Why Pretty Guns Matter: The Case For Beautifying Your Firearms


The author, a proud pretty boy with a pretty gun.

Somewhere along the way, I feel like we all forgot that guns are suppose to be fun. Arguably, they should be fun first and foremost. Right?  If you ask me it’s like we all got lost in the tactical ninja forest, and we turn our noses up at anything that doesn’t come in coyote tan.

But let’s be honest, how much tactical-looking hardware do you need? I get having a no-fuss AR from home defense and a plain Jane Glock 19 for concealed carry (don’t want a jury to think you’ve been chomping at the bit to use deadly force). I’ll let that stuff slide. But not everything we own has to look like it came off the set of a Michael Bay movie.

One of the primary reasons I have 22s built in fun colors is for teaching new shooters and children. We can argue all we want about our right to open carry assault rifles in the supermarket or in a coffee shop, but sometimes it’s best to pick and choose our battles. Sometimes, we have to recognize that a scary black rifle may sour the interest of a new shooter.

A .22 is a perfect gun to beautify.

A .22 is the perfect gun to beautify.

Ultimately we are trying to win people over to our side of the gun divide, and beating them over the head with the Second Amendment isn’t always the best solution. Enter the cute and cuddly Ruger 10/22!

My 10/22 looks like it was designed by Care Bears. With a bright blue Tactical Solutions barrel and a blue Boyds laminate stock, it is so pretty you want to hug it. I have taught more than a few shooters from our less free Northeastern states to shoot on this puppy, and it worked a lot better than if I had brought the militia special. My 10/22 was also a lot less likely to rouse the suspicion of law enforcement than if I had brought my M&P 15-22, even though they fire the same round.

When it comes to teaching children firearm safety, it also helps to have some less-than-intimidating firearms around the house.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to send the message that guns are toys — they’re not, they’re deadly weapons (or “tools,” depending on your pedagogical approach to firearms safety) but at the same time we want to maximize the comfort and confidence for new shooters.  More often than not, a comfortable and confident shooter is a safe shooter.


That blue

Also, a fruity-colored firearm may not stress out the parents of the child you’re instructing much in the way an AK-47 might.  Our world has gotten very strange over the years between the preponderance of reactionary armchair QBs on social media and so-called “experts” at schools. If kids can be sent home for wearing an NRA t-shirt to school, you might not want to poke the bear depending on what region you live in. Texans may ignore that last sentence, and I’m jealous.

Let’s not leave out functionality. When I was getting a new rifle for competitions last year, they asked if I wanted a Kryptec paint job on it, something they had just started doing. Absolutely I did! And I wanted Yeti, the white snow-flage version. The dude taking my order looked at me like I was nuts, but I have my reasons.

So cool, even Frosty likes it.

So cool, even Frosty likes it.

Close up of the Kryptec paint job.

Close up of the Kryptec paint job.

First off, have you ever taken a look at the rifle racks at a 3-Gun match? 20 ARs in a rack, it’s hard to find yours, I don’t care if all 20 are a different brand. Not anymore. I have at the moment probably the only white AR on the circuit. I can spot it without even trying. It is awesome. What else? I carried a black rifle around in the desert for a long time. They get really hot in the sun. Just like staged rifles during the summer months. Not anymore. My Yeti gun stays noticeably cooler than my black guns did, I don’t think I will every buy another race gun that isn’t white or lightly colored.  Problem solved.

Does your truck match your truck?

Does your truck match your truck?

My last argument for pretty guns is that it is, as I mentioned earlier, just fun. Late last year, I was digging around in my tool box and realized that I had almost enough parts laying around to build an entire AR. Between competition “check in bags,” RO giveaways, and things I had won, I had a pile of components. Putting together a true Franken-rifle seemed like an awesome idea. This would be no race car made of all titanium matched parts, it’s closer to the old Johnny Cash “One Piece at a Time.” The one part I had that truly makes this AR look different was a recently won UBR stock from Magpul.

