Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.
Graco Contractor 2-Finger Spray Gun
In my twenty years of painting, I've used various Graco spray guns, but the contractor series spray gun is the one I've used the most, spraying everything from primer and paint to enamel and pre-catalyzed lacquer. This gun handles multiple coatings.
This spray gun is included with most of Graco's contractor airless sprayers sold online and through paint stores like Sherwin Williams. The Graco sprayers sold at home improvement stores usually come with their SG-series spray gun (SG-2 and SG-3).
Having used both many times, the contractor 2-finger gun lasts longer and performs better than the less expensive SG-series model. I can use the same gun for several years before I need to replace it.
The SG-series spray gun is cheaper than the 2-finger gun, and while it isn't the worst option, I'll explain my likes and dislikes, having owned and used both of them.
Graco SG3 Spray Gun vs Contractor Series
- Durability. The exterior of the Graco SG-3 is aluminum and lightweight, but it's less durable. You can damage the spray gun if you drop it on a hard surface. The contractor model is heavier, but built to last. I've accidentally dropped it more than once without causing any damage to the exterior or the needle inside.
- Trigger comfort. The SG spray gun is equipped with a 4-finger trigger, while the contractor model is 2-finger. After spraying thousands of gallons of paint over the years, I find the 2-finger trigger to be more ergonomic and comfortable than the over-sized 4-finger model.
- The needle design. The enclosed needle (FlexSeal) of the contractor version is the most important difference between the two guns. With the FlexSeal design, the enclosed fluid needle isn't exposed to paint as it passes through the gun, extending its life. The needle in the SG-3 isn't enclosed, reducing its life. If you spray a lot, needle life is very important.
- Paint spitting. Airless sprayers are known for spitting a drop or two of paint upon trigger release, but the SG spray gun spits more due to the slow needle shut-off and position of the internal seat. The seat inside the contractor spray gun is positioned closer to the tip, reducing spitting, while the seat in the SG gun is spaced further away from the tip, allowing more paint to collect and project onto the substrate when releasing the trigger.
- Swivel hose. Both spray guns have a swivel hose connector, except for the SG-2. Hose twisting is worsened when using a spray gun incapable of swiveling. The swivel makes it easier to spray in any position without tension and resistance from twisting.
- Removable filter. Both have a removable filter inside for quick cleaning. You simply twist the spray gun open and pull the mesh filter out. Graco includes a small tool used for cleaning gunk and debris from the inside of the mesh filter.
Graco Contractor Spray Gun Performance
This spray gun is incredibly versatile in terms of the materials you can spray and the type of airless spraying you can do, depending on the sprayer you're pairing the gun with. I use mine with my Graco 495 Ultra Max and my Graco GX19 FinishPro, spraying everything from kitchen cabinets to drywall.
With the the 7/8-inch threading, you can use a Graco RAC-5 tip guard (orange) on this gun, or the more versatile RAC-X tip guard (blue) for fine finish spraying at lower pressure with the Graco FFLP spray tips (green). I use this gun a lot for spraying cabinets and trim, using the FFLP tips and blue tip guard.
I spray a lot of lacquer and latex paint through this gun with very little clogging and no thinning of material. Keeping the mesh filter clean is key, as well as using the appropriate size filter for the material you're spraying.
You can use this spray gun on any compatible airless sprayer with PSI no greater than 3,600, the maximum fluid pressure rating for this gun. Many painters are unaware that you can use non-Graco brand tip guards and tips on this gun, as long as the guard has a matching 7/8-inch thread. Most threading on spray tips and guards is 7/8-inch, but some are 11/16-inch. Don't forget to check the specifications.
Is the Graco Contractor Spray Gun Worth Buying?
If you're new to spraying, or want to upgrade your spray gun from the cheaper SG-3, the Graco contractor spray gun is definitely worth the upgrade for anyone who sprays a lot. The spray gun is ergonomic and comfortable to spray with all day. The gun spits less, and the fluid needle lasts longer.
For the weekend warrior or part time painter, the cheaper SG-series spray gun, paired with one of the Graco sprayers from a big box store, is by no means a bad option too. However, you should choose the SG-3 over the SG-2 to get the swivel hose, which is the only difference between the two.
The contractor series 2-finger gun can spray most latex and oil-based coatings, using the right filter size and spray tip. I've sprayed latex paint and enamel through the cheaper gun too without any problems, but I'm not sure about other types of coatings. Thick coatings like block filler might require thinning.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Matt G.