How to weatherproof your firearms

Here in the Northeast U.S., deer hunting season is upon us. In my family, that means getting gear ready for said hunting season. With us, WHAT we hunt with is as much a part of the hunt as scouting, planning, and getting out there. We’ll sit around and jaw about what we’re taking, why, new loads we’ve handloaded for the rifles, how they perform, trajectories, bullet designs, blah blah blah. It’s part of the tradition, and I look forward to it all year. However, once we’ve settled that, we get them ready for the season, and any inclement weather the firearms may have to be carried through. Since we all work through the week and Maine doesn’t allow hunting on Sundays, it generally means we only get out hunting 4 Saturdays during the month-long season, so we’re getting out, weather be damned!!

 

But what we do to our gear translates over nicely to how to set gear up and protect it for a SHTF emergency. Your gear has got to be ready to rumble, and can’t be bound up by corrosion brought on by summer humidity, winter snow, or dirt, driving rain.

 

What your gear will face

You know your area better than I do, so you’ll have to do your own figuring what will work best for your individual scenarios. If you live someplace in or near the Mojave desert, say in the Las Vegas area, dust, and dirt may be your biggest issues. In Florida, salt spray in the air and rampant humidity will be your enemies, and for us here in the northern US, we get the fun of crazy, unpredictable weather: snow, driving rain, humidity, extreme temperature variations. Each type of meteorological conditions will effect your firearms in different ways, and should be counter-acted accordingly. Even if the gun never leaves the house, moisture in the air and fingerprint/hand oils will attack your rifle just as readily as leaving it in the rain. So let’s square your gear away, shall we?

 

Rain/snow/humidity

Rain and snow can be a real bitch to guns. Water can and will run down and penetrate to every unseen surface of the gun, causing massive rust on metal and swelling and rotting wood (if your stocks are made of wood.) While gun oils will do a very decent job of repelling moisture, it often will then go where the oils aren’t and do its worst. So I prefer to mitigate that as much as possible with grease, applied thoroughly to areas that don’t get wiped down or dried when the gun comes back in from the weather.

 

I swear by R.I.G. (Rust Inhibiting Grease) as my grease of choice for hunting guns and anything that gets long-term storage. It goes a long way, and lasts forever, much like the cosmoline the military used to use for long-term storage. It’s cheap, and has worked well for years and years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? There are more modern lubes and bio-lubes like FrogLube that do work very well, too, but they need to be heat-applied to get into the pores of the metal, and don’t work that well on wood. Grease goes well with most everything.

 

I break the guns down to a very basic level – I remove the stocks and magazine floorplates/triggerguards. I then liberally smear grease to the barrel/receiver channel in the stock, and I really try to push it into the pores of the wood so water won’t penetrate into it. Then the metal gets a light, but complete, covering of grease anywhere it’s hidden inside the stock. A tip: you will probably need to slightly re-adjust the sights of a rifle that has been pulled out of its stock, as the stock bedding is a key part of how a rifle shoots.

Grease on the inside of stock and on metal works in an 1895 Winchester.

Grease on the inside of stock and on metal works in an 1895 Winchester.

 

Grease applied inside the stock, and all internal metal parts on Winchester Model 54.

Grease applied inside the stock, and all internal metal parts on Winchester Model 54.

 

My thought is, anywhere I can’t get with an oily cloth after I come in from the weather should get greased up, so I don’t need to worry about it. I do NOT grease the bore unless it is going away for long-term storage. A very light coat of a high-quality gun oil (I like Hoppes Elite) goes on the bore, and on all exterior metal parts before the gun goes out to play and after I get back, to keep water out of the metal.

 

The upside to grease is no corrosion or rot; the downside is that in extremely cold temperatures, grease thickens substantially and will slow down moving components of the gun, such as hammers, springs, and firing pin travel, and could render your gun useless. If I know the temps will be dropping below freezing, I’ll break the gun down and limit the grease to non-moving parts, and the moving parts will get a dry graphite lube like Remington DriLube. I like my guns to go “Bang” when I pull the trigger.

