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How To Store Your Guns In The Off-Season

When the snow begins to fall, that’s when you feel like calling it quits.  Now, some hunters and shooters are die hard and will put rounds down range in four feet of snow, but you aren’t as crazy.  You might figure that it is time to put away the guns for a month or so, or at least until that darn snow melts.

So, what is the best way to do it?  Are there any tricks of the trade that will help preserve your guns until you come back to use them?  The answer is a resounding “yes.”

There are several major things you need to keep in mind, especially depending on what kind of guns you own.  The storage process is different between long guns, handguns, and even between a wood laminate and synthetic stock.  Some storage process are more involved with others, and it is not always a matter of simply making sure that they don’t fall over if you bump the safe.

Storing Your Handguns

If you are a shooting enthusiast and you have a bunch of handguns that you regularly use, then you will want to make sure that they are stored properly when you place them back into the safe.

One of the largest enemies of guns is rust.  Rust will destroy bluing and will begin to corrode the inner workings of your revolver or pistol, even while it is inside your safe.  Now, there are many safes that will be able to house both rifles and pistols, but if you have a few expensive Kimbers and maybe a Colt or two, you should probably get yourself a small safe just for them.  Here are the reasons:

  • A smaller safe will be easier to keep dry.  Remember, rust is the enemy of your guns, and if you have any moisture source in your larger safe, over time that could hurt your handguns.  The best way to keep things dry is to keep them compartmentalized.
  • Sapping away moisture is much easier to accomplish in a smaller safe.  There are many who use devices (both electronic and chemical) that take away moisture, and it is harder to eliminate moisture in a larger safe.
  • If you use a lot of oil on your handguns before storing them, often times that oil will drip down onto the wooden stocks of your rifles.  This is a problem (we’ll explain why later).

The bad guys are getting desperate… learn how to keep your guns and valuables safe from thieves and gangs

Storing Your Synthetic-Stock Rifles

Rifles with synthetic and polymer stocks are quite simple and easy to store.  That is actually the nature of rifles with synthetic stocks: synthetics and polymers are almost always completely waterproof and will not be affected my moisture.  However, there are a few things you will want to do before putting them away.

  • Make sure they are clean!  Often times and dirt or grime on your rifles can be corrosive.  They may not be nearly as corrosive as moisture, but dirt has a way of “settling” into the gun’s moving parts, affecting its performance when you take them out again.  (Also, it is much more pleasant to take a clean gun out of storage, instead of having a chore to do before you go back to the range.)
  • Properly oil your rifles, and use a lot of it.  Gun oil has several interesting properties that will keep your gun protected.  Not only will it lubricate it when it shoots, but it will also block moisture and preserve bluing.
  • Keep them in “gunsocks.” This will add just another layer of protection.  There’s nothing worse than scratching the finish on your rifles, and when they sit in a safe for long periods of time, who knows what could knock them over onto each other.

Storing Wooden-Stock Guns

These are your finer-looking hunting rifles—sometimes it’s the red wood in the stock that gives the rifle its luster.  So what are the best ways to store them?  All the same rules apply as the synthetic stock rifles, however there is one extra thing you need to do.

An extremely helpful tip is that you should store your wooden stock rifles upside-down, with the barrels on the floor.  While this may seem strange, the reason is that oil will seep into the wood if you do not.

When the oil gets into the wood, it has the tendency to swell, causing your round trajectories to change.  This will also loosen the tolerances over time, damaging your prized hunting rifle.

When you store your rifle upside-down for the winter, you will actually notice little puddles of oil developing in about two weeks.  This is the oil running out of the gun and on to the floor.  If you want to keep your safe clean, you should keep the barrels stored on top of disposable plastic plates or some other tray to keep the oil off the carpeting.

Final Tips

It is crucial that you store your guns in the “safe” position, especially if you have children.  Yes, they are in the safe, but it is always best to limit liabilities when possible.  If you have trigger or bolt locks, then you should use them.

Also, you might be tempted to store them in an open facility or a gun rack, but this is not a favorable option.  Not only are they not in the “safe” position, but they are also exposed to the every element in the room including moisture, chemicals, and other corrosive materials.

Keep your riflescopes covered, because there is nothing worse than having dust settle on the lenses.

