Introduction: Turn a Cheapo Airsoft Gun Into One That Won't Get Laughed Off the Field.

Picture of Turn a Cheapo Airsoft Gun Into One That Won't Get Laughed Off the Field.

There are some powerful airsoft rifles out there for very little cash. Particularly spring powered sniper rifles and shotguns with great internals, who's only draw back is that they just plain don't look real enough for a serious airsoft game.
Here's how I turned my $160 UTG L96 into a nice piece of eye candy.
It's not terribly hard to do if you have any kind of DIY attitude, but I'll lay it all out there and hopefully it will make you think twice about passing up some of those plasticy looking guns.

DISCLAIMER!
Last time I played airsoft in my local, orange tips were not nessicery.
Check your local laws regarding replica firearms.
I make things look pretty, I'm not responsible for what you do with them after.

Step 1: What You'll Need.

Picture of What You'll Need.

First you need a lousy looking airsoft gun.
My choice was the UTG K96 which is an imitation of the L96 commonly known as the AWP in counterstrike.
There's another brand that makes one almost just like this. Can't vouch for the internals though.

Pros of this weapon.
-Price point. $160 with a firearms grade scope.
-Powerful. 460 FPS, borderline too powerful for most fields.
-Primary weapon. All you need is a backup ready for close encounters.
-Spring powered. No batteries, no gas.
-Cheap mags. You don't need many for a game either.
-Realistic action. The real one works on the same concept. Cock and shoot for every shot.

Cons.
-Looks and feels like cheap plastic.
-Does not load like the real-steel.
-No dummy mag. The spot where the real mag-well would be is just closed up.

Tools and materials.
-Jewellers saw. Not needed, but sure makes some of those little cuts a lot easier.
-Dremmel with heavy duty cutting disks and sanding wheel.
-Callipers.
-Sandpaper. Prolly just 100, 220 and 400 grit.
-Epoxy putty.
-Precision hobby knife
-Exacto knife.
-Files. Either one half-round or a small set of varying sizes.
-Matte Finish. Duracoat and an applicator or a nice brand of matte spray paint.
-Dummy mag, in the caliber of the weapon you are imitating.
-The saw on my leatherman came in handy too. Gerbers sometimes have grit saws for PVC that would be awesome.

The real L96 is available in multiple calibers. Most common is 7.62x51 which is the same as the M14.
I was able to pick up a real-steel 5rd M14 mag for $20.
For a sniper rifle you want the 5rd because the longer ones will get in the way when you're laying flat on the ground with the bi-pod. It's unlikely that you'd ever see a real sniper rifle with a long mag.
You could use one of the cheapo plastic airsoft mags you buy in boxes too, just cut it to size and maybe duracoat it as well. But other airsoft mags are usually more expensive and more complex than the real steel. Best not to cut them up for something like this.

For paint, I used Duracoat. It's a real firearms finish. It goes on thick, it's an epoxy coat with some elasticity so it doesn't chip, no primer needed.
For colors I used tactical OD and black for the barrel.
You either need an airbrush set up in which case you will also need to buy the Duracoat thinner to clean your equipment because this stuff ain't water soluble.
Or you need a disposable applicator. The place I bought my Duracoat from was selling something like a can of duster gas for your computer with a glass bottle on the bottom.
It was about $17cdn per 4oz duracoat, $11 for the degreaser and $18 per disposable applicator.

You could use a spraypaint but you'll have to primer and probably touch up before long.

If you are buying a gun with this project in mind, for the cost of the materials, duracoat and applicators needed to do one gun, it might be worth puting the extra money towards a better quality rifle from the start.
But if you have one of these already and/or you have more than one gun to paint, this is easily worth the money.
If you have an airbrush it will also cut the cost.
If not you will need one applicator for each color of Duracoat, and you can't re-use it.
There's supposed to be enough gas in one to apply an entire 4oz bottle of coat, so to get the most out of it, round up everything you might want to paint, prep them all, mix the entire bottle and use it up.
You only get one shot, the paint will cure in the applicator after a while.