 

Also, I don’t use grease on guns that will be used for extended firing sessions, such as high-capacity semi-autos. The grease will melt and either burn off or fly off/drip out from the gun once it really heats up, so I limit it to my hunting bolt, pump, and lever actions. For the high-heat guns, the aforementioned FrogLube, or Militec-1 is simply awesome: degrease the gun thoroughly, and use a heat gun or your oven to heat the works up to almost-too-hot-to-touch temps. Use a toothbrush to smear in the lube. Once every surface is covered, let the gun cool and wipe off any excesses. What happens is that when you heat the metal of the firearm, the pores of the metal open up. After you introduce the lube, the metal cools, trapping it inside the metal pores, where it will be released as the gun heats up, keeping the gun water-repellent and running slick.

 

And, for the opposite end, I keep a wrap of electrical tape over the bore of the rifle. This keeps moisture out, and when you pull the trigger, air and gases escaping past the bullet will blast through the tape before the bullet touches it, so you point of impact will not be harmed. Be sure to obtain scope covers for any optics, to keep water off the lenses.

 

Sand/grit/dust

The opposite extremes can be just as damaging. Being in a sandy, dusty environment like the Middle East will bog guns up just as fast as water. Dust and dirt will collect anywhere there is oil or grease, and then stay there. Eventually, this muddy, gritty works will keep your gun from functioning. Also, dirt in the bore can be catastrophic when you send a bullet under high pressures down it.

 

Luckily, if your conditions are dry and dusty, you don’t need to worry about rust as much as keeping the crud from building up. Here, we almost treat the gun like it’s going into very cold temps: use grease if you’d like on non-moving parts to keep dust and stuff from getting under and into your gun, and then a dry lube on any moving parts. I hear Froglube works well if you really be sure to wipe off excesses. I know that I’ve heard horror stories of troops in the middle east having their guns jammed up by crud that’s accumulated and attracted to the CLP they use. So just know what CAN lead up to your gun being disabled by dust and sand, and be prepared to dig out the toothbrush and keep things cleaned out more often. The tape over the bore will keep junk out in this instance too.

 

In case you can’t tell, I don’t really have any experience with overly dry conditions here, so I’m going on what research I’ve done and stories from guys deployed in situations like those. If you have any experience in those climates or other extremes, please speak up as to what works well for you so others can benefit from your experience as well. Much obliged!

 

Stay safe!

-TRW

13 comments… add one
  • Ray November 27, 2013, 7:11 am

    One thing to remember with RIG , Brownell’s “Rust veto” or any of the other Cosmoline like products is this; When they get WARM they RUN to fill in the tiniest crack or crease in the metal.(they work best if you warm them first and paint them on or dip your parts) When they dry out they are the worlds biggest B**** to get off of steel. They will also soak into wood and PERMANANTLY stain it. In the olden days when the US Military used this “stuff” as there rust inhibitor of choice they would treat the stocks INSIDE AND OUT with linseed oil (often mixed with tung oil) when dried this “hand rubbed” oil would form a “film” or water (and to a lesser extent oil) barrier on the wood. Above all they CLEENED THERE RIFLES both in the field and for three days after firing or taking it to the field.—– IMO this is the main reason for modern plastic and stainless firearms. The “shoot it ,toss it in the closet, forget it till next year” crowd who have never cleaned there arms once in ten years. (I Had a guy bring me his 870 about 20 years ago saying “it stopped working” , The shotgun had twigs and leaves jammed in the action so tightly it wouldn’t cycle. I asked when he cleaned it last , he said “I dump some 10W30 on it every year and pump it a few times and it allways worked before”)

    Reply
  • Road Warrior November 27, 2013, 8:06 am

    Ray brings up an excellent point, one I should have mentioned: this is not “weatherproof for ever”, it’s “weatherproof your gun until you can do proper maintenance “. I’ll re-grease my guns every year, more frequently if it got really drenched. And it does stain, and does cake to metal, so be prepared for a bit of cleaning if you haven’t gotten to it in a while. I find a very gentle scrubbing with #0000 steel wool soaked in gun oil or WD-40 works well without removing finish.

