By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
The shotguns and rifles our grandfathers carried and those we used ourselves in our youth may be items we plan to pass down to our children someday, but making sure they’re properly stored and well maintained is critical to their future days afield.
“There are too many beautiful firearms stuck back in closets rusting,” Ed Graham, of Ed’s Gun Shop, near New Albany, says. He’s been restoring these heirlooms for 43 years and, in that time, he’s seen it all.
Learning from the past, he says, begins with fighting rust.
“A lot of people come in with a well-rusted firearm,” Graham said. “Once rust starts, you can’t just wipe oil on it, you have to kill it. There’s a bath you can use and then re-blue the metal. If the barrel is rusted you can sand the rust down. The catch is, there’s only so much metal to work with. Once it’s been eaten by rust beyond a certain point, the gun may be no longer safe to fire. ”
Oil, no water
To prevent rust in the first place or to prevent its return, keeping guns oiled is the best solution. There are a number of long-term solutions available from gunsmiths that can be applied to firearms headed for deep storage, but for those that may see occasional use along the way, regular and thorough cleaning and oiling should be sufficient.
“Most people tend to not want to oil their guns,” Graham said. “They may lightly wipe them down, but that doesn’t get to all the places moisture has reached. No more trouble than it is to take a rifle or a shotgun apart, guns should have a good gun oil applied to all metal parts anytime they’re used.”
Once oiled, Graham says, the best way to store long guns is barrel down.
“Standing guns vertically with the muzzle down keeps oil from seeping down from the metal into the wood of the stock,” he said, a situation that will soften and weaken the wood at key junctures over time.
In addition to keeping guns in a safe, secure place, storing them in a climate-controlled environment to minimize moisture is important, as is not keeping them inside foam or sheepskin-lined cases, both of which tend to hold moisture and may also degrade on their own over time.