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Before we get to the review of these two Springfield XD pistols, two lucky people will each have a chance to win one of them! All you have to do is enter the Athlon Outdoors/Springfield sweepstakes — and enter as many ways as possible to increase your odds of winning!

The enemy combatant was behind a rock. I risked a quick look and saw the edge of his white and orange sneaker. His attention was to my left. I made a mental note and shook my weapon; the sound indicated it was about half full.

Manufactured by the Larami Corp., the motorized, late-1980s Uzi water pistol was a solid choice. It was reasonably durable with decent accuracy and range, and a solid rate of fire. The electronics made it a little heavier than the manually operated water guns at the time, but what it lacked in functionality it made up for in swagger.

Upon unboxing, I knew that this bringer of watery destruction needed customization. Something to say, “This is mine.” Something to strike fear into the hearts of my front-yard battlefield enemies. I went with a traditional olive drab spray paint with a light dusting of tan over some leaves for pattern. Next, I used model paints to add some stars and stripes across the foregrip, sealed with clear coat.

This is my rifle. There were many like it, but this one is mine.

I closed my eyes and breathed slowly, steeling myself for the run across the front yard. A heartbeat later, under the bright blue sky of youth, I let out a war cry and pushed forward around the gray trunk of the mulberry tree.

Springfield XD Challenge

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Henry Ford once said that a customer can have a car painted any color they want so long as it is black. But these days, different is almost the norm, especially in the firearms world. Within the last few decades, advancements in coating materials have led to many great options in custom finishing products that greatly surpass the rattle-can spray paints of my youth.

To that end, I recently reached out to two custom coating specialists: Boyd Lemons of Hillbilly 223 Urban Finishes and Amy Lauer-Potaczek of Lauer Custom Weaponry. The idea was to give them each a gun, in this case a 5-inch-barreled Springfield XD Mod.2 in 9mm, and let them do whatever they wanted to it to fit the “molon labe” theme. Molon what? We’ll get to that in just a minute.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

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Tired of the corporate grind as an operations manager, Boyd Lemons moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where he worked on building houses and spent his downtime racing scaled-down, remote-controlled buggies. In 2009, he decided to change his trajectory and told his friends and family he wanted to start painting custom finishes on firearms for a living. “Everyone thought I was nuts,” Lemons said.

True to his word, he sold all of his racing equipment, bought two rifles and built a small paint booth in the crawlspace under his condo, where he spent his off time learning to paint anything he could get his hands on. “I would use my stuff, knives, tomahawks—anything I could sell on eBay.”

A friend of Lemons’ who worked at Nighthawk Custom invited him on a tour of the facility, and he was given a chance to show off his finishing skills. A few months later, Lemons was brought in to collaborate on paint work for the Nighthawk Magpul 870 stock set that was later released at the SHOT Show the next year. “From that point on, it’s been a crazy ride,” he said. “My wife and I have been running the company with God’s help for years now. We always strive to remember where we came from and that hard work pays off.”

Lauer’s Edge

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Amy Lauer-Potaczek started working for her dad when she was 16. In the late 1990s, Steve Lauer, aware of the drawbacks in custom firearm coatings available at the time, looked to create a user-friendly product. This led him to develop DuraCoat, which he released in 2000. Around the same time, the company began to manufacture AR-15-style rifles and suppressors, offering custom coating services as well. “Never before had color been an option when you purchased a gun,” Lauer-Potaczek said.

Lauer Custom Weaponry continued to move the coating industry forward, soon offering many finishing options and colors as well as DIY camouflage kits and templates. Lauer-Potaczek worked for the business as she attended university for business administration, even developing one of the company’s first camouflage coating pattern templates called “AmStripe.”

About eight years ago, Lauer Custom Weaponry stopped offering in-house firearm finishing and now focuses on coating innovations as well as finishing training at the DuraCoat University.

According to Lauer-Potaczek, “When we started DuraCoat University 15 years ago, we created a cottage market. Never before could someone start a business solely on refinishing firearms. Now there are well over 1,000 finishers who have been through our course. Many of these finishers have started businesses just for DuraCoat services. Many more offer DuraCoat services at their gun shops. It really is amazing to see what kind of impact we have had. My dad is the lead instructor in these courses, with additional instructors depending on class size. We hold them several times a year. We teach how to use many of our coatings with a focus on how to make money doing it. We teach the student the skills needed to start, but the creativity must come from them.”

And this do-it-yourself nature is part of the company’s mission. “DuraCoat is very easy to apply and requires minimal prepping,” she said. “We recommend the gun be disassembled, degreased with our TruStrip cleaner/degreaser, and then sandblasted. We do not recommend any extra steps, such as additional degreasing, since this tends to overcomplicate the process and cause more issues than they solve. Not counting disassembly and reassembly, the whole process including prepping and coating should take less than an hour.”

These days, Lauer-Potaczek handles the digital design work and marketing for Lauer Custom Weaponry as well as designing and testing all of the camo patterns for the kits the company sells, which gets her into the paint booth. “In terms of an artist, I am the closest thing to it around here,” she told me.

She explained that she took on this challenge because she wanted to show that an individual doesn’t need to be a professional finisher to create art with their products, and to that end I think she succeeded.

Warrior Spirit

custom Springfield XD pistols

Molon labe is Greek for “come and take them.” It was King Leonidas’ response to Xerxes’ demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons. Like many of my contemporaries, my primary knowledge base on the Spartans comes from the movie 300, where Gerard Butler runs around shirtless, screaming and kicking Persians into bottomless pits. As a whole, the movie has a pretty simple color palette: bronze, gold, red and brown. Looking at these pistols, it is easy to see where inspiration struck.

Boyd Lemons has past experience with a Spartan theme, as he created a similar finish for a Battle Arms Development rifle for its debut at a past SHOT Show. This creation was appropriately titled the “300 Spartan Rifle.” Having done the theme in the past, he wanted to see how it would come together on a pistol. Lemons noted that this finish has a lot of detail compared to the regular finishes most customers request, including a three-color base coat and added texturing to make the pistol feel “like an old shield from the movie,” as Lemons put it. He said the job took about four hours total, and the cost for similar finishing on a customer’s gun would be about $350.

Similarly, Amy Lauer-Potaczek took to the Internet for research and told me she used the movie 300 for her inspiration as well. After disassembly, degreasing and sandblasting, she applied a base coat of gold over the main parts. Once reassembled, she dusted black over everything and allowed it to dry. Using a Scotch-Brite pad, she removed and distressed some of the black before stenciling the words and helmet. Lastly, she used a toothbrush to create the sprayed blood effect, finishing up with a clear top coat to create an even sheen and protect the gold.

I asked her how much this job would cost, and she said that she would probably charge between $200 to $300, but she also admitted that it could be done at home for under $100.

In the end, these skilled artisans have created two beautiful Springfield XD pistols worthy of any Spartan warrior, and they look super cool and much more expensive than they really are. The best part? We’re giving them away! Enter our Springfield sweepstakes as many ways as possible for your chance to win one of these beauties!

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