Player Guide: Tan VS Black - Which is the best colour for an Airsoft gun?

Player Guide: Tan VS Black - Which is the best colour for an Airsoft gun?

What colour Airsoft gun should I go for?

The truth is, it is entirely up to you. Decide which colour you like, and which fits your loadout, and go with that. So why the blog, you might ask? 


The truth is many people aren't aware of the benefits of using a tan Airsoft gun over a black Airsoft gun and choose black every time as they are under the impression that Airsoft guns should be black because real guns are predominantly black. 

The truth is that black only became common in firearms manufacture as that was the colour available for hard-wearing metal finishes, and the all-black finish applied to many firearms does not in fact stem from the effectiveness of black as a colour (shade?) in the field. 


Ever since wood furniture on rifles became a thing of the past, attempts have been made to provide more naturally coloured furniture which will fit in more effectively with the surrounding cover. Notable examples include the early AR-10 Bakelite furniture, Russian "plum" coloured AK74 furniture, the Steyr AUG in its original olive polymer stock, and the good old British SA80 with its olive drab polymer handguards, cheek rest, grip and butt plate. 


In the modern day and age we are able to sport Airsoft guns with anodised surface finishes, or advanced modern coatings such as Cerakote in a wide variety of colours, from tactical jet black to bright pink. Most Airsoft rifles now come available in several colour options, including most notably, black and tan, as well as low visibility grey and subdued olive green. 


It is not only in the Airsoft skirmishing world that colours other than black have taken a huge uptick in popularity in recent years. The latest British Army service rifle, the L85A3, is equipped with a tan receiver, and tan handguard. The recent winner of the US Army's NGSW contest, the SIG XM5, AKA the MCX Spear, is also finished entirely in tan, and will eventually be replacing the venerable M4A1, which was finished in old school black. 

So why the sudden move to tan? Allow us to enlighten you!

Natural Colours - Why Tan is easier to hide than black

The first thing to think about when choosing which colour of Airsoft gun you would like to use, especially if your focus is on concealment and in-game effectiveness, is which colours occur in nature. The facts are that black is not a natural colour, and will rarely appear in a natural environment, whereas tan, brown and to some extent, green are prolific in the woods, in a quarry, or in any other natural environment you might encounter on an Airsoft skirmish site. 

EU series pistols, black and tan

Another factor to consider is the instantly recognisable silhouette of your Airsoft primary weapon, which is all the more visible when it is all black. Human beings evolved to have exceptional pattern recognition ability, and one of the main things we evolved to recognise at a distance is threatening objects, i.e weapons. From an early age people are made aware that guns and gun-shaped objects are threatening and as such, a black gun will stick out like a sore thumb for any human, especially those looking for a target in a skirmish, in the otherwise green and pleasant woodlands. 


Most Airsoft skirmishers wear camouflaged clothing for woodland skirmishes, but this isn't as effective as it could be when they are carrying a 1 meter long black object, especially if that object is something the enemy team, all passionate Airsofters, spend a large amount of their free time looking at. A gun, for instance! Notice how in the above photo, the last gun you notice is the all tan SCAR-L, and how well the AR15 in the centre blends in with its surroundings when compared to the AR on the right. 

Holding a black rifle whilst wearing camouflaged clothing may look cool, and we don't deny it! The problem is that the black gun will draw the human eye, and regardless of how well your camo works, the enemy player knows that somewhere near that gun is a person and will send a burst in that direction just to be sure. 

Rifles with olive green furniture can help mitigate this, but in the example below we can see it is also necessary to conceal the black parts of the rifle to really allow it to blend into a natural background. In this example, we used natural foliage attached to the barrel of the rifle using elastic and also added natural foliage to the MK6 helmet cover elastic as well. 


The fundamental principle of camouflage is to break up the recognisable human outline and to evade the evolved threat detection instincts built into the human mind, thus the "walking bush" style ghillie suits worn by snipers, both in Airsoft and the real world, as well as the camouflaged paint jobs and extensive 3d camouflage they apply to their rifles. 

Obviously, this isn't practical for those with a run and gun play style, but there is a middle ground which can be reached with more naturally coloured rifles, especially those with two different colour tones(not UKARA two-tones!) or a paint job which breaks up the outline of the gun and makes it look less "gun-like" to a distant observer. 

