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.
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.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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 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.