Condo Blues: How to Pad and Tape a Color Guard Rifle

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Pad and Tape a Color Guard Rifle

The same band I marched with in in the Presidential Inauguration Parade last year has another amazing performance opportunity. I’m stoked to be spinning flag in a real blow and go drum and bugle corps style show since that is absolutely not the type of show my small town marching band did and my drum corps loving heart desired. YES! *fist pump*

Then I found out the color guard is twirling rifle too. I haven’t done that since high school winter color guard.


I bought a color guard rifle which is basically a big hunk of non firing wood in a rifle-esque shape. Before I practice throwing it in the air like I don’t care (as one does when spinning rifle) I need to reinforce the rifle with tape and pad the ends so it won’t break in two if when I drop it during practice.

Anatomy of a Color Guard Rifle

Before I start with the color guard padding and taping tutorial, let’s review the parts of a color guard rifle.

Standing in for a real color guard rifle is this miniature color guard rifle I had as a high school locker decoration. Cool, huh? The strap and swivels (the things on both ends of the strap that screw it into the rifle) are missing from this photo.

What Type of Type You Should and Should Not Use to Tape a Color Guard Rifle

Most people use two layers of tape on a color guard rifle. The first layer is protective. The second layer is to cover the protective layer and make the rifle pretty again.

The key is to select light weight tapes that are durable enough to take the punishment of being thrown, spun, and dropped. Remember the more layers of tape and padding you add to the color guard rifle, the heavier it will be. Basically, it is a personal balancing act of protection and pretty vs. too heavy.

The first layer is a protective tape around the thin parts of the rifle that are most likely to break or splinter – the nose, neck, and butt. The first layer is strapping tape. Do not confuse packing tape with strapping tape. Strapping tape it is reinforced with fiberglass threads. Packing tape is not.

You can buy strapping tape from vendors who sell color guard equipment or you can save yourself a few bucks and buy strapping tape at an office supply or home improvement store. That’s what I do.

Just to make things confusing, I’m using Duck Brand strapping tape. I would never use Duck Brand duct tape (Duck Brand calls theirs Duck Tape) because duct tape makes the rifle too heavy. However, I would use Duck Brand electrical tape over my Duck Brand strapping tape because it is durable yet light weight. The moral to the story is Duck Brand makes different types of tape. Read the entire label to make sure you are buying the type of tape you think you are buying.

The second layer of tape covers the strapping tape and makes the rifle look pretty. You can use plastic coated vinyl tape.

Plastic coated vinyl tape comes in many colors. 
(You can buy vinyl color guard tape here.)

Most people use electrical tape due to availability. Electrical tape also comes in many colors.

Warning:  Most electrical tape contains lead because lead is a good insulator of electricity but lead it isn’t the best thing to handle and have on your hands, skin etc. on a regular basis. I used lead free electrical tape to decorate my color guard rifle because I am not diligent about wearing color guard gloves during practise and I won't be wearing them during the performance.

If you want to add a little pizzazz to your performance color guard rifles add some strips with lightweight vinyl metallic tape (get more info here) and vinyl prism tape (get more info here.).

Remember the more tape you add to the rifle, the heavier it will be!

What to Use for Color Guard Rifle Padding

You have several options when it comes to color guard rifle padding too. There are purchased “rubber” pads (not the greatest protection IMHO. The staples often come loose,) cotton batting, plastic packing sheets (I’m using some that came with my color guard equipment order for this project,) some use cotton balls/pads to pad the tip.

Other people recommend using maxi pads but my personal opinion when it comes to flashing and flipping undercover feminine hygiene products in the air is this:


How to Tape Your Color Guard Rifle to Keep it From Breaking 


I added my name with scrapbooking stickers even though my fellow performers will probably know my rifle is mine by its pint size alone during rehearsal. I’ll remove the stickers before the performance (I promise Mike!)

You will need:

Color guard rifle – Most guards buy Elite color guard rifles (learn more about them here.) They are more durable because Elites are made from a solid piece of wood. 

I weren’t so short I would have purchased an Elite. I since providing my equipment for a one time only gig and I like to spin a 34” color guard rifle that’s what I bought because Elite color guard rifles are either 36’' and 39” long. 
Strapping tape
Pen or marker
Electrical or lightweight vinyl tape
Impact driver or screwdriver

Tip: An impact driver will keep you from stripping color guard rifle screws unlike an electric drill. An impact driver will because it spins with concussive blows to drive the screw back into hard woods without stripping the screw. An electric drill doesn’t have the extra power of an impact driver and is more likely to strip the screws.

E-6000 Glue or Loctite Threadlocker Blue – E-6000 is made for gluing metal. Threadlocker is made for keeping screw threads from unscrewing both work well for this project.

Make it:

1. Unscrew the screws with the screwdriver/impact driver to remove the bolt and strap swivels from the rifle if applicable.

Warning: Some band directors and color guard instructors will go completely mental at the thought of you unscrewing the swivels from your color guard rifle because it is easy to strip the screws when you try to screw them back in. That’s why I recommend using an impact driver because it is less likely to happen.  Seriously, if you are a guard instructor, this will be the best 99 bucks you (or your band boosters) will invest.

2. To keep color guard rifle screws from coming loose. Add either E-6000 or Loctite Threadlocker Blue to the screw threads before you screw the swivels (keep the strap unattached to the swivels for now) back into the rifle with an impact driver. This encourages the screws not to come loose with wear because you know if that happens it will be during a performance!

