Firearm Care for Cold Weather

A rifle or shotgun is a tool used to help put meat in the freezer.

Like all tools, a firearm needs a little TLC so it doesn’t let us down when we need it most. For most of the year, a routine cleaning leaving a thin film of oil, and perhaps a little grease or graphite lubricant is all that’s needed to prevent rust and keep the action working smoothly.

But cold weather can wreak havoc on that thin film of oil. The oil freezes and can lock up the moving parts in the action of the firearm. For example, the firing pin can freeze to the extent that when you release the trigger it does not move at all, or moves so slowly that the gun does not shoot.

Proper preparation for a cold weather hunt includes a cleaning that removes all oil and grease from the action of the firearm. This can be done by soaking the bolt in solvent, or better, by taking it apart and using an old toothbrush and solvent to dissolve and remove any oil and grease.

Firearms are made of steel and quick temperature changes — from below zero outside to the warmth of a cabin, tent or vehicle — will usually cause a heavy coating of condensation to form over all the metal parts.

This can be wiped off the exposed parts, but the covered parts will also be coated with moisture. If the firearm is taken into the cold while still wet, it will certainly freeze and may lock the action.

If left inside, it needs to be stored not too far from a stove or other heat source so the moisture evaporates. A better method is to put the gun in a case while still out in the cold and bring it inside to warm up slowly, so condensation does not form in the first place. If secure storage is available the gun will remain cold and will not get the condensation on it.

Those who wear glasses will be familiar with lens-fogging when coming in from the cold. Cameras, binoculars, spotting scopes will also get a thorough coating of condensation. This can affect the electronics in some cameras because the moisture can form on the inside. If you keep them in a snug case when you come inside they can warm up gradually and avoid the condensation. Camera batteries will last longer if the unit is kept warm.

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