By Naomi K. Shapiro
Too often hunters will put the cleaning of their rifle or shotgun on the back burner. Big mistake! OK you're tired after hunting a whole day. You want to get some R&R, and rest, so you figure your firearm "looks" OK, so you say to yourself, "I'll do it tomorrow." That type of attitude has ruined many a hunt and firearm.
You're out in the woods for the week or more fall/early winter deer hunt. It's cold. You've got a steel rifle, and then after a whole day, you come in to a warm cabin. The same thing that happens to your glasses as they steam up, happens with a firearm. It attracts moisture, and that's a killer for a firearm. These are expensive pieces of equipment, and if you don't take care of them, they won't work properly - -if at all.
A good rule of thumb after a day long deer hunt is to use the "KISS" method ("keep it simple stupid"). No need to totally strip down your rife. Take a cloth or rag, apply some gun treatment oil, and swab your firearm down, leaving the oils right on it. And whatever you do, don't put it in case. Leave it out overnight. It'll "dry" nicely. This daily procedure will keep your firearm in the shape you need for the entire season.
After the gun season, your rifle will need a full cleaning. Many hunters know how to totally and completely "field strip" a rifle and do it themselves. Gun cleaning kits are readily available, and can run from $20 to several hundred, depending on what it contains and YOUR NEEDS. You don't need to overbuy. Kits usually contain swabs, cleaning solvent, and rods designed with a specific type of "head" that you will fit in the barrel of your rifle. There are of course many additional items that some hunters want, and that's what can run up the cost of a cleaning kit.
Then for most of us- - who don't know how to field strip or completely take apart, and clean a rifle, there's an inexpensive and simple solution: Take your rifle to a licensed gun dealer, and they'll clean it for you professionally. The nice thing about using a pro, is that if there are some parts of your rifle that are worn, or cracked or some other way denigrated, a professional can point that out to you, and you can replace the part. Many times an "amateur" however skilled, can't readily differentiate between something that is acceptable, and something that can cause a problem.
As for shotguns, it's a good idea to give them a good cleaning after a day of hunting. If you're duck hunting for instance, your shotgun will get wet, and residue builds up quickly in the tube and mechanism. Every night after the hunt, clean your shotgun, so it's ready, dry and operational for the next day. At the end of the season, you can take it to a licensed gun dealer for a thorough and complete cleaning, and to have the entire shotgun checked out for worn parts and the like.
If you hunt with a muzzleloader, it's even more important to keep it thoroughly clean at all times. If you fire a muzzleloader, you had better clean it that night. The material of the barrel, and the firing mechanism need to be A-1 perfect, and if you don't clean it after firing, it may not work the next day. For instance, there is a small "hole" in the ignition portion of firing mechanism of a muzzleloader that can easily be jammed with some type of firing residue. And that's just one example.
If your muzzleloader is loaded and unfired on a particular hunting day, when you finish hunting for the day, clean the outside, and REMOVE THE FIRING CAP! You'll be good to go the next day. And when you've finished the season, and for whatever reason the muzzleloader is loaded, and unfired, discharge it, and again, unless you're a real expert, take it to a licensed gun dealer to be cleaned thoroughly, and inspected. Muzzleloaders are NOT rifles or shotguns, and require special care and attention.
Treat your firearms well, and they will respond in kind to and for you.