Infrared Signature - Why Militaries and Special Forces choose Tan

Tan offers a wealth of benefits when compared to black when put head to head on the visual spectrum, and Militaries around the world have been moving towards issuing tan rifles and handguns for this reason, and others...

Black is known as the one colour you do not want to wear in hot weather, and the reason is that black absorbs far more heat from the environment, and retains it for far longer than lighter colours, for example, tan! Black literally is an absence of light, which means all of the energy of the ambient lighting conditions is absorbed by the black finish. This causes problems when it comes to evading night vision devices, and FLIR mounted on armoured vehicles, helicopters and aircraft.


A great example of a "new" real steel rifle for which applying a tan finish was considered essential is the L85A3 rifle. The L85A3 is coated with an advanced ceramic coating known as Cerakote, which is intended to both camouflage the rifle in the visible spectrum and make it harder to see on night vision and infrared devices by repelling IR radiation. The difference this makes when it comes to concealment in the field cannot be overstated, and also saves squaddies from having to use fabric tape, face paint and all sorts of other home-brewed concealment methods used to hide the L85A2 rifle.

Obviously being Airsofters, it is not often we are being hunted by helicopters and night vision equipped foes, but for those who are fans of the military simulation aspects of Airsoft skirmishing a tan or partially tan gun can make the difference in making the rifle setup more real-world accurate.


The above picture of a Tokyo Marui MK.18 Next Gen Recoil Shock is a fine example of how well a tan gun can blend in with a natural background and is also a faithful representation of real-world MK.18 MOD.1 rifles used by US Navy SEALs. If you don't want to paint your rifle, either to keep its resale value, warranty or because you are afraid (we are too!) adding tan accessories, rail covers and other parts is a great way to break up the recognisable silhouette of the rifle and also hits the spot when it comes to keeping the rifle in line with modern military setups. 

Tan equipment is growing in popularity amongst militaries all over the world, and not only for operating in arid desert environments. Tan is a natural colour and occurs regularly in nature, and as such the human eye will not be drawn to it when scanning the environment, whether that environment is a woodland, urban or desert setting. If you want to learn more about this US Navy SEALs inspired MK18 MOD.1 AEG, keep your eye out for future blogs on Toky Woky Coach ODST2B9's awesome Navy SEAL loadout!

Painting your Rifle - Tan looks well cool!

Prior to advanced heat resistant coatings such as Cerakote, painting a rifle with spray paint was the Special Forces "go to" when it comes to breaking up the outline of their rifles. A simple single or two colour paint job can do wonders when it comes to disguising your rifle in the wild, is super easy to apply, with no fine art degree needed! A paint job can make a world of difference when it comes to realism, and although it can be a so-called "balls job" to take a rattle can to your AEG there is no better way if you want your rifle to look like that of a tier-one operator.


The picture above shows our Creative Content Writer's custom Milsim build, an L119a1 SFW 10-inch based on a WE M4 AEG, with some UKSF appropriate attachments and a heavily battle-worn paint job. This paint job was achieved with two different shades of tan and was painted in classic SF style; fully assembled, with key areas such as the barrel, trigger and grip masked off to prevent paint from getting into the internals. 

Less is often more if you intend your primary weapon to look like a real SF rifle, as for a soldier the rifle is a tool, and is painted for pure functionality. After a few skirmishes, the paint will also develop natural wear, as it has in this build. This not only makes the rifle look more realistic but further helps to break up its outline and make it less recognisable as a rifle when viewed from a distance. 

Hopefully, this guide has given you some insight into why modern military units are choosing tan, and why Special Forces troops tend to paint their rifles or make use of tan furniture and accessories. 

Most people would assume tan will stand out a mile in a woodland setting, but the truth is there is more tan in the woodland environment than you might expect, and being a natural colour, tan tends to draw the eye less than black, especially the silhouette of a rifle. When it comes to an urban setting, again tan pulls ahead, blending in well with brickwork and rubble and being overall harder to spot than a black rifle. 

If this article has you convinced, you can check out our tan Airsoft assault rifle selection here. Or maybe you already knew all of this camouflage theory and the classic "black rifle" look is still your main thing, in which case our ever-fashionable black assault rifles can be found here