Our mistake was that we mixed the enitre bottle thinking we'd barely have enough to do what we wanted.
In fact we had more than enough to paint the L96, my P90's frame, 1911's frame, my friend's glock's frame and my flashlight.
After that we still had half a bottle left, though the guns could have used a few more coats, I would have liked to have done some of my knives and other outdoors equipment, we could have even done my friend's P90.

Here are some before shots.


Step 2: Measuring and Cutting the Mag Well.

Picture of Measuring and Cutting the Mag Well.

I would give some exact measurments for this, but I was eyeballing it. I could not find any exploded diagrams of the L96 online.

You need to figure out where on that flat area the mag-well is going to be.
With the callipers, measure and trace the outline of the mag.
On the M14 mag there is a little metal square that the mag catch would grab on to. Cut shape of this in to the plastic as well.

The thumb-grooves in the side are optional as I have seen a picture of a real L96 that did not have them so you could get away with not putting them in.
But if you want to go all the way, measure how far from the trigger guard they're gonna start.
I used a film can as a template for the diameter and the depth.
Pretty much just trace half of the film can on the side.
If you can find measurements for proper positioning, use'em.

Next, you gotta start cutting. Cut the mag-well first, save the thumb-grooves for later.
I used the dremmel with a cutting disk for this, then my leatherman saw for the more narrow spots.
It was kind of a pain using the dremmel because the plastic would melt and harden in a way that was not easy remove it.
Be mindfull of it, remove any excess material while it's still soft and give yourself plenty of margin for error. You can cut, file and sand it to the lines later.

I used my jeweller's saw to cut the thumb grooves. The plastic even melted on me here too, but the problem is that the blade would easily get surrounded by it as it hardened and get stuck. I kept breaking the blades. You could just use the sanding wheel on the dremmel here.

Once all this is cut, then file and sand it down to the lines.
The insides of the thumb grooves don't have to be smooth, the epoxy will bond better if it's rough, just shape it.
The dremel with the sanding wheel and even the side of the cutting disks work well for this. Sand it, carve with the precision knife. Anything to make it purdy.

Step 3: Fill'er'up!

Picture of Fill'er'up!

Keep in mind, I'm drinking as I write this. It's prolly gonna show as you progress through the steps.

So now we need to fill in the thumbgrooves.
I didn't use epoxy putty for mine. I didn't know it was available in stores here.
I used a DIY plastic($10) that melts in boiling water.
You're far better off using the putty that angry man advertises on TV for $30. I have since found it in a store, three tubes for $17.
You might be able to find something similar for sealing up aluminium boats at a marine supply store for about $11.

Whatever filler you use needs to blend seamlessly with the original material of the stock. Color is not important, just texture.

This will be really easy with epoxy putty. Just pack it in there, then use the film can to shape and smooth the inside.
Smear it along the edges with your fingers, you can sand out the prints later.
Make sure the putty isn't bulging out into the mag-well.
If there's too much material there it's going to separate the pieces of the body when you jam the mag in it and will expose the seam.

Using my DIY plastic was a pain. It stuck to everything and there was no way to mould it. It would get all stringy and you couldn't smooth it.
I pretty well had to wad it in there then cut out the excess later.
This added a few more steps for me.

Once the plastic cools or epoxy hardens, you'll need to sand it smooth where it will be exposed.
Again, I used the film can, this time as a sanding stick.
The objective here is going to be to have a surface as smooth as the rest of the body. If you're using the epoxy, you can work your way right down to 400 grit.

Since I still had a lot of little nooks and grooves from using that unwieldy plastic stuff, I had to fill them before I could sand.
It didn't fully bond with the plastic of the body so I had to re-apply a couple times.
It also doesn't bond to it's self very well.
To seal it up, I used a little tiny bit of left over epoxy putty I had for modeling gaming miniatures.
It's more expensive and you get less.
This stuff is a little more gooey than the regular epoxy putty, easy to work with your fingers and spreads like butter.
Holds fine detail really well.

Step 4: Sac the Mag!

Picture of Sac the Mag!

The survivalist in me regretted demolishing this mag on the off chance I may need to yank it out and use it in a real M14 in some upcoming cataclysm.
But I don't see myself owning a real M14 any time in the near future and if I do. I can spare the $20 for another mag.

