Throwback Thursday: Long-Term Gun Storage

Boxes for long-term gun storage

When it comes to long-term gun storage, there is a saying that goes, “If it’s time to bury your guns, then it’s 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 long-term, you need to make sure you have pre-treated it correctly and prepared your storage area properly to prevent rust from ruining your firearm.

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 firearms beforehand is done the same way.

Choosing a Container

First, you must make sure you have the proper storage container. Do not use the original cardboard box that your gun came in — or any cardboard box for that matter. Further, do not use foam or sheepskin-lined cases. Cardboard, sheepskin, and foam all attract moisture.

A silicon-treated gun sock, gun storage bag, 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 it 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. Put desiccant in your safe or in any bag you put your weapon in to prevent moisture build-up.

Desiccant Pack
Adding a desiccant pack helps remove moisture and prevent your firearm from rusting during storage.

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 to only 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 it.

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

CLP Bottle
CLP is a great product to use on your firearms for long-term gun storage.

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. Underground storage takes extra steps. You will want your long-term storage container to be corrosion and weather-proof. Get PVC or ABS pipes 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.
Rifle Storage Bag for Gun Storage
Having a proper gun storage bag will help prevent moisture and corrosion from destroying your firearm.

If all of this seems like just too much work for you, you can always buy a waterproof gun case. Pick an option that works for you.

How do you store and protect your firearms for long-term storage? Have you ever buried a gun? Let us know in the comments!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October of 2019. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
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 (26)

  1. Burying your weapon in an area with metal nearby is a good idea but I would take it one step further,cover the weapon with a layer of dirt then put scrap metal on this layer. Then finish filling in the hole. Anyone with a metal detector will dig down and find the metal “decoys” and hopefully not dig down further.

  2. @ibozzy
    What luck have you had with this? I have been tempted, but really concerned about any trapped moisture. Have you had any firearms in there long term yet? Say, more than a year or two?

  3. Good info. I have a few guns that are from family that I store long term. I do all the normal cleaning then oiling. I have a vac-n-seal and use the roll bags. I cut the first bag to length and put the gun inside and toss one dry pac at both ends, fold up a few pieces of wax paper and place them over any sharp edges and vac-n-seal the bag. Then I cut one more bag from the roll to length and put the first bag inside the second bag and repeat the vac-n-seal. Double protection.

  4. I just purchased a Savage A22 22LR rifle that I will be “storing” in a case in our motor home which is where we live. I have some CLP that I was planning on using to clean and protect the rifle. Basically, my plan was to clean as much as I can and leave a really light coat of lubricant in the barrel. Many years ago I had a product that I cannot recall the name of, that was a good one cleaner and oil in one. I am thinking that the CLP may be a replacement for that product.

  5. Find a location with a metal scrap pile, hopefully on your own or family property, then bury your appropriately stored cache under such a pile. Thus, metal detection system would be expected to alert in that location.

    Mostly, though, op sec is imperative!

  6. If you are going to bury your weapons, you should bury them in a vertical position. This will reduce their signature and increase the probability, albeit small, that it will be overlooked by a metal detector.

    Get a topo map of your area and use that to record where you ave hidden your cache.

  7. Can one really avoid Big Brother’s ground penetrating radar[either ground or aerial based]??Avoid or confuse it.Avoid”scavenger”with metal detectors,avoid nosy neighbors,leftist medical practitioners [esp.shrinks],collaborators like Antifa/BLM?.If BB REALLY wants too get you,they can use chemical/ psychoactive or other means.With times as they are,am I being cynical or paranoid?
    Should one store ammunition separately,to havea smaller”footprint”?

  8. 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!

  9. 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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