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Putting It to Bed

Properly cleaning your guns at season's end can prevent a lot of problems.

Drift punch will remove trigger assembly for cleaning on most semi-auto rifles and shotguns.

No knowledgeable boater would park a boat in the garage for nine months and expect it to perform flawlessly at the next launch if they didn't do some basic pre-storage maintenance to the electronics, engine and fuel system.

Yet, at the end of each Florida hunting season, that is precisely what is done with many firearms, and the results are not much different. Guns that worked fine when put up don't seem to work that well at the “next launch.”

Fortunately, proper pre-storage maintenance on firearms is a lot quicker and simpler than that for boats. Whether it is a rifle or shotgun, there are only a few key areas to address.

Rifle barrels: Powder, primer and copper fouling, combined with normal atmospheric moisture (which we have in abundance) are not kind to barrels over time and can cause accuracy-degrading barrel pitting. Any hunter who stores a rifle barrel for extended periods of time without cleaning it shouldn't be surprised if it “doesn't shoot like it used to.”

Running a few solvent-soaked patches through the bore is not effective cleaning.

That gets the powder and primer fouling, but not the copper fouling. Scrub the bore with powder solvent until the patches come out clean, and then shift to a dedicated copper solvent (like Hoppe's Bench Rest, Gunslick Copper-Klenz, or others).

Coat the bore thoroughly, let it sit for a few minutes, and then run a soaked patch on a jag tip through the bore. The blue/green stains on the patch are the copper being removed. Repeat this until the blue/green stains are gone. There is no need to use a brush. The solvent will dissolve the copper fouling. When using a copper solvent, use a plastic tip or jag, not a bronze or brass tip. These contain copper, will transmit blue/green stains to the patch, and will not let you know when the barrel fouling has been removed.

Left: Choke tube is removed and cleaned. Right: Solvent and plastic tips for removing

copper fouling.

The residual copper solvent must then be removed, or it can cause pitting if it is left to dry and combine with atmospheric moisture.

Wet patches with the powder solvent will remove it. Then dry the bore and coat it with a rust preventive. Corrosion X For Guns is an excellent choice. The barrel will stay pristine for years.

Shotgun barrels: A quick clean with solvent and brush, followed by a light coat of oil is fine. If your smoothbore has interchangeable choke tubes, leaving one in place with the accumulated powder and plastic wad fouling may result in it become “permanent” instead of “interchangeable.” Remove the tube and clean the tube and barrel threads with a toothbrush and solvent.

Dry those off, re-lubricate the tube, and re-install.

On a rifle or shotgun, the trigger group also needs cleaning, because oil combined with powder fouling can form a concrete-like sludge over time that can impede proper operation.

Many semi-auto rifles and shotguns can have the trigger assembly removed from the gun, and this is the easiest way to clean it. Apply powder solvent (spray or toothbrush), let it sit for a few minutes, then spray it down with brake parts cleaner (available at any auto parts store). Do this outside, and then bring the parts in to dry. Once dry, re-lubricate, re-install, and the trigger will be crisp next season.

Bolt actions normally require the action/ barrel be removed from the stock to access the trigger group. Once removed, the cleaning procedure is the same.

With the action out of the stock, check the forearm barrel channel. Unfinished wood can absorb moisture, swell and warp, and the barrel channel is usually not covered with a finish. Apply a light coat of boiled linseed oil to prevent this.

Synthetic stocks don't warp, but they can collect moisture in the barrel channel that will rust the barrel. Coat the underside of the barrel with Corrosion X to prevent that before you set the action back into the stock.

It doesn't take a lot of time to prepare a firearm for storage, but when next season rolls around you'll be glad you spent the time to put it to bed properly. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman March 2013

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