There is a metal socket in the body of the rifle that the action fits in to. It prevents the mag from sticking in all the way without modification.
First I bent up the 'fingers' that hold the round follower-pusher-guide-thingy, removed it and the spring.
I used the heavy duty cutting wheels on the dremel to carve a chunk out of the back.
Again, eyeballed. If you can figure out how far the real mag sticks out of the gun, go'fer.

Make sure it sits the way you want it to. It should sit squarely, without wiggling. The bottom should follow the angle of the mag-well.

For added realism, you could attach a small metal tab to the back of the mag to imitate the mag-release.


Step 5: Painting and Finishing.

Picture of Painting and Finishing.

Right about now you're prolly freaking out.
You've hacked up a perfectly usable airsoft rifle and a real magazine, it's got this ugly kinda patchwork look to it now.
Don't worry, Duracoat covers all.
If you're spray painting, good luck. Make sure everyting is sanded smooth and evenly.

Remove the screws, cheek and shoulder rests, unscrew the barrel from the action.
Overall, disassemble the gun as much as possible.
Sand the entire body with 400 grit sandpaper.

Tape up the moving parts and plug the screw holes, hop-up adjustment and bore with masking tape.

You need to use a 'degreaser' often sold by the duracoat dealers.
I bought this big bottle of Firearms NST degreaser concentrate.
Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure I paid $11 for a pint of Mr. Clean. You should be able to use any degreaser that doesn't leave any residue behind.
'Degrease' the parts that will be duracoated.

Now mix and spray.
Can't offer many tips here. It was pretty easy to apply. Experienced airbrushers will know how to do it better than I did.
I think the disposable applicators did a beautiful job.
If you like, you can buy or make camo stencils and use multiple colors.

Just make sure you're working in optimal tempuratures.
Apply one coat, wait 5-10 minutes until that wet shine is gone and it looks dry, then add another coat.
They say it's best to make it something like a millimetre thick.
I didn't do that much, though I could have. I sure had plenty left over.
After a few coats you will be able to gage how much you're going to need to finish it, give a thorough check for thin spots that didn't get enough.

The instructions say 4oz will do two rifles or four pistols.
Like I said, I had a lot of paint left over, even though the P90 and L96 had a lot of body to cover.
You might use it all up on two rifles if you're putting a full 1mm coat of the same color over the entire rifle.
For airsoft, I don't think it needs to go on quite so thick, and if you're just painting the stocks or receivers, you could probably get away with coating four rifles per 4oz.

I was more careful about how much of the black I mixed. It was kind of a waste of that second disposable applicator for how little we painted, but I cut my losses and have some black left over for when I get my airbrush rig.

It's dry enough to touch in 20 minutes or so, but is still very easy to mark. After a day they say it's dry enough on a real gun that you can shoot it, so it should be ok for this. Once a day's past you'll feel that it's more durable.
Full curing time is a week I think?

The duracoat is the real star of this project. Matte spray paint will look ok, but it wears off and there is a texture to duracoat that gives it the feel of a real firearm.
Any plastic rifle will now look real. If you have a cheapy plastic M4 or clearsoft rifle, as far as looks go, it could very well be metal under that coating.
It will also protect real metal from dings and wear.

My buddy and I woke up the next day with horrible headaches because we attempted to apply this in a garage, in the cold, with a space heater. Wrong wrong and wrong.

The finishing touch is to lodge the mag in there. I plan on drilling some holes in to the plastic/epoxy and pinning it in there. Using liquid epoxy to secure the pins.

In the end, the cat will be intrigued and you'll have a sharp looking rifle for dirt cheap.
I think this particular model needs a better hop-up. But as is, it's a fine weapon. I have a 1911 with four mags for my backup, which also got a duracoating.

So that's my first instructable. Breath it in.
Hopefully a little more useful to the serious airsofter than those dime a dozen 'How to play airsoft' guides.

Once I make it out west and get my shop set back up, I hope to have some real, ground up, airsoft gun from scratch designs posted here.

