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Rifle maintenance: handy tools for when you're far afield.

Rifles are rather simple tools. Given reasonable maintenance there isn't much to go wrong, still, stuff can happen in the field. Probably the most common mishap is an obstruction in the bore. A police armorer friend described an incident in which an officer responded to a vehicle/moose collision. The badly injured moose had staggered off into the bush a short way before falling.

As the officer followed up the moose in order to end its pain, he managed to stick the shotgun barrel in a snow bank. When he went to fire the coup de grace, the barrel split wide open. The officer, fortunately, wasn't injured and was able to finish the job with his sidearm.

Many hunters routinely tape the muzzles of their rifles. The tape keeps out not only snow, but also rain, dust, dirt, and insects. Regular electrical tape works fine. I place one strip over the muzzle, then run another strip around the barrel just back of the muzzle to keep the first strip in place.

Such a covering is safe provided it is over the muzzle and none of the covering material extends into the barrel. I've never been able to detect any difference in accuracy or point of impact from the tape. A few feet of tape wrapped around the barrel a few inches back from the muzzle is handy for retaping after the rifle is fired.

Scopes are pretty dam tough these days and seldom give problems. However they are the most likely component to be damaged in a fall or to be affected by dust, snow, or rain. Scope caps such as the popular Butler Creek do an excellent job of protecting the lenses from dust and moisture, and snap open quickly when it's time to shoot.

A spare scope is good backup insurance. Quick-detachable rings are handy though sometimes a bit expensive. Provided you have the right screwdrivers available you can make do with most any type of rings.

Sight in with the spare scope, then use a permanent marker on the scope tube to make witness marks next to the rings. Then remove the spare, fit the regular scope and sight in. If the main scope goes down in the field, the witness marks on the spare should allow you to position it quite precisely, and a half-dozen shots should be sufficient to confirm point of impact.

Of course, properly fitting screwdrivers are essential. In my penniless youth I made do with ill-fitting screwdrivers borrowed from one of the farm tool chests. It's embarrassing to look at the damaged screw heads on some of my old guns, and whatever money I saved has been spent in replacing or repairing damaged screws.

Today most well-stocked hardware stores have screwdriver bits in various sizes and styles. If you own or plan to own more than a couple of guns, it is easier and cheaper in the long run to purchase a proper set of gunsmithing screwdrivers.

The Wheeler Deluxe basic screwdriver set from Battenfeld Technologies includes 54 slotted bit sizes (chosen after measuring screw heads on over a hundred popular firearms). It's easy to find a bit that fits the screw slot properly. The set also includes two handles and a full selection of Phillips, Allen, and Torx bits in a fitted case for under $75. The Professional kit adds 15 bits for special applications such as Glock front sight replacement and 1911 grip screw bushings.

In a field kit, I have a handy Hoppe's screwdriver handle which stores up to 15 bits. From the main kit I'll select whatever bits are needed for the rifle, scope mount and rings being used and store them in the Hoppe's driver, lf I remember, I'11 also include a couple of spare scope mount/rings screws in case the originals get damaged or lost if I change scopes.

The kit also includes a few gun cleaning supplies and often a "bore snake" for bore cleaning. At home I use only top quality one-piece cleaning rods, but in the field I like to have a jointed rod available. In the event of a really bad bore obstruction or stuck case it can be a hunt saver.

Don't neglect the optics on your scope and binocular. Zeiss has the neatest little cleaning kit with lens brush, cleaning fluid, soft cloth and individually packaged pre-moistened wipes, safe for the finest coated lenses.

A good flashlight and extra batteries is always in the hunting gear somewhere, and I almost always have a multi-tool on my belt.

Next time you're sitting around the fire at hunting camp and one buddy is trying to tighten a scope ring with the tip of his hunting knife, another is whittling a cleaning rod and a third is cleaning his binocular lenses with a shirttail, you can haul out your little kit and show them how to do it right. Of course you could also let them learn the hard way, as I did.
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Title Annotation:RIFLEMAN
Author:Anderson, Dave
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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