Rust is the natural enemy of metal, and it’s also a silent one. It’s a corrosive process of oxidation that’s mostly invisible in the beginning, so by the time it shows itself, the process has already been well underway.
To remove gun rust, you have to put the gun through an intensive cleaning process. Sometimes you won’t need anything more than light gun oil. Other times, you need a far more potent chemical rust remover to both eliminate the rust and create a surface environment in which rust can’t return.
A little light rust on the surface of a gun is nothing to laugh at, but it’s indicative of something potentially far worse. Rust, if left unchecked, will cause enough damage that the gun becomes unreliable at best and dangerous at worst.
What to use to remove gun rust
To eliminate light rust, you need a wire bore cleaner, light steel wool or a medium wire brush, light gun oil, and a clean cloth. For deeper levels of rust, you need chemical rust removers, such as Naval Jelly.
Whether the rust is light or heavy, the physical tools are essentially the same. Bluing your gun is an option as well since it involves a far more thorough cleaning with chemicals and/or extreme heat.
If the firearm is extremely rusty, you should never fire it, even if you think you have successfully removed and cleaned the rust. You should take it to a gunsmith who can accurately assess whether or not the weapon is compromised.
What happens when a gun starts getting rusty?
In the early stages, rust is merely a cosmetic issue. The problem is, it won’t stay that way. When rust shows up, the decline becomes steeper, and the snowball really gets moving. The first thing you have to worry about is the amount of friction, and drag rust creates in the moving parts.
The slide won’t may not reliably function, causing jams or double feeds. The magazine may have difficulty clocking into place or feeding rounds into the chamber. The firing pin may not function correctly.
Of course, if these internal mechanisms are creating too much friction and half-functioning, it’s probably an indicator that more dangerous changes are occurring as well. The rust/oxidation process pits metal over time, and that includes the barrel, with its carefully rifled surface.
When that kind of thing happens, you worry more about explosions or rounds way off target. The integrity of the metal surrounding the exploding cartridge is essential. If the integrity of that metal is compromised, even a little, your weapon can explode in your hands.
Does WD-40 remove rust?
One of the most unknown aspects of WD-40 is its ability to remove rust. Most people assume that it’s a lubricant. But WD-40 has a long history of use in rust-removing applications.
In fact, that’s part of what makes an immobile hinge mobile again. The dual purpose of rust removal and lubrication combines. WD-40 isn’t the greatest rust-removing chemical in the world. There are others, such as Naval Jelly, that are far more robust.
But WD-40 also offers a stronger variation called Specialist Fast Release Penetrant Spray to remove heavy rust from hardware like nuts and bolts. It’s also effective on firearms, so long as you don’t use WD-40 as a permanent type of lubricant.
How to Prevent Rust on Firearms
Preventing rust isn’t hard, but it requires preventative maintenance. Owning a firearm means taking ownership of a great deal of responsibility. For one, that might be your primary self-defense weapon. It may be your weapon for hunting or just for shooting sports.
But if you don’t take care of it, a firearm becomes a serious liability that endangers others and becomes undependable when it’s needed.
- Establish a cleaning ritual and routine, whether you’ve fired the weapon or not
- Keep it lubricated
- Store it in a dry, cool place
- Routinely inspect, disassemble, and reassemble the weapon
You should have a cleaning routine set down no matter what and you should always clean your weapon after you fire it, typically within 24 hours. Keeping it lubricated is great but remember, even oil will dissipate over time and requires periodic reapplications.
Most guns are made of metal, and metal is corrosive. There’s no other way around that unfortunate reality. There should never be a such thing as carrying an untested rifle or handgun out in the field.
By untested, we mean firearms that are not inspected, cleaned, lubricated, and fired by yourself. It’s often taught in the Marine Corps that your rifle is your spouse and an extension of yourself. As such, you should treat it that way by doing your utmost to take care of it.
Rust removal and prevention are essential and they may just save your life one day. For something you depend on to provide yourself or your family with food or to defend your or your family’s lives, show it the respect it deserves and prevent the weapon from rusting at all costs.
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