Guns in storage - safety concern regarding maintenance


February 5, 2013, 07:13 PM
I have 5 handguns (all 2012 manufacturer date) (fully loaded; condition zero) that are clean and well-lubricated but they haven't been touched or obviously fired in months.

How long can one keep a gun in "storage" and expect it to be good to go in case of an emergency?

Or better yet, is there a certain amount of time after a period of inactivity that one would have to lubricate the handguns?

I guess I'm thinking this in terms of 'oil change every 3,000 miles... but not if the car has sat parked in the garage or showroom since 1976'...

Thank you for your opinions and suggestions.

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February 5, 2013, 07:29 PM
In my humble opinion, somewhat supported by experience, I wouldn't worry about anything less than five years. Assuming good conditions, and good lube quality.

February 5, 2013, 07:33 PM
5 years... wow, that's great to know.

I've babied those guns clean and used stupid high quality oils.

February 5, 2013, 07:47 PM
I think if you are talking about room temperature temperatures that a good gun grease would last for years.

I don't know if I would want to trust a thin gun oil, like Rem Oil or Hoppes, longer than about a year. Given enough time it will migrate off your guns. CLP or even Mobil 1 would last longer from what I've experienced.

But for me I'd use a gun grease if I knew I wouldn't touch it for years.

Highland Ranger
February 5, 2013, 09:21 PM
I've personally done it with an HK for ten years using miltec as lube.

Gun fired the whole mag, no issues.

I did store a second HK that long but it was lubed with something else, I want to say wd40 and perhaps wasn't as clean as it should be. It failed to fire on first shot due to light strike, squeezed the trigger again and it went off and finished the mag.

When I disassembled the gun the lube had gotten gooey around the firing pin just enough to slow it down I guess.

No issues with mag springs or corrosion etc.

So my advice would be:

- five years should be safe, with a good quality pistol (corrosion resistant) that is properly cleaned and lubed

- too much is not better than just right in this case based on this limited experience

- wouldn't try it with a finicky gun - not sure what that is anymore as reliability is a lot better than it was 20 years ago - I'd go with a duty type weapon, HK Glock XD etc.

My experience is in a climate controlled area, where in the winter it is very dry and in the summer never gets that humid.

YMMV if you live by the coast or are storing the pistol in some other a humid environment.

Always better if you can clean and exercise them more often of course.

February 5, 2013, 11:05 PM
I have DA revolvers that date from the 1930's. I'm sure they have never seen anything more high tech than 3 in 1 oil or sewing machine oil. Likely weren't touched for 20 years when I got them. I am certain, every one of them would have fired all six rounds, never missed a beat.

Auto's? I bet I have a couple .45's that have not been shot in ten years, whatever residual oil left in there will still let me empty a couple mags without a burp. Will they last longer if I oil them properly before shooting a few hundred rounds? Probably. Thats pure metal on metal sliding.

February 5, 2013, 11:23 PM
As long as conditions are fairly dry - I think you're fine. But, if there is any moisture and the gun is sitting in a layer of foam, I'd say there is a possibility of corrosion. Otherwise, good layer of oil or light grease on all metal surfaces would be fine for quite a while.

One thing that no one mentioned - if your handguns are semi-autos I don't think that I would leave the magazines loaded and sitting unchanged for 5 years - springs may weaken or take a set in that amount of time. A number of folks rotate out their magazines between loaded and unloaded condition at some interval for this reason. Maybe it is excessive, but I don't think so. And, most of my handguns are revolvers anyway.

February 5, 2013, 11:48 PM
Since I live in a wet climate I clean & oil twice a year whether they need it or not.

February 6, 2013, 01:47 AM
I had 4 S&W's and a Colt SSA that sat (Loaded) for 20 +/- years in leather holsters that were locked in an old Army foot locker. No problem.

February 6, 2013, 01:24 PM

Spend a few dollars on each and worry no more. There are lots of products you could pack a firearm full of to prevent corrosion but they won't all allow you to grab it and shoot it pronto. No need for power source and can be taken with you until you need your gun.

February 6, 2013, 02:42 PM
Thanks for the updates.

I do have the guns kept wrapped in microfiber clean rags.

February 6, 2013, 03:17 PM
It does matter where you live, and the specifics of the storage.

