to finish the metal parts of the Pulse Rifle are actually more varied than straight paint. If made of steel, the option is there to restore the original "blued" finish that will be both authentic and hard wearing. Parts such as Gary Weavers steel stock 10 hole barrel vent, S.D. Studios steel stock, the original SPAS hand cage and any original Thompson parts are more than suitable for this.

I have to admit that I knew little about the process of gun blueing, but upon consulting with a colleague he outlined the basics to me. The process entails immersing the parts in a solution that stains the surface of the metal. This can be a hot or cold process, but my friend reports very good results with cold gun blueing kits intended for home use. The darkness of the color achieved is dependent on how many times you repeat the process, but apparently once done it is very convincing and resistant to damage. The parts must be fully prepared, all cutting, filing and preparation must be complete and they must be CLEAN! Finding a facility that can do ultrasonic cleaning is a good step, to ensure all greases and oils are removed He could not confirm whether this process can be used on aluminum as the process effectively acts by putting a thin layer of oxide on the surface that is then converted to an inert coating.

Aluminum parts and steel parts alike can be powder coated, which is a process of electrostatically coating the parts with a powder that is the baked in an oven to form a tough outer coating. You will often see this used on performance car parts. The finish achieved is most often semi-gloss, but to me it has some drawbacks. It does tend to form a coating of noticeable thickness, so it tends to blur or soften fine detail.

Not a problem on the stock, barrel vent or SPAS cage, but might not look the best on some of the engraving on the Thompson. It also is a real bear to remove and does not hold an overcoat of paint really well. Thus if you change your mind about the look it makes, then you may be stuck. As an example, the clearance between the 10mm barrel and the barrel support loop can be tight, depending on what loop and barrel you are using. As powdercoating gets to all surfaces, due to the particles being electrostatically attracted to the metal, the resultant coat of powder on the inner surface of the support loop may be enough to interfere with the fit.