Last, make sure you store the ammunition in a separate area.  If you separate the ammunition from the guns, it limits any safety issues that could occur.  A waterproof ammo box or can should do, as those don’t pose nearly the safety hazard if your guns are safe, and it keeps them away from that darn moisture.

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  1. you might also try a box of baking soda opened in your safe it helps against moistier allso but i’d check it and replace every other month.

  2. Good idea to keep the oil from soaking into the wood but be careful what the muzzle is rested on. The muzzle of the barrel is the last thing that touches the bullet when fired. If it has rust or damage, it will affect the accuracy. A barrel resting on carpet can draw humidity from the carpet and rust.

    The same goes for using gun socks or gun cases. Unless the socks are silicone treated, they can allow the entire metal finish to rust.

    If you chose to store your firearms in gun safe, use silica gel to remove the moisture. It can be revived by placing in an oven at a low temperature for a few hours to remove any moisture. Even though the gun safe is a controlled environment, moisture can and will accumulate and removing it is the best means of preventing damage by rust.

    We have also found the dark side of a gunsafe can cause mildew to grow on stocks and slings. Unfortunately, not Off Grid but we have found a low wattage light bulb (even LED) will prevent mildew.

    Just a few thoughts from our experiences while living in a humid climate. TK

    • to TK Seward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I thought I was the only guy in the world that stored his rifles upsidedown. Guess that’s not the case. . . . . . . . I go to the local Lowes store (not The Homo Depot) and buy the black rubber stoppers/corks they sell in the specialty fasteners section. I regrind the tip to fit whatever barrel size I need and it holds the rifle up in the air 1/2 ” or so. . . . . . . . . .Your absolutely right, the CROWN is the last most important part for accuracy purposes. . . . . . . . . .Also I have had really good luck with storing handguns in a plastic zip-lock bag after lubbing them really well. I then place them back into the holsters, which protects the handgun and helps hold the holsters shape. Atleast this is what I do for my shooters ! The nice stuff of course goes into storage cases.

      • Interesting way to safely protect the muzzle on your collection Mild Bill. I will keep that in mind.

        I’ve seen people use a balloon on the muzzle to protect it. The interesting thing is, you can actually shoot through the balloon with no damage to the gun. The balloon also prevents dirt dobbers and other bugs from plugging the bore.

  3. Has anyone ever heard about using hand warmers as moister absorbing items? I read something about them once but haven’t been able to find out anything since that one time. I was wondering if they could be used in gun cases or not.

    • Hand warmers are oxygen absorbers, not moisture absorbers comprised of salt, iron filings, and moisture cause rust and absorbing oxygen in the chemical process.

      • However a good source of silica gel (one of the best moisture aborbers) is Tidy Cat. Buy the more expensive container around $10. (check the ingredients as not all Tidy Cat is silica gel)
        Can easily be placed into old socks and tied, or old t-shirts sewed into a tube. Will last a very long time.

  4. Many things you purchase come with little moisture packets in the container . Save these , heat them briefly in the micro-wave , ( not long enough to catch fire ) and put them in your gunsafe . Every few months take them out and reheat them to ” dry ” them , more if you are opening your safe more often . These will keep the moisture off your guns , and they are free .

    • toBuck . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I’m cheap ! That’s exactly what I do. I have groups of these packets in various spots in my safes. Putting them in 3-4 locations in a safe is better than just piling them up in one location. Every once in awhile I put them all in the microwave and fire M’up, let them cool off and do it several more times. Works pretty well !

  5. Pardon me for sounding like an extremist, but when does a real gun ever have ” an off season”?
    ( simply food for thought )
    R/ Neil E. Paulus

  6. I use a “heater-stick”, which only uses a few watts. Also- a string of white Christmas Tree lights, strung on both levels of safe, to light it up, when I need to actuall SEE what is in the safe!

