The Gun Doctor: Firearm Care and Storage

This month’s topic is important, but certainly less serious than recent ones.

Most of the hunting seasons are now over and it is time to prepare your firearms for storage until the next season or time to do a quick sight-in.

Since most hunting rifles in this area are bolt-action types and share many general traits, I’ll discuss these.

I always wear safety glasses when working on any firearm and strongly advise you do too.

To begin the process, while keeping the rifle pointed in a safe direction, open the action, remove all ammo from the magazine, and visually and tactilely verify that there is not a cartridge in the chamber.  Not being absolutely sure of this not only puts you, your friends and family in great danger, but also everyone for literally miles around.  In addition, I remove all live ammo from the room where I’m working as an additional safeguard.

Next, remove the bolt from the rifle.  Wet the bore down with whatever solvent or cleaner you prefer.  Most of them contain toxic components and so you should ensure you have good ventilation.  You should also use chemical-resistant gloves, as these toxins will enter through your skin as well as your lungs.  I use Gunzilla since it is non-toxic.  According to how fouled the barrel is, you may need to let it soak overnight and repeat as necessary.

While the barrel is soaking, remove the stock from the firearm.  This is something that many folks fail to do and causes considerable damage at times.  Pine needles, dirt, and water get in the spaces between the wood and metal parts and make a great place for rust and rot to thrive.  After cleaning out the wood and metal parts, put a light coat of your favorite protective oil on and wipe off the excess.  If this is not done, it will attract dirt and dust.  Over time, the excess oil tends to dry up and can cause very serious problems.

One of these is in the trigger mechanism.  People will repeatedly soak this area in oil hoping for a smoother trigger, but don’t clean out the excess with the result that over time the oil dries and becomes a thick grease.  Especially on a cold day, this grease can become solid enough to keep the safety from functioning properly with very scary and dangerous results.

When cleaning the bore, always insert the cleaning rod from the chamber end if possible.  The crown on the muzzle is easily damaged  and even a tiny burr will cause very inaccurate shooting patterns.  Here too, you should clean out all excess oil leaving only a very thin coating.

As for the wood, most folks just rub a little gun oil on it.  There are special cleaners/preservatives for the wood, but a little Johnson’s floor wax is probably a good substitute.

Lastly, the bolt needs to be cleaned occasionally as it too can fill with dirt, rust, and oils that can produce erratic ignition.  Bolts are generally not easily disassembled and reassembled without the proper tools and knowledge.  Also, they can be a bit dangerous as they tend to have fairly heavy springs under a lot of tension just waiting to go flying across the room – assuming you’re lucky enough to not be in the way!

Lastly, there are anti-rust packets that you can put in with the firearm if it’s in a confined space that will produce a rust resisting vapor until it’s that time of year again.

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Wolfgang Rotbart is an AGI-certified Master Gunsmith and a NRA-certified Basic Pistol Course Instructor.  He works as a gunsmith and as an Oregon Concealed Handgun Safety Course Instructor.  You may visit The Gun Doctor website for more information at: