For most hunters, purchasing a rifle is a major purchase and they want a return on that investment for years. No matter if the price is a couple hundred dollars or a couple thousand, we all want to keep our guns in tip top shape and functioning, not only for our own use, but for the use of future generations as well.
I own many guns, most of them are hand-me-downs, passed down through the generations of my family, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take anyone of them into the field because I know they have always been well taken care of. So how do you accomplish that feat? How do you make your rifle able to be passed to your children’s children’s children? The answer is simple, and requires nothing more than proper care and maintenance. Three good reasons to properly care for your rifle are personal protection, investment protection and hunting improvement. So where do you start?
A good jumping off place is to know your enemy, learn all you can about combating the forces that want to turn your new rifle into a decorative paperweight.
The negative forces can include rust, corrosion and mechanical failure caused by abuse.
Rust is typically caused by moisture, and with most guns being made of metal, they are very susceptible to falling victim to it. Corrosion is usually the later stages of rust, but the cause can vary greatly. Bodily fluids such as blood, perspiration or saliva are a few causes, along with food particles, weather and naturally occurring airborne particles. Many guns are blued on the outer surfaces to prevent moisture from causing rusting, but the internal components, such as the bore, are usually bare metal and must be meticulously cared for. If rust and corrosion are allowed to settle in, its presence can ruin your barrels accuracy in a relatively short amount of time. Both these issues can be combated by using very fine steel wool and oil on places where they are beginning to show. Worn and bright areas are more likely to be magnets for rust and corrosion, so if your rifle is beginning to show some wear, a reblue might be in order. Prevent rust from accumulating in a barrel by giving your barrel a good scrubbing. Use of powder solvent patches and a phosphor-bronze brush will do wonders and make that steel shine bright.
Mechanical failure is typically the result of putting your rifle in conditions that allow rust and corrosion to become prevalent. I was always taught to treat my rifle by the Golden Rule, in other words, how I would want to be treated. Leaving your weapon in weather, not handling it properly, not cleaning it properly, allowing it to lie on the ground for long amounts of time, dropping it, all of these can severely damage your rifle and cause mechanical issues.
So how do you fight rust, corrosion and mechanical abuse? One option is to purchase a stainless steel or nickel plated firearm, which tend to rust and corrode at a much slower rate. Or a less expensive and more likely route is to take a few minutes to properly clean and perform maintenance on your rifle while always being sure to handle it properly.
These easy steps can help prolong the life of your favorite gun and allow it to become the favorite of future generations
Steps to properly maintain your gun:
- Before touching or doing maintenance on your gun, always start by washing your hands. This lessens oils, food particles and other potentially rust and corrosion causing agents.
- Always travel with your rifle in a hard protective case. Many mechanical issues can be prevented by taking this one simple step. Be sure the gun fits snuggly in the case and while waterproof cases are great, they can trap moisture, so guns cannot be stored in them for long periods of time.
- Be sure to properly clean your gun before storage. Avoid leaving excess oil or grease on the gun, as this may cause gumming of essential parts and lead to mechanical issues.
- On wood stocks, find a type of oil that is compatible with the finish to maintain a nice appearance. It has also been said dents in the stock can be raised by placing a damp cleaning patch over the dent and heating the cloth with an iron. The iron will steam, the steam will cause the wood to swell and the dent will be harder to see or in some cases gone completely.
- Rifles are usually best stored in a horizontal position. Pointing the muzzle up can cause oil to run, gumming the action and potentially weakening the stock.
- Remember that your firearm will be at the most risk of damaging components while in the field, so taking a clean rifle into the field is always a wonderful idea.
- Be aware of condensation building up on your rifle, especially in cool or cold weather. Condensation is the breeding ground for rust, and all metal objects will produce it when rapidly warmed, so avoid bringing a cold rifle into a warm tent or cabin. Leave it in a covered area outside of the heat or wrap it in a blanket or coat so it warms slowly.
- Of course one issue all hunters have is walking with a rifle slung over their shoulder when the weather starts to be uncooperative. Prepare for this scenario by placing a small amount of tape, non-abrasive, over the muzzle. The tape will be blown off if the gun is fired, and will prevent water, snow, ice from traveling down the barrel.
Gun maintenance is a must for all gun owners. Take care of the gun and it will take care of you! If you have any comments or suggestions on how to prolong the life of your favorite hunting rifle, please leave them below.