If you have never held a UBR stock in your hands, I would encourage you to do so. It is absolutely my favorite AR buttstock, and is also the most expensive one Magpul makes — unfortunately. It locks up like a bank vault, it feels really good in your hands, and it looks as cool as the day is long. It has a unique opening style for adjustment, just an all around awesome stock. And as cool as it already is, I had some more juice to add to it.

Black Palm Syndicate is a long time sponsor of mine for 3 Gun, and they had been toying with a dye that worked great on Magpul plastics. I had received some P-mags for testing, and the dye held up fantastic. I reached out to see if they wanted to customize the butt stock, which they readily agreed to do. Magpul, always supportive of the competitive shooting sports, very helpfully let me swap UBRs for an easier to modify color. And they tossed in a pistol grip on the house when I told them about the project.

Check out that buttstock.

Check out that buttstock.

It's enough to make your jaw drop.

It’s enough to make your jaw drop.

The color scheme was chosen to match the interior of my Raptor, and the way this rifle came out makes it the coolest truck gun I have ever had. Black Palm hit it out of the park on cosmetics, and the gun is surprisingly accurate considering it is literally made out of spare parts. What’s it made from exactly? Well, I’m glad AR-15s don’t have titles, that’s for sure. The upper receiver is a Nordic Components. The handguard is Barnes Precision Machine. Low profile gas block and enhanced trigger guard by Black Dawn Armory. The barrel is a Montana Rifleman, and bolt carrier is Larue Tactical. For sights, I have a set of Troy HK style folding backing up a Bushnell 1×6.5 on a Larue Mount.

Is this a pretty gun? Absolutely. Would I feel out of place with it if the zombies rose tomorrow? Absolutely not, my gun came with skulls on it.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • ExNuke October 27, 2016, 10:02 pm

    The saying is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I’m also an engineering type that has a few decent looking guns but none that many people would call “pretty”. The one that gets the most looks at the range is a Polytech M14 (M1A) with a scruffy Parkerized finish and Chinese mystery wood stock. Nothing tricked out on it, just bog standard with a military OD Green cotton sling. Just wish I could afford to feed it premium ammo more often. Even with my reloads it shoots a lot better than I do (sucks to have a strarnger out shoot you with your own gun.) ARs are okay, I bought one because Nancy Pelosi and company didn’t want me to have it, my vote against her BS. (also, when I do shoot it I like the 20 round Magpul magazines better than the 30’s, to me they handle better and they still piss off Repressives.

    The prettiest gun I’ve ever seen was years ago. A leather cased O/U 20 gauge with two sets of barrels and accessories. It was a true work of art “tastefully engraved and inlaid” and on and on. At the time it was only about 4 months pay and if I could have borrowed the money I would have it in the safe today, unfired.

  • Chris Baker October 26, 2016, 12:51 am

    After reading all the comments, including my own, it’s apparent that a lot of people have a lot of opinions about what it pretty and what isn’t. Variety is the spice of life. Do what YOU want but don’t be upset at what someone else is doing if it doesn’t hurt you.

  • Chris Baker October 26, 2016, 12:39 am

    I’m glad you like your guns and I’m glad you can afford “pretty” guns. I like them too but I can’t afford them. I have a 20 year old 10/22 that’s got the laminated stock and stainless barrel as that was the best I could afford back then. It’s got a 4X32 scope and I need that for my elderly eyes. I sure can’t afford to upgrade any of it. I can’t afford one of the fancy AR style guns either. The best I could do if I really wanted a .223 caliber is to get an Axis bolt action from Walmart. So don’t listen to the naysayers. Do whatever you want and can afford with your guns and I’ll keep reading and sometimes laughing.

  • Jared October 25, 2016, 7:26 pm

    Now we’re listening to gun advice from some creepy metrosexual with a backwards wrist holding a pink single-shot .22? Who’s telling us we should have “pretty guns”? Seriously?!

