Rust in peace: how to prevent damage to the bluing of your rifle
PUBLISHED: 16:12 26 June 2015
Phill Price explains some precautionary measures you can take to avoid damage to your rifle.
Q: I’m told that sweat contains a small amount of salt, and that salt rusts steel. With summer fast approaching, which precautions should I take to prevent sweat from my hands from damaging the bluing of my rifle?
GURU SAYS: For surface rust to form on steel, it needs only contact with air and moisture, and the presence of salt serves to accelerate the process. Sweat is largely composed of water, with traces of minerals in solution, including salt, and sweaty fingerprints left on the steel of an airgun for any length of time will result in the formation of surface rust.
At the very least, following a shooting session, the steel components of a rifle should be given a quick wipe over with a lightly oiled cloth, which will remove any sweat, and replace it with a thin layer of oil. There are plenty of proprietary gun oils on the market, some silicone based, others are mineral oils, and they all do the job, which is to provide a thin ‘skin’ over the surface of the steel to isolate it from air, which contains the two substances needed to rust steel; oxygen and water. The viscosity of oil varies with temperature, becoming runnier in hot weather, and this aids the oil’s natural tendency to spread over the surface of the steel, so any small areas that you miss will probably get a protective coat of oil.
Taking this idea a step further; if you envisage a lengthy shooting session in hot weather (or in wet weather, for that matter), apply a little oil to a small piece of cloth, place it in a plastic bag that can be sealed to keep out dirt, and take it with you to give the rifle an occasional wipe over, and again before you put it in a slip at the end of the day.
Sweat is not the only bodily fluid that can rust steel; blood is, if anything, even worse, which is something that airgun hunters should bear in mind after they’ve paunched a rabbit. If you get blood on your hands, clean them before handling the rifle.
Wiping the external steel surfaces of the rifle with a cloth and oil will not only help to prevent rust forming in future, but it will also remove any slight trace of rust, sometimes not even visible, that is just getting started.
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