Hard lessons learned about gun storage


December 3, 2003, 05:41 PM
I've recently moved out to five acres of woodlot in Willow, Alaska. I had been storing a number of rifles in the closet of my trailer. These all had coatings of anti-rust spray, grease, plus gun socks PLUS protective scabbards or sheaths. I checked on them recently and discovered--THE DEMON RUST! All over them! Never mind the anti-rust sprays. The enormous shift in temp from the trailer (heated with kerosene and propane) to the outside (down to 40 below!) must have created a weird cloud-like ice fog in the closet.

Anyway, word to the wise. I would have been MUCH better off simply sealing the rifles up in a plastic box and letting them freeze. The revolvers stored outside in plastic totes are 100% perfectly fine, with no rust or problems. This despite the fact that I forgot to hit them with anti-rust spray.

If you enjoyed reading about "Hard lessons learned about gun storage" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Larry Ashcraft
December 3, 2003, 06:18 PM
When we moved to our little farm in 1994 (from our tri-level in suburbia) we put our Tread-Lock safe in the basement until we got the house squared away. Now, around here humidity is almost non-existent, so I didn't think too much about them for a couple of months. Well, the basement was a lot more humid than I thought because when I opened the safe, all my guns were rusted. :cuss:

I got most of them cleaned up pretty well with 0000 steel wool and oil, but my circa 1910 Winchester 1894 rifle still has some small pits on the barrel, and it was previously probably 95%. :mad:

Mark Tyson
December 3, 2003, 06:48 PM
Yeah, had that happen to me too. Now a dehumidifier runs in the basement right next to the safe 24/7. WD40 seems to work for me, too, for rust prevention.

December 3, 2003, 09:48 PM
WD40! Man.. You'd better go check on your guns ASAP! The only time I use "Water Displacement Forty" (WD40) is if my gun gets wet, and I have to dry, clean and oil. The WD40 removes any rust protecting oil you have on the gun

December 3, 2003, 10:30 PM
Cosmo, "plus gun socks PLUS protective scabbards or sheaths." This is your first culprit. Coverings such as these will HOLD the condensed moisture in long enough to start the problem that you have described.

December 3, 2003, 10:37 PM
Hey does anybody know a good link to long term non-cosmoline storage? it seems to me that the number one killer it H2O in the air.

December 3, 2003, 10:49 PM
Yeah, I know how it is.

I left my brand new ruger vaquero with the fake case hardened finish in my shooting bag for a week shortly after I purchased it. It was well oiled, and the bag was not airtight, but when I pulled the gun out I was dismayed to find bright orange rust all over the case hardened surfaces.

I have since cleaned it up, but it won't ever be as nice looking as it was.

I was pretty fanatical about cleaning and maintaining my weapons before this happenned, but now I store my pistols in a safe with a dessicant, and every weapon that I don't plan on using in the next day or two is heavily oiled.

Even despite these measures, I still find little rust spots from time to time where a stray fingerprint went uncleaned or whatnot. I live in an apartment with no airconditioning, and when we run the clothes dryer the humidity skyrockets. Everything rusts in here. I am going to try that bullfrog anti-rust stuff next.

Greg L
December 3, 2003, 11:49 PM
I don't have a good suggestion here, just chuckling at the irony of someone with the tag of Cosmoline complaining about long term storage & rust :D .


December 4, 2003, 12:11 AM
Rust gives you a great feeling in the pit of your stomach, doesn't it? At least it does to me.

My second Hi Power, my FEG, had a nice deep, glossy blue finish. Every time it was touched, it was wiped down THOROUGHLY with oil. Well, it didn't matter, because within a couple of days, it developed little rust spots here and there. Now, I don't know a whole lot about rust, but my Browning has never rusted. So I guess it can either be attributed to the FEG's metallurgy or to the finish. Now, to keep it from rusting, every time I look at it, I COAT the thing in CLP, wrap it in an old t-shirt, also saturated with CLP, and put it where I'm sure it can get a little circulation -- just in case of condensation.

My sympathies... Rust sucks.

December 4, 2003, 12:17 AM
Yeah, rust is a pain in the posterior... I hear lots of complaints about it from folks in humid states who've stored their gun safes in un-airconditioned areas like basements, garages, etc. Even with a Goldenrod in the safe, the humidity gets to them. (My gunsmith loves the problem - he says he gets over $1,000 a month in and near hunting season cleaning and de-rusting guns that were put away at the end of last year's hunting season and not stored correctly - or properly cleaned!)

