You don’t need to be a science whiz to know that consistent moisture on certain metals is likely going to lead to rust at some point. It occurs through a chemical reaction whenever iron or alloys like steel are exposed to both water and oxygen. Oxidation is the result and that leads to rust. Aside from the unattractive discoloration it can cause, corrosion can literally eat away at the metal of your guns and can lead to serious performance and safety issues. Even a small amount of rust on the interior of your gun can lead to drag and friction within the bore, trigger mechanism failure, loading and ejection issues and more. This would also apply to your magazines. In some cases, the concerns aren’t life-or-death, but every year there are reported incidences of catastrophic mechanical failures that lead to serious injury.
As a gun owner, your priority should ideally be the safety of yourself and those around you, and rust prevention should definitely be on your radar. You can definitely take care of the issue yourself if you stay on top of it, but if you find any serious pitting then it might be a good idea to visit your local gunsmith.
Most experts agree that maintaining an environment for your stored guns that is 50 to 55 percent humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. It’s also important to keep these values consistent throughout the year and to avoid any sudden changes. Aside from the potential condensation that can build-up on your metal parts while being stored, wood stocks and grips can be affected by any expansion or contraction caused by the surrounding conditions. Other things to consider would include:
Monitoring and tracking the environment within your gun safe with a digital hygrometer/thermometer to ensure consistency.
Mitigating high humidity levels with a dehumidifier unit for your gun safe. Silica packets and dehumidifier canisters can also be an effective method, but they will need to be swapped out occasionally.
Avoiding storage in areas where temperature and humidity can be volatile such as garages, sheds, damp basements or car trunks. Home safes should also be placed on interior walls to help avoid fluctuations in temperature.
Using cases for transport only and not for longer-term storage. Soft cases especially can trap and hold moisture that can be the cause of rust on your guns. Throwing in a few silica packs can help, but it’s not a sustainable solution.
Prevention & Removal
Moisture on the exterior of your guns is obviously easier to see and to take care of. It’s what happens on the inside that causes most of the problems. Once you get some corrosion cooking in the bore, chamber or other inner workings, you can be sure to have some issues eventually.
It’s not rocket science, but keeping your guns dry will obviously help the situation. Keep them covered wherever possible in bad weather and be sure to avoid getting anything coming in through the muzzle. This is a pretty common practice. This is especially important when shooting around salt water.
Be aware of the changes that your gun will go through when moving between extremes in temperature. This is certainly the case when going from cold to warm. It doesn’t take long at all for condensation to build up. It’s almost better to let your guns stay cold in these cases.
Avoid shooting corrosive ammo. There are stocks of older, less expensive ammo available out there that will absolutely impact your gun as the salts that are formed through combustion begin to do their thing.
Always address rust at the first signs so that it doesn’t get a chance to take hold and cause further damage.
Don’t compromise on your cleaning and rust removal/prevention routines. Take the time to fully disassemble and use the proper tools to get the job done right.
Know your products and use the correct ones depending on the task. For instance, solvent-based solutions are good for cleaning, but not so much for protecting. Another example is WD-40 which is a good product for displacing moisture, but does little for lubrication. Using a quality multi-function CLP product can be a good option. Light spray oils and compressed air also work well at blowing out trapped moisture in those hard-to-reach areas. Specific nylon or brass brushes are recommended for any necessary scrubbing.
There are a variety of gun greases and waxes on the market that help protect weapons from extreme weather or to keep them in good shape when in storage. Try to avoid getting these into the bore though, as there’s a potential for increased pressure build-up.
Whatever products you use for cleaning or lubrication, be sure to wipe off any excess, as this can lead to its own set of problems.
Wearing white gloves when handling stored firearms is a good idea, as it prevents the transfer of oils from your skin that can attract and trap moisture on metal surfaces. They also indicate clearly if you’ve done a good job cleaning.
Consider getting a high-tech coating on your guns to help protect against abrasion and the elements. These are typically ‘baked’ on and offer superior added protection.
When in doubt, keep a classic ‘oily rag’ handy to give your guns a quick wipe whenever they get wet.
One of the best ways that you can help to protect your guns and keep them in good working order is to keep them clean and rust-free. It’s not hard, but you just need to be diligent with your maintenance habits.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.