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Last summer, my painting company added a new sprayer to its arsenal: the Graco ProShot. For those who missed the hoopla surrounding the introduction of this tool, it's a hoseless 2,000-psi piston pump sprayer that takes pro-style tips and is powered by an 18-volt battery. The ProShot is sold exclusively through Sherwin-Williams and should not be confused with Graco's TrueCoat sprayers, which are aimed at the DIY market.

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If you harbor any ill feelings toward the early Wagner Powershot throwaways, rest assured that the ProShot offers a far better painting experience. While the motor is somewhat loud, the sound isn't unpleasant and the spray pattern is good in all available tip sizes. More important, the tool lays down a very nice finish and doesn't spit or sputter even when spraying heavy materials.

Applications

The ProShot is not a direct replacement for traditional airless or HVLP sprayers; it's a convenience tool that can be used for certain applications. We use it when the area to be painted is too small to justify taking 30 minutes to break down and clean an airless sprayer. The ProShot can be cleaned in less than 10 minutes: You just empty the cup, run a quart or two of water or solvent through the gun with the tip on, then scrub the tip and deflector with a toothbrush. A 20-minute savings may not sound like much, but it adds up over time.

The quality of finish from this gun is on par with that of an airless sprayer. Although it can be used for waterborne and oil-based finishes, we use it exclusively for latex because I don't like to run oil through the same gun I use for water-based paint. If we need to spray more than five gallons, we definitely use an airless, but for smaller quantities we would rather use the ProShot. It's our tool of choice for painting or priming a handful of doors, a few radiators or shutters, or a small stack of shelving or trim.

The ProShot is heavier than an airless spray gun or a cup gun, and you would not want to handle it for long periods of time. But since we only use this tool for smaller jobs, the added weight seems like a reasonable trade-off for not having to drag a hose through an area filled with doors, cabinets, or drying racks. The sprayer comes with two 18-volt lithium-ion batteries and a one-hour charger. The runtime is good; we get about five quarts of paint per charge.

Those of you who own HVLP sprayers – which, like the ProShot, are intended for smaller jobs – may be wondering whether you really need another small-job tool. That depends entirely on the type of material you intend to spray. You can't spray latex with an HVLP without thinning, an added step that slows you down. Since the ProShot uses large-orifice airless-style tips, it can shoot heavy materials straight out of the can. Using it is different from using an HVLP: The large-orifice tips and high pressure create considerably more flow, so you have to move quite a bit faster than you would with an HVLP unit.

I wouldn't purchase the ProShot as a primary cabinet finishing tool, because it's too heavy and bulky for fine work in carcases and has no pressure control. Also, it can't be used with the types of finishes favored by cabinet makers – lacquer and other materials that contain hot (flammable) solvents. An HVLP unit would be the better choice for furniture and cabinets.

Graco recently introduced a new version of this tool, the Fine Finish ProShot, that takes smaller-orifice tips, offers adjustable pressure, and has an explosion-proof motor so you can use it with hot solvents. We have been using one for fine-finish applications and hope to cover it in a future review.

Cost of Ownership

The ProShot can be rebuilt once, so it's technically a disposable tool. That said, every sprayer is disposable in the sense that it will eventually become so beat up or so out of date that it is no longer worth repairing.

According to the sales literature, the ProShot should be able to spray 50 gallons of finish before it needs to be rebuilt, so the overall projected life is 100 gallons. Those numbers are based on lab testing and seem overly conservative to me. I asked Graco if the water or solvent used to flush the ProShot counted toward its lifespan. The person I spoke to couldn't say for sure, but it's my sense that flushing the tool causes less wear than spraying finish because the cleaning fluid is not abrasive (though there is obviously some wear when the pump is working).

In my experience, what you spray and how you treat the gun – or, more specifically, how well you clean it – has a big effect on its lifespan. We took good care of the ProShot, and it performed well until we had put about 90 gallons of latex through it. After that, it took longer to prime, the motor ran rough, and there were fluctuations in spray pressure. After a $90 rebuild that took five minutes to perform, the sprayer was like new. I assume we'll get another 90 gallons out of the tool before we need to replace it.

We typically spray three to four quarts each time we use the ProShot. Based on that, here's how I would calculate what we save by using it instead of an airless sprayer:

  • 720-quart lifespan (90 gallons x 4 quarts per gallon x 2 for rebuilding) / 3.5 quarts per use = 206 uses
  • 206 uses x 20 minutes (saved cleanup time per use) = 69 hours saved labor
  • 69 hours x $30-per-hour labor cost (including overhead and taxes) = $2,070 labor savings
  • $2,070 - $590 ($500 gun + $90 rebuild) = $1,480 saved

This probably understates our savings because it leaves out what we gain by being able to travel light, set up quickly, and work without a hose or cord.

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The ProShot can be cleaned in a fraction of the time it takes to clean an airless sprayer: You empty the cup, run water or solvent through the tool with the tip on, then scrub the tip with a toothbrush.

Accessories

The tool comes with a 32-ounce cup; a 48-ounce cup is optional. You can also get a ProPack paint reservoir and adjustable extensions. The ProPack is a backpack containing a one-gallon reservoir that connects to the gun with a 5-foot hose. It allows the user to carry more paint and spray at any and all angles without fear that tipping the gun will cause it to suck air (as can happen when the cup isn't completely full). The extensions, which come in 12- and 24-inch lengths, fit between the gun and the tip and extend the user's reach. They also allow the user to point the tip up, down, or any angle in between without tilting the gun.

The Bottom Line

I would recommend the ProShot to painters and other tradespeople who need a cost-effective way to do small painting and priming jobs. It's not a fine-finishing tool and you should not expect to use it to spray building exteriors or vast areas of drywall; instead, it's for small projects that are not worth doing with an airless sprayer and would be tough to perform with an HVLP sprayer because you're using waterborne finishes.

Scott Burt owns and operates Topcoat Finishes in Jericho, Vt.

ProShot Specs

Sprays: waterborne and oil-based finishes
Weight empty: 5.5 pounds
Weight with 32 ounces of paint: 7.5 pounds
Kit price: $499
Includes: Sprayer, case, two batteries, charger, 32-ounce cup with cap, two tips, bottle of Pump Armor (protects piston during storage)
48-ounce cup: $25
ProPack: $225
12-inch extension: $95
24-inch extension: $105
Rebuild kit: $90

Graco
800-690-2894
www.graco.com

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