In a low humidity, desert environment, with the guns in a temperature controlled area, they should be fine for quite awhile.

In a humid area, like the gulf coast, I would clean them more often. If you store them in a garage or place where they are not kept above dew point, I would move them to a climate controlled area.

February 6, 2013, 05:41 PM
I do have the guns kept wrapped in microfiber clean rags.

You don't want to do that.

When storing any firearms, never wrap them in materials that will absorb & hold moisture against the steel. Microfiber or any cloths, will absorb moisture, so will leather sheaths. If you want to wrap them in something, use VCI corrosion inhibiting papers, it's cheap.

I store my firearms in a manner that leaves a gap of air around them, or I leave them in their boxes in the safe.

Personally, I wouldn't keep 5 pistols loaded if they are going to be stored. You may get migration of lubes through the primer cap which can foul the bullet. I "store" my guns unloaded and with all springs relaxed. Only HD/SD firearms are kept loaded.

Also, even though your firearms should outlast you, I would personally check my firearms every year as part of routine maintenance. Play it safe.

February 6, 2013, 09:28 PM
I guess I'm thinking this in terms of 'oil change every 3,000 miles... but not if the car has sat parked in the garage or showroom since 1976'...

Thank you for your opinions and suggestions.
not a good comparrision, as engine oil deteriorates after 5 months, and would need to be changed even if the car has never been ran (gm tech) but as far as firearms, my father had a 1911 colt that my grandfather bought, shot once, cleaned, then stored for over 36 years, and it is in great shape, we oiled it before we fired it, but i would say that 5 years, should be absolutely fine...

February 7, 2013, 12:14 PM
I go through all of my guns on a monthly basis. Check operation and lube.

February 7, 2013, 12:44 PM
I did store a second HK that long but it was lubed with something else, I want to say wd40

You found this out from the gunk that formed in your pistol, but for anyone else considering what to go with, WD-40 is not a good choice. WD stands for Water Displacement, and the product is great for that. As a lubricant it isn't very viscous to begin with. This gets worse over time as the water displacing hydrocarbons evaporate, leaving behind a very thick gunk.

For my own experience with longer term storage, I've left handgun magazines loaded, but not inserted into the pistols, and handguns stored for 3 years with no problems taking them to the range, loading and firing. Glock, HK and a S&W 340. My 1911s I left in the care of someone who would look after them.

February 7, 2013, 12:57 PM
I have a good gun smith/ friend who suggests using "Gun Butter" products, either the oil, or the other product, can't remember the name off hand. These products can be applied "sparingly" , worked into the actions, and left without any worries! These products make the actions so smooth, plus they don't migrate.

February 7, 2013, 02:04 PM
Some lubricants will go gummy over time. It's easy to tell as the surface stops feeling oily and begins to feel more sticky. Most good gun oils and greases won't do any such thing over the course of a year.

On the cloth wrap I think you're fine as long as the area you store them in is a consistent temperature and the relative humidity is well below the dew point. The cloth itself will only get as dry or wet as the air around it. A microfiber cloth doesn't suck moisture out and hold it on it's own. So if the conditions where you store the guns is dry then the cloths will remain dry. Having said that the VCI paper option IS a pretty good suggestion. Both from the standpoint of not potentially holding any moisture as well as not wicking away the oil from the metal.

If they are in long term storage like this I wonder why you're leaving the magazines full. On the other hand if your long term storage areas are scattered about the house in strategic areas so you can reach the guns if ever needed then the VCI paper is going to crinkle a lot as you pull out and ready the gun. If this is more your situation I'd stick with the micro fiber cloth to keep the dust off the gun and out of the oil. Otherwise the VCI paper and empty mags makes good long term sense.

February 7, 2013, 03:09 PM
ZCORR is a VCI ziplock style bag. The metal simply won't rust and unless the bag is damaged (unlikely in normal use) water and dust won't get in. That means if your lube is stable and the magazine loaded, the firearm is ready to remove and shoot 5 years later.

If the power goes out, the dehumidifier stops. If you take a three week hunting trip, the dehumidifier would need to be packed up. If paper or cloth gets wet...

February 7, 2013, 07:01 PM
I'm in a dry climate, but I still try to clean, check condition, reapply lube/oil at least once a year.

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