The XS19 Supergrade from SMK is a classic break-barrel sporter.
It performs extremely well straight out of the box, and is considered by many as the ideal chassis to tune-up into a supergun with a bit of DIY work to the action.But for one talented airgunner, the XS19 is worthy of even more attention – and Paul Tucker shows us how he used his skills with an airbrush to create one of the best-looking XS19 custom jobs we’ve ever laid snake eyes on!
Here, Paul explains how he transformed his Supergrade into a stunning work of art, sssstep by sssstep…
After removing the XS19’s action from the stock, I took off most of the original lacquer finish, starting with 140-grit wet-and-dry paper, then 280-grit to remove any remaining imperfections.
Because this stock was going to be painted, rather than oiled, I didn’t need to finish with a finer paper – I simply prepped it with white primer .
Next, I applied a base of black Plastikote paint, spraying evenly from around 30cm away, to ensure the white didn’t impact much on the final colours.This was also to be the colour between the ‘scales’, and which would remain after I masked off the stock with a mesh stocking .
For this, I used one leg from a pair of old fishnet stockings (kindly donated by my fiancée!), which perfectly slipped over the stock to give an interesting pattern along the sides and at the butt.
The only problem with this concept is that the mesh lifts away from some of the recess areas, like the thumb recess and the front of the curved pistol grip, so you have to spray at a tangent to the netting to prevent the paint ‘bleeding’ too much.It’s also important not to overdo the spraying as the mesh can get too saturated with paint, which soaks through onto the wood – defeating the object of the mask! Making light, steady and even strokes are the key.
I set the airbrush spray-gun at around 3BAR pressure and used Revlon Aqua Air colours, which come in a wide range of hues from any model shop.
For the secondary colours, I chose a base colour of deep green, on which I made a diamond pattern along the stock using a lighter green .
Keeping the stocking in place all the while so as to maintain the definition of the scales pattern, I then edged these diamonds with a reddish-brown colour , after which I was able to remove the stocking.This revealed the general reptile-like scale pattern for the first time.
The next job was to highlight the scales, and though an expert air-brusher would probably do this with a spray gun, I’m not that good!
So I chose to do it by hand, using a modeller’s paintbrush. Personally, I like the ‘crispness’ that hand-brushing achieves  – though as you can probably deduce from looking at these photos, this is painstaking work!I used very bright highlight colours – of white, pale green and bright yellow – deliberately as I planned to later cover the stock in a ‘mist’ with a black-green mix so as to dull it all down and give it a more blended, realistic look.
On that subject, the belly of a snake has larger scales than those along its sides, so to mimic this, I cut semi-circular sections out of a card template.
I used a few sizes so as not to make it look too geometric and, this time, I had a go at adding the thinner, edge highlights with the airbrush sprayer [6 and 7] – the belly scales are, of course, much bigger than the side scales.
With the stock as good as done, I chose to ‘experiment’ a bit more by free-handing a few other highlights.Although it didn’t all go according to plan (I’m no Rembrandt!), my intention was to emulate the scales being defined where those on the side met those on the belly.
Once I was happy I’d got it looking to the best of my ability, I then hung the stock from the rafters in my garage and applied a clear coat of matt lacquer all over to protect the paintwork and seal the stock.
I deliberately chose ‘matt’ as I still intend to go hunting with my new-look SMK XS19 – but if it was a wall piece, I’d have probably gone with a pearlescent finish just for the sake of art!