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Dealing With a Wet Rifle: Keep Your Hands Off It

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Dealing With a Wet Rifle: Keep Your Hands Off It

This post is the child of two converging forces: Warren Page’s warning that when you’re hunting, you leave your rifle uncleaned until you get home, and my shooting in a match two days ago in the pouring rain. It got soaked; I got soaked. But did I take it apart and have at it with oily rags and a hair dryer? No sir.

Page wrote what he did because he hunted in the era of wood-stocked rifles, which rarely, if ever, gave you the same point of impact if you took them apart and put them back together. You had to re-zero, or miss. I shot in the morning, ended up in a four-way tie for first*, and had to shoot again in the afternoon, and my rifle, even though synthetic-stocked is not 100 percent about returning to zero if you go fiddling with it. So I left it alone, wet, and by the time it got wet a second time that afternoon, wet or dry was more or less academic.

The stainless barrel was not about to rust. It takes three or four days of being constantly wet for that to happen, I’ve found. The receiver, which is blued, would just have to do the best it could. I’ve had receivers rust before, and if you get to it quickly, you can take the red stuff off with 0000 steel wool and powder solvent. If the bolt is bright steel, you should wipe that off, too. And if it really bothers you, put a squirt of lighter fluid through the trigger. Don’t go honking oil on it.

The one thing that does call for emergency measures is salt water. A friend of mine, hunting bear off the coast of Alaska, had a wave come over the bow of his boat and soak his rifle. But he didn’t take it apart. He found a can of spray oil and hosed it down thoroughly, preventing most of the damage.

On my first elk hunt I brought a very fancy custom-stocked .300 Weatherby of which I was very solicitous. After a bitter cold day in the mountains I insisted on bringing it into the cabin which was heated to something like 90 degrees by a mixture of wood stove and beer farts. Almost instantly, the rifle began to sweat more heavily than Hillary R. Clinton at the mention of the word “server.” It was soaked inside and out, and I compounded the mistake by taking it apart and drying it off.

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