Every year we have customers bring their hunting rifles in which are nearly ruined or so messed up that it will cost more to repair the rifle than it is worth. When they finished hunting the year before, they put their rifle into a soft case, stuck it in a closet or out in the garage and forgot about it. A year later when it is time to go hunting, they open the case up to find a rusty mess. The rifle looks bad and many times parts are rusted together so it won’t operate right. Let’s hope they didn’t leave any ammo in the rifle, this only makes it worse to repair. The brass case will stick inside the chamber and will need to be driven out. If you live almost anywhere in Texas, it is humid, and soft gun cases are not meant to be a storage box! The soft case will absorb moisture and keep the gun wet which causes rust to start and then the rust eats holes in the metal. Before too long the gun becomes a piece of junk especially if the rust gets into the barrel. Rust pits inside of a barrel will ruin the guns ability to shoot accurately. I have even seen shotgun barrels which are rust pitted so bad that the metal becomes a safety issue and unreliable to shoot.
Many guns are being made from stainless steel these days. Shooters think that if their rifles are stainless that they don’t have to worry about cleaning them or properly storing them. Well, I am sorry to tell you that stainless steel rusts also. It is harder to make rust, but it does rust! It is also harder to clean and stop the rust once it starts. Also, not all of the parts on a stainless gun are stainless. Most springs are carbon steel and many parts in the bolt, trigger and sights are carbon steel. If you get rust starting on the barrel of a stainless rifle or handgun, it will have to be sandblasted and polished to stop it. If rust starts on the trigger you might as well throw the trigger away and get a new one. A trigger which has had rust on it will never be safe again!
The typical repair on a hunting rifle which has been neglected and started to rust will run begin at about $200 and up to as much as $600. It only takes a few minutes to get a rifle or handgun ready for year long storage and it is a lot cheaper than having a five hundred dollar repair bill and missing the first two weeks of deer season because the Gunsmith is busy repairing everyone’s gun ahead of yours. A simple repair of a rusted gun is to take the rifle apart and do a major clean on the gun. Make sure the barrel is free from pits and remove all grit and grime from the trigger. Guns just beginning to rust will have to have the barrel lapped to remove the surface rust and a complete reblue of the outside of the gun. In really bad cases, the barrel will have to be replaced and the metal refinished, as well as, a stock clean up or refinish.
Now if you don’t want to send the gunsmiths kids to another year of college, take a few minutes to clean and properly store the gun for the year. Clean the barrel and get all of the powder fouling and copper out of it. I use Sweets or Hoppe’s Benchrest solvent to do this. Next, spray some Gun Scrubber or Carburetor cleaner down the barrel and run some soaked patches through the barrel to finish cleaning it. Clean the trigger with lighter fluid or some scrubber. Spray the bolt off with Gun Scrubber and wipe it off. Take a patch soaked with gun oil then run it through the barrel and wipe the outside of the metal down with a little oil. I prefer a Teflon based oil like Tri-flo or Rem Oil. Use a little oil in the trigger, lighter fluid will work here but a very little bit of Tri_Flo won’t hurt. If your gun has a wood stock, wipe it down with a little lemon oil, clean the lenses of the scope and your ready to put it up for the year. Never use too much oil, it will leave a mess for next year and doesn’t help anything. In fact, too much oil will attract dust and dirt, this is where a little is just enough. Never use WD-40 on guns, I have made many thousands of dollars cleaning the dried up WD-40 out of triggers and bolts. Now don’t put your gun back into a soft gun case. You want to store your guns in a place where they can get some air conditioning. You want to keep moisture and humidity away from the metal on the guns. I store my guns in a safe inside my bedroom closet. Air and AC will help keep the guns dry. I also have a Golden rod inside my safe, this is a small light which helps keep the humidity away. Never leave your guns in the garage where both humidity and the wrong people can get to them. Guns cost us a lot of money and they are very tempting for someone to sell.
Long term storage is a little different but not a lot. First thoroughly clean the gun and use a little oil on all the parts. Next, I will take some bearing grease and 30 weight motor oil and make a 50/50 mixture. I will then coat the entire gun inside and out with the gooey mess. I make sure the inside of the barrel is coated with the mixture and squeeze some inside the bolt and the trigger. Then I wrap the guns in a cotton cloth and put them up for long term storage. Don’t do this if you are going to use the guns next year. This makes for a big mess to clean up once you want to put the guns back into use. But if you are planning to store the guns for several years or want to bury them in the backyard, this mixture works well and in 10 years from now your guns will be in as good a shape as when you put them up.
Taking just a little time to do simple maintenance and cleaning on your guns will go a long way to having them for a long time. Remember, guns are just mechanical devices and they need maintenance to work properly. What would happen if you never changed the oil in your car, or never changed the brake fluid? You would not expect your car to last very long or stop very well. So why do we think a rifle, shotgun or handgun would be any different?