This post is an updated version of the May 23, 2012 post titled Have Gun Will Travel… Transporting Your Firearm Across the United States.
Not all storage containers are created equal. Although there are many storage containers on the market that can be used in a variety of applications, most have some type of limitation.
If you have finished hunting for the season, do not just put your rifle in the gun safe until next year without treating it first. Without preparing your rifle for storage properly, you may damage it. In nine easy steps, you can preserve your gun for the months it sits, untouched, until the next hunting season begins.
Part of being a responsible gun owner is securing your firearms from people who are not authorized to use them, criminals and children being your top priorities.
The average ammo can, whether new or military surplus, usually holds .50 caliber ammunition and averages close to the same dimensions—11 inches long, 7 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Can you pack a 72-hour bug out survival kit into such a small area? Sure you can!
Even though I’m not a huge fan of off-body carry, as a girly girl who loves fashion, I do sometimes sacrifice my holster for a cute outfit.
In our first post in this series we discussed new gun ownership basics. In this post we’ll talk about care and maintenance.
You did your research, you rented plenty of guns at your local range, saved your money and finally made your first handgun purchase. Now that you have it home, you might feel slightly lost as what to do next. The first thing you must do as a gun owner is learn and follow the four basic rules of gun safety—not only at the gun range, but in your home, as well.
For many of us, shooting can be an expensive hobby. I’ve turned more money into smoke and noise over the past decade than I care to track. Many of my hard-earned greenbacks fed the ammunition pile, and that hungry monster never really seems satiated. Further, my firearms collection has more value than my vehicles and home electronics combined. What is really sad? I don’t think I’m done buying guns.
If you are a brand new gun owner, you might be wondering where is the best place to store your new firearm. Don’t be embarrassed if you took the gun home and stuck it in the nightstand. Many of us did that the first time around, but it isn’t a secure location. There are many different opinions and options on this subject. Everyone’s situation is different and depending on your state’s laws, there are various appropriate and even possible restrictions on how you store your gun. It also depends on what type of firearm you purchased and why.
The Military SKS-AK Scabbard is an item I recently took a chance on purchasing. If you are expecting a top of the line, grade A, leather-bound scabbard this is not for you. For the price though, I thought it would at least be a great pouch for my tactical Mossberg 500 shotgun that is leaning behind my bedroom door, to keep the dust off and provide easy access if needed.
Do you want to stop lugging around so many bags when you go to the gun range? Condor Outdoor Products has the solution with their Ultimate Carbine Case. This case not only fits a standard tactical-style rifle and two handguns, but all your essential range gear as well. Civilians and non-civilians alike will appreciate the room and features this bag offers, not to mention the quality—especially for the price.
Need a place to stash your handguns on a long trip? Maybe you have limited closet space and need something to lock your guns up. With the help of a padlock, you can keep unwanted hands off your hardware while keeping your guns dry and clean in storage. Full sized steel safes are excellent, but you can’t exactly throw them in the back seat every time you run to the store. These cases don’t just fit under the seat, you can fit them almost anywhere! This case is perfect for throwing a couple handguns in to take to the range, or to your next hunting adventure. This ultra-thin case is small enough to slide behind a dresser or other piece of furniture, while keeping your guns safe from burglars or other prying eyes. Don’t get caught with your guns out in the open. Guns left in open air have a tendency to rust over time. Always store your firearms in a dry place, and keep them well oiled. A well-oiled gun in a proper case will last for a lifetime, and at this price, there is no reason not to let all your handguns have a home of their own. The plastic injected molded case holds two full-sized handguns with accessories. The case features an over-sized handle, secure latches, egg crate-style foam, and slide locks with holes for a pad lock, to secure your handgun. Inside case measures 14×8.5 inches and weighs just over a pound.
We have a new shooter-in-training here at Cheaper Than Dirt. CTD Brandon and his wife had a baby just this past October. Eventually CTD Brandon is going to have to explain to CTD Baby about firearms. Being a new parent is overwhelming enough without having to think about the dreaded talks like “how did I get here” and negotiating when to introduce firearms to your children. My philosophy is, introduce them as soon as you can, before playground rumors and misinformation lead to trouble.
The perfect time to introduce firearm safety to your child is as soon as they can understand. From eight to twelve months, babies understand simple commands such as “no” and “don’t touch.” At three, which is about the average age a child can successfully pull the trigger on a firearm, they know several hundred words.
Toddlers are a curious sort, and find any way possible to get into things. They climb and open containers, and are very ingenious at getting into things you may think you have put out of their reach. Since younger children cannot distinguish between a real gun and a fake gun, or fully grasp the idea behind fantasy and reality, it is best to start teaching gun safety as early as possible—before they can find your firearms on their own.
The NRA has a gun safety program designed just for children called the Eddie Eagle Safety Program. Psychologists, reading specialists, teachers, curriculum specials, law enforcement, and urban housing safety officials collaborated to create a program that successfully teaches children gun safety, whether or not there is a gun in the home. Even a toddler can understand the simple rules of the Eddie Eagle Safety Program:
- Don’t Touch!
- Leave the Area!
- Tell an Adult!
There is a YouTube video with Eddie the Eagle singing a song and doing a dance to the rules. Sing and dance the song with your kid until they get it. Kids love to repeat things, plus singing and dancing is fun for them!
Step one in gun ownership and children in the home is to take the mystery and curiosity out of firearms. Never give your children a reason to go behind your back and touch the guns without you.
The fact that guns were in my household was never a secret when I was growing up. In middle school, I learned the proper way to safely handle a firearm, as well as how to shoot them. Having them around was not a big deal. I grew up in rural Northwest Arkansas; everyone had a gun rack in the truck or on their ATV. Because they were so commonplace and I was well educated about guns, it never occurred to me to hunt down and bring them out to play with without adult supervision.
Hiding your guns and keeping them a secret makes the gun more attractive to a child. Not explaining the don’t touch rule makes your child’s curiosity more intense. Remember finding your Christmas presents that your parents thought they hid so well, or the magazines hidden under the bed you shouldn’t have been looking at? For some crazy reason when something is off-limits to a kid, the more they feel a desire to eat the forbidden fruit.
So how do you do that? First off, sit down with your child and explain the parts of the gun. Explain how the gun works and gun safety rules. Let your child touch the gun, push the safety switch on and off, feel the magazine, and hold it. Whenever your child gets the itch to touch the gun again, stop what you are doing, bring out the gun, and go over the parts and safety rules again. Remember it is important to enforce the rule of “no touching without adult supervision” strictly.
The majority of parents here at Cheaper Than Dirt have taken their shooting-age children out to the range. A good way to show your children that guns are not toys and to display their destructive power is to shoot different items, like watermelons and water-filled jugs. This is a good way to reinforce how dangerous guns can be. Show your child the “wound” inflicted by the bullet.
Another major rule to having firearms and children in the home is proper storage. The NRA says to store your guns so they are inaccessible to unauthorized users, especially children. Keep all guns out of reach of your children; keep them locked with trigger locks or in a safe. Never keep any gun loaded, accessible, or unattended. In fact, many states have laws regarding how guns are stored away from children.
I do not have children, but the neighbor and his daughter routinely come over unexpectedly for some front-porch sittin’. When little Molly comes over, I put all the guns in the bedroom and lock the door. Then, I never let her in the house unaccompanied by either her father or myself.
It should be obvious that you can never trust someone else’s child in your home. Their parents may not own guns, never talk about guns, or may be irresponsible gun owners. When other children are in your home always fully secure all your firearms in a safe.
My young-adult nephew sometimes dog and house sits for me on the weekends. Being the “cool” aunt, I give him permission to have a few friends or a girlfriend over. I always stock the fridge with plenty of sodas and frozen pizzas, but choose to remove all the firearms from my house before I leave. I trust my nephew. He regularly hunts with his father and has his own firearms, but I do not trust his friends. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
All the CTD parents keep their firearms in safes where their children do not have access to them. For your self-defense gun, we all recommend a lock-box or electronic safe by the bed.
Many of you feel that firearm ownership is a very private decision. Teaching your children to keep it hush-hush though might be quite tricky. On the one hand, we don’t want to teach our children that guns are bad and that owning a gun is bad; on the other hand, we don’t want all the neighbor kids to know, the lady at the checkout lane to know, nor the other kids at school. The last thing you want is for a neighbor kid to be snooping around or an anti-gun teacher at school to set off any false alarms. It is best to explain to your children not to talk about your firearms. Tell them that some people don’t like guns or that they are scared, so it is just best to keep it a secret.
