Rust is one of the worst things that can happen to your gun. If your gun has already started to rust: stop reading this article. Go buy some bronze or steel wool and scrub until the rust is gone. Then come back and read this article to learn how to prevent it next time.
This article aims to provide a bit of a “one-stop” set of guidelines. Many of these ideas and tips are common knowledge, but they’re spread out across the internet. This article is where all good ideas meet.
How to Keep Gun From Rusting [Best Way]
There is no substitute for properly cleaning and oiling your firearm after you use it each time. Maintaining your firearm is the single most important thing you can do to prevent gun rust. Keeping it away from water, high humidity, and corrosive ammo will also help.
Preventing your guns from rusting is one of those things that can really test how much effort you’re willing to put in. If you own antique firearms, you might be willing to put in more effort than someone with more modern guns with modern coatings. A lot of what you can do is pretty simple and what you should be doing anyway!
What Causes Your Gun to Rust?
1. High Humidity
Even firearms that belong to avid hunters spend more time in the safe than they do out of it. If the safe they are stored in is humid, that can cause the metal pieces on the firearm to start rusting. This is also true when you take your gun out for use, but since the time the gun spends out is much shorter, you’re less likely to get rust from this type of exposure.
Rust from humidity can crop up pretty quickly, which makes sense if you think about how many hours a gun could just be sitting in the case or safe.
2. Water Contact
Any kind of water contact is going to be bad for the firearm. Water is destructive for most non-living things, and the metal, polymer, and wood pieces of your firearm are no exception. Saltwater will be the most corrosive, but rust becomes a real possibility whenever your firearm gets rained on, snowed on, or submerged in water.
3. Corrosive Ammunition
This isn’t as much of a problem these days, but if you’re shooting old ammo (especially military surplus), you want to watch out for any ammunition that uses primers made of potassium chlorate or sodium perchlorate. These burn down into potassium chloride or sodium chloride, both of which will quickly corrode your firearm.
10 Best Ways to Keep Your Gun From Rusting
And now, we get to the meat of the matter. I’ve ordered these in what I consider to be the most basic to the most extreme.
1. Clean Your Gun Often
You should be doing this even if you’re not worried about rust because it will also help prevent firearm malfunctions and generally extend the life of your firearm exponentially. If you’re unsure how to clean your specific gun, I’ll bet dollars that there’s a YouTube video for you!
Typically, cleaning your gun is going to involve the barrel (inside the bore and outside), the bolt carrier group, and the trigger area. A deep gun clean would be disassembling your BCG and trigger to get at all the hard-to-reach components as well.
How often you clean your gun is up to you, but a lot of shooters just make it a habit to clean their gun every time they get home from the range or from a hunt. You can use the same prossess for cleaning a shotgun.
That said, you should also be cleaning it a minimum of twice a year, so if you’re not going out shooting at least that often, then make a point to take out your gun and clean it anyway.
2. Finish With Gun Oil and Not Solvent
While you’re cleaning, you should use some kind of solvent as you scrub the various parts of your rifle or handgun. But that same solvent may not be what you want to use to coat the rifle when you’re done unless you have a CLP formula (cleaner, lubricant, protectant).
Coating all the metal parts in a lubricant will go a long way in preventing any rust from appearing on your gun. We’ll talk about other options if you can’t or don’t want to use oil, but if you’re looking for a good combination of simplicity and efficacy, I feel like oil/lubricant is the best way to go. You can use gun cleaning kits for the process.
If you skip this step and leave the metal parts with whatever solvent is left on them after you’re done cleaning, you’re leaving your gun susceptible to rust and malfunctions.
3. Use Grease on Moving Parts (and Non-moving Parts)
Grease can be a better option than just standard gun oil in a couple of scenarios. The main one is duck hunting or any other type of hunting that puts you in a boat or wading through water. In a case like this, the thin sheen of oil may not be enough protection from the elements.
Grease, though, is going to be thicker and harder to displace, making it great for the gun in this type of situation.
Another good use for it is when you’re hunting or shooting in the rain. Rainfall will quickly displace the oil layer on your gun, so using grease instead is a better way of preventing rust from any kind of precipitation, be it rain, snow, hail, or otherwise.
Some grease is good for moving parts, and some grease is only good for non-moving parts, so make sure you research the grease that you choose. It’s not unheard of to have two different greases – one for the moving parts and one for the static parts.
4. Use Wax on Non-Moving Parts (and Wood)
Wax is also a good option for outward-facing metal pieces and antique firearms. I don’t know if this is backed up by science, but from what I can tell, wax seems to be better for storing firearms long-term, and grease is better for keeping your gun safe in extreme weather or hunting conditions.
The nice thing about wax is that it can also work well to preserve wood stocks, which means you can use just one coating for the entire gun. Wax does a lot to bring out the natural colors of the wood and make it look great, and it can also give a nice sheen to the metal. If you’re going for appearances, wax is a good option.
And most importantly, it will do a good job protecting your gun from rust. Wax seals it in so that oxygen can’t get in there and start corroding things very easily.
