Keeping Your Rifle Clean Afield

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One of the things I struggle with when afield is keeping my rifle clean and in good working order. Small amounts of dust and dirt collect moisture; moisture can freeze rendering your action immovable when you need it most. I have seen this happen on multiple occasions, and over time, I’ve learned the cause and how to prevent this from happening.

The first thing that you need to avoid before going afield is leaving excess oil on the gun. Oil will trap dirt and sand in all the wrong places. Even though I’ve known folks that spray the entire firearm with a good blast of Rusty Duck or WD-40, this is never a good idea before a hunt. It is my belief that over oiling is the reason I’ve seen actions lock, or freeze up in the winter time. I’ve mostly seen this with pump shotguns.

The most effective thing I have found is to thoroughly clean the entire gun with solvent to remove grease and oil. This includes the magazine follower and spring even if you have a detachable magazine. Sometimes, I use a good blast of carb and choke cleaner; it really does most of the work for you. Once the cleaner has evaporated, you’re left with a clean bare-metal, which is desirable if you’ll be hunting the high plains, or in the “sandbox” where you’ll be exposed to heavy winds and excessive sand. But for the rest of the country, I apply a liberal amount of oil and then wipe all of the oil off the gun with a dry cloth.

In the field, I keep a small amount of electrical tape on the end of my muzzle. Enough to put one layer over the bore and several wraps around for extra after I shoot through it. This does wonders in the field to keep your bore clean.

At camp, or in my pack, I have made a small bore snake out of ball chain and fishing line. It is pictured below. I store this chain and plenty of patches in a film canister (which are hard to come by these days!) the whole thing probably doesn’t weigh an ounce total.

Using this stuff in the field is going to improve the reliability of your weapon. If you’re unfortunate enough to have experienced problems like this before, hopefully this clears them up.


Gun care in the field

A long time ago my dad taught me not to use the rods to clean my barrel that screw together.  So I now have the one piece rods for each caliber of gun I use.  Unfortunately, they are easy to get bent especially in my truck.  I made holders out of 1 inch pvc with one end cap glued on and the other screwed on.   I have patches and the small one ounce gun oil in each one. 

ManOfTheFall's picture

Thanks for the great tips.

Thanks for the great tips. They all sound like great idea's.

WesternHunter's picture

firearms care

It goes without saying that all hunters and shooters should spend a reasonable amount of effort and time taking care of their weapons.  I personally can't ever recall struggling to keeping my weapons in good working order when in the field, if I did I'd quickly dump those weapons and get something better.  But it's always good to be prepared just in case.  A bolt action rifle is a pretty simple low maintenance and reliable weapon system that will function under some pretty adverse conditions, same goes for a pump action shotgun.  However they still needs to be serviced prior to the hunt and even sometimes during the hunt.  I'm convinced that the reason many hunters and shooters have trouble with gun oil is because it is overused and too many people shun thinner gun oils in favor of the thicker stuff in the faulse belief that thicker is better.  In all weather I simply use Remoil or Rem Drylube on all contact surfaces of my rifles and shotguns.  I've tried almost everything on the market at one time or another and never found a firearms lube as excellent as Remingtons Remoil.  I've used it in dry dusty conditions and in sub zero conditions with never a problem.  A thin invisable film is all that is ever needed.  CLPs and other thick gun oils are terrible for collecting dust and grit and thickening in the cold.  I have no idea why the military uses CLP under adverse conditions. 

I also always bring along a rod and jag incase the barrels get plugged with something along with a small can of Remoil or WD40 and some clean cotton rags.  I also keep in the truck a few select gunsmithing tools (hex drivers, torx drivers, pin push, small cleaning kit, etc) just for good measure. But rarely have I ever needed to use them on my own guns in the field.  I would however avoid using a stainless steel ball chain as a bore snake.  I would avoid using any thing made of steel inside my rifles bore.  If you want an improvised rifle bore snake you can easily use a lenth of #550 paracord or even a spare boot lace tied in a series of knots. Plus it's easier to grip onto to pull and won't cut your hand like fishing line can. Just my opinions based on my own experience.

groovy mike's picture

Thanks for sharing the tip Ndemiter.


Thanks for sharing the tip Ndemiter.  The only time that I have had an action freeze up during a hunt was when I was hunting in freezing rain and the action literally became encased in ice to the point that the hammer could not fall because there was ice built up on it.  I watched a buck bound away after jumping him from his bed, placing my sights on his shoulder and pulling the trigger with not even a click resulting.  Now I know enough to keep the action covered when I hunt in weather like that, but I was younger then and had some learning to do yet!

 Always keeping your firearm clean and safe is a good idea.  Like you and Arrow-flipper I oil my rifles and shotguns every time that I clean my firearms.  Then I wipe them down with a soft cloth, rubbing the excess onto the wooden stocks as well as over all the exterior metal.  I usually follow up with a shot of light oil down the bore for long term storage one the hunting season is over. 

I only own two synthetic stocked rifles.  They are utilitarian, and certainly are functional, but they just aren’t as pretty as the traditional wooden stocks are to my eye.  Ironically one of the synthetic stocked rifles is one of two that I own which show water damage.  When I hunted in Alaska we got rained on every day and although I wiped her down, after a week even my wiping cloths were wet.  I thought she was dry when I cased her for the flight home, but when I opened the case two days and a few thousand miles later, my rifle had rust spots and they took some bluing off.  Still the synthetic stocks are a good choice if you are hunting where it will be wet.  This avoids the threat of a wooden stock to warp, and affect accuracy. 

I have heard the tip about using electrical tape on the end of your muzzle to keep your bore clean before too, but the only time that I use it is if I am hunting in the rain, or heavy snow.  I do this especially if hunting with my flint-lock since I have an irrational fear of the powder getting wet and getting a fizzle or total failure to spark while there is a deer in my sights.  But I am not so much afraid of precipitation falling down my barrel as I am for inadvertently letting the muzzle brush a branch with snow on it or even accidentally touching a snow bank as I stoop under foliage etcetera.  A barrel with a quantity of snow inside the muzzle sounds like a disaster waiting to happen to me.

arrowflipper's picture

absolutely right

Ndemiter, you are absolutely right on.  It's not only important to keep your firearm in good working order for the moment of truth, but it's also important to keep in clean for safety reasons.

I hunt in Washington where we have a habit of getting more than our fair share of precipitation.  Sloppy handling of your rifle will hasten its demise.  Here in Western Washington, it's rare that we would get dust in our barrel, but water isn't any better.  For that reason, I too keep a small piece of black electrical tape over the muzzle.  It keeps ALL unwanted substances out.... sand, dust, twigs, water, etc.  I look at a clean barrel as more of a safety issue even than shooting straight.

I have to admit that I have seldom hunted in weather cold enough to freeze my action.  But if I did, I might have made the mistake of keeping it oiled.  I use gun oil every time I clean my rifles but I also wipe them dry with a clean, soft cloth.  I put a layer of that same oil on my stock as well. 

I have gone to the Browning Stalker rifle with a synthetic stock and stainless barrel for overall protection.  With the amount of moisture we get, it's easy for a stock to warp, seriously affecting accuracy.  I don't worry about that problem anymore.  But when I hunted with a wood stocked rifle, I went out of my way to keep it dry when not in the field. 

Great tip.... always keep your firearm clean and safe.