Most of the hunting seasons are over.   It is time to put away the shotgun until next summer.  No one is harder on a gun than are we the waterfowlers.  There are few colder places frequented by humans than the windswept late-season waterfowl blind.  Some of them seem like they are just suburbs for the North Pole. 

Considering the cost of weapons today, many of us do not take very good care of them.  As the hunting season winds down, it is time to consider just how we store them during the off season. 

A well cared for firearm will out last the hunter.  It becomes an heirloom to be passed along from generation to generation.  A poorly maintained firearm can result in missed shots, deterioration of the stock and metal parts, as well as problems with the functioning of moving parts. 

Some hunters wipe down their gun and then put it away.  That is a good start, but only a start.  Rust is one of the primary problems in gun storage.  A gun will collect rust spots during the winter, even if it is put away dry.  It is important that a gun be allowed to warm to room temperature before it is put away. 

If stored while cold in a gun case, a tightly sealed gun cabinet or safe, moisture that condenses on the cold metal cannot evaporate. 

If a gun has been shot, then deposits of powder residue and primer will remain in the bore creating a build up.  Over time, the build up becomes a coating that will interfere with accuracy, unless it is removed.  Additionally, if left in the gun untreated, the coating can cause rust and pitting of the bore. 

Gun care is not difficult, just time consuming.  It begins with the selection of a good cleaning kit.  There are a number of excellent kits on the market. 

It is recommended that one chose a kit that contains bronze brushes.  Select a kit that is made for the bore of your weapon.  If one is shooting a 12-GA shotgun then a kit of a rifle is not a good idea. 

One begins with the bronze brush which is attached to the cleaning rod and soaked in a solvent.  Work the brush from breech to muzzle about 10 times. 

Next the brush is removed and cleaning jag or slotted plastic tip is added to the rod.  A soft cotton swab of cloth is soaked in the solvent and worked back and forth for an additional 10 times.  If the barrel is particularly fouled, you can allow the solvent to soak it for a while to break up the residue.  This step is repeated a number of times with clean swabs until no more residue appears on the clean swab. 

The final attention to the bore is done by lightly oiling a patch and running it down the bore to oil the entire barrel. 

Turning to the action, an aerosol gun cleaning solvent can be used to get at all the working parts. 

It is important not to over lubricate a weapon.  Too often hunters will spray a heavy coat of lubricant and then wipe off the excess.  But, oil can drip into the action, firing pin and mainsprings.  Dust and fouling residues can build up in the oil and form a stiff paste that interferes with smooth operation of the gun. 

The correct way to clean the receiver area of the gun is to disassemble the gun as much as possible.  Use a solvent to remove any rust, excess oil or dirt.  Apply a degreaser to remove any residue build up.  Using a cotton rag, wipe off the remaining solvent and degreaser. 

Once clean, reassemble the gun and give the metal parts a LIGHT coat of lubrication oil.  Then apply a rust inhibitor or grease.  If grease is used, then it becomes necessary to clean the gun again before firing.  Regardless, it is important to run a clean patch through a gun that has been stored for a long period.  The clean patch will remove any excess oil before shooting. 

Turning to the outside of the gun, inspect the outside of the metal parts for any signs of rust.  They can then be cleaned with a little of the solvent and wiped clean.  A light coating of oil can be applied to the outside of metal portions of the gun with a cleaning swab.  Here, light is the operative word again. 

Inspect the stock for any cracks, chips or dents.  If the stock is cracked, a gunsmith should be consulted.  It may be necessary to install a new stock.  Scratches and dents can be filled in with wood putty.  Some of it comes in tubes that are colored the same as the color of the stock.  It is available in stores that sell it for the fixing of furniture finishes.  There are a variety of colors and shades. 

Before storing, wipe the stock with a silicone cloth, being careful not to leave any finger prints on the metal parts of the gun.  Fingerprints can develop rust spots during storage. 

Guns should be stored in cabinets, or at least in a gun case, where they are not exposed to dust and grime.  It is nice to be able to see a gun up on the wall, but if you are not going to clean it every couple of weeks, it is not worth the damage that might be done to it. 

Take care of your gun and it will perform for you and your children for years to come.


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