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GunSkins Affordable DIY Firearms Customization

GunSkins are a unique decal wrap that are easy to apply to give your guns a sleek look!

GunSkins Affordable DIY Firearms Customization
With the right tools and plenty of patience, shooters can safely and affordably customize their favorite firearms.

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What are GunSkins? That was my initial question when I heard about them for the first time. Simply put, GunSkins are vinyl wraps in a variety of prints designed for application to various firearms. However, they are so much more than that. GunSkins are 100 percent waterproof, can be tailored to fit any firearm and many accessories, are made in the USA, and carry a lifetime warranty, all at a very affordable price. As the popularity of firearms continues to increase, so does the desire of firearm owners to customize their firearms and make them their own. GunSkins offers gun owners this opportunity at a cost far lower than many other firearm coating options. Better yet, they are easily changed and can be applied with some common household tools. There is no long wait with a coating specialist to apply the skin. You can change the look of your firearm at will and tailor the finish to your current needs. With the flexibility that vinyl offers, GunSkins are available in packages specifically for the AR-15 and AK-47, as well as pistols, bolt-action rifles, and shotguns. They also offer skins for magazines, and if you have an application outside of those specifically listed, they offer sheets of vinyl skins for complete customization. Could GunSkins be the primary firearm coating and customization medium for the future? We’ll come back to that question later in this article.

GunSkins’ Backstory

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Gun Skins Decals

GunSkins were developed from the desire to create an economical firearm customization product. It needed to be able to withstand the rigors of being applied to a firearm but flexible enough to conform to the tight curves and unusual shapes seen on firearms. The solution to all these needs is high-performance vinyl. Very similar to the vinyl used to wrap vehicles, the high-performance vinyl GunSkins uses is extremely malleable and flexible, allowing the installer to work the vinyl into every tight corner and radius on almost any firearm. Once applied, it is waterproof and durable while also being stackable and easily removable. That last feature is a huge benefit that could be easy to overlook. Whether you’re a hunter who needs to tailor their firearm to blend into the environment, or — if you’re like me — you just like to change the finish on your firearm often. There are few — if any — other coating options that offer the same flexibility for such an affordable price.

GunSkins Installation

After hearing about GunSkins’ installation process, I knew I had to try it out on one of my pistols. I’m a fan of the Kryptek line of camo patterns, and as GunSkins is licensed to print those patterns, I decided on the Kryptek Typhon camo pattern for my Smith & Wesson M&P Pro Series pistol. When the package arrived, I was surprised at how well packaged the GunSkins are. Being vinyl, they are printed on sheets and packaged in a sleeve with a cutout to see the pattern. The packaging also includes some details on the product, a layout of the included pieces of vinyl, and QR codes that take you right to the many YouTube installation videos produced by GunSkins. I am not a pro at installing vinyl products on anything, so these videos were a critical tool in how to approach the installation.

Before installation, be sure to gather all the necessary tools: brake cleaner, a sharp hobby or X-Acto knife with replacement blades, and a heat source (either a torch or heat gun). Proper adhesion of the vinyl is all about the preparation of the firearm and ensuring that there is no oil or debris on the surface. To ensure this, I applied a liberal coating of brake cleaner to the pistol to ensure that the vinyl had a clean surface to stick to. Next, I sat down at my work bench and got myself ready to begin the installation. GunSkins estimates the total install should take about two hours. I should note that before I began, I watched the pistol install video a couple of times on YouTube, so I had an idea of what I needed to do then followed along with the video as I worked on my pistol. I started with the slide and made sure to start with a nice even placement on its side. Apply some heat to soften the material, and you can begin working it into the details on the slide. With some heat, the vinyl softens up nicely and is easy to work with. Working the vinyl over the top of the slide, I encountered my first obstacle: the sights. With some more heat, I stretched the vinyl over the sights, but be careful on this step because the vinyl can tear too. With some more patience and heat, I worked the vinyl over the rest of the slide, trimmed around the sights and ejection port, trimmed off any other excess, and was done. “Not too bad,” I thought, but you will definitely need patience just as GunSkins says in their videos.

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A reliable, constant heat source is required to form the vinyl skins to your gun.

The frame was next, and with substantially more features to work around, I knew it would be more challenging. I started on the side of the frame with the takedown lever, slide catch, and mag release. I can’t say enough how much patience plays a role in the quality of the vinyl application. It took several tries to work around the features on the frame. Taking your time and applying heat is crucial. The other key is to always ensure that you have a sharp blade. This is discussed in the videos, and I can confirm that the vinyl is much harder on the knife blades than I expected. Change them often so you’ll get much better cuts. As I worked around the frame, I didn’t encounter too many issues until I came around the back of the grip. One of the things I do not like about working with the vinyl is trying to line up the pattern on the back of the grip where the second frame piece will meet up with it. I’m sure that as you learn and do more applications with the vinyl, this process will become easier. I was not a fan of having the vinyl on my pistol grip, because it was too smooth for me. That was an easy fix though, as I cut around the palm swell on my M&P grip to take advantage of the factory rubber grip in that area. That’s another great thing about the vinyl: Using a sharp blade, you can customize the skin in just about any way you want. Overall, I was impressed with the overall fit and finish for my first vinyl application. It wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t expect it to be for my first time, but I really think my pistol looks cool now. Besides, if I decide that I want to change it up in a year or two, all I need to do is peel it off and apply a different pattern.

The Future or Fad?

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With all the benefits I listed above, I’m sure many will wonder if everyone will move to GunSkins vinyl wraps in the future. I don’t think that will ever be the case. While I think GunSkins is a neat and innovative product that offers customers another option for customization, vinyl does have its limitations. No matter how durable the vinyl is, it will still never be able to compete with a baked on or sprayed on coating like Cerakote or Duracoat. Also, if you are a perfectionist with your firearm coating, then this product may not be for you either. I’m sure a professional vinyl installer can come close to the quality of a Cerakote or Duracoat application, but at the end of the day, there is a distinct difference between a chemical coating and the application of vinyl. With the flexibility of its applications in the firearm space, the low entry cost, and low risk if you have second thoughts on the finish, GunSkins offers you the ability to customize your firearm yourself. Maybe you’re a hunter that needs a camo finish for your hunting trip next weekend, or maybe you aren’t sure if you’d like the Kryptek Typhon camo finish on your pistol. GunSkins offers you a relatively quick, risk-free, low-cost alternative option to Cerakote or Duracoat. I can only see GunSkins’ market share grow as many new firearm owners look for a simple way to add their personal touch to their firearms. After my experience with GunSkins, I am eager to try my hand at my next application with my AR-15 in the future.

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