Letter Re: Questions on Long Term Gun Storage

I have a secure retreat with a hidden cache that I visit very infrequently. I plan to keep half of my guns there. What is the best way to long term (3-5+ years between checks) store firearms? Specifically, Glock pistols and Springfield Armory M1A rifles. This system will be shared with others who have some other pieces (M1911s and AR-15s), but, as they are not the agreed upon group [standard] arms, they are less of a concern from a standard preservation system standpoint. Light, humidity, and temperature can probably be regulated to whatever is necessary.

JWR Replies: The precautions that you need to take depend a lot on where you live. If you live in a high humidity climate, then you need to be particularly vigilant with your guns, magazines, and other tools. In essence: the higher the humidity, the greater the degree of protection required, and the greater the frequency of inspection for rust.

I generally recommend wearing lightweight cotton gloves when you do your gun maintenance. This is particularly important if you have sweaty hands. My college roommate was notorious for inducing rust on guns because of this, and he has always had to take special precautions.

A light coat of gun oil such as Rem Oil will suffice in dry climate. Although exotic lubricants such as Break Free CLP. are great for lubricating, in my experience, they leave so little residue that they are actually inferior to traditional gun oils for preventing rust. In damp climates, I recommend Birchwood Casey Barricade (formerly sold under the product name “Sheath”.) Rem Oil and Barricade are both available from a number of Internet vendors including Amazon.com and Brownell’s.

For truly long term storage, all metal parts (inside and out) especially the bore, chamber, and breech face should get a coating of grease. There is always the tried-and-true USGI “Grease, Rifle”. (This product name was humorously spoken “Grease Comma Rifle” by American soldiers for many years, before the advent of the M16. It is the correct grease to use on an M14 or M1A’s bolt roller, and on the bolt’s “hump”) While “Grease, Rifle” will suffice for long term gun storage, I prefer Rust Inhibitive Grease (RIG), which is available from a number of Internet vendors including Brownell’s. Even though you will know how the gun was treated before storage, someone else in your family might not. I therefore strongly recommend attaching a special warning note: “Warning: grease coating–bore, chamber and bolt face! Remove grease before firing!!!”

You extra magazines and spare gun parts should be stored inside a humidity-controlled gun vault (with a 120 VAC dehumidifier rod) or in sealed ammo cans with a large packet of silica gel desiccant. These items probably won’t need more than light coat of oil and annual inspection. Any larger quantities of magazines that are stored outside of your vault in non-airtight containers should probably be rubbed down with RIG, and inspected more often. In most cases this requires disassembling magazines, to get at their innards. OBTW, even if a magazine is made of polymer and has a plastic follower and floorplate, don’t forget that its spring needs rust protection!