However, storing guns in Africa can have even more serious problems. I've seen one .470 Nitro Express double rifle where termites got to the stock, and the owner had it break in two on his shoulder as he fired it. Fortunately, it was at the range, not in the face of a charging elephant! Another fun creature is the mud wasp... it loves to build its nests in gun barrels. If you don't check EVERY morning, you might have a wonderful burst-barrel experience with your next shot.

December 4, 2003, 02:05 AM
I'm with Greg L, posting about the irony - that the 'New Guy' in this thread is the one that mentioned dessicant.

December 4, 2003, 02:40 AM
has anyone seen that guy at the gun shows that tells us all to that we should be waxing our guns not oiling them to prevent rust. He said that nobody oils thier car so why should you oil your guns!!!

December 4, 2003, 03:29 AM
Hey I did a little research on Rusting you be suprised at what I found. rust is caused when oxygen combines with iron i.e. Fe+O2+H2O--> FeO3 in other words water just acts as the catalyist by allowing the electrons in the metal to donate to the oxygen and causing the Fe (iron) to become positive (fe+) which combines with the oxygen to form rust (FeO3) so the key here is two things one keep water moisture away from the metal at all costs. and two heres an idea I got cause i also have Zinc strips from my aquarium. In the other situation in which iron is wrapped with zinc the opposite occurs. In this case zinc is oxidized faster or more easily than the iron and therefore it undergoes a very similar reaction as did the iron in the last example. Here zinc loses two electrons and forms a Zn +2 ion. On the surface of the iron the same reaction occurs as did on the copper. Water and oxygen combine with the two electrons to make hydroxide ions, which turn the solution next to the iron surface pink. In this case the zinc is considered to be the anode and the iron is considered to be the cathode. This has very practical implications. The auto industry and boating industry have used this idea to prevent automobiles and the steel hulls of ships from rusting. Water is a crucial component to act as a medium to transfer electrons. Iron metal will not "rust" when it is in dry air. So these industries, knowing that zinc, aluminum, and magnesium oxidize or "rust" faster and more easily than iron, place these metals adjacent to the steel so that these metals will "rust" before the iron does. maybe by wrapping a zinc strip around a stored gun will prevent it's rusting.

December 4, 2003, 06:00 AM
I don't have a gun safe yet. Two are in a simple metal locked box from Walmart and two are in their factory boxes. This doesn't give me a good feeling about dropping a thousand. How can they be stored to avoid this problem?:uhoh:

December 4, 2003, 09:08 AM
You did not rub cosmoline all over it??


What I do..

I buy a can of Lithium Grease from PepBoyz, and rub it all over the gun... That ain't ever coming off!! Or if you want to get real serious, car rotor packing grease (yes, the smelly black stuff). Nigh impossible to remove, you won't get rust even in the next ice age..

December 4, 2003, 10:46 AM
What about the Bullfrog brand of stuff I've seen in catalogs (I think Cheaper than dirt or Maybe Midway USA). A recent (maybe the current) Guns magazine had a write up about it. It is supposed to be some dessicant developed for the military. They have bags, wipes, and even some treated pieces of paper (that you hang or stick onto the interior of your storage container) and it's supposed to prevent rust very well (according to the magazine article, if it's accurate).

Anyone try this stuff out?

December 4, 2003, 11:16 AM
Posted by T-Stox:

"Hey does anybody know a good link to long term non-cosmoline storage? it seems to me that the number one killer it H2O in the air."



Highland Ranger
December 4, 2003, 12:40 PM
Cleaned and stored for 5 years with a light coat of oil; stored in a lockbox with foam cushion - took out recently, no rust, barrell like a mirror . . . . still shoots great.

We get plenty of humidity here so I'm thinking defective coatings for these guns that seem to rust if you look at them crooked.

December 4, 2003, 01:51 PM
I keep my safe dry inside with silica gel. One container ought to be more than enough - so I use two. Every month or two I have to bake them in the oven for a couple of hours to dry them out - then they're good to go again.

No safe? Bianci makes - or used to make - "Blue Bags" which were plastic that had the interior coated with VPI - Vapor Phase Inhibitor - material. These were supposed to keep whaever guns you placed inside rust-free for at least a year.

December 4, 2003, 02:05 PM
Yep, in the Queen's Service, while on winter exercises, we NEVER, took our weapons in the tent. They were greaseless and stayed outside. No condensation means no rust.

December 4, 2003, 04:38 PM
I am required to live on site for my job so my two gun safes are located at my parents home and they are not gun people. I have about 90 firearms there. I only get there about twice a year and for such a small period of time that I don't want to spend all of it re oiling guns. This doesn't make them easily assesable but here is what I do for long term:

1. Disasemble and spray with sheath or in some cases I have packed with rig or cosmaline but, I hate to try and clean all that stuff off. If it is packed with rig I leave the stock seperate from the action/barrel. Otherwise when I am sure everything is coated I reasemble. Then I wrap with butcher paper.

