Cleaning and Prep
It’s a depressing day when hunting season is over. If you aren’t a hog (or predator/varmint) hunter, you have a few months before you’re back out in the field and there are probably certain firearms you put up for the winter. To make sure they stay in good condition, you want to take special care in storing them correctly. Improperly storing your firearms can cause rust and corrosion, possibly ruining your firearm. Rust is the ruin of many a poor gun and prevention is key.
What is Rust and How Does it Form?
Rust is the result of the reaction of iron and oxygen caused by moisture or humidity. It corrodes iron, iron alloys and steel.
According to Wikipedia:
Rust is another name for iron oxide, which occurs when iron or an alloy that contains iron, like steel, is exposed to oxygen and moisture for a long period of time. Over time, the oxygen combines with the metal at an atomic level, forming a new compound called an oxide and weakening the bonds of the metal itself. Although some people refer to rust generally as “oxidation”, that term is much more general; although rust forms when iron undergoes oxidation, not all oxidation forms rust. Only iron or alloys that contain iron can rust, but other metals can corrode in similar ways. The main catalyst for the rusting process is water.
Rust is corrosive and will eat away at the metal and cause pitting in the gun’s barrel. Pitting is characterized by small holes which degrade the metal and can eventually make the firearm inoperable. Even the slightest sweat from your palms can cause problems to your gun’s metal parts if not addressed. The best way to prevent rust is by always wiping down your firearm with a dry cloth after using it.
*Expert tip: Cleaning solvents like CLP can be harmful to case-hardened finish. Check with your gun’s manufacturer.
Without proper care and maintenance, you could have a sickening surprise when you pull out your shotgun or rifle again this spring. To store your gun for the off-season, follow these simple steps.
Start by breaking down the firearm as much as possible and remove slings, swivels and other metal accessories.
Keep it decocked so there is no stress on the springs or if you want, you can go as far as removing them all. Then give it a thorough cleaning concentrating on the bore, bolt and action. The purpose is to get it squeaky clean—remove any fouling, by first using your favorite solvent. Then, run patches through the barrel until they come out clean. Follow that by putting a light coating of trusty rust preventative grease on the metal parts with a cloth.
*Expert tip: Gun lube isn’t recommended for long-term storage. You can lubricate when it’s time to bring your guns back out again. Lube and oil can seep into places they shouldn’t and cause problems.
Right before storage, take a cloth and wipe off any remaining fingerprints, especially off blued finishes. It’s a good idea to prevent fingerprints in the first place by wearing gloves during this process.
Wood Stocked Guns
For your guns with a wood stock, treat the stock with wax and store it with the barrel down. You don’t want any grease or oil you treated the metal parts with to run down into your stock. However, do not store firearms barrel down for extended periods to prevent warping.
*Expert tip: The NRA’s National Firearm Museum, home to 3,000 firearms, treats its firearms with Renaissance wax which protects metal, wood, steel and aluminum from rust.
Remove scopes completely or cover your optic’s lenses to prevent fogging and dust and dirt from getting into the unit and take out the batteries. The need to rezero will get you to the range for a few practice rounds before opening day.
Your firearm needs to be stored in a cool, dry place with as little humidity as possible. We like silicone-treated gun socks placed in a proper gun safe with desiccant or dehumidifier. The best place for your gun safe is inside the house in a temperature-controlled environment. If your only option is to put it in the garage, keep it off the concrete by elevating it off the garage floor. Concrete will also attract moisture. Do not put your firearms back into the cardboard box—these boxes attract moisture and disintegrate with time. The padded foam rifle cases are a no-go, as well. This foam is a moisture magnet, too.
Note: If you live in a particularly humid or salty environment, extra special care needs to be taken to prevent rust and corrosion.
As one who doesn’t subscribe to cleaning their firearms after every range visit, I have learned my lesson that a too-dirty gun is a malfunctioning gun—keeping them lubed is key! In all my years in this business, I have seen a suppressor welded to a barrel due to poor maintenance and parts rusted together! Our firearms not only put food on the table and protect our loved ones, but they are investments to cherish for generations to come. They deserve being well cared for.
How do you store your firearms for winter or the offseason? Share your tips in the comment section.
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