Long-Term Gun Storage

There is a saying that goes, “If it’s time to bury your guns, then its time to dig them up.” Some say that if you hide your gun off-site, it becomes useless. Either way, if you plan to store your gun for the long-term, you need to make sure you have pre-treated it properly and prepared your storage area properly to prevent rust from ruining your weapon. Whether you’re choosing to store your hunting rifle at home until the next season, storing a gun collection or preparing for the future, preparing the weapons beforehand is done the same way.

Gun Storage Containers

First, you must make sure you have the proper storage container. Do not use the original cardboard box of your gun or any cardboard box. Further, do not use foam or sheep skinned-lined cases. Cardboard, sheepskin and foam all attract moisture. A silicon-treated gun sock, gun storage bags, or any gun safe is your best bet if you are keeping your gun at home. You can also wrap your gun in kitchen wax paper instead of a bag or a sock. If you choose this method, make sure no parts are sticking out, wrap it mummy-style and secure with masking tape. If you are going to be using a gun safe, store your long guns with the barrel down so that no oil can seep into the stock or other parts of the gun.

Hoppe’s “Guide to Gun Care” says that any moisture will start the rusting process within 24 hours. Moisture can also cause your stock to crack. Put desiccant in your safe or in any bag you put your weapon in to prevent moisture build-up.

Preparing for Storage

Break down your gun as much as you can. Keep the gun decocked to relieve tension on springs and other parts, or remove hammer springs, firing pin springs and recoil springs. Remove all fingerprints from your gun using Outer’s silicone gun and reel cloth or a cloth with Break-Free CLP. Copper, lead, plastic and carbon will all attract moisture, so completely clean your gun, preferably with products that are ammonia-free, such as Hoppe’s Elite Gun Cleaner and Copper Terminator. Thoroughly clean out the bore of your gun and then apply a thin layer of lubrication. Also apply a light coat of lubrication to other exterior metal surfaces. Birchwood Casey’s Barricade rust prevention contains metal preservatives that will leave a transparent coating to seal the surface with a protective film. Note that greases and other petroleum-based products will ruin plastic and synthetic stocks and rubber pistol grips, so apply lubrication and oils only to the metal parts of the gun.

Wood stocks need special attention. You will need to treat your wood stock with wax to prevent swelling and cracking. Birchwood Casey’s gun stock wax is safe to use on wood, metal and leather. Do not forget to wax inside the stock. Remove as much of the metal parts as you can, such as the receiver and barrel. Wax the wood under the metal and then reassemble the gun before storing.

Check your stored gun periodically, especially if you live in a humid area and re-oil if necessary.

Burying Your Weapon

If you decide to bury your weapon for a bug-out situation, preparing it for storage is just the same as illustrated above, with the exception of storing it in a gun sock. Instead, use wax paper or storage bags, such as Aloksak Weapons Storage Bags. Underground storage takes extra steps. You will want your long-term storage container to be corrosion-and weather-proof. Get PVC or ABS pipe thick enough to store your rifle or handgun in. Seal the pipe with threaded, water-proof sealant.

Before you decide to bury your weapon/weapons, consider the following:

  1. Remember your location. Will it be easy to access? Will you look suspicious burying it there or driving by to check on it? Will new construction cover it up?
  2. Recovery time. Your weapon may not be in pick-up and fire condition. You will need to wipe off all excess grease. If you have prepared and stored your gun correctly, it should work when you uncover it.
  3. Can others detect it? Some suggest picking an area that has metal parts lying around already, so that a metal detector may not find your rifle, but will find scrap metal instead.

If all of this seems just too much work for you, you can always buy Mossberg‘s Model 500 Just In Case pump-action shotgun survival kit pre-packaged in a waterproof case!

How to you store your firearms for long-term storage? Let us know in the comments section below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. We are transforming a small closet into a gun safe – any suggestions on fabric for the walls? Rifle hooks will be used and I’m worried about paints or some fabrics messing up the bluing; many of these weapons will be facing long-term storage. Can I use felt? or oil cloth? or just trust paint?

    1. Gloria –

      Do you mean a true safe, or more of an improved gun cabinet? The reason I ask, is for the closet to be a safe safe, the walls will need to be reinforced. Otherwise, a burglar will simply smash through the drywall.

      In either case, a GoldenRod may help with dehumidifying, especially if the space is airtight.

      An airtight space creates a hazard for pets, but a regular safe does that, just the same. I am so scared of accidentally locking a cat in my safe that I get obsessive making sure there isn’t a cat in or even near the safe before I shut it.

      It just occurred to me that maybe you could find a safe which will be cheap enough to be in your budget, big enough to hold your guns, and small enough to fit in the closet. At least then it isn’t readily visible to visitors.

      If you have not yet started (your post was four months ago) Good luck with your project!

  2. I use a big box of kitty litter in the bottom of my gun safe. I does present a bit of a mess sometimes, but really cuts down on the moisture.

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