Taking Care Of Your Firearms In The Winter
Some of the best hunting takes place during the harshest conditions. Winds, snow, freezing rain, and sub-zero temperatures can all be encountered, and most hunters plan accordingly for clothing. But what about your firearms? Proper care of your firearms can differentiate between a missed opportunity and being rewarded for your time in the field.
What can happen?
Cold temperatures, rain, or snow can cause firearms to malfunction in ways that would never happen during warmer seasons.
Rust can occur rapidly.
The wrong lubricants can harden and cause stoppages.
Moisture can cause parts or ammunition to break, malfunction, or freeze unexpectedly.
Lucky for you, there are simple ways to prevent malfunctions and protect your firearms and yourself.
The first step to preparing your firearms for a late winter hunt is drying and cleaning. Any preexisting moisture or dirt gives the elements a head start. Once colder temperatures are introduced, a small amount of either can lead to freezing and damage — clean and dry everything from the barrel to the stock. A quality aerosol gun cleaner can help clean all the nooks and crannies without adding more moisture.
Use only a light coating of oil. Many petroleum-based lubricants can solidify during colder temperatures. I have seen more than one firearm seized up due to this happening, and the only recourse is a complete deep cleaning. Modern firearms require a lot less lubricant than most owners realize. Sometimes, it can be as few drops in critical spots. Check your firearm’s owner’s manual and ensure you only use oil where needed and the amount necessary to prevent damage. Once the firearm is reassembled, work the actions a few times and wipe off any lubricant that escapes. I recommend using a simple cleaner, lubricant, or protectant (CLP). Regardless of what lubricant you select, check the label and ensure it is designed for low temperatures.
In the Field
When in the field, things are going to happen. It is almost impossible to avoid 100 %. But how you address these accidents will go a long way towards preventing more damage or even a dangerous condition that could injure the user.
Keep the barrel clear. A slip in the snow, tumble down an icy hill – there are dozens of ways your barrel can hit the ground and be obstructed. Any time this happens, make sure to stop, unload the firearms, and perform a quick inspection. Any debris or obstruction in the barrel needs to be removed immediately. Never shoot a firearm when the barrel may contain debris or obstruction.
If it gets wet, get it dry. If a firearm falls in the water or snow, make sure you dry it immediately. Remember why you dried it before heading out – cold temperatures, moisture, and firearms do not mix. Field stripping is the best way to accomplish this if there is a safe place to do so. If this option is unavailable, use a dry cloth and remove as much water as possible before using the firearm.
After the hunt is over
Once the hunt is over, your firearm is going to need some minor maintenance, whether you took a shot or not. Even if you do everything possible to prevent exposure to the elements, your firearm will get cold. Real cold. Once exposed to warmer temperatures, your firearm will sweat, which will cause moisture to form.
Resist the temptation to store the firearm immediately. I’m not particularly eager to place it in a closed case for the ride home. Unless regulations or safety require otherwise, I like to keep the case unzipped or partially open so it can breathe. Once I return to camp or home, I disassemble the firearm, clean it, dry it, and lubricate it for storage. A few days later, I will reinspect and address any potential issues, especially if I do not expect to use the firearm for an extended period.
Ammunition and accessories
Do not forget to provide the same care and protection to your ammunition and shooting accessories. Whether it is ammunition, a scope, or even the bipod, anything you rely on for a safe and productive hunt deserves to be treated with the same care as your firearms.
Good luck good hunting.