3. Trace the butt and tip of the rifle onto your padding with the marker, add approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch to the outline and cut it out with the scissors.

You can trim the padding to size with scissors if need be after you have steadied it to your equipment with the first few pieces of tape.

4. Center the padding on the butt of the rifle. The padding should hang over all four sides of the rifle.

Cutting notches in the ends of the padding will allow you to wrap the ends like a present in Step 5.

5. Use the scissors to cut notches into the padding on top and bottom edges of the rifle padding.

6.  Tape the padding to the butt of the color guard rifle along length of the butt. A good rule is to use a piece of strapping tape that overhangs the rifle butt by three fingers widths.

Three fingers widths are the general tape overhang rule for all of the steps in this tutorial because it is the one measuring tool you are never without!

7. Wrap the notched padding like a present and tape the overhanging padding on the side of the rifle butt using one continuous piece of strapping tape.

The overhanging padding will protect the sides of the butt from chipping during drops. Unless you can throw a perfect quad on the first try and don’t plan on dropping your rifle – ever.

8. Follow Steps 3 – 7 to create, pad, and tape the nose of your color guard rifle.

Be careful not to over pad the tip or it may affect the balance.

9. Apply packing tape around the thin stress points in the center of the rifle. Start three finger lengths from the neck of the rifle and continue taping with one continuous piece of strapping tape (as possible)  until you reach three finger lengths after the bolt.  Be sure to overlap the edges of the tape for strength, and try to lay the tape as smooth as you can. I’m not asking much, am I?

Tip: It was harder to tape my rifle smoothly because I used 1 inch wide strapping tape because that’s what the store had. In a perfect world, I would use 1 inch wide strapping tape to pad the nose and bottom of my rifle and half inch strapping tape to tape the stock. I used what I had due to a time crunch.  It doesn't affect equipment performance one little bit.

10. Wrap a piece of strapping tape over each screw and rifle strap swivel to encourage the screws to stay put.
My taped swivels look different in this photo because I found out I needed a rifle with a strap after I finished the taping and padding project.  To add a strap to a color guard rifle, I marked where I wanted to install the swivels on my rifle with a pencil, drilled a small pilot hole with a drill, added E-600 to the screw threads and drove the screws into the rifle with my impact driver.

11. My rifle is made of three separate pieces of wood. The wood can split along these joins. For this reason, I wrapped strapping tape around my rifle from nose to butt.

I saved a couple of bucks and bought an unpainted rifle. I knew I’d cover the whole thing in tape.


I wrote “Throw like a girl, Catch like a Champion” on my untaped color guard rifle for extra good performance vibes. No one will know it is there except me and the entire Internet.

Some people tape the entire length of the rifle with strapping tape no matter what type of rifle they buy, some don’t. I do. It is all up to you. It won't affect the balance of the rifle either way.

 Mummified color guard rifle!

12. Now for the fun stuff! Time to decorate your color guard rifle by applying electrical/vinyl tape over the padding and strapping tape using the same overlapping wrapping technique you used to apply the strapping tape.

I like to apply tape to the butt and nose first followed by wrapping the body of the rifle but there is no right or wrong way to apply the decorative tape as long as you try to keep the tape from wrinkling as much as possible.

Use any color and tape combination your little heart desires.  I taped my rifle per my color guard with the traditional white stock, black butt, black tip. It is a good idea to cover the swivels in electrical tape too.

If you can't find tape in the color you want, you can spray paint over a layer of white electrical tape with a spray paint made for painting plastic. This might happen after my performance. Purple I think?

13. Screw the rifle bolt back onto the rifle if needed. Be sure to add E-6000 or Loctite Threadlocker Blue to the screw threads first to encourage the screws not to come loose with wear.

14. Screw/attach the rifle strap though the swivels and back onto the rifle if needed. Many indoor winter guards will add electrical/vinyl tape around the rife strap buckles, others will tape the entire length of the rifle strap. A few don’t tape the strap at all.

Normally, you use a tape color that matches your rifle strap. I am using using white tape in this example so you can see where I am applying tape to my rifle strap.

Tape will keep the strap from getting too loose when ti stretches out (all rifle straps will and can be easily replaced when it is too much for you.) Tape will also keep the buckles from coming loose/unbuckled during a competition, but most importantly, indoor winter guard rules require you to tape all of the metal parts of your rifle.  Again, what you do is up to you.

Optional and possible Drama Warning: Some people tape pennies to their rifle straps to make a crisp snap! sound on their catches. This isn’t against the rules.

Other people are appalled at The Penny Trick because they think your color guard rifle technique should be so good that you get the crisp snap! sound without the penny trick. This isn’t wrong either.


If you don't care what people think tape one drama penny after rifle butt strap buckle and a second  drama penny before the tip strap buckle. I suppose you could use more than two pennies but they could be a distraction when you are doing complicated rifle work.

Through the magic of working ahead and prescheduling, I'm out of town* with my group and rehearsing for the big show. Wish me luck and no drops during the performance!

*If you are a robber and reading this, the rest of my family is home and will be there to greet you with a security system, speedy 911 calls, and the police if you try to break in our house and rob us while I am gone. Lacey has completed her ninja training and is building a backyard ballista to defend our borders while I type.

Did you enjoy this post? Get more like it by subscribing to the Condo Blues RSS Feed or to Condo Blues by Email.

No comments :

Post a Comment

I love comments and read them all! If you’re shy and don’t want your opinions made public, you can always email me at condoblues [at] gmail [dot] com.