  • dGb October 22, 2016, 5:17 pm

    Don’t agree with all the ‘con’ arguments. I think this article makes a good point even if you don’t choose to use the advice- I think it can work for someone who does.
    Someone mentioned that they may ‘look too much like toys’ & could cause confusion. I teach kids, & others, to treat EVERY gun the same. Just because it is technically a “toy” doesn’t mean it’s OK to run around willy-nilly yanking the trigger with the muzzle pointed in any direction. The distinction can, and should, be made between a potentially lethal gun and a ‘toy’. But- I believe -the main distinction should focus on the projectile; or lack there of. If it is a Nerf dart gun all the same rules of firearms safety should still apply: even though the round isn’t going to hurt or kill your target. if it is a cap, or clicker, gun; still follow the rules but be aware that there it only makes noise. If a kid wants to play a game with toy guns with his friends; great. But teach them respect for the toy and make sure they know the distinction: ‘There are things you can do with this that you would NEVER do with a gun that can fire a dangerous projectile’ Just because it’s a ‘toy’ doesn’t mean you can be irresponsible with it

    • Chris Baker October 26, 2016, 12:43 am

      Make darned sure they know not to run around letting the muzzle point anywhere willy-nilly regardless of whether or not they even have their finger on the trigger!
      I remember a lesson I learned back around the time I was 12. I watched my dad unload his 22 rifle and a couple of seconds later, he shot the bookcase. Killed a national geographic.

  • Archangel October 22, 2016, 12:59 am

    Does your truck match your truck?
    This guy writes for a living?

  • Charlie October 21, 2016, 8:51 pm

    Pretty colored guns are often confused with toy guns .Guns that are painted like carnival exhibits in my observation are often taken less seriously by many people and most often children.

  • DonSchimpff October 21, 2016, 5:16 pm

    “Prettying up” any gun is “sinful” and it destroys any chance for it to grow in value the way original Colt SAAs and Winchester Lever guns have appreciated over the years. Read the section on Gun Values in most collector books .

    • David October 27, 2016, 4:30 pm

      Screw that! if you don’t want a pretty gun don’t do it. We don’t care about Gun value. We care about what we like. It may ruin the value to you but it makes it just what we may want.

  • Roady October 21, 2016, 4:14 pm

    I will have to Object-“Objection, your Honor.” “Overruled” “No, no. I STRENUOUSLY object.” “Oh. You strenuously object. Then I’ll take some time and reconsider.”
    I think you should have “taken some time and reconsidered.” It is foolish & dangerous to try to make firearms “pretty” to get people interested. If you make a weapon look like a toy, children, (especially big ones with hair on their ass), will treat them like toys.
    A weapon can be beautiful as many of the commenters ( Like Joseph & Dave) have expressed without unnatural colors. I also think the words “pretty” & “guns” should Never collide in the same sentence.
    The gun world is what it is, especially for those of us have actually used outhouses, dialed a telephone, watched black & white TV & probably learned to shoot with a revolver because autos were not carried by police.
    There are proprieties to be observed. You never pick up a weapon on display without asking permission.
    You don’t turn the cylinder without permission, & if you do, use the proper technique.
    You never flip the cylinder against the frame like A movie villain & ON & ON- I could write a book on firearm etiquette.

    You Gen XYZ, yada, yada, yada, need to get with the program. If you can’t make something better-leave it the hell alone!
    Blue jeans, a ‘T’ shirt, boots & a leather jacket will never go out of style. Like walnut & blue. If you don’t think so, pull your pants up over your underwear, pick up a weapon & walk a post. AND-I hope you can handle the truth.

    • Chris Baker October 26, 2016, 12:46 am

      You’re funny. LOL I remember all those things to and you are a clear example of the straight laced, old fashioned, it was better way back when folks, that don’t want anything new to come into the world.

  • Blueridge Fowler October 21, 2016, 9:50 am

    I like the subject…but you lost me at the Pretty Boy pose and comment.

    Not attractive at all, frankly. I would like to see another author or two take aim at this subject.

    • Kurt Eskildsen October 21, 2016, 2:57 pm

      I concur. That whole pose with the pink, child’s rifle was too much.

  • Joseph October 21, 2016, 9:32 am

    I clicked on this expecting actual pretty guns. I should have known better. Where are the blued steel and walnut stocks?

