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How to properly prepare your rifle for winter use / conserve your firearm over the winter

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How to properly prepare your rifle for winter use / conserve your firearm over the winter

The cold days are here again, which gets many hunters thinking of how to properly clean a rifle for a malfunction-free use. The sports shooters, on the other hand, wish to correctly preserve their firearms so that they will be ready for the next season. Taking care of rifles the appropriate way during winter is of high importance – by doing it correctly, we make sure that they remain functional for years to come.

The method that I use has proven to be very efficient. There are other, different, also correct ways of cleaning and conserving one’s firearm, and if you haven’t had any problems with your rifles and handguns up to now, you can freely hold on to your own method.  

Firearm preservation

Cleaning the rifle for winter use

When winter strikes, the hunters are still obliged to do their job and go out for a hunt. In these cold days, the rifle and the handgun must be set for the cold weather so that it doesn’t come to a malfunction in a crucial moment.

Before hunting, clean the entire rifle with a gun cleaner and make sure that all moving parts are lubed with gun oil, designed for a cold environment. This is very important because not all gun lubes are appropriate for cold weather use. Some might get gummy and jam your rifle’s action. Once you are sure the lube you are using doesn’t thicken at low temperatures, put a small dose of it on a cloth and polish all metal parts. For effective protection and lubrication, a very small amount is enough. If you use too much gun lube, the surfaces get sticky and small particles of dust and sand can easily stick to the surfaces, making the rifle prone to malfunction and accelerating wear of materials. I always choose a gun oil which dries shortly after application, so you don’t end up with oily fingers. Also, this way, there are no fingerprints on the metal surfaces.

After you lubricate the entire rifle/handgun, take a clean patch and push it through the barrel a few times. When the patch gets grimy, take a new one. Repeat this process until the patch comes out completely dry with no oil on it. Even if the patch is dry and clean, there is still enough lubricant on the surface of the barrel to prevent the metal from rusting.

Firearm preservation

By doing all this, you will avoid the undesired malfunction that can occur at low temperatures. Your rifle is now prepared for winter use.

Firearm preservation

Check the ammo

It is very important to check your ammunition. Frequently moving the ammunition from cold to warm environments can cause cracks in the brass, increasing the chance of a malfunction. The improper inspection of ammo can be life-threatening, which is why it is of utmost importance to always check that your ammunition looks normal before use.


Condensation is your rifle’s greatest foe. It occurs when you bring a cold rifle in a warm room. The rifle becomes wet almost instantly as if it was left in a bath. When that happens, it is very important that you do not put your rifle in your gun cabinet. If you do that, the moisture on the rifle can affect all other rifles and guns in your cabinet. It is vital to let the rifle dry. This can take a while because the water builds up on the outside and on the inside. Once the rifle is dry, start disassembling the parts. Then, repeat the cleaning and lubricating process described above, and make sure all the parts are lubricated so the metal can’t corrode.

Firearm preservation

Conserving your firearm over the winter

Conserving a firearm over the winter is a process that will interest sports shooters who don’t use their rifles or handguns in cold days. In this category, we find F-Class rifles, some target pistols, and some IPSC firearms.

For a proper conservation, the user must disassemble the rifle/pistol completely and cleanse it entirely from carbon buildup, powder residues, and other types of mess.

If you use older ammunition with Berdan primers, then you must clean your barrel thoroughly, because older primers can contain mercuric salts which are very aggressive to metal parts. If you are planning on leaving your firearm in a cabinet for a while, carrying out the cleaning procedure is extremely important. If you simply leave it be, the barrel can get rusty.  

To prevent corrosion effectively, water is enough to wash mercury salts away. It’s even better if the water is hot. Another option is a glass cleaner, and the third option is well-known Ballistol, which is mixed with water to create a white liquid. The mixture should contain approximately 10 parts of water and 1 part of Ballistol. Apply any substance to the brush and slide it several times through the barrel. Also, clean all other parts that come into contact with the projectiles and gases. After cleaning, wipe the parts off and let it dry for a while.

After the first step is done, put good-quality gun oil on a cloth and polish all the parts. For conservation, you don’t need much oil, a few drops are enough. You don’t want all the parts to be oily. Also, put a few drops on a patch, and push it through the barrel a few times, so that oil is applied to all the parts.

If you have a wooden rifle stock, then polish it with oil that is intended for wood, covering the entire surface. After you are finished, assemble the firearm and check that it’s not cocked. It is now ready for storage.

At the beginning of the new season, be sure that you clean your barrel again, making sure that oil, which could damage your barrel during shooting, is not left inside.

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