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Firearms Care - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

What do a spring turkey hunt in Kentucky and a sea duck hunt in Maine have in common? Both can take their toll on your firearms if you donít properly care for them both during and at the end of each season.

Every hunt brings with it the possibility of damage to your prized firearms. To keep your firearms looking great and working properly, youíll want to protect them from the moisture, dirt and hard knocks that come with hunting and traveling. As with most things, having a plan and the right tools to carry it out will keep your firearm in good condition.

During hunting season
Many hunters clean their firearms only once at the end of each season, or when their firearms are obviously dirty or wet. Thatís a big mistake. Every day afield 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 donít even see during regular use.

Regular maintenance is the key to good performance and long life from your firearms, but remember one thing first treat every gun as if it were loaded, said Rob Keck, National Wild Turkey Federation CEO. Before cleaning of any type, make sure your firearms have empty chambers and magazines.

So here they are, some basic rules for keeping your firearms clean and functioning at their full potential during the season:

1. 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 wonít attract or retain moisture, yet cushion hard blows.

2. 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 shotgunís chokes. In addition to lighting the way during the hunt, a pen light, such as Streamlightís handy little Stylus, can serve as a field grade bore light to check your barrels in the field.

3. Treat emergencies immediately. If you drop a firearm in the mud or in water, donít 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.

4. Let your firearms breathe each night. Donít slide you long gun in its case after each hunt and forget about it. Even tiny amounts of moisture you didnít 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.

In the off season
If you are like most hardcore hunters, youíre worn out by the end of hunting season. But donít 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:

1. Time for an overhaul. Even if you do it only once a year, totally dismantle each firearm and give it a detailed cleaning. Following your instruction manual directions, 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 donít 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.

2. Donít 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 donít need to overdo it. Rub the wood oil in carefully and thoroughly, but donít 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.

3. Store carefully. Not every closet or basement corner is appropriate for storing firearms. Find a cool, dry area in your home to store your firearms and place your gun cabinet or vault there. Store your guns uncased when possible so they can breathe, and use commercially available dessicants (drying agents) to help dry the air in your cabinet or vault. These dessicants range from chemical canisters to low-voltage metal rods that dry the air efficiently when placed inside your cabinet or vault, and can be purchased in many retailerís catalogs and some stores. Of course, your firearms should be stored unloaded in a locked cabinet or vault.

By following these simple rules for firearms maintenance, youíll not only have the cleanest, best looking firearms in the woods, but youíll also have guns that function flawlessly and shoot accurately when it counts the most, Keck said. And, come trade-in or sale time, youíll fetch top dollar from shop owners and individual buyers who typically pay much more for clean, well-cared for firearms.


 

 

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