Camo-dipped shotguns and rifles—from either the factory or after-market—are popular with hunters. Camo-colored guns are practical when you need to stay hidden. However, graphics on any gun goes beyond just the practical. If you want a more eye-catching and customized gun in a sea of black, hydroprinting or hydrographics is for you.
Using a specialized adherent pattern film, you can now have your gun and accessories dipped in a wide array of patterns—from animal prints to solid colors to metal looking and carbon fiber finishes. Cheaper Than Dirt! explains the process in “Hydrographics—Camouflage From Your Bathtub?” The way the blog post describes the process makes it sound fairly simple: you put the film in some water, spray it with an activator, dunk your gun in it, and then add a clear coat. However, if you want your gun to actually look good decorated in hydrographics, it is better to go with a professional who knows what he is doing.
If you have never seen a hydroprinted gun or accessory in person, the best word I can use to describe it—and it is truly for lack of a better word—is cool. Like, seriously cool. The finish on the Ruger 10/22 is slightly glossy with a little sheen—Mark’s semi-gloss finish. He also offers a full gloss finish.
The flawless and seamless finish from the metal to the plastic amazes me. You don’t have to go with one solid pattern either. Mix and match your colors and patterns as much as your little heart desires. Want a gold-finished stock with traditional black and brown leopard print, but with a pink carbon fiber magazine? Mark can do it.
An experienced machinist by trade, Mark started experimenting with hydrographics. He quickly realized he had a knack for perfecting the technique, and a high demand for his services. Currently, he only accepts local Dallas/Fort Worth jobs, but in the near future, he will obtain his FFL and take out-of-state guns for dipping.
In my conversation with Mark, I learned that dipping isn’t for the amateur. It takes patience, precision and a lot of time. Not to mention, plenty of practice so you don’t screw it up. The process is reversible, however difficult and meticulous. Even though you can purchase a $100 do-it-yourself kit, multi-camming your Colt in the bathtub is a bad idea.
Mark says the more time you spend in prep work, the better outcome you will have. Paying attention to every detail, he spends a great amount of time filling in the imperfections in a gun’s stock. Machine marks, scuffs and pits cause problems with the dipping process. Without handling those parts first, your pattern will not lay smooth or stick right. That extra special attention to detail is what sets Mark apart.
Due to his professional shop background, Mark has built his own dipping tub from a shallow stainless steel vat. He added a heating element, because the water must stay between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with those two items, he added an air compressor, hose and air filtration system taking great care into his dipping process. A set-up of this sort would cost an individual $10,000. Mark tells me, “If you do it yourself, you won’t get the shop quality.”
Mark also tells me a few secrets the do-it-yourself kits will not. The dipping process requires you to paint. It is not as simple as getting the film to adhere to the gun. It is a multi-step process.
Mark has a set price list on his website, liquid-image.net, but also does custom work. Right now, he is working on dipping a young woman’s first hunting rifle in pink camo with her name airbrushed on the stock.
Due to his gunsmithing background, you can feel confident that every piece of your gun will have a flawless finish. Mark knows how to break down and reassemble any gun you throw at him. He already has an extremely large gun safe, as your gun’s security is one of his top concerns.
The finished product is much like a new car, as Mark uses the same type of topcoat on his dipping process. It is tough and durable, as long as you take care of it. Don’t use any harsh cleaners or chemicals on your dipped gun. Simply wipe it with a mild cleaner and use carnauba wax on the larger pieces.
If you live in DFW, are close by or just traveling through, I recommend giving Mark a shout. If you don’t have time for a full dip on your rifle or pistol, he also does magazines, cell phone covers, desk accessories, motorcycle helmets, and hard hats; Mark has even dipped a toilet seat. For hunters, Mark dips your trophy skulls. He will mask the antlers and camo the skull. He has also done a boar skull, if that’s your thing.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, or have a gun that is totally you, professionally dipped hydrographics is an affordable and smart way to go. With hydrographics, you get a gun that’s truly your own. You can contact Mark through his website.
Do you have a dipped gun? If so, what design did you go with? If not, what is the craziest, coolest custom way you would have yours dipped? Tell us in the comment section.