Sparmax GP-50 : wide-range pistol-grip airbrush.
Instead of intro:
My experience with airbrushes is a rather pleasant one. I have always enjoyed painting in any of its forms and even my very first airbrushing experience – although almost a complete disaster – gave me very nice memories. It doesn’t matter if I have to spray with single or dual action airbrush, conventional or pistol grip – it is all part of the pleasant journey with that particular phase of the scale modeling process.
Not everyone is like me though. Many people struggle with airbrushing, mostly people that are strictly building-oriented and such that doesn’t have it in them. By It, I mean the will and the joy of making art, whatever catastrophic results it might sometimes bear. For those that does not like doing the painting, regulate the pressure and adjust the paint mixture constantly, the more simplistic the paint process is, the better. Short is best too.
In that moment, the compressor and most importantly – the airbrush – come into mind as the tools with which the process is completed. Again: the more easy working with them – the better. Compressor is straight forward thing, especially if it is equipped with suitable pressure regulator, moisture trap, reliable pressure gauge and good air tank. Airbrush on the other hand is more complex thing and requires a longer discussion.
There is a significant different in the muscle memory when you are using single or dual action airbrush, conventional or pistol grip. What really makes a difference is the way and the versatility of the tool. For me, according to my experience – again – the pistol grip airbrush is the answer for most of the modelers out there. This is because it combines the simplicity of the trigger action of the single-action airbrush and the precision and finesse of the dual-action tools.
There are many pistol-grip airbrushes, like Iwata Revolution TR series, Grex Tritium, Zoukei-Mura PM-C, Neo TRN and even Chinese copies, all of which share basic appearance and working details. Sparmax GP-50 is what I will use as a stand point, although all of the above have most of its features embedded by design too.
The style of the work is the most important thing. The balance of the tool in one’s hand is another. While working with pistol-grip airbrush, you pull the trigger for air in its first half of the movement, and then on – the paint starts to flow. That allows for greater and easier control, since the pistol grip airbrush sits properly in your hand and the whole process is more natural.
Mentioning all of the above, again an excellent example is Sparmax GP-50. It is like that because that airbrush features larger nozzle than what we have on most pistol-grip airbrushes and in the same time it offers grip, cleaning brush and two paint cups included in the package. For some of the other pistol grips on the market, the handle and the additional cups are a subject of an additional purchase.
As with most of the Sparmax product, the GP-50 comes in a great looking translucent clamshell, carefully wrapped in a black cardboard box with a good overall protection of the pistol airbrush embedded inside. It sits tightly in a foamed material, which allows for more security when vertically positioned. I mention this because the box has a hanger on one of the short sides and you can hang it on the wall for easy access and space-saving.
The airbrush itself:
Weight and balance is the first thing that a pistol grip has to offer as an improvement over a conventional airbrush. GP-50 does not make any difference. Another one is the way to clean the airbrush. By that I mean general cleaning in between sessions.
While when working with conventional airbrush it is advisable to disassemble and thoroughly clean the airbrush every second session or so. Some people even clean their airbrushes after every session. With the pistol grip concept, the cleaning can be done with high pressure flush of the nozzle, using the /in the case of Sparmax GP-50/ larger paint cup full with airbrush cleaner. After two or three of these sprayed at 3 bar pressure, the pistol grip is ready to go again.
That doesn’t mean that disassembly and thorough cleaning and lubing isn’t necessary. But it is more rare and that provides additional piece of mind when using the tool, reducing any potential risks of unwanted damages. Thus – longer service life.
Sparmax – as mentioned above – offer the handle in the set. It is not standard practice for all of the manufacturers and some people doesn’t even bother to spend more money on handles, but instead are using moisture traps on that place. However, Sparmax is a company that thinks about their clients, which combined with 4 decades of experience is resulting in a set that is perfectly suited even for a very first airbrush.
Wider range of works:
The larger than standard nozzle of .50mm is a thing that is not common with pistol grip airbrushes. Most of them are .35, .3 or even .2mm. The main concept of the pistol grips somehow contradicts with that though.
