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
I've painted with Graco sprayers for over 20 years, using the contractor series spray gun to spray everything from paint to stain. This spray gun is included with most of Graco's contractor airless sprayers sold online and through paint stores. The Graco sprayers sold at major home improvement stores typically include the SG-series spray gun (SG-2 and SG-3).
In my experience, the contractor gun lasts longer and performs better than the less expensive model. I recently replaced my spray gun with the same model after many years of spraying enamel and stain.
The SG-series spray gun, designed for homeowners, is cheaper and not a terrible option for occasional use, but I'll explain my likes and dislikes, having owned both of them.
Graco SG3 Spray Gun vs Contractor Series
- 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 the metal build of the exterior is solid and more durable. I've dropped mine more than once without causing any damage to the exterior or the needle inside.
- Trigger differences. The SG spray gun is equipped with a 4-finger trigger, while the contractor model is 2-finger. The trigger design is personal preference, but after spraying thousands of gallons of paint over the years, the 2-finger trigger is more ergonomic and comfortable than the oversized 4-finger, at least for me.
- The enclosed needle design (FlexSeal) of the contractor version is probably the most important difference between the two. With the FlexSeal design, the enclosed fluid needle isn't directly 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 important.
- Spitting is another issue. Most airless sprayers spit a droplet or two of paint upon trigger release, which is unavoidable, but the SG spray gun spits more, due to its slower needle shut-off and position of the seat internally. The seat in 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.
- 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.
- 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, spraying everything from kitchen cabinets to drywall.
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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 the ability to do 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 guard.
I spray a lot of enamel and latex paint through this gun with very little clogging. With my airless sprayer and the materials I use, no thinning is required with this gun. 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 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 ergonomic gun is more comfortable to spray with all day long, spits less, and the fluid needle lasts longer. I've sprayed with this gun my whole painting career and will continue to do so.
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, isn't a bad option either for infrequent use. 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 gun for sure can handle spraying 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 without any problems, but I'm not sure about other types of coatings.
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.