  • Dave October 21, 2016, 9:10 am

    You want to see real beautiful firearms ? Look no further than the old factory engraved Colts, Berettas, Astras or Savages. In addition to superb engraving some were also silver or gold plated. They knew that guns could be not only functional, but also works of art. Unlike the polymer atrocities pumped out of the injection molding machines of today. I won’t even mention the antique European arms that put even our “best” American examples to shame. In those days it wasn’t all about making a quick buck. It WAS about PRIDE, and demonstrating the skills of master craftsmen.

    • Hekk October 21, 2016, 1:11 pm

      You nailed it Dave. Speaking of pistols, the ergonomic and esthetic beauty of early Walthers, Mausers, Sauers, and other German pistols (and some rifles also) make today’s SQUARE-trigger guard, SHOEBOX-shaped guns UGLY, imho. Colt, Hi-Strandard, Ruger, and other target pistols do keep style in mind — a few exceptions do appear though as in the new Remington 51 semi-auto. Function is important, but form is secondary today — What used to look like a Corvette, is now a CUBE or SCION. Enough of the SQUARE-SLIDE UGLIES !

  • Sammy B October 21, 2016, 9:00 am

    I’m happy to see any new and interesting idea – that’s how things naturally evolve. Like the guns or not – Congrats to the author for a fresh and insightful viewpoint!

  • Paul T. October 21, 2016, 8:23 am

    To the author – have you read about the detergent “pods”, those which are small pre-measured amounts of detergent developed and sold for consumer use. As it turns out, small children are attracted to these things and try to eat them.
    Pretty things must be good and safe, right?

  • Jeffrey L. Frischkorn October 21, 2016, 8:07 am

    Life’s too short to hunt with an ugly gun. Or even go to the range with one.. Some guns have natural, built-in cool factor, of course.. My Broomhandle Mauser is in that group… It’s a range session stopper.. But so is my Crikett – yes, Crickett – .22 magnum single-shot/bolt-action pistol with a neat laminated stock.. I don’t know if that stock is a distributor special but, boy, it’s up there high on the cool factor wall… When a friend wanted to build for me my first, last and only custom rifle I could have it configured anyway I wanted.. So I had him build it with a butterknife-style bolt handle, deep and rich genuine walnut stock. Oh, and that stock is a Mannlicher style, too, with the wood going to the muzzle and a cute little nose cap at the end.. It even has a German silver, engraved oval plate back where the bolt would come to nick the stock had we not included the distinctive metal piece… And when it came time to buy a Ruger 10/22 I was not about to buy a plain-Jane version nor one of those absolutely servicable but still ugly synthetic models.. Here as well I ordered it with a laminated, Mannlicher stock…. Like I said, life’s too short to hunt with an ugly gun.

  • Dan Forbey October 21, 2016, 7:27 am

    Black guns are the pumpkin – spice latté of the gun world. Who wants to carry a basic gun? It’d be like telling Wild Bill Hickok his mustache needs to be more functional.

  • Tom Horn October 18, 2016, 11:50 am

    Never seen a beautiful 10/22, or AR-15. They may look cool, but they ain’t pretty. Now the wood grain on my old Ithaca 37, that’s beautiful. Almost all lever guns are beautiful (except that Mossberg tactical monstrosity). Something you are going to use and enjoy, might as well be eye pleasing, too.

    Now Jelly Bryce’s .44 S&W is maybe a bit over the top for me, but it worked for him. See similar revolvers here: http://s430.photobucket.com/user/dmeigs10/media/Wolf%20Klar%20Grips/Tripleplay004.jpg.html
    A simple cocobolo gripped stainless Ruger Black Hawk is right purdy to me.
    To each his own, said the old lady as she kissed the cow.

  • Will Drider October 17, 2016, 10:45 pm

    I disagree: function followed by form then embellishments or its just a pretty paperweight. There is beauty in mechanical design which facilitates function, most don’t see it as such where as engraving or a coat of color grab the eye. I appreciate looking at the diversity of lipstick and rouge be it applied well or whorish, I just don’t take them home. Lol.
    My confession: Glocks for every day. 1911s For fun, no fancy engraving or finish but they a are classic beauties to me.

    • Rio Benson October 21, 2016, 4:15 am

      You sound like an engineer. I know … I’m one, too.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend