Your rifle won't take care of you if you don't return the favor. Keep yours in peak shape with these five simple maintenance moves.
Wipe It Down
I was surprised at a recent Colorado pronghorn camp. It seemed like a no-brainer, but through days of rain, several experienced hunters never wiped their rifles down after each day's hunt.
Though it depends significantly on the climate (wet or dry), rust can start forming on metal in as little as six hours. Stick a soaked rifle back in a soft case, the water that clings to the metal will absorb into the case, creating a wet, boggy environment, and when you pull that gun from its case, it will have rust. The same holds if you don't wipe off the rifle before putting it in a gun safe.
After every hunt, even if the rifle isn't subjected to moisture, make it a point to take a soft rag and wipe it down. If the gun did receive moisture, use three-in-one wipes that clean, lubricate, and thwart rust.
I've never used flip-up scope caps and am hard on my gear. One piece of my rifle I tend to neglect is my scope, but this is a mistake.
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Wipe the rings, bases, and scope housing down with the same three-in-one-style wipes you use rifle and use a lens brush to remove dust, dirt, and debris. Lastly, use lens wipes, which you can snag on Amazon for less than $15, to clean the glass of your optic.
You don't have to clean your rifle's barrel after every outing, and you don't want to during the middle of hunting season if you can help it. You should re-check your rifle's zero each time you clean your barrel.
At season's end, or if I do a lot of shooting during the season and know I've gotten moisture, dirt, and debris in the barrel, I clean it and then head to the range to make sure it's still driving tacks.
I like to soak several gun-cleaning patches in a suitable cleaning solvent—Hoppe’s Elite is my go-to—and then take a bore brush and run it down the barrel from breech to muzzle no less than 10 times. The cleaning process is quicker and easier if you put the gun in a vise. If it's been a while since you've run a bronze bore brush down your barrel, you might need to run it through the barrel up to 20 times.
Next, run a few solvent-soaked patches through the bore until the patches come out semi-clean. Then run a few dry patches down the bore to wipe away any remaining solvent.
If your rifle has a removable magazine, you should remove it after each time afield. Some hunters prefer to pull their magazine, wipe it down, and leave it loaded. Although this is not unsafe if the magazine is kept away from the firearm, the magazine spring is under constant tension and can become sloppy. This holds for rifles that have an internal magazine as well. You need to remove ammunition and take pressure off the spring.
I unload my magazine before I put my rifle back in a soft case and head for home, and then I reinsert the magazine back in the rifle. If you keep the two separate, there's a good chance you'll leave for a hunt and not have your magazine.
A closet corner is no place for a rifle. Rifles should be stored in a locked gun safe with a dehumidifier. If you don't own a gun safe, be sure to store your rifle in a good hard case or a soft case to prevent damage.
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