With .2mm is not an easy job to cover a big model, nevermind is it varnish, paint or primer. The GP-50 gives specific bonus here, being more versatile than others. With .5mm nozzle, you can easily prime or paint a ship or a large scale plane rather quickly and with minimum effort. The nozzle works great and atomization is enviable. It works better even than some precise airbrushes, which is surprising.
In that matter, working on small areas where precision is needed is not sacrificed for the sake of the larger nozzle. No sir! GP-50 works as good as any conventional or pistol grip airbrush with fine nozzle, and the key to that precision is the good design and the fact that the trigger eases up the process in terms of exactness. For example, lines that can be done with .2mm nozzle can be replicated very successfully with GP-50, as long as you have some experience with it and not so steady hand. That is more good news for the people who does not love airbrushing.
So in general, painting thin and fine lines, mottling over difficult Luftwaffe airplane paint-schemes and painting large figure faces with all the blood vessels and shades is not a problem. Despite the nozzle size and contrary to what one might expect.
Different paint types:
Some paints have specific requirements for proper application. Most noticeable differences there is between metalizers and acrylics, primers and varnishes. With that said, I have to say that even Alclad2 paints for example /which are being known as mostly applicable with single-action airbrush/, are very easily applied with GP-50. The trick is to keep the same trigger action for every next layer, which is easily learned with very short experience using the airbrush.
Acrylics, especially those from Vallejo/AK-Interactive/MIG tend to dry the tip rather quickly, which is too – unavoidable here, but it isn’t that bad as with a conventional airbrush. Again, due to the larger nozzle and wider range of trigger control. Of course, a bit more dilution is needed before spraying, since the size of .5mm let more air come through and logically, it will need proper paint setting. The coverage is great though, the atomization adequate and cleaning – a breeze.
My experience with primers is more limited, since I love to use Grey Microfiller from Alclad2 or Mr.Surfacer in spray cans and nothing else, but even with that I sometimes try different primers. Being a large scale plane builder, I did some tests on 32nd scale STUKA using Sparmax GP-50 and Vallejo grey primer with satisfactory results.
The spray session was rather short, the primer was applied in slightly wet looks, but not being overdone in any way and the coverage was even. Doing the wings took me no time and my hand wasn’t tired at all, plus the cleaning with the proper cleaner was easy and straight forward process.
True – more cleaner is wasted, but the airbrush is safe and even though I checked afterwards for my own personal knowledge – there were no residue on the needle or nozzle.
I mentioned already that there is no need for constant disassembly, although as I’ve just said – some decent amount of cleaner is wasted. However, I found that the AJAX windows cleaner works very good with most of the paints I have in stash – Tamiya, Mr.Aqueous, MIG and AK-Interactive. The formula with the transparent AJAX works best for me, but I am pretty sure that wherever you are in the World, there is a decently priced ammonia based windows cleaner that will do the job for you. If you don’t have AJAX of course.
Alclad2 is paint that sometimes I clean with aggressive solutions and by that I mean really aggressive. Mostly acetone-based solutions available in most DYI stores, which I found to be suitable for work with airbrushes and their O-rings. So cleaning GP-50 from Alclad2 residue is easy with the proper cleaner. If you have lacquer-based cleaner that you are used to, you can easily work with that, or if you don’t want to test something new, just use what manufacturer of the paint suggests, to flush it through. In that latter case though, cost effectiveness drops, since cleaners are made more expensive on purpose and you have to live with that. But you will be safe for sure.
Sparmax GP-50 is one very fine and very useful airbrush from the pistol grip family of airbrushes. The size of the nozzle is the primary reason for that. There is no doubt, that Sparmax will give you a reliable and trustworthy tool and that combined with its design is a ticket to success in airbrushing.
The set features handle, two paint cups and a good boxing, which all combined will serve well and in wider spectrum of purposes. The price is also affordable and you can hardly find anything better and with lower price tag on the market.
Spare parts – although with not such a significance when talking about pistol grips – are available widely and knowing my experience while contacting Sparmax will be a case easily solvable. To be more specific about the parts you might need, you should refer to the clearly depicted instruction sheet where everything is pointed out and numbered.
Overall, GP-50 provides superb experience and excellent performance and will solve the airbrushing problems for many, especially for those who wants to cut some corners and get straight to the point without much hassle.