One of the most commons questions I get as a painter, paint rep, and YouTube paint enthusiast, is what is the best paint gun or which one should I get? While there is no one fit answer for everyone, today we will look at a variety of spraying options and where they might work for you. Before we get to the equipment, let’s take a minute to clear up some terminology and other factors you will need to consider when purchasing a paint gun.
High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) – This is the most common paint gun you will likely come across. HVLP guns generally are very versatile in that they can handle a wide range of product applications very well. These guns replaced conventional spray guns as they offer a much better transfer efficiency.
Compliant – This is similar to an HVLP but will generate more air pressure at the tip (aircap) of the spray gun. It results in a finer atomization and is usually most practical for clearcoat application. Manufacturer specific technology such as Satas RP (Reduced Pressure) falls into this category. These guns maintain a high transfer efficiency but are not considered HVLP.
Gravity Feed / Siphon Feed – Every gun I’ve shown to date in a refinishing video is a gravity feed gun, meaning the product flows from the cup which is mounted at the top of the gun. There would be little practical use for a siphon feed gun in automotive refinish.
Tip Size – To get any good experience with a spray gun, the proper tip size for the product being applied is extremely important. The most common sizes in automotive refinish is a 1.3 for either basecoat or clearcoat, however it can vary greatly depending on the product. Primers will require a larger tip size, such as a 1.6 or 1.8.
Alright, lets look at some guns!
Devilbiss Tekna / Tekna Prolite
This spraygun is one of the most versatile paint guns on the market. Available in a few different colors and styles, the Tekna Prolite is a more compact version of the gun but delivers the same results. Devilbiss is one of the few manufacturers that sell their guns in kits where you can get several different tip sizes and air caps all in one package. What makes this gun even better, is that you can change it from an HVLP to a compliant gun simply by changing the aircap. This gun is one of the most popular choices by professionals and represents the best value for anyone looking for a gun that can do many things. This is a well-built gun and will last a long time. The Devilbiss baffle design which is consistent with their spraying lineup can be a bit annoying during teardown and cleanup, but if handled carefully will be nothing to worry about.
Devilbiss Tekna Primer/Basecoat/Clear Gun
Devilbiss has also created a lineup of guns specific to performing a certain task. All of these guns have a spray pattern that resembles the Tekna Prolite, the primer gun, however, has an aircap that produces a slightly different one. The primer gun delivers product well will minimal overspray at the edge of the application, it can also be outfitted with UV primer attachments that generally require a smaller tip such as a 1.1 or 1.2. The basecoat gun delivers good metallic control at a lower air pressure than the regular Tekna. The operating pressure of the Tekna Basecoat gun is around 16psi which is about 10 psi less than the Tekna or most other guns. The Tekna Clearcoat gun offers a much wetter core than the other guns in this lineup, it allows for the clearcoat to go down extremely wet to apply quickly. This does seem to be at the cost of atomization, but it is still a great clearcoat gun and popular choice. All of these guns feature a similar construction with a detachable ring behind the air cap, rather than a machine metal fit as many competitors do (one more part to clean). Some other great guns by Devilbiss are the “Plus” for clear or the “GTI” for basecoat/sealers. Not as popular as they once were, still great guns.
Iwata WS400 (Clear) / LS400
The Iwata WS400 is one of my personal favorite clearcoat guns. It offers an incredibly fine atomization and has delivered some of the smoothest finishes I have seen. This gun is incredibly well constructed, easy to disassemble and clean. It has a unique design and ergonomically friendly. The Iwata stock regulators can be a bit bulky, so be prepared to buy a new one as it can be an annoyance. Sadly, there are no onboard digital pressure gauges for this gun and I have not seen much other practical uses for it other than clearcoat. The LS400 is a bit more versatile and can be used for base, sealer, or clearcoat. It will not atomize quite as fine but is a good balance if that’s what you require. These guns both give you access to a massive fan pattern so you can cover a lot of ground quickly, this can be dialed in also as you can with most guns. The LS400 has never been my favorite basecoat gun, but it will do the job if needed. A bit more effort seems to be required when spraying high metallic colors.
Sata 5000 RP (Clear) / HVLP
The Sata 5000 is one of the most talked about guns and Sata is a highly regarded brand by many professionals. The 5000 RP is a great clear gun, it delivers great atomization and a wet core with a nice spray pattern. It can be dialed in and can still spray well at a wide range of inlet pressures. The 5000 HVLP also does a great job of delivering basecoat consistently, and can also be used with sealers and clearcoat. Sata offers a lot more bells and whistles in terms of customization and digital readings. You can get these guns with a built-in digital gauge, or the digital Atom can be screwed in place of the micrometer for a reading on the back of the gun. Sata has some interesting limited edition guns for the die-hard enthusiasts and also the Sata 5000 Phaser which features a sleek gun body designed by Porche. These guns are built to last and spray well.
Sagola 4600 Extreme / Clear
The Sagola 4600 is becoming an increasingly popular choice of spray gun for many. The Sagola 4600 Extreme Basecoat gun is a very well designed gun that delivers some of the best results I’ve seen in delivering high metallic colors. It has proven to be a reliable choice for basecoat and little effort is required to combat mottling / blotchy appearance. Sagola offers a range of aircaps that are optimized for delivering waterbased or solvent basecoat and other products. The digital version includes a compact display in the center of the handle and using an inline regulator keeps the bottom of this gun from becoming bulky. The 4600 Clearcoat gun competes well with other top performing guns, it delivers product quick and wet.
Walcom HTE Base / HTE Clear
These spray guns have an exterior that is made of carbon fiber, which makes these guns incredibly light-weight. This line-up of Walcom Spray guns was originally intended to complement the TD3 heating system which increases the air temperature to speed up flash times, the carbon fiber exterior keeps the gun cool when using this system. These guns are becoming popular for use with conventional compressed air systems and still deliver a great finish. The HTE Base gun offers a wet core with very little fall off around the edges, while the HTE provides a fine atomization that delivers a smooth coat of clear. The inline regulators feature a clever design that allows you to set your pressure, then remove the gauge face from the regulator to keep it protected from overspray while painting.
Economical / Starter Spray Guns
So you’re not ready to invest in a high-end gun? Here are a few options that I’ve sprayed. The Fuji-Spray MPX-30 caught me by surprise, it is a really great gun that is somewhat unknown in the automotive paint community. I’ve used it for sealer, basecoat, and clear which it delivered well. It is a bit bulky however, you will definitely know when you’re holding a paint gun. The Iwata Air Gunsa line seems to offer some great value, a well-constructed gun at a low price. The Devilbiss Finishline was among my least favorite, the tips seem to wear quicker and it will deteriorate the spray pattern. The knobs become more finicky and the construction quality goes down with the price. I would highly discourage you from going with the Starting line, however, it will spray paint for you but the build quality is very poor.
A high-quality gun will last a very long time if properly maintained. The fluid tip will gradually wear from contact with the fluid needle and will eventually need to be changed on any spray gun. This process will be accelerated if you let paint harden on the fluid needle, which is why it is imperative to clean your gun properly after every use.
Have a spraygun that you think I should try? Tell me about it in the comments below!