How to Remove Rust from a Gun (and Keep it Away)