  7. I use a silica gel desiccant. You can by packets for about a buck a piece or as I did I bought a tin can of it for pretty cheap from Midway USA. I has a moisture indicator in it so you know when to reactivate the desiccant in the oven.
    To summarize my strategy for dryness:
    1. Keep clean and oiled
    2. Use gun socks with the VCI
    3. Keep a can of desiccant in the safe

  8. Several of the newer safes not only have electrical but also network and USB pass through connectors. I put an old PC in mine. It generates a little heat and the fan moves the air as well. You can find temp/humidity monitors on eBay to add to the mix. Mine will now send me an email if the temp or humidity gets outside whatever specs I set. A cheap USB camera can also get a picture every time someone opens the safe. Save the image to a network drive on another computerand you’ll have good evidence if anyone ever breaks in.

    • To FMBill . . . . . . . . I tried that and after several weeks I discovered that some of my “smart” guns were actually ordering fancy holsters and other aftermarket upgrades for themselves on the internet and putting it on my credit card. One of my Gold Cups was actually ordering some slinky “pink” aftermarket parts for a couple of my wife’s guns. I changed my password and the problem has subsided. OK, OK, I’m nuts, I know. But I just couldn’t resist! Actually this is very interesting and I had never thought about this capability before. My safes are of the “older” type, but I wonder if they can be retrofitted with a USB pass thru like you had mentioned ? I might have to give this a try, for all of the benefits you had noted are of great interest to me. It may be as simple as drilling a 3/16″ (?) hole in the rear of the safes and running the cord only through the hole and make the connections on the inside. Kinda “old school” I know, but epoxy could repair the hole fairly easily if it didn’t work out. Besides I have a couple old PC’s laying around and I might as well get some more use out of them. Thanks abunch for the info., we’ll see what happens ! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Bill

    • Great ideas! Thanks

  9. I’m in Texas. There *IS* no off season in Texas. We are up to our butts
    in illegal aliens here!! So, we don’t really “store” our guns… we keep them handy!

  10. I agree on the ‘off season’ comments but you got to admit if you can keep all your guns handy, you DON’T have enough guns!

    There are only so many guns we can tote. The rest go in the safe for secure keeping and the ammo kept nearby.

  11. rather than over-oiling the firearm, just clean and lube it like you normally would and store it in a VCI bag.

    VCI, vapor corrosion inhibitor, bags come in all sizes and are cheap insurance for protecting your firearm. Another option is VCI paper inside a sealed bag, that is what the military uses for long term storage. It’s also the paper that comes inside some of the boxes new firearms are packed in.

  12. One addition if posable: For rifles such as M1 Garands, M1 Carbines and M1A (M14 style) when storing these weapons it is also best to make sure to unlock the trigger mecanism, so that the constant pressure of the latched trigger assembly does not slowly crush the wood where the upper receiver and stock meet.

    This is especially important if one has such a weapon with a bedded stock, or one that is a tack shooter.


  13. I use a “heater stick” and got a second one for the wifes spice cabinet…

  14. Can I store long guns in zippered cases? What about re-curved hunting bows? Can they be stored upright?

  15. I live in Montana. Is cold temperature a problem for stored hunting firearms?

  16. i found that putting your handgun in a brown paper bag, and then placing it in a military ammo box with a warm desiccant pack out of the microwave works well. Depending on the size of the air tight ammo box you can store multiple hand guns in separate paper bags. When opening the boxes there is negative pressure like opening a can of peanuts.

  17. I agree that it’s best to limit any liability that you can when storing a gun. Having it locked up in a safe will probably be all the safety measures needed. I wouldn’t take the risk, though.

  18. I had a very innovative biometric gun safe that helps me in keeping my arms safely & rust free. I would recommend to the one who are in need & you will be thankful to me . Try this gun safe, you will be happy 🙂

  19. That’s a great tip to store your rifles upside down. That way your gun stock won’t absorb oils and warp. Wood is malleable after all, it’s a fibrous material.

  20. Great Tips..Thanks for sharing your valuable tips with us..

  21. That’s a good tip to store your guns in rifle socks. That way you won’t have to worry about scratching. Keeping your weapons clean is important for safety.

  22. I was told to store my guns in a case, especially handguns. Spray the inside of the case with WD-40 and they will not deteriorate. I was wondering if anyone has tried this method.

  23. Very interesting and great post. It is very important how we store our guns in the off season

  24. So, storage upright or laying down? Which is best for
    a 20g ?

  25. My dad always kept his weapons in a safe, and they stayed like new for years. Thanks for these tips!

  26. Safety first ! Nice post, keep it up! 🙂

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