How many times have we neglected our rifle maintenance over the years? Tired and wet, we return home to hibernate and replenish those vital body fluids lost during the hunt. Oftentimes we toss aside our most trusted friend in our selfish desire to seek comfort on the home front. Sound familiar? You bet it does!
A hundred and fifty years ago such slothful rifle maintenance behavior would not have occurred… back then, the rifle was a useful tool that kept pesky Indians and desperados from taking our scalp. If we neglected maintenance of our rifle the results would have been our removal from the “Gene Pool”, not a pleasant thought?
In today’s world we seldom need our rifle to save our skin, depending on the neighborhood we live in. We do, however, trust that rifle to put meat on the table and trophies on the wall depending on our preference. Why then are we neglectful in taking care of our closest friend through poor rifle maintenance?
Laziness and lack of fear are probably the best two descriptions. It’s time we put a little TLC back into our game and get back to good rifle maintenance. I can recall my grandfather sitting at the kitchen table sharpening his knife as a kid. He indeed had one of the sharpest knives in the county and as a kid I was in awe at how effortlessly it sliced paper. My uncle would always wipe down and nurture his rifle after a day in the field, another positive impression that was left on me in my youth. They were good maintenance role models that helped shape my future and nurturing ideals for guns and the outdoors.
Back then guns were wood and steel, the fiberglass and Tupperware stocks we now enjoy would have been a sacrilege. Oil finishes and blued steel were the yardsticks by which men were measured. This in part created a bond between the rifle and its owner, something that has been lost in this age of stainless steel and plastic.
A few of the factories manufacture what I call a “disposable rifle” out of plastic and stainless steel that many feel requires no rifle maintenance. Outside of political pandering, nothing could be farther from the truth. All rifles require a certain amount of care and maintenance, and the sooner we realize this, the better off we and our guns will be!
Let’s get more serious about better rifle maintenance. Take the time to wipe down the rifle after hunting in a rainstorm. Pull the barreled action from the stock at least twice a year and wipe it down getting the crud, pine needles and other debris from the barrel channel. Flush out the trigger group with carburetor and choke cleaner once a year. Never apply love potions and/or magic lubes to the trigger group as they are a magnet for dust and debris that will come back to bite your fanny. Always confirm your zero after removing the barreled action from the stock, torque the action screws to the same setting.
Most importantly in rifle maintenance, keep the barrel clean. As a custom gunsmith we see more chrome-moly barrels lost due to neglect than are shot out. The powder and copper fouling left in the bore from a season of “shooting at” deer, act like a sponge and absorb moisture during the winter months to rust and pit the bore. A few seasons of this and our trusty friend doesn’t shoot as well as expected. With our carelessness in rifle maintenance there comes a price. New barrels are not cheap!
Apply a piece of electrical tape to the muzzle to prevent snow and rain from entering the bore. This tip may save a long and unproductive trip back to the truck should you stumble and stick the muzzle in the mud or snow.
Above all, create a relationship with your favorite rifle. Stroke it and care for it. Sit by the fire and recall the great shots it has made and the company it provided on that long walk back to camp. Become one with the rifle and it will never let you down. Neglect it and failure is just around the corner!
Until next time. Be safe and shoot straight.