The majority of hunting season is over and it is time to make sure your guns are in good shape.
To keep your firearms looking great and working properly, protect them from the moisture, dirt and hard knocks that came from hunting and traveling.
Many hunters clean their firearms only once at the end of each season or when their firearms are obviously dirty or wet. That’s a big mistake.
Every day is another chance to damage a firearm or adversely affect its performance due to neglect. In fact, many, if not most firearms are damaged by grit and moisture you don’t even see during regular use.
The following are tips to preserve your firearms:
Keep your firearms covered when not in use This is as simple as having a basic assortment of soft and hard gun cases to fit different situations.
When traveling to and from hunts for longer distances, or in particularly rough conditions, a hard case gives maximum protection against dents and scratches and could save a scope or barrel from being bent or knocked out of alignment.
Soft cases come in handy for short truck or boat rides. When used properly, cases also protect against unwanted moisture and grime.
Look for cases that are lined with materials that won’t attract or retain moisture, yet cushion hard blows.
Think prevention, not cure Protect your firearms before you see signs of rust or abrasion damage.
Keep silicone-impregnated cloth wipes with your field gear and in each of your gun cases and wipe exteriors clean after every hunt.
Use a bore light after each hunt to check for excessive fouling or moisture in the barrel or the threading of your shotgun’s chokes. In addition to lighting the way during the hunt, a pen light can serve as a “field grade” bore light to check your barrels in the field.
Keep a light coat of oil on your guns, but not so thick as to attract dust. Too much oil can cause jams and actually cause other problems, so oil lightly but thoroughly and wipe off any excess.
Treat emergencies immediately If you drop a firearm in the mud or in water, don’t wait. Stop and clean the gun as best you can right there.
Dirty guns can jam and cause permanent damage or even injury to the hunter. Wet guns can rust or corrode quickly, particularly in salt water, or can freeze up when you need them most.
Even tiny particles of dirt in the barrel can damage rifling lands and grooves, affecting accuracy. A simple field cleaning kit available in most sporting goods stores and catalogs will fit in a coat pocket and could save the hunt.
Let your firearms breathe each night Don’t slide you long gun in its case after each hunt and forget about it.
Even tiny amounts of moisture you didn’t see can cause damage overnight. After each hunt, uncase your firearm, wipe it down and run the bore if necessary, then let it air dry for several hours just as you would your boots and gloves after a long day.
If you are like most hardcore hunters, you’re worn out by the end of hunting season. But don’t kick up your heels just yet.
This is where a little extra care pays big dividends. The following actions will ensure your firearms retain their performance, looks and value for many years to come.
Time for an overhaul Even if you do it only once a year, totally dismantle each firearm and give it a detailed cleaning.
Remove stocks from actions, barrels from receivers, and bolts, slides and triggers from actions and start cleaning. Clean each part separately and thoroughly, looking for any signs of rust or excessive wear.
Keep some toothpicks and Q-tips handy to get grime out of crevasses and small, inaccessible spaces in the action, but make sure you don’t leave any cotton lint from the Q-tips behind to attract moisture or grime.
Again, a light coat of oil or silicon-based lubricant wiped until dry to the touch will help protect your firearms while stored.
Don’t forget the furniture Many firearms owners clean the metal parts of their guns, yet ignore their wood stocks, which can dry out or even crack over a period of years just like the furniture in your home.
First, inspect your wood stocks and check for signs of drying or cracking, which will need to be repaired immediately. Then, oil your wood stocks once a year or as necessary with a high-quality, non-staining wood oil.
Your wood stocks will retain their beauty and function much longer. As with oil on metal, you don’t need to overdo it.
Rub the wood oil in carefully and thoroughly, but don’t leave a wet film on the stock.
Finally, never put oil on a wet stock. This could trap moisture in the wood. Make sure your stocks are dry and clean before applying oil.
Store carefully Not every closet or basement corner is appropriate for storing firearms. Find a cool, dry area in your home and place your gun cabinet or vault there.
Store your guns uncased when possible so they can breathe.
By following these simple rules for firearms maintenance, you’ll not only have the cleanest, best looking firearms in the woods, but you’ll also have guns that function flawlessly and shoot accurately when it counts the most.