************************UPDATE**********************
I have since properly fixed the dummy mag in the magwell.
I had intended on adding pins then epoxy glueing it, or packing epoxy putty around it. It turned out this was going to require much more cutting of the mag.
Instead I placed the mag in the rifle, traced along the exposed section of the mag, removed it, then scorred the area that sits inside the rifle with a tungston carbide knife sharpener, then packed the well with epoxy putty and pressed the mag inside.
With the action and barrel removed, you can look insie the stock and see the back end of the mag.
Having already drilled holed for the pins, I just packed putty into them and under the mag catch.
I would have prefered to pin it, but I don't think it's gonna come out of there.
*********************UPDATE THE 2ND********************
I finally got to use it in a proper game.
There was quite a bit of wear on spots. So I'd say, to get the full protective value out of the duracoat, go with the recommended 1mm thick layer of it.

Comments

ArianaAnora (author)2016-08-05

for the cat people talking about overeating bitey cats...
Give your cat a lot of real meat for their diet for a while. Look up a homemade *uncooked* or mostly uncooked meat diet for a cat. It'll really help with the overeating a lot. Your cat is trying to get enough protein and fat to stay health mixed in with all those carbs that are just the worst junkfood for a cat that they cant even digest, its as bad as feeding a person on 70% fiber... sure it fills for awhile, but you need real food to survive, so you look somewhere to get real food to make up the diet deficit - for a person a gourd just isn't gonna cut it, and that's basically how people feed their cats unless they're making their cat's food at home. You'll save him from thyroid issues too... but talk with a a vet who isn't anti homemade food to get the details, as I'm no vet. There's vet formulated diets online if you look, to get the questions rolling or for you to try if you want to.
Sorry to post here, but posting replies seems hopelessly broken.

Jai Burlingham (author)2014-04-16

Nice work! I don't think I could bring myself to do that on a £100+ rifle, but it would be good if I did at some point.

Shadowed.Ashes (author)2012-03-04

I think I just blew a blood vessel looking at that P90.

lancealotx21 (author)2010-11-18

I just painted my clear plastic shotgun black with accrylic paint... It looks great... I'll post some pics soon... I really like your guns!

mrdepo96 (author)2009-08-14

This wouldn't happen to be your cat would it?

RMConstruction (author)mrdepo962010-10-24

Tiny rifle or a huge cat? ZOMG we're all screwed by the he-uge kitteh!

Moonrabbit (author)mrdepo962009-08-14

My cat trained that one.

mrdepo96 (author)mrdepo962009-08-14

He seems to have stolen your weapon... Watch your back...

bobandthemonkey (author)2010-09-05

bring a cheap gun to a war shoot them while there laughing

Airsoft_ninja (author)2009-03-31

Oh, yeah almost forgot LOL, I like the Instructable. Very helpful, i used it to work on my smith & wesson shot gun (airsoft of course :0 ) please make more and if you have what are they?

Cats suk...

Thundertydus (author)Shredder5432010-01-23

dddecarmo (author)Shredder5432009-08-07

I have 3 cats. i love all of them... but one of them eats to much and bites me if i dont give her food...

Shredder543 (author)dddecarmo2009-08-07

That's kinda like mine... I have 2, and my cat Oliver always bites attacks everybody for no reason, and he overeats constantly!

Moonrabbit (author)Airsoft_ninja2009-08-07

I'm gathering parts to make myself what's probably going to be a single-shot, maybe a double barreled shotgun to start, with very inexpensive yet re-usable shells. Just so it's not the end of the world if one gets away from you. Unlike most gas or even spring shotguns. Also, it will hopefully have a fairly impressive spread. I'm just concerned about how efficient it's going to be on the gas. If I can find the parts I need. I should have some test-fires of the mechanism done in the next couple weeks, but my job's working me like a dog, so it'll be tough to squeeze this project into my spare time as I am also making a projector. But just to get your gears turning, look into using Co2 bicycle tire pumps. I've found some that can use any size of threaded or non threaded Co2 cartridge like the ones a BB gun uses. They will have everything you need to hold and puncture the powerlet, as well as a control valve. That's half of the airsoft gun right there. I was also looking into using the N2o powered whipped cream dispensers because they use a similar powerlet, so it should be easy enough to modify to take the 12g Co2 powerlets. But the bike pumps look like they're closer to what you'll need in the end so you may as well start with them.

my favorite gun double barrel mad max shotgun

Mine will be more functional. It should have at least a six pellet shot. I need to work out exactly how much power I need to launch X number of BBs. Also going to experiment with a refillable tank that can accept the propane adaptor. The whole thing will be more economical.

sound awsome

Zezjek (author)2009-07-16

where can you buy the modeling plastic?

