Until Next Fall

Deer Hunting’s Over. Now It’s Time To Prepare
Your Rifle For Off-Season Storage.

By Dave Anderson

So another deer season is winding down. But before putting the faithful old deer rifle away, let’s make sure it stays safe from rust, corrosion, dents, scratches and thieves so it will be ready for use again next year. A well-lit, well-ventilated work area makes storage preparation easier. Of course you unloaded the rifle before tagging and dressing your buck, but check again anyway, as always.

Some solvents and cleaners should be used outdoors—follow manufacturer’s recommendations. A foam pad protects parts from damage if dropped (and from bouncing away under the filing cabinet). If no pad is available, an “expendable” blanket or towel can be used.
Clean the bore using your usual routine. Make certain there’s no ammonia-based copper solvent remaining. Dry the bore with several clean patches. Finish with patches dampened with whatever light preservative you trust.

I use only a light coating in the bore, not any kind of heavy grease. I know I intend to run a couple dry patches through before firing the rifle again, but what if I forget? Or if it should be someone else who next uses the rifle? For true long-term storage of several years maybe something heavier is needed, but from season-to-season, a light preservative works fine.

Disassemble the rifle in keeping with (1) the nature of the rifle, and (2) the tools and skills you have available. For example, I wouldn’t yank the wood off my Winchester 94 or Savage 99, but with most bolt-actions it’s easy enough to separate stock and barreled action.

Bolt disassembly likewise varies. Some like the Winchester Model 70, Kimber or Sako 85 are easy to disassemble without tools. Some others are better left alone. Technically speaking, I suppose anything which has been assembled can be disassembled, but the job may take special tools and fixtures only the factory has. And don’t start twisting screws—they may be the adjustments for mainspring tension or for firing pin protrusion, and best left strictly alone.

With detachable magazines I like to remove the follower and spring to allow any dust, debris, pine needles and dead spiders to be cleaned out of the magazine box.

Trigger mechanisms should be left alone except to make weight adjustments as per manufacturer instructions. The fire-control system of a firearm is not to be taken lightly. The best way to keep the trigger components free of dust and congealed oil is not to use much oil in the first place. A very light coat is one thing. Gobbing on big dollops of oil is a bad idea.

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Dave’s Sako 85 Finnlight .243 with Swarovski 3-10×42 scope has an all-up weight
(loaded) of 6-3/4 pounds. It shoots consistent 1/2-MOA groups. This whitetail buck
fell to a single 95-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip.

With detachable magazines I like to remove the follower and spring to allow any dust, debris, pine needles and dead spiders to be cleaned out of the magazine box.

Trigger mechanisms should be left alone except to make weight adjustments as per manufacturer instructions. The fire-control system of a firearm is not to be taken lightly. The best way to keep the trigger components free of dust and congealed oil is not to use much oil in the first place. A very light coat is one thing. Gobbing on big dollops of oil is a bad idea.

The best way to clean the trigger mechanism is with a can of pressurized cleaning solvent such as Outer’s Crud Cutter. Some shooters use aerosol carburetor cleaner with good results (this is definitely an outdoor job).

Use tools such as canned air, an old toothbrush, Q-tips and dental picks to clean any accumulated crud from various crevices and recesses. Wipe down all external metal with a soft cloth dampened with your favorite preservative.

And don’t forget the scope! Use a soft brush to remove surface dust and clean the lenses with lens cleaning fluid and a soft cloth. Wipe down the scope rings and bases with the same cloth you used on the rifle.

A synthetic stock shouldn’t need more than a wipe with a damp cloth. With a wooden stock, this is a good time to seal any deep scratches in the finish. A rubdown with a cloth dampened with paste wax will keep the wood looking nice and help seal against moisture.

I keep a soft cloth well saturated with preservative by the door of the gunroom and in a pocket of the rifle’s soft case. Many shooters use RIG (rust inhibiting grease) on the cloth, hence the term “RIG rag.” Sheath is another good product, and I also like all-purpose products such as Ballistol, Break Free CLP and G-96 Gun Treatment. After using or handling a firearm, I wipe down exterior metal surfaces to remove any fingerprints or handling marks.

Before reassembly, inspect all components. Look for things like loose sling swivel studs, cracks in wooden stocks (especially in the tang area), a worn extractor or sluggish spring-powered ejector, to give a few examples. They aren’t going to get better over the winter.

Give some thought to how well the rifle worked for you. For example, maybe the hard plastic buttplate is slippery on the shoulder and accentuates recoil. Or the length of pull seemed a bit long when wearing a heavy hunting jacket. Maybe a nice soft recoil pad could be installed to address both recoil and length-of-pull issues.

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Dave prefers to disassemble a rifle as far as conveniently possible.
The Sako bolt can be easily disassembled to thoroughly clean the
firing pin/cocking piece and the interior of the bolt body.

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Disassembling the magazine allows for a thorough cleaning of
the follower, spring and interior.

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Don’t neglect the scope. The soft brush is used to brush off surface dust,
followed by a couple of drops of lens-cleaning fluid and drying with a soft,
clean cloth. Leave the lens caps on and the scope will be nice, clean and
clear next time you need it.

I enjoy browsing catalogs or websites for ideas on making a good rifle better. Maybe a factory trigger defies your best efforts to smooth it up. Brownells has high-quality replacement triggers for many popular rifle models.

Or maybe you’re tired of looking at those twisted-up screw slots on the scope rings. Brownells has replacement screws with Torx heads. Small changes can make your rifle look and perform better. The important thing is to do it in the off-season while it’s all fresh in your mind.

The final step is to store the rifle in a safe location—safe from thieves, excessive heat, cold, humidity, and where only you or those you authorize have access. Guns not in use should be securely stored, preferably in a gun safe or a secure room with a vault door.
It’s funny. Scratches and nicks incurred in the field don’t bother me at all. They’re kind of like honorable battle scars. But gun safe nicks are a pet peeve. The best protection I know of is to slip each rifle into a fabric gun sock.

Unlike a sealed case, these are generally made of knitted fabric so air can pass through. The ones I buy from Cabelas are silicon treated to further protect against rust. If I don’t have enough for every rifle I give priority to those with wood stocks.

Museum experts say for protection of metal against rust, and of wood against drying out and cracking, the best balance is a temperature of about 70 degrees and relative humidity of about 50 percent. Goldenrod offers a hygrometer with an extra sensor to place inside the safe, so temperature and humidity can be read with the safe closed. Heating elements and silica gel inside the safe—and humidifiers and dehumidifiers outside it—help manage both factors. I don’t think it is necessary to obsess over a few degrees either way; it’s more important to be consistent.

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The Lyman Ultrasonic Cleaner can do more than just clean brass and
is very effective on bolt bodies, firing pins and springs. The metal
comes out completely devoid of preservative, so don’t wait to re-oil it.

A Deep Cleaning Solution

I use this Lyman Ultrasonic cleaner to clean cases for reloading. It is also most useful for cleaning parts small enough to fit in it. Just remember, when the parts come out of the solution, every trace of preservative is gone along with any dirt or crud. Parts should be dried with compressed air and immediately sprayed with preservative.

Lyman makes a much bigger version capable of accepting most barreled actions, but with retail of $1,595 it is more suited to gunshops.

Lyman Products
475 Smith St.
Middletown, CT 06457
(800) 225-9626
https://gunsmagazine.com/company/lyman-products-corp/

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