rusty rifle

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Hopefully you haven’t let any of your guns get this far gone, but when it comes to firearms any amount of rust is a problem.

The old saying goes that guns only have two enemies, politicians and rust. Today we’re going to talk about corrosion and how to prevent it — even in a gun safe. We live in a salty environment down here in Florida. Our air is salty, our water can be salty and even our sweat is salty. Salt water corrodes quicker than plain water, but either will rust your guns eventually.

Most modern guns are treated with some type of advanced coating to prevent rust. Some are using Cerakote, a ceramic based coating that is baked on. Glock uses Melonite and Springfield Armory uses Tennifer, both of which are essentially the same treatment — salt bath nitriding, also known as ferritic nitrocarburizing. It essentially soaks into the metal to protect it. Any of the above is much better than older processes such as bluing or Parkerizing.

Bluing is a process of controlled corrosion. The chemicals used actually corrode the metal with a colored rust to protect it from oxidation. However, with today’s EPA standards, it has become very expensive to use the older “hot” method of bluing a gun. Having one redone properly is very expensive and will usually cost more than the gun is worth.

That’s why Cerakote has become so popular. With Cerakote, you can get a better coating for cheaper. The only downside is that with older firearms, you can actually lower the value using something other than the original bluing.

Relying on any coating to provide 100 percent protection for your guns is a bad plan. Protecting your firearms is your responsibility, and any excuse for not doing so is just laziness. It takes about 5 minutes of your time to wipe a gun down with an oily rag to protect it.

That’s something that was ingrained in my a long time ago by my father. We didn’t have high-tech coatings back then; every gun we purchased was blued or stainless steel. Stainless steel needs protecting too. It’s stainless, not stainfree.

What oil you use is paramount, and this is no place to be a baby bird (cheap, cheap, cheap). Use a gun oil with a good reputation. Please notice I said gun oil — not motor oil, reel oil, WD-40, CorrosionX or something you use on your boat. Simply spray the oil on a cotton cloth and wipe a light coat on your firearms. I do this once a month, or any time the guns are handled. Your skin has oils and sweat and other chemicals on it that will eventually rust your firearms. These need to be cleaned off.

I don’t like using WD-40 because it evaporates. You’re going to spray it on, it’s going to go away, and our salt air will rust your gun. I don’t like using motor oil for protection of my guns. I will use synthetic motor oil to lubricate my guns, but not for rust prevention. I also don’t use other oils or basic lubricants. These may evaporate; discolor the wood, plastic or rubber of the accessories; or in a couple of years turn to molasses and gum up the action of the gun.

I see this too often in the gun shop. Pops pulls out his old .30-06 that has been sitting inside a gun rag under his bed for the past 20 years. He sprayed it full of something other than gun oil to “protect” it, and it has turned into something that looks like a cross between bearing grease and chewed bubblegum. It’s a mess, and cleaning it out is a nightmare.

Most of us keep our guns in safes. Believe it or not, guns will rust sitting all by themselves in a gun safe. Most cheap safes are stamped thin-gauge steel, with lots of holes in them for mounting options. This lets in our salty air, so guns will rust. Big, heavy, fire-rated safes are steel filled with concrete. Water is one of the ingredients in concrete, so a brand-new safe is still venting off moisture. Moisture means rust.

Plus, your house can be corrosive. Formaldehyde and sulfur are used in the making of drywall. Ferrooxidans are metal eating bacteria that can live in the pyrite of drywall. If you have well water, there’s sulfur gas coming out of your pipes. All of these speed up the corrosion of metal.

Yes, it can be a pain in the butt to pull each gun out of the safe and wipe it down. You’re banging them against each other, scratching them, etc. This can be avoided, but it’ll cost a little more. There are products that you can put in your gun safe to control corrosion.

First are storage bags and capsules. ZeRust makes a pretty good product. You simply put your gun in the bag and it will keep your firearms from corroding. Or you can add their capsules to your safe and it will do the same thing. These types of products use VCIs (vapor corrosion inhibitors). They are usually FDA-approved and safe. There are many different companies that make passive VCI devices.

Then you have active devices. These run on electricity to suck the moisture out of the air to protect your guns. Some are VCI devices and some are dehumidifiers. Both types work equally well. Some safes have electrical outlets in them for lights and these types of products, but if not there are battery-powered option also.

So there ya go. Protect your guns from rust. It will keep them running in top order, and also help to keep their value up too. No excuses!

Capt. Cayle Wills is a salesman and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or

Capt. Cayle Wills is a salesman and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or


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