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Paint Sprayer Comparison - Spray Gun Shootout

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A press release from Summit Racing sparked the idea for this article. We ran the release in our Feb. ’11 issue with the headline, A Spray Gun for $32.95? After we asked the Summit guys if it was a typo, we began thinking about why some guns cost $32 (or less at some warehouse stores) while others cost more than $800? And which price point is the best for the enthusiast who may paint a couple of cars a year? We hope to answer those questions here.

The Scene
We phoned Kenny Maisano, owner of Mascar Autobody & Paint in Costa Mesa, California, to see if he’d help us throw a spray gun party. We’d provide the consumer-level guns, he’d provide a couple of examples from Sata, along with something to spray, and reps from Iwata would bring their latest and greatest. Maybe he reads our email, because when we arrived, he had a ’69 Camaro in his booth prepped and ready for paint. The Camaro Craft hate mail can continue for yet another month. Believe it or not, the Camaro was in for a mundane insurance repair rather than a high-end restoration. The timing just worked out well for us.

Top Shelf
Price Range: $500 and up
SATAjet 4000
Iwata Supernova

As the crème de la crème of the spray gun world, these are the big dogs. SATA is a German company that has been making top-quality spray guns for decades. Maisano’s guys use SATA guns for primer and basecoats, so he had a cabinet full of them. In addition, SATA rep Wayne Morrison brought out the newest offering, the SATAjet 4000 B. With a retail price of more than $800, this isn’t a spray gun for the faint of heart, or faint of bank account, for that matter. It has all the latest bells and whistles, not the least of which is its built-in digital pressure regulator. No more guessing at the accuracy of an add-on cheater regulator.

Anest Iwata is a Japanese company that has been around for more than 80 years. The company is well known for its high-quality airbrushes and industrial spray applicators, but lately it has been making inroads in the automotive refinishing market with new, fullsize spray guns. Many pro painters use them for spraying clearcoats, including Maisano’s shop, whose guys like the LPH400 for clearcoats. Iwata West Coast reps John Pentecost and Craig Flagtwet brought out a new LPH400 and their brand-new LS400 Supernova. Priced slightly less than the SATA, the Supernova retails for about $734, but it looks like it should cost more. Styled by Pinninfarina, the Italian design company responsible for some of Ferrari’s most beautiful cars, the Supernova looks like no other spray gun out there. It is more than a pretty face, however, as its functional features are on par with the SATA.

What Your Money Buys
In short: efficiency, consistency, and comfort. These guns are designed for the guy who paints one or more cars a day, five days a week. He has a spray gun in his hand more often than not. It has to be lightweight and ergonomic so as to not strain the hand of the user. It has to be extremely efficient at getting paint from the nozzle to the car with as little overspray as possible, because every molecule of overspray is money wasted, and paint is very expensive, especially if you’re using several gallons per day. Finally, it must deliver the same spray pattern every time the painter pulls the trigger. In a high volume shop, you don’t have time or material to waste fiddling with the gun in between each coat of paint. Nor do you want customer come-backs. The paint has to go on right the first time.

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