5. Don’t Shoot Corrosive Ammo
The main culprit here is old-timey military surplus ammo. The part of ammo that can be corrosive to a firearm is the primer. Back in the day, they used potassium chlorate and sodium perchlorate for primers, but when this is ignited, it turns into potassium chloride and sodium chloride, both of which are highly corrosive.
I won’t get into the science here (because I only somewhat understand it myself), but the gist is that the chlorides mentioned above attract water out of the air and will greatly accelerate the process of rusting if they’re not cleaned out of your firearm.
The biggest issue with these is how difficult they are to clean out. You can use ammonia, or another recommendation I’ve heard is Simple Green to clean it out before doing your standard gun cleaning & oiling routine. One of the worst things you can do is not clean your gun promptly after shooting corrosive ammo.
It doesn’t take very long for the corrosion to begin, and since a lot of it is on the inside of the bolt and bore, you may not notice it until it’s already gotten pretty bad.
6. Don’t Get Your Gun Wet
This is a pretty good general rule, it’s just hard to follow sometimes. You’re not going to cancel your hunt just because of a little rain, are you? The more you’re able to keep your gun away from standing water or precipitation, the less you’ll need to worry about rust.
But rain and marshes aren’t the only ways your gun can get wet: excess humidity can also have the same effect. If you live in a humid climate, you might find that your guns inevitably start to develop rust, even if you never get them visibly wet.
One of the silent killers here is the interior of your gun safe. I don’t know about you, but I bought the cheapest safe that I could be confident would hold my firearms, and it isn’t even air-tight, let alone climate controlled. It is absolutely possible that the humidity in your safe is higher than it should be and will eventually rust your firearms.
7. Get Cerakote or Other High-Tech Coating
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, you can buy a modern gun with a modern coating on all the metal components. This coating will go a long way in preventing rust, but it’s not a replacement for properly cleaning and oiling your gun. You still need to do those things, you just have an even longer potential lifespan for each of your firearms.
Cerakoting isn’t cheap (last time I checked), but it can be worth it if you have a workhorse gun that you use often and have a critical need that it stays in tip-top functionality at all times. The great thing about cerakote is that it can apply to almost everything. It can even be applied to wood.
Bluing your gun should also help a little bit with rust, but it’s not going to be anywhere near as protective as Cerakote or other coatings designed to prevent rust.
8. Don’t Store Guns in their Travel Cases
This is something that I would generally avoid anyway, but the foam in your travel case is going to trap a lot more moisture than anything inside your gun safe, so it’s a good idea to only use your travel case for travel and use your gun safe for storage anytime you’re not taking your gun somewhere.
This is a simple enough thing to do, but I’ve got it down this low in the list because preventing rust is one of the superfluous reasons to do it. Safety is a much bigger concern, in my opinion. The threat of rust from the inside of your travel case isn’t incredibly high, in my opinion.
Therefore, if preventing theft or unauthorized use of your firearm isn’t a compelling enough reason for you to move your gun over to a safe when you bring it home, then you’d have to be really worried about rust in order to feel compelled to do so just for rust prevention.
9. Do Some Climate Control in Your Gun Safe
There are two reasons this is so near the bottom of the list:
- It can start getting really complicated really fast.
- It’s up for debate just how much danger your guns are in from rust while stored in your safe.
I’ve heard tales of safes that have built-in climate control, but unless you’ve spent exorbitant amounts of money to purchase one, you’re going to have to go with dehumidifiers or other means of controlling the climate in your safe. This usually requires power and frequent monitoring to ensure everything is working properly and safely.
10. Wear Gloves When Handling Stored Firearms
Yes, the oils on your hand can cause rust to appear more quickly on your firearms. If you really want to, you can wear gloves when handling your firearms to prevent this from happening. This makes a lot of sense to me if you’re storing antique firearms. This makes much less sense if you’re handling firearms you intend to use anytime soon.
Normal use of a firearm will have a much more noticeable impact on its cleanliness than just touching it with your hand is going to, so in my opinion, it takes serious dedication to rust prevention to put on gloves to handle one’s firearm.
If you have a polymer or metal firearm, there is no risk in having a gun safe that is too dry. I have never seen issues with wood stocks that are too dry, and I’d suspect that you need to have incredibly low humidity before it would become a real problem unless you have a very old firearm.
If possible, I would recommend just being in the habit of cleaning your gun as soon as you return home from shooting it. Sometimes that doesn’t work, so I would plan on doing it no later than the next day, if possible. Rust can develop quickly, so don’t wait any longer than you absolutely have to to get your gun cleaned up.
Yes. Much like society, metal is destined to weaken and corrode. Just like society, it takes a consistent willingness to put in the work to keep it strong and prepared for action.
Rust is one of the main threats to your firearm’s long and glorious life. Thankfully, it’s not particularly complicated or difficult to prevent rust on your firearm as long as you remember to take the basic steps. If you’re regularly cleaning your firearm, especially after use, then rust shouldn’t be too big of a concern.
If rust does start to appear, you’ll notice it quickly because you’re cleaning it, and you can address it as needed. You can take other steps to prevent rust, which will apply mostly to guns that are either used in harsh conditions or old enough not to have modern materials and coatings applied during the manufacturing process.