FINS, FUR & FEATHERS Winter days ideal for cleaning guns

For most of us the big game seasons are over. A few got real lucky and tagged a real wall-hanger. Others were satisfied with putting some quality wild game into their freezers, while others were pleased with just being able to get out and enjoy the outdoors (at least this is what Jerry Goen uses when he is stuck with tag soup).

Now that the meat is cut and wrapped, the blaze orange is put away for another year; let’s hope you did not just throw your gun into the cabinet.

Year after year many hunters do exactly that. They may run a swab or brush through the barrel, and then they leave it until it is time to get ready for their annual trek into the autumn woods. Year after year, many hunters also make gunsmiths busy with repairs that could have been prevented with some easy post-hunt maintenance.

After the hunt is over, there is no rush to get things done. This “slow time” is the ideal time to do a thorough inspection on your big game rig. Hunting the slick forests, many a hunter has slipped or fallen. While you may think you caught your balance in the nick of time, you may have dinged your rifle. Take the time to go over every inch of your gun. Check the stock for warping, cracks or hairline fractures. Check from buttplate to forend. With many of the synthetic stocks, these minor imperfections will not be a problem, but with a fine piece of walnut, a little crack can turn into a major overhaul if not caught early.

While inspecting, check all screws and mounts for security. Repeated firings and the stress of being carried afield or riding in a case can cause screws to back out. It can also cause your scope become out of alignment. Check where the barrel mounts to the stock, and where your sling attaches. If everything looks good here, then move to the barrel.

Along with a good cleaning, make sure the barrel is oiled. Many products out there today will actually prevent water from forming on the inside of your barrel. Check your lands and grooves for abnormal wear or pitting. Inspect the crown of your barrel. Make sure all edges are clean and square. Inspect the exterior of your barrel for pitting and rust. Catching and fixing some minor surface rust now, may save a lengthy re-bluing job later. Inspect the bolt and receiver at this time also. If you feel comfortable, clean and check your trigger assembly. This area can trap and hold dirt and moisture. The worst time to find out a spring in your trigger has corroded to the point of failure is not when you are looking at the biggest buck or bull of your life. If you do not feel comfortable, have a qualified gunsmith do this for you. It is small insurance to pay.

After you have thoroughly cleaned and inspected your firearm, coat it with a moisture displacing compound to the exterior. This will prevent any rust from forming between now and next fall. Most stocks will not need any type of protection from the elements of your gun cabinet, but a good cleaning will make your prize possessions look better in their display case.

A major advantage to doing this type of work right after the end of the hunting season, is that most gunsmiths will not be as backlogged as they are in late summer or early fall. Ask any gunsmith and they can attest, the closer it is to deer or elk season, the more guns they see and the quicker the owner needs them back. If you detect a problem with your gun you can give the ‘smith ample time to complete the repairs.

Whether you are admiring a trophy over your mantle piece, or cutting into a tasty venison steak, be sure to look after the tool that helped make it all possible.

Hey Jerry, is that one or two bay leaves in the soup?

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