Protecting Your Rifle!

| July 17, 2007 | 4 Comments

Before you spin those new rifles make sure you have prepared them for the abuse they are about to receive!  Without the proper taping your rifle can go from “shiny and new” to “split in two” with just one bad toss!  This article gives step-by-step instructions for taping your rifle as well as tips from experienced instructors for keeping it in tip-top shape.

Click Here to download the .pdf version of this article

for better photo layout and easier-to-read captions

Click Here for a step-by-step instruction sheet to hand out to your students!


Before you begin you’ll need to gather the following supplies:

Clear “Strapping” tape

Electrical Tape (standard white and black or whatever color you would like to use to make your rifle your own!)

A Phillips-Head and a Flat-Head screwdriver


Padding (you can use cotton batting, thin foam or even a maxi pad)

Step 1: Disassemble

remove the bolt and strap

unscrew the swivel strap screws

The first step, if your rifle was shipped to you assembled, would be to use your screwdriver to remove the bolt.  Then remove the strap by removing only the screws that are within the strap.  John Burns, Director of the Fluvanna County High School Color Guards explains, “I insist that students never remove the screws that hold the swivel to the rifle, as these shorter screws strip the wood easily.  The result invariably is that the strap pulls free from the wood in the middle of a performance.  Instead, I make the students remove the screws in the leather of the strap in order [to remove the strap] to apply strapping tape and white tape to the center part of the rifle beneath the bolt.”

Step 2: Apply Strapping Tape

Many rifle supply companies will provide you with a diagram of where to apply strapping tape to strengthen their particular style of rifle.  If you did not receive a taping diagram with your rifle, the instructions here are pretty universal and should protect most rifles.

Add strapping tape at the places shown on the rifle pictured including: the tip of the rifle, the end of the butt, and from the neck of the rifle through the bolt area and part way up the barrel.  This tape is very strong (thanks to the threads running through it) and will help to keep your rifle in tact if any small cracks begin to form.  Be careful to apply the tape as neatly as possible in a spiral fashion around the rifle, avoiding air bubbles and bunching.  Also try to avoid too much overlap of tape, which may add unwanted additional weight to your rifle.

where to tape

To be extra sure that your strap does not pull loose during a performance, Mr. Burns also recommends wrapping the strapping tape over the screw and flat portion of the swivel as well (see photo).  This also helps to avoid cutting your hand on the metal or damagine your floor cover if you are performing indoors.  This strapping tape will be covered with a piece of electrical tape and he notes that, “…this piece of tape also acts as a visual reminder of hand placement on the equipment in the left flat position,” [assuming you choose not to cover the entire rifle with electrical tape].

swivel view 1

swivel view 2

Step 3: Apply Padding

You can certainly use the rubber pads supplied by the equipment manufacturer, however, these pads are usually attached with staples which tend to come loose after repeated use.  If the staples have come loose or if you want extra padding (either to protect the gym floor or because you know that you will be practicing a great deal and your rifle may be subject to more than average abuse) follow this step!

padding photos 1

padding photos 2

rubber vs taped paddingUse cotton batting, thin foam (which can be found at a local sewing store), or a feminine pad, if those are more readily available.  Cut pieces of padding which are slightly larger than the ends of the rifle and attach them using electrical tape in the same color as the original pads (usually either black or white) as shown.  You can leave the original rubber pad under this as well for another layer of support.  The photo to the left shows a rifle with the original rubber pad (bottom) and the new rifle with the cotton padding and electrical tape (top).  Other than the slight shine of the electrical tape they look extremely similar from a distance.


Step 4: Apply Electrical Tape

The next step is to apply electrical tape in whatever color you prefer to cover the strapping tape.  Some instructors prefer to tape over only the strapping tape using white electrical tape to blend with the white paint of the bare rifle.  These instructors note that any additional tape adds weight to the rifle and can affect the way it rotates in the air.  They go with the “less is best” philosophy.  John Gellak, owner of Premier Rifles, also notes that excess electrical tape “…can get sticky after time especially on hot days.”  Other groups tape the entire length of the rifle for added uniformity and strength, or for a particular color splash.  If you are a performer, you will want to make sure to check with your rifle instructor and follow his/her preference.  If you are an instructor just make sure to refer first and foremost to any taping instructions sent by the manufacturer.

apply electrical tape

Step 5: Reassemble

Using your screwdriver, re-attach your bolt, strap and hardware.  Be careful not to tighten the bolt screws too much or you could crack the rifle at the point where the screw enters.

Step 6: Finishing Touches and Continued Care

strap screw tapeMany winter contest rules require that all metal parts of the rifle be taped in order to protect the floor so you may want to add a piece of tape over the screws that tighten the strap.  This also helps prevent those screws from working their way loose and getting lost in the grass, or worse, coming lose during a performance!  Make sure to choose a tape color that will blend with your strap to minimize any distraction while spinning.  Mr. Gellak recommends to his customers that if they choose not to use tape to cover these screws they should inspect their straps regularly to make sure the screws aren’t working their way loose or use a dab of finger nail polish in the threads of the screw to help it stay more secure (but only after the strap has had time to stretch for a while and you’ve adjusted the strap to your preferred tension).

– Occasionally the screws that attach the bolt to the rifle will work their way loose or strip the wood so that they no longer stay secure.  For a quick fix you can always wrap clear packaging tape aroudn the rifle to hold the bolt steady.  This tape may be visible in a performance situation, however, and may add additional weight to the rifle.  Stephen Howard, an incoming Assistant Band Director at James Bowie High School in Austin, TX suggests an alternative that has worked well for him: “Remove the bolt and place a small amount of wood putty in the hole to fill the stripped area.  Let this set for at least a few hours, then reattach the bolt.”

– Over time your top layer of tape will get marked or worn and you will probably want a fresh new layer.  Mr. Howard also suggests, while it may take a little extra time, you should remove the old tape and start fresh rather than layering it on.  Remember, every layer of tape adds weight to the rifle and will affect the way it feels and spins.

– Finally, it’s not uncommon for straps to get stretched out and worn or for bolts to get chipped or cracked.  These problems, however, do not necessarily mean it’s time for a brand new rifle.  Most manufacturers sell these replacement parts which can save you a considerable sum of money over purchasing a brand new set of rifles.  Even if you feel like your old rifles are looking tired and worn a new set of bolts and straps along with a new layer of tape might be just the low-cost, quick-fix you need to make your line look brand new!

Special Thanks to the following people for their input and expertise: Mr. John Burns, Band & Color Guard Director at Fluvanna County High School , Virginia, Mr. Stephen Howard, incoming Assistant Band Director at James Bowie High School, Austin, TX, Mr. John Gellak, owner of Premier Rifles and Ms. Jennifer Hiltwine, editor.  First Published July 2007 

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Category: "DIY", Equipment Management/Logistics, For Performers, Instruction

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

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