At that, I am going to leave you a true story about well-educated, gun-safe kids:
Funny story about what kids are supposed to do if they find a gun: My girls treed a squirrel in the back yard and it stranded it so it could not move to another tree to escape. The girls wanted the tail, so I went inside to get the .22 Marlin 39A and some Colibri ammunition. We shot the squirrel and I asked the girls if they wanted to eat the squirrel and they said, “No, we just want the tail.” So, I laid the rifle on the smoker, showed them how to clean a squirrel without a knife, and fed the squirrel to the neighbor’s dog after harvesting the tail. (None of this is important except the fact that I laid the rifle down on the smoker.) The next day my wife calls madder than a mashed cat asking “Where is your Marlin .22?” This rifle is the first rifle I learned to shoot, it is the first rifle my daughters learned to shoot as well, and it is the rifle that my father tried his hand at gunsmithing and almost shot his little brother because of his trigger job. This rifle is very sentimental to me so I immediately asked my wife if the rifle got wet from the morning dew. Boy, did that set her off, because we had other people’s kids at the house when this happened. She said no that my eldest daughter saw the rifle and stayed with it to make sure the vagrant kids did not touch it and she sent my youngest in to have my wife get the rifle. I did have to explain to my wife that I was wrong and irresponsible for leaving the gun out, but I couldn’t have been happier how my girls handled the situation.
One of the most important parts of firearm safety is storing your guns correctly. There are many reasons for properly storing your firearms. Just having guns lying out all over the counter and on the kitchen isn’t what I would call smart or safe. Once you become a firearms owner, you are making yourself responsible for a very deadly device that, in the wrong hands, could potentially kill someone who is unaware of the danger they can pose.
The first thing a responsible gun owner needs to think about when storing firearms is what they’re guns are going to be used for. I have many guns, but only two for home defense. The rest of my collection sits unloaded in a gun safe in my closet that I bolted to the frame of my house. I can’t think of a good reason to leave my collectible and hunting guns lying around the house fully loaded. It would take a fair amount of work to haul off my collection, and that’s the way I like it. I have no children in the house, so my home defense guns are in two locations. I have a drawer in the coffee table that I can get to immediately should someone break in while I’m in the kitchen or in the living room. Since I spend most of my time at home in one of these locations, I figured it would be a good idea to have a gun handy. Otherwise, if an intruder came through my front door, I would have to run past the entryway where the bad guy is, run down the hall, past the bathroom, and get to my shotgun that sits next to my bed. This would give the intruder plenty of time to pull a gun of his own, or physically attack me before I could get behind the trigger. There is an inherent danger however, in leaving guns in places that are accessible by anyone in your home. You have to consider guests, some with children, like to peek in drawers to satisfy their curious nature. Obviously, I can’t let this happen, so before I have guests, I usually take the coffee table handgun, and put it on top of the entertainment center which is way out of reach of little hands. Unfortunately, it isn’t just little hands that don’t need to touch my firearms. I have plenty of non-gun loving friends whose parents never exposed them to the world of firearms. These are good people, they just come from a world where they pretend guns don’t exist, and nothing bad can ever happen to them, so sad.
As my life as a bachelor comes to a close, and the prospect of having a family of my own becomes a reality, I find myself forced to consider balancing home safety, with child safety. GunVault makes some affordable options. The cases they produce are keypad controlled, but the operator can open them almost instantly with the proper code. I like the idea of a child not being able to get to a locked up pistol, while I can still maintain some level of home defense. These cases are battery-powered though, so you would have to be sure to change out the batteries on the safes periodically.
The most important thing you can do to keep your children safe from guns in the home, is to teach them gun safety at a very young age. My father never owned a gun safe, and had a pistol handy near the bed my entire adolescent life. He was a police officer as well as an avid hunter, so he carried a gun with him all the time. There was no mystery in guns for me, since my father taught me to respect them as soon as I was old enough to get around on my own. While I plan to carry on the tradition of gun safety to my own children, I still like to piece of mind of having them under lock and key. It is amazing how much better I tend to sleep knowing my house, and my family, are safe and sound.
Many of our customers have very old firearms that they inherit from loved ones. A common question we get is, “How do I care for my antique firearm?” Our interview with John Gangel last week was quite enlightening, and he shared with us some fantastic tips on storing and caring for antique firearms.
We also found a fantastic guide to firearm preservation from the Springfield National Historic Site and National Park Service (courtesy of Say Uncle) that has a very good overview on caring for your antique firearm.
Preserving Your Antique Arms Collection
The following are very conservative guidelines to help you care for a collection that you wish to preserve for as long as possible and will never be fired. Methods recommended here may not be the most efficient. What may work beautifully in one situation can be a disaster in another. The following advice is limited in scope and cannot cover every possible situation.