2. Place it in a blue bag or one of the cheaper versions brownells sells. cut the bag as opposed to folding over and taping.

3. Place a baby sock full of crystal cat litter or deccasent packet inside.

4. Place the whole things in food saver bags and vacuum seal.

Never had a problem.

A caution would be to be sure to use the butcher paper when you vacuum seal. If you don't things like bolt handles with rip the bag. Another reason is that one side of vacuum bags has a texture. This will imprint into wood surfaces without the paper.

So I have several things going to prevent rust
The oil on the firearm
the coating on the bag
the water absorbing material
no air flow or circulation
minimal air in the bag

So I am safe but crazy becuase I can't enjoy my firearms, but someday when I can live with all of them they will be good as new.

December 4, 2003, 05:32 PM
Yeah it's obvious from my provious post that if you can Vaccuum seal it! it might be a pain but without oxygen there can be no reaction! in fact it you put pure water with no oxygen dissolved in it with a piece of iron the metal would not rust. Heres an idea and what I think people at mueseums do. They put a gun in an airtight case then flood it with nitrogen gas to drive out all the O2 molecules then seal it. this will deifinatly prevent rust. though not very realistic ordinary way to store guns! but as as far as metal goes I think people have to remember that metal has a usually lower temprature than what is around it. this causes precipitation directly on the surface with small water droplets. in fact as far as i can tell the reason we oil guns is because oil and water don't mix so it keeps water off the surface of the gun.

December 4, 2003, 05:58 PM
Right now I'm putting most of my stuff up on consignment at a high price. This is the best way to store them, of course. But of course there's always a risk someone will buy it!

December 4, 2003, 06:15 PM
Metal does not have a lower temperature than the air around it.

Generally speaking, a light coat of oil will protect your guns from rust, but you have got to keep temperature in mind. Sudden changes in temperature are bad. I think that this is the number one cause of rust for firearms. If you bring a gun in from the cold, it takes a while for it to warm up to room temperature. While it is doing so, condensation will form on the gun, just like it does on your glasses when you walk in to a steamy bathroom or inside from a winter day. The best thing to do, IMHO, is to bring your guns in, open the cases, remove guns from cases, lay them on a soft, dry cloth and let them normalize to the new temperature. Wipe them off every once in a while while they do this. Let cases come up to temperature and dry as well. Apply fresh oil, and store firearm in fresh, dry case. I have actually been considering buying separate cases for storage and transport. That way, the storage cases stay nice and dry.

I have never used desicant in the storage of firearms, and I don't think it is necessary if the climate in your home is well controlled, i.e. airconditioning in summer and heat in winter.

December 4, 2003, 09:56 PM
metal has a usually lower temprature than what is around it


Do you mean that metal usually "feels cold"?
It's actually the same temperature as whatever's around it--but the metal sucks a lot more heat from your fingers, so it feels cold.
Rubber, at exactly the same temperature, doesn't feel cold because it doesn't suck as much heat from your fingers.
It's like the fact that 50-degree air is slightly chilly, but 50-degree water is freakin' freezing!!!

December 5, 2003, 11:39 AM
With my gun safe, I use a Golden Rod "dehumidifier" and a desicant pack. Never a rust problem and I am not real good about cleaning my shooter guns. The dehumidifier is not a true take the moisture out of the air type, rather it works as a heating element, keeping the safe interior just a few degrees warmer than the exterior inhibiting condensation. Cheap, worry free and works for me.

December 6, 2003, 10:42 AM
a good friend of mine has a HUGE safe full of very expensive guns and he had the same problem in his basement. I recommended he oil them WELL and for a desicant (moisture absorber) I bought him a replaceable refrigerant filter core commonly used to remove moisture from the refrigerant in BIG refrgeration systems (I work for major HVAC/Ref. wholesaler). Once every 3 or 4 months he puts the filter core in the oven to "re-charge" it and drive out all the moisture it has captured in the safe. It's then good to go for another few months (depending on humidity levels) His guns are all perfect again and has worked for a couple years now. They can be purchased from ANY local Refrigeration Wholesaler for about $10 or so and come in a sealed can about the size of a quart of oil. Sporlan sells them under a part number of RC4864 or RCW48 and will absorb TONS of moisture hopefully keeping it away from your guns. Try it they really work.

If you enjoyed reading about "Hard lessons learned about gun storage" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!