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What to do with water damaged guns?

What To Do With WATER DAMAGED Guns?

Lance T. Martini of Accuracy Gun Shop suffered the unfortunate fate of having a water main rupture next to his business. The result was several thousand gallons of water soaked through the roof and ceiling, immersing most of his firearms inventory including guns, reloading tools and assorted components in a high humidity atmosphere, if not flooding the showroom itself.

He was quite naturally concerned about the potential for water damage to both the firearms and components of his shop and asked what measures should be taken to preserve his inventory?

Even though we have seen an accelerated use of synthetic materials in the manufacture of firearms in the last few years, high grade steel is still the most frequent material of choice for building barrels, receivers, slides, cylinders and frames, and steel is a ferrous material.

Ferrous materials are subject to corrosion and the black oxide finishes found on most blue finish sporting firearms are the least corrosion resistant of all the firearms finishes.

Checking with Robbie Barrkman, President of The ROBAR Companies, Inc. he recommended the application of a light industrial oil like 10W20 to the surface of the steel. A light industrial oil is the quickest and cheapest solution to this difficulty and will work just as well at protecting a water immersed steel finish as any of the more expensive lubricants.

The problem with any ferrous compound that has come in contact with either a high humidity atmosphere or water immersion is the oxidation of the steel finish. In order to stop that oxidation of the steel, oil is applied to seal the metal against oxygen.

It is an insidious problem because it can happen very slowly. A blue steel finish is actually a black oxide finish and it is a controlled rust process. But water or humidity damage creates rust on top of this controlled rust finish and will be revealed as being red or brown in color.

The quickest indicator for rust is to rub a clean white cloth over the steel surface and then examine the cloth. If it has turned brown or reddish in color where it made contact with the steel, then a problem is developing.

Sand blasting metal finishes will rust even quicker than polished surfaces because sand blasting increase the surface area and increased surface area will accelerate the oxidation process. Also accelerating the rusting process is increased temperatures, the higher the temperature - the faster the reaction.

Non-ferrous alloys, such as aluminum will not, as a rule, oxidize. On a short term basis oxidation shouldn't materialize because of anodizing, but if it does a light coating of oil will cure it. The first warning sign of oxidation with aluminum will be a white or greenish powder residue.

Reloading tools exposed to a high humidity atmosphere should also be treated with an oil coating if the products in question are made with ferrous materials and, again, the proper treatment is a thin, even film of a light industrial oil.

Following the treatment with oil, drying the environment is probably the second best prevention measure against oxidation of ferrous firearms. A blue steel finish or black oxide firearm will last less than one hour in a laboratory salt spray, so that is an indication of the importance of humidity. If that environment is allowed to remain wet and humid the oxidation process will develop within ten to fourteen days Barrkman advised and any preventative treatment program should involve the application of the light oil coating every two days.

Nickel plated guns should receive the same treatment as the blue finish guns, but stainless steel guns have proven their corrosion resistance. However, firearms made from stainless steel will rust if left in a corrosive atmosphere without proper care.

As for components, it would depend upon the container in which they were stored. Smokeless powder if stored in a sealed metal container will withstand a high humidity atmosphere over a long period of time as long as the metal can maintains it integrity. If the container were made from cardboard, the question would be whether it had been in contact with standing water. Because most cardboard powder containers are treated with wax, high humidity atmospheres will not create problems, but water contact could very well penetrate the wax, especially if under the depth and pressure of standing water.

Primers could become deactivated by a high humidity atmosphere, but once dried they would become active again. However, the question for a retail enterprise is how do you know they are dry, and how do you safely dry them if they are wet?

A retail firearms shop depends upon selling its merchandise and to do that requires an attractive appearance for the firearm. A light oil coating that seals the steel from oxygen can easily fulfill that requirement. A grease coating can not.

Cosmoline is the common military method of preserving firearms against corrosion in storage, but it isn't well suited for the civilian environment, especially one concerned with retail sales of firearms, and grease is a poor substitute for continuous oil applications for a number of reasons.

Some greases are water based and therefore they actually improve the possibility of corrosion. Others are acidic in nature and cause corrosion through their acid properties. Additionally, grease should be heated to a liquid state for proper application because simply smearing it on the gun will leave air-pockets containing humidity next to the steel and that can cause small areas of corrosion. Lastly, grease once it has dried during long term storage is difficult to remove and ugly in appearance. Cosmoline often requires boiling the metal parts for complete removal, which is a messy and time consuming process.

So, once a water or high humidity atmosphere has been introduced to firearms, the best preventative measure against oxidation is a routine application of an industrial grade, light oil and a dry, low humidity environment

PHOTO : The disaster that befalls you may not be one of your own making. A bus clipped the fire hydrant on Lance's corner, not once, but twice in one week!
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:preventing firearms' ferrous alloy finishes from oxidation
Author:James, Frank W.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:company profile
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Previous Article:Ram-Line Inc.: the secret of success.
Next Article:Firearm production by U.S. manufacturers - 1990: an interim report.

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