A. Preventive Care
1. Environment ·
- Avoid dramatic swings in relative humidity (RH). Try to keep stable between 40 and 50%.
- Consistency is more important than precise maintenance of a specific RH reading.
- RH control is most critical because of an unusual physical property of wood called anisotropy. Wood cells expand or contract very differently in response to changes in relative humidity — depending on their specific grain orientation (axial, transverse, or radial) in the log from which they came. Large swings in RH can result in cracks caused by compression-set shrinkage.
- If humidity remains fairly constant, changes in temperature make little difference to either metal or wood – better to concentrate on controlling relative humidity. A rapid rise in indoor temperature can pull the moisture out of the environment (including your artifact), causing a drop in RH. Cell shrinkage and cracking or splitting can occur.
- Wear gloves when handling your collection. No protective coating – appropriate for conserving an artifact — (see below) can stand up for long against repeated bare-handed handling. Best thing is to always wear gloves. Nitrile examination gloves are recommended when cleaning and coating your collection. Once an item has been coated, wear plain cotton gloves.
- Keep dust-free. Dust can trap moisture increasing the likelihood of corrosion occurring.
- Do not use commercial dust cloths. They often leave an oil film behind. Oil films trap dust. Dust traps and collects water vapor in the air.
- When dusting, use a soft cotton cloth very lightly dampened with water
- Without moisture, dust merely gets shoved around and will not be picked up.
- Do not use alcohol of any kind when dusting or cleaning a stock. It can skin or strip an historic finish.
- Dry immediately with a clean cloth.
- Never use liquid or spray dusting products. Most leave mineral oil behind, which traps dust. Dust traps and collects moisture. Starting to see a pattern?
4. Storage / Display
- Narrow hooks or loops of wire should not be used to support collection pieces either in storage or on display. The weight of most long arms on such devices is sufficient to result in indentations in their stock at the points of contact.
- Use broad, padded supports. We use thin sheets of a closed-cell Polyethylene foam material to pad our display fixtures.
- To avoid mold and mildew during long-term storage — avoid at least two of the three conditions known to promote bloom outbreaks:
- elevated temperature
- still air, and
- elevated humidity.
B. Cleaning and Coating Historic Firearms
1. Cleaning Wood Stocks
- Separate wooden and metal parts. They are cleaned and coated differently.
- Unless absolutely necessary, leave unfinished interior wooden surfaces alone.
- Clean exterior of stock as follows:
- Use a few drops of a mild detergent in a gallon of warm, distilled water, applied with a slightly damp soft cloth, and rinsed with clean cloths dampened with distilled water.
- Dry with soft cloths immediately after rinsing.
- Clean again with mineral spirits, using a soft cloth to apply. Work in fresh air or a well-ventilated area.
- Avoid using “oil soaps” as they can becaustic and may damage an historic oiled surface.
2. Cleaning Barrels and Other Metal Parts. Please note: It is essential to practice any new technique on a sacrificial piece first, before applying it to something irreplaceable.
- Use nylon or animal-bristle bore brushes. Wherever possible, avoid using brass or steel brushes. Such hard materials can scratch, but also might (under certain conditions) cause galvanic (bi-metallic) corrosion (specifically when using a copper-alloy brush on ferrous metals) by leaving a slight metallic smear behind.
- Use mineral spirits to soften accretions. Work in fresh air or well-ventilated area. Are there other solvents that are “stronger”? Yes, but they are difficult to work with safely.
- Swab clean with a cloth patch.
- Use only extremely fine abrasives such as oil-free 0000 steel wool . Use only if absolutely necessary to remove stubborn rust deposits or other accretions. Work slowly and watch constantly for any changes to the surface. There is always an element of risk in such work. If you are at all uncertain, hire a conservator before causing irreversible damage.
- When cleaning brass parts, never use products that contain ammonia. Ammonia can damage old copper alloy materials by corroding them from the inside out. In addition, such products may include abrasives which may prove too harsh. Elbow grease and mineral spirits should be tried first. If something slightly stronger is needed, try applying small amounts of wet tooth powder with a cotton swab and rinse with water.
- A general comment about commercial rust removers. The problem is that most rust removers can’t tell the difference between iron oxide and iron metal, and will leave an etched surface even where there is no rust. Some products seem to come close. Often they require extremely close attention and precision – too much for most of us.
