Approaching a task with passion doesn't always come easy. The most essential things often get shoved to tomorrow because they don't inspire us in the moment.
After cleaning and dressing a kill, it's difficult to put the same effort into cleaning and maintaining your hunting gun. Even though, in both cases, you know if it isn't done quickly and well, bad things happen.
The United States issues 35 million tags and licenses per year to hunters of all stripes and tools. Unlike cars, you don't need to get your gun inspected and approved for use each year.
The task of maintaining your tools is yours alone. Let's go over the steps to keeping your gear in top shape for your preferred game.
Hunting Gun Care
The following instructs common-sense best practices for safety and cleaning of a hunting gun. Not all models are constructed identically and we can't cover the differences between bolt-action rifles and pump, or break-action shotguns all in one place.
While comprehensive, this guide is an overview. Check the instructions for your individual piece for assembly and disassembly steps.
Let's start with the two types of build-up you face in a firearm. From there we lay out how to remove each from your gun.
The first category of build-up comes largely from salt and water. These oxidize and corrode the weapon, leading to weakening of the metal and internal mechanisms.
Wear a spring down far enough and it will snap, leaving a permanent jam.
Gunk up a barrel long enough and you risk warping early on and ultimately, catastrophic failure.
Proper storage and thorough cleaning after mishaps take care of the majority of corrosion. Routine cleaning both removes corrosive agents and fortifies against large scale damage.
Build-up in this category affects accuracy and ease of use, but won't brick your gun. By the time fouling could cause an issue, rust from corrosion would have long since riddled the weapon.
Fouling comes from powder residue, dust, and ammo fragments.
Most factory rounds go through a fair amount of quality control and cleaning before you fire them. For those looking to use custom rounds or reloads, you need to clean the jackets thoroughly to cut down on this source of fouling.
Fortunately, it's easy to find quality case cleaning supplies.
The first step in any cleaning is to disassemble the gun so you can get to all of the parts.
The first step of disassembly is to unload the weapon! Remove the clip and clear the chamber before you do anything with a gun.
In the case of a pump shotgun, you want to make certain the tube has been cleared and the breech is open and clear.
Lay the gun on a mat, table, or another dedicated surface that gives you an easy field of view. You want proper lighting to keep track of all of your pieces and to visually check for blockage and detritus.
Don't overdo it on a disassembly. You need to be able to access the barrel and the action. A routine cleaning needs only look at these two areas.
For deep cleaning, after the weapon has fallen into a river, or survived a tumble through a forest snowstorm, you will want to access the trigger assembly or even clear out the bore or fire pin.
Take your time with a disassemble. You aren't on a clock and hasty cleaning leads to inadequate cleaning.
Work with the barrel, in the direction a projectile fires. You do this for two reasons.
The first is it gives you increased safety. The second, you want to clean from dirtiest area to most open.
Assuming there is a high degree of build-up in the barrel, you want to be working that out of the gun, not into the action.
Start with a brush made of nylon. This breaks up materials in the barrel so you can get them out. Don't put any product into the barrel until you've given it a good once-through with a barrel brush to get large particles out.
This saves you in terms of cleaners and also keeps large pieces from sticking together in the cleaning solutions or oil medium.
Use a caliber or gauge-specific brush for best results.
After the brush, apply a bore cleaner to take care of powder and other fouling. If you use more lead or copper bullets use a cleaner rated for the particular material.
Once your cloth emerges clean apply oil. If you aren't familiar with using gun oil and worry about uneven application, consider pre-oiled cloth patches.
You want to be delicate with the action, especially in the trigger. Overenthusiastic scrubbing can stress the trigger spring or wear the metal into a sharpened edge.
Use a cleaner rated to evaporate or leave no residue. You want to get the action clear, not gum it up with products.
Wipe down everything thoroughly but gently. Finish off with sprits of canned air to remove excess cleaner.
If you need to take the trigger assembly or bolt apart, be extra careful to nudge the pieces out, don't force anything.
Double-check your work to this step with another wipe down of all parts. It's easy for oil and cleansers to pool beneath the gun as you work.
Even using a rest or a vice can leave accumulation points, so always wipe down your work between steps.
Inspect your hunting rifle for gross damage. Check for rust spots or obviously worn areas. If you aren't comfortable with applying a product like a re-blue, consider taking the rifle to a gunsmith to learn more.
Look over the screws in the sling mounting points. Also, check the scope mount and any site mount.
Do a final wipe down of all pieces and then reassemble.
Again, you aren't in the field, you don't have to reassemble under duress in thirty seconds. Take your time and put everything together correctly.
Once everything is together, close the action to relieve tension before storage or reloading.
Taking care of your hunting gun helps you in the offseason and on the big day.
Cleaned and oiled equipment will stay accurate when the time comes. A craftsman is only as good their tools, so keep yours in top shape.
Remember to keep your gear in top shape with the right tools, pick up the best gun oil and cleaning supplies. And be sure to check back in with our blog for more hunting tips!