    And, as always, USE PROPER GUN OIL!!! Thanks for the heads up, Ray.

    Reply
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. November 27, 2013, 8:07 am

    The best ‘bluing’ we’ve found for ‘woods rifles’ is bar-b-que pit paint. I purchased a single shot .410 shotgun for a song. It was a ‘barn gun’ – the exterior finish was really weathered, but the interior was in much better condition. I cleaned the rust with steel wool to bare metal, than spray painted Rust-O-Leum pit paint (flat black of course) on the metal finish. Plugged up the muzzle, chamber and trigger cavity). Suspended the firearm from the front bead sight. And rattle canned away.

    Takes a lot of abuse and ZERO rust problems. The interior parts still need lubrication but the outside – nope, 5 years and counting.

    Reply
  • Roseman November 27, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I still have a couple of containers of LSA from the 1960s. This was the cleaner/lubricator distributed by the armed forces to maintain the M16 rifle. It works well for my needs and don’t forget to shake well before using.

    Reply
  • Ray November 28, 2013, 6:18 pm

    I found it interesting (and funny) that you chose a photo from SPR. That was maybe the worst WW-2 film ever made. That “sniper rifle is supposed to be an M-1903a4 , BUT the “A4” NEVER EVER used the 8X Unertl target/varmint scope. They used the 4X Lyman . (that’s the little scope that looks like it belongs on a .22) The scope mounts are not even the same. (they are VERY different and in no way compatable). It is a prime example of a movie run by “living history” buffs with no clue what really happened in WW-2(and even less of an idea what TO&E or uniform standards mean)

    Reply
    • Road Warrior December 2, 2013, 2:37 pm

      Don’t read too far into it, good sir…
      All I did was Google “rifle in the rain” and that was the best one! Just adding illustrations, not raising the ire of collectors and historians. :)

      Reply
  • irishdutchuncle November 29, 2013, 1:36 pm

    what will your gear face?
    scrutiny from the sharp eyes, and expertise of the SHTFBlog readership!

    Reply
    • Ray November 29, 2013, 10:54 pm

      Yes Irish , Sad but true I’m an awful nit-picker and complete gun collector fanatic. Mia-Culpa!!

      Reply
      • irishdutchuncle November 30, 2013, 2:22 pm

        It’s OK, Ray. if there were no nits, nit-pickers would have to find other work.
        each of us has flaws in his preparedness plans, and time is short. I think most of us are not here to be told how fantastic our preps are. most of us want to know where the weak spots are so we can patch them.

        Reply
  • Brian December 1, 2013, 2:08 pm

    This is a must read article from a gunsmith on lubes, oil, and greases. It might change your perspective on whats good to use on your firearm. Defintely a good read for people who love firearms, and just to expand their knowledge. I started using this stuff based on this guys article, and have found their are many experienced semi-auto owners who do too.
    http://www.grantcunningham.com/lubricants101.html

    Reply
    • Road Warrior December 2, 2013, 2:41 pm

      Brian, thank you for taking the time for sharing that excellent article on the mechanics of lubrication. I’ve heard ATF works well, but I personally prefer products that are made for firearms. I’ll have to try a lube torture test one of these days for an article….thanks again sir!

      Reply
  • Yilliang Peng March 7, 2017, 5:33 pm

    Thanks for the information regarding how to weatherproof your firearms. What would be the best way to weatherproof the gunstock? My wife and I live in a state that rains often and so we need to figure out the best way to weatherproof everything! Thanks for the help!

    Reply
  • Christina Brewton May 23, 2017, 3:25 am

    Excellent Post…!
    Brian, thanks for taking the time for sharing that great article on the mechanics of Lubrication Grease gun. I’ve heard ATF works nicely, but I in my view select merchandise which might be made for firearms. I’ll attempt a lube torture check considered one off in recent times for an article….Thank you for sharing Your Post…..!

    Reply

Leave a Comment