- Most surface rust can be removed by first lubricating the area with a light penetrating oil and cleaving it off with a sharp scalpel held at a very low angle to the metal. It requires close attention, a steady hand, and some patience, but if you are careful, you will probably get most – if not all – of the surface rust off without leaving a scratch. There is always an element of risk in such work. If you are at all uncertain, hire a conservator before causing irreversible damage. When done, remove any remaining oil with mineral spirits.
3. Disassembly and Reassembly
- If you are organized and systematic — you should be able to safely disassemble and reassemble most firearms successfully.
- Probe the floor of every external screw slot with a sharp point held at a very low angle. It’s amazing how much dirt can be packed into a “clean-looking” slot. All foreign matter must be removed for the screwdriver to do its best, safest work. .
- A good selection of screwdrivers is a must. Their tips must be matched perfectly to each slot in order to maximize the area of mechanical contact. Taking this precaution will minimize slippage and the scratching and scarring that can result. The internal shapes of screw slots have changed a lot since their invention and screwdriver tips often have to be ground or filed in order to get a good match. Keep this in mind when regrinding a screwdriver’s tip.
- There are many publications that offer exploded drawings and disassembly/reassembly tips.
4. Coating Stocks
- Wood is neither thirsty nor hungry. It is usually covered by a finish which may have become corrupted in some way, making it look “dry.” The wood beneath the finish does not need to be “fed”, (despite what wood-care product commercials may claim).
- Never put oil of any kind on an historic finish. There may well be unintended but permanently damaging consequences to ignoring this advice.
- A cautionary word about linseed oil.
- Linseed oil takes forever to dry and will trap dust. (It will not stop water penetration either).
- When linseed oil oxidizes, its molecules cross-link with one another, making it increasingly more difficult to remove as time passes.
- Oxidized linseed oil (linoleic acid) eventually becomes linoxin, better-known commercially as Linoleum! Repeated, or seasonal, applications eventually develop into a surface that can look like very dark brown alligator skin, and can become almost impossible to remove.
- Applying a modern finish over an equivalent historic finish can forever confuse the finish “history” of a stock by making it difficult, if not impossible, to tell what (if anything) is original, and what is a restoration material – even with an analytical microscope. Therefore, you would not want to touch up, say, a shellac finish with shellac. Use paste waxes only: i.e., carnauba-based furniture waxes on wood stocks. Avoid wax mixtures which include a high percentage of bee’s wax. They are not especially harmful, but are relatively soft (fingerprint easily) and can be slightly acidic.
5. Coating Metals (this advice is strictly for guns which have been “retired” from use and will never be fired.)
- Avoid using oils. They are not the best material for long-term protection of collection pieces as they trap dust and dirt, eventually break down and have to be periodically replaced. A high-quality light oil is fine for maintaining a gun you still shoot, though.
- Use a microcrystalline wax as a protective coating. They are practically inert, remaining stable for a very long time. Apply and buff out with a soft cloth or brush – inside and out.
- Brass parts can also be coated with wax such as an acrylic spray lacquer because it is easily removed with solvents but bonds especially well to copper-alloy metals, and will withstand more abuse and last longer than wax.
6. Minor Stock Repairs
- If a split or detached piece of a stock must be repaired, use an adhesive that is both strong and reversible (i.e. can be safely removed at any time in the future). There is only one: traditional hide glue.
- Do not proceed if there is evidence that the damaged site has been previously repaired. In this case, consult a conservator.
- Unless you work with hide glue every day – make it up fresh in small amounts as needed. It doesn’t take long to prepare and it will do a better job than using old glue. Hot hide glue is preferable to liquid hide glue as it is less affected by humidity.
- Dampen the area to be glued with hot water. Blot the area and wait a few minutes. Then apply hot glue to both surfaces with a brush and clamp immediately. An appropriate clamp can be as simple as a few pieces of masking tape, rubber bands, bicycle tire strips, or small padded weights. Use the least force needed to do the job.
- Clamps can usually be removed in a few hours, but it takes at least 24 hours for the repair to fully harden. · Excess glue can be removed with a lint-free cloth dampened with hot water. The best time to do this is usually right after removing clamps.
7. If you still need help
- Seek the services of a professional conservator.
- Contact the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) for a referral.
- There are few, if any, conservators who treat nothing but firearms. Look for an “Objects” Conservator with experience working with metal and the other materials (wood, celluloid, leather, etc.) that are part of your artifact.