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Don't send your guns to an early grave; follow these expert tips on easy gun care.

Equipped as we are with a bewildering assortment of rust preventive, polarized synthetic oils, solvents and protective gun cases, gun longevity would appear inevitable. However, the annual crop of rust-ravaged guns and those ruined by other natural phenomena continues to grow. One side effect of this proliferation of chemical gun protection is that few shooters worry about rust, since most shooters have something which "absolutely prvents and eliminates rust." But, as with most things, preventing rust is easier said than done, to paraphrase a common adage! Then there are those seldom occurring things like snow or mud plugs in the barrel which back up thousands of pounds per square inch of presure, causing our guns to perform mechanical miracles in creating their own "gas porting"!

"Good ole boy," Bill, a "nacherul" shooter, fondles our heirloom mint Parker double. We are mighty proud of the old Parker, and Bill is anxious to see it, so we let him fondle it until he has smeared his hyper-acidity and salty perspiration from action to muzzle. The Parker has been in its case for all but a few days of its 60 years, and its metal is dry but rust-free, because it has been cased and in a dry place. Now, Bill has planted a bumper crop of rust "seeds" on the bare steel, which will thrive on the color case-hardening of the action and the rust blue of the barrels. Careful wiping-down of the Parker after Bill's handling would have prevented the unpleasant surprise that occurred when next the fine old gun was uncased.

To preclude rusting from Bill's corrosive sweat, all metal surfaces should have been wiped down with a water-dampened, wrung-out, clean rag (to dissolve the salt and acids), dried and then wiped down with a RIG or other oil-coated cloth or patches. That's because grease, oil or solvents won't remove salty deposits; only water or water-soluble oils and solutions, like Young's ".303" water-soluble gun oil.

The British, with their tropical colonies, hordes of big-game hunters and fine sporting guns, would have more than double the amount of surviving Hollands, Rigbys, etc., if it weren't for the vast amount of rust from tropical humidity. Add to this the untold thousands of stocks turned to rot from dousing the barrels and actions with "Rangoon Oil," allowing the stuff to run down into the wood, where its minute acidity, after decades of slow action, rotted what was once the pride of a craftsman.

Countless barrels on fine Mausers and double rifles reveal worn rifling, but brightly polished bores--the result of excessive working of tight patches and phosphor bronze brushes through the barrels. For many, this became a daily ritual, whether the gun had been fired or not--usually while sipping a "chota peg" (Scotch & soda). This friction, plus microscopic particles of hard carbon and ground glass from primers, simply lapped out the rifling, ruining almost as many bores as Cordite and corrosive priming.

Most of us know that oil and grease must be carefully removed from bores before shooting, but this assumes we have examined the bores before "popping a cap." Sometimes the oil isn't obvious, so cleaning with Hoppe's No. 9 and then drying with clean patches is warranted. But don't remove oil with volatiles like aceton or gasoline, as I once did. This removes the light film of oil or solvent from the chamber that is to permit easy extraction. When I did this, the empty cases refused to extract. Leave a film of Hoppe's in the bore to work overnight or longer. When next examined, this will be a green sludge which should be removed with clean patches soaked with more Hoppe's until no more green shows. Then dry and store with a light film of gun oil or Hoppe's in the bore. It is best to lay the gun flat, so that the solvent works all along the bore. The gun can also be stored muzzle down so that any oil or solvent will run onto a patch and not into the wood.

What about fine custom guns with engraving and color case-hardening, or that "pickeled" gray finish so beloved by Teutonic gunmakers? Always apply two or three coats of clean, hard lacquer to these surfaces with a camel's hair brush, or a couple of coats of polyurethane or Rustoleum. This will not only prevent rust, but also protect against scratches. Make sure this lacquer can't be dissolved by insect repellent or Hoppe's, or you'll have a sticky situation out there in the hunting fields. One of our finest custom gunmakers always used a cheap, acetone-soluble lacquer on his stocks, which dissolved into glue when contacted by insect repellent. Many rifles have Dural magazine boxes and floorplates, such as my Holland-Mauser .375. These are black anodized, a chemical deposit which, when worn, reveals the bright aluminum alloy beneath. To protect it, I coat as described above, with hard, clear lacquer or polyurethane. When worn, remove the old coating with varnish remover and recoat.

Most of us live and hunt in temperate climates, where we may not have to subject our guns to the extreme degrees of the cold, wet jungle of Alaska's coast, the dry, sub-zero freeze of the Arctic, the steam-bath saturation of the rain forest, the horrendous deluge of a monsoon or the bakeoven meltdown of the Sahara. Climate-caused hazards are still present, if to a lesser degree, in the United States, so knowing what can happen uder the worst climatic conditions, and how to protect the gun, is important to all hunters.

Taking a gun from a cold place to a warm one--e.g., placing the gun in a car trunk after hunting--can cause sweating, then rapid rusting, especially when the gun is plastic-cased. It does not have to be actually cold for this to happen; it will occur when the contrast in temperature is sufficient to create condensation. Opening the gun case to permit "breathing" will help reduce "sweating," and many experienced northerners leave the guns outside the cabin to avoid this problem. However, this risks freezing the action and ammo, if left in the gun. Arctic hunters in the land of perma-frost remove all oil from their actions, replacing it with powdered graphite or molybdenum disulphide. If these aren't handy, better to leave the action totally dry and bare, otherwise the ice demons will surely freeze-up the action.

For protection against rain, there are "gun raincoats" of plastic, but remember, these sweat and are useless when approaching for the shot. Better to coat the gun's metalwork with a tenacious, handling-resistant rust preventive such as Pachmayr's PRP (Pachmayr Rust Preventive), a liquid which quickly sets up into a waxlike coating which withstands much handling, unlike typical gun greases. I have used this wonderful stuff for two decades, and it comes in two aerosol can sizes--1.9 ounces and 5.5 ounces. I prefer to spray PRP on a patch and then rub it only where I want it. A good grade of marine or floor paste wax, rubbed all over both wood and metal in two or more coats, will also shed water like the proverbial duck's back; but, should water enter the barrel, this must be removed with dry patches or a barrel bulge or burst can occur.

Snow is not a hazard unless it is wet or gets plugged in the barrel, where it takes only a small plug to create a bulge. Keep this in mind when hunting snowbound areas, and keep a flexible or jointed cleaning rod handy to remove the snow. Careless handling during hard hunting can cause the muzzle to dip down in snow, mud or water, so that extra vigilance is demanded for such times and terrains. i ensure against such muzzle plugging by always keeping a roll of electrician's tape along, a section of which I tape over the muzzle so that I fire through it, then replace it. This is a simple idea which may save your guns, if applied.

Rust is the main culprit which defaces and quickly devalues any gun, from the cheapest to the finest. Rust is no respecter of fine old names like Purdey or Griffin & Howe--it's all steel to the rust devils--but their accomplice is the careless gun owner. Don't be the rust devil's helper. Protect your gun against this insidious form of gunicide by adopting the right rituals; always wipe the gun down after handling, with patches coated with RIG, Pachmayr's PRP or other good gun grease. Never take the gun hunting with a dry external surface. Coat beforehand with PRP, RIG, etc.

I like and use several aerosols. I dislike though, an aerosol spray that covers too wide an area, getting into the wood and the magazine and chamber where it can penetrate primers. I prefer to spray clean patches and then wipe these where I want the oil. For bolts, an aerosol is fine, and these I hold up by the knob and spray well, then wipe off the excess. Never spray revolver cylinders or auto pistol magazines, loaded or not. Otherwise, one is encouraging dead primers, since aerosols are efficient penetrants--and a dead primer could mean a dead you!

In Thailand, our shikare (guide) Loong Jo, killed fish with my companion's 12-bore shotgun, but naturally he kept the muzzle above water. It may seem rediculous for me to caution readers to keep their gun's muzzle out of the water, but I know of two cases involving just that. In one, a hunter fired at a big fish and blew off the muzzle of his .30-06. In another, an African hunter blew off the muzzle end of his Mauser when he fired at a crocodile from a canoe. Remember, water is noncompressible and almost as bad a barrel obstruction as a lead plug.

Among the worst ways to soak a gun is to walk through thick vegetation after a rain. Again, the coats of PRP or paste wax will provide the protection.

Some shooters keep thier gun muzzles plugged with oiled patches during the offseason, forgetting to remove these before shooting. This creates impressionistic sculptures resembling tulips from what was once a muzzle! Never try to "shoot-out" the grease in a new gun. Oh it shoots out all right, but you'll need a new gun, unless anly the barrel is blown apart!

Metal fouling is still with us, though not in the same lumpy form as in those "halcyon" pre-war days of cupro-nickel jackets. Today's bullet jackets are constructed of gilding metal, an alloy of copper and zinc, which can build up and spoil accuracy, especially in high-velocity calibers. Brobst bore-cleaning paste will remove this, and so will the remarkably efficient new bore cleaner "Shooter's choice MC #7," which not only removes all metal fouling chemically, but which also removes any powder fouling or plastic wad buildup in shotguns. I have thoroughly tested this "MC #7" (Miracle Cleaner #7) on old military Mausers with plenty of cupro-nickel fouling, and also on old game rangers' rifles from Africa with badly fouled bores. I can certainly recommend "Shooter's Choice" as an ultimate chemical means of removing barrel fouling; it will leave a slightly oily deposit to protect the bore.

There's a lot of ancient corrosiveprimed, cupro-nickel-jacketed surplus military ammo around which is not only unserviceable, but unreloadable due to brittle brass and brass destroying mercuric priming. Such ammo is useless for anything but furnishing collectors' specimens. Don't buy it--it's invariably a detriment, not a bargain. If you have been firing such junk ammo, though, use "Shooter's Choice" bore cleaner to remove the corrosive primer fouling, the powder residue and the cupronickel fouling. The cupro-nickel fouling can be removed by plugging up the bore, filling it with solvent, and leaving it for 12 hours; then you can drain and scrub with clean patches.

An exotic hazard to gun health encountered in Africa and Asia is the mud dauber wasp. These insects seek out deep holes in which to lay eggs after making a solid nest out of bits of leaves which are then sealed with mud.

I used to regard such stories as legendary. Then, in 1983, I went to Thailand, where I hunted near the Burma border in bamboo jungles from a house raft on the Kwai Noi River. one day, after a tiring morning hunt, we were lounging atop our sleeping bags--rifles leaning against the walls--when a wasp, carrying a section of leaf entered the muzzle of my companion's .458 Brno. The wasp knew exactly what it was doing, and it soon exited and flew off. In a few minutes it returned with another bit of leaf, depositing it in the bore. This process was repeated, giving my companion time to ready his camera to record the natural phenomenon.

Gunicide is no joke--on the hunt or at home--especially when the gun is a valued one. These simple warnings and remedies will help you to strike back at these insidious enemies of our treasured sporting guns. There are, of course, other gun perils lurking out there, but if we stand ready to repel such assaults with our oils, greases, solvents, cleaning rods and elbow grease, we can outwit these gunicidal demons. I succeeded, and I know you can too.
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Author:Lott, Jack
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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