Andy McLachlan’s is keen to clean, and gets down and dirty to ensure his guns keep doing what they’re meant to
Get down and dirty to ensure guns keep doing what they’re meant to
Hopefully by the time you read this we will be nearer to being able to engage in our favourite hobby as normal once again. Like everybody else, and unless they happen to be involved in essential pest control purposes, my own collection of guns has been sat looking forlornly within their cabinets wondering what they have done to deserve such long periods of inactivity. I am bored of using the “C” word, but hopefully, due to the current vaccination campaign and lowering infection rates we will be in a position to at least live in something that we can class as “normal”.
So how can we best prepare ourselves and our kit for those wonderful days when we head out to the range or field and can spend hours shooting once again?
Well, there are one or two things to consider that might just help us get the best from our hardware. If you are anything like me, your pride and joy will be looking clean anyway as you have got it out of storage and maintained the standard of finish to the external surfaces over the course of the past few months. In my case I use a Birchwood Casey silicone cloth, and purchase a new one for each gun as it appears within my collection.
I have used this method for decades and can confirm that it has never let me down. The silicone provides an ideal barrier against rust appearing on exposed blued metallic areas such as the barrel, which in the case of break-barrelled springers for example are where the dreaded orange scourge can appear if the metal is not regularly treated. This is especially so if the gun happens to have got damp or wet after being out in the field. Failure to let the gun (and the gun bag, for that matter) dry properly indoors will result in some unwanted rust appearing, which not only looks awful but can and does damage the working parts of the gun.
If the gun has been out in the rain it is wise to remove the action from the stock, rub off excess water and leave it to dry at room temperature. If the gun has spent the day with you outdoors in cold temperatures, even condensation can be sufficient to start the rusting process, so some time out of the bag when you get home, allowing the metalwork to reach room temperature, will help to keep the orange stuff at bay.
It must be said of course that many modern guns, particularly pre-charged pneumatics, do not come with a blued finish these days. This does not mean that the matt finish on these types of gun does not benefit from a liberal coating of silicone oil from a cloth though. I don’t mean using straight oil from a dispenser directly onto the gun, but a couple of coats following a rubbing down with the oil contained within the cloth.
It has been noticed by many shooters over the years that things such as zero points will alter according to temperature.
Target shooters are more likely to notice these shifts in point of impact, as they tend to be far more critical if the fall of shot does not land where they think it should.
There can be many reasons for the point of aim to move, mainly due to contraction of metal as it gets colder. If something like a front barrel support on a PCP gets cold, the metal will shrink very slightly, and possibly enough to start shifting the position of the barrel. This will of course result in shots falling either above or below their usual position and is why the owners of many high-end target rifles such as Steyr will elect to have the opening bored out to reduce the likelihood of this happening during the winter. This is generally known as “free-floating” the barrel assembly, as the barrel will now be unaffected by the support influencing its precise position within the action.
This sounds like something that would only be undertaken by shooters wishing to find excuses, but believe me, it does make a difference with the differing zero points being a thing of the past due to temperature shift.
Field Target shooters are also aware of temperature shifts within the mechanisms of their high-end telescopic sights, which is once again due to either the expansion or contraction of the metal body and its effect upon lens support. As a result, many FT shooters affix a temperature-sensitive tape upon their combinations to keep them advised of any potential shift due to fluctuations that may occur.
I also envisage some shooters looking at their guns for the first time in months and noticing that the air tank has become totally drained. If we use our guns frequently and continue to recharge them with air a couple of times a week at least, very often we fail to notice that the gun has developed a “slow puncture” type of leak from one of its air seals. I don’t know about you, but as I am using them, I tend to top my guns up well before they start to approach regulator pressure and therefore do not give them much time to leak out their charges.
The fact that our guns may have been sitting doing nothing for so long allows any possible leaks to become far more apparent and for us to act prior to shooting once again appearing within our normal routines. The leak may be from something easy to access such as the cylinder seal, but if you are not fully confident that you have the ability or confidence to tackle high-pressure air, don’t even think about it and just get a gunsmith or somebody with sufficient experience to resolve the issue. They could even carry out a full service and O-ring replacement while they are at it so that you can be confident of the gun remaining airtight for a considerable time into the future.
For those shooters who do not have an obsessive urge to keep their barrels clean, this can be a good time to really go to town on that rifling and remove that unwanted lead residue that eventually builds up to the extent of major barrel inaccuracies occurring. Just running through a couple of oil-dampened patches now and again will not allow the barrel to perform at its best.
What it really needs is an intense cleaning which will result in you getting the best from it. This is less true with springpowered guns, but in PCP barrels can lead to better performance. There have been lots of articles and videos produced about how to best go about achieving a perfectly clean barrel over the years, so I am not going to repeat what you need to do here.
I have seen what were considered bad barrels returned to pinpoint accuracy following an intensive clean. Like anything else, the more time and effort you put into it, the more likely you will be to notice an improvement downrange. Get scrubbing!
THE MORE TIME AND EFFORT YOU PUT INTO IT, THE MORE YOU WILL NOTICE IMPROVEMENT