Moonrabbit (author)Zezjek2009-07-16

I got mine from a Canadian outfit called Princess Auto in their Surplus section. Not exactly a reliable source for things like that. I'm not sure where else you'd go for it. Hobby and craft stores I imagine.

z-man6233 (author)Moonrabbit2009-10-15

Princess auto FTW!!!!!!!

Moonrabbit (author)z-man62332009-10-15

*highfive* It sucks though. There isn't a princess auto in the greaterVancouver area, which has effectively put the breaks on have of my wildschemes. I'd probably have my airsoft shotgun system made by now ifthere were.

Thundertydus (author)Moonrabbit2009-12-05

Where'd you get the Dura-spray spray paint? Sorry for the somewhat ovbious question. Could I just run down to Rona or Home Depot and find some there?

Moonrabbit (author)Thundertydus2009-12-05

My understanding is that it's 'The firearms coating' to use, so check with gun dealers.

I purchased mine from a Canadian outfit called fabports.ca but last I checked they didn't seem to be re-stocking their supply.
In the US I imagine you could get it from the main web site. www.duracoat-firearm-finishes.com/

I just hate having to pay duties and customs fees when I ship things across the border.
Suppose I could send it to my sister in the states if I need some more.

lotrsam11 (author)2009-02-05

Dude! nice cat! haha really

dddecarmo (author)lotrsam112009-08-07

I agree.

(seabear) (author)dddecarmo2009-08-18

KITTY KITTY!!

Moonrabbit (author)2009-06-28

Stay tuned! I'm getting settled in at my new home here in BC. I have a job now, so in the next couple pay cheques I plan on getting the materials for the mod on my M16, and possibly a home made shotgun. Not going to look like any shotguns that currently exist, but it should look like one that could possibly exist. Sort of a conceptual, tactical shotgun.

firebird11692 (author)2009-06-28

that is one sexy gun.

bowmaster (author)2009-06-22

Looked like a cheap plastic piece of s**t when you started, now it looks decent!! I really like the P-90 btw.

Theodotious (author)2009-05-19

Does this work with CO2 powered airsoft pistols? That's what I'm best with.

Moonrabbit (author)Theodotious2009-05-21

As far as the paint goes, there's no reason it shouldn't. The important thing is that the surface be porus enough for it to bond, but worse case scenareo is you go over it with 400 grit sandpaper. Also you take it apart and protect any surfaces that need to move freely against other parts. Say, if you were to put a whole milimeter worth of duracoat on the underside of the slide, it wouldn't fit back on to the frame properly.

Shredder543 (author)2009-05-11

(Comment removed by bribe of milk and cookies)

finnster (author)2009-03-07

Your other guns are just as cool, I see you like long range and CQB. Where do you airsoft? Anywhere in MI? ~F!nnster

Shredder543 (author)finnster2009-05-11

HEY YOU COPIED MY ICON!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol Jk it's different but similar

Moonrabbit (author)finnster2009-03-08

Thanks! I'm in Canada. I haven't seriously played for a long time. I'm about to move and hope there's more players and fields near where I'm going. The rifle and pistol are just my newest acquisitions for re-entering the sport. I have an M16 a1 which I am planning to modify. I'll have that posted here once I get it done.

Airsoft_ninja (author)2009-03-31

Love the cat I have 4 cats. Love 'em all. I have a German shepherd, great dog, I still love cats more, What's its name?

jmanjman (author)2009-03-11

man I hate cats (no offence). Dogs are real pimps.

aceLED (author)jmanjman2009-03-21

man dogs are awesome what are you talking about and i have both animals and i still think dogs are better

Moonrabbit (author)jmanjman2009-03-12

Seeing as we're already off topic. I will indulge you. Here are my thoughts on cats vs dogs. Neither see you as human, a dog sees you as a member of the pack, and a cat sees you as another cat. Dogs are pack animals, packs have leaders. You must either stay ontop of them at all times to prove you are the pack leader or else they will walk all over you as they attempt to become, or in their own minds see themselves as pack leader. As leader of the pack, you have a duty to show the dog where it fits in the pack, or else it will be vicious or very timid to overcompensate for it's insecurities. To do this you must constantly reassure and prove your dominance over this otherwise wild thing. They show you affection out of obedience. Having had to babysit my mother's pitbull for the last two weeks, and currently being surrounded by a pre-established pack of seven dogs(two of which are huskys), whom over the last two days since I have arrived have had to prove myself dominant over, when they previousely got away with a lot from their owners. I gotta say, it makes me feel pretty good about myself. If I had low self esteem, this would make me feel like a god. Thus you get insecure guys walking rottweilers. Whole lotta dog to take command of, makes ya feel like a big man. A cat on the other hand is not a pack animal. It does not need your constant reassurance. If it doesn't like you, it simply will not come near you. So when it does show affection, you know it is because the cat genuinely likes you. Not because it is attempting to appease you. It doesn't have a high maintenance personality, it is it's own cat with or without you as long as it's not abused. It makes me feel very good about myself that my cats want my attention. Not to say everybody who owns a dog is insecure about themselves. It's just a different type of animal all together, and I don't have the time to manage a pack, even if it only consists of the dog and me.

jmanjman (author)Moonrabbit2009-03-13

i know. I have two golden retreivers! But my sister has a cat and it sprays all over her house man!

vanhellsing (author)2009-03-01

Hi, The Duracoat that you used, are there many colours available? and What shade of green did you use?

Moonrabbit (author)vanhellsing2009-03-02

I used Tactical OD. The tactical variety has a particularly low reflective value.

kevin71127 (author)2009-02-17

the cat steals the show... i have a mane coon too

MacSuibhne (author)2009-02-16

Nice work man, I really like it! I'm not willing to cut my one up just yet though. I guess you're a fairly serious airsofter? If you wouldn't mind taking a look at my one and only Instructable and telling me what you think I would appreciate it. Keep up the good work.

Moonrabbit (author)MacSuibhne2009-02-16

I would consider myself serious save for the fact that I haven't played a formal game in four years. But I'm hardcore about the realism, or at the very least, looking really really cool. I see you're in Ireland. Not fully familiar with the gun laws there, I'm guessing it could be hard to find a real 7.62x51mm mag. If you do decide to bite the bullet/BB and do my mod, using one of those really cheapo plastic mid-cap mags you buy in boxes would make the project much easier. I could have done the whole thing with my leatherman. And if you can get the epoxy putty, this mod would be so simple, you could do everything but paint in a night. You don't need to do the barrel, I found it had a nice flat colour to it, I just wanted something more durable. But the body gives off a nasty shine as you can see in your picture, which is particularly harsh for a black rifle in a woodland setting. I say work yourself up to it. It really takes the gun from toy to prop quality replica. Thanks for the comment! And everybody go check out his instructable. It's awesome.

Katarukito (author)2009-02-05

upgrade inner barrel and sear box

Moonrabbit (author)Katarukito2009-02-06

We figured the barrel might be the cause of the innaccuracy. Any particular sear box you'd recommend? I don't know much about the internals myself. That's my buddy's field.

Katarukito (author)Moonrabbit2009-02-06

well a zero trigger would be nice but it costs nearly as much as the gun itself ( which i assume is a UTG type 96 ) so you should probably browse around for a metal sear box .

footer0 (author)2009-01-29

Hehe, My L96-A1 looks the same, It just cost me 1300$. I think it is the greatest gun that I have ever bought - I have the real version too. Believe it or not the real one was cheaper.

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Bio: I just moved to Vancouver and finally have a home with enough room for a proper workshop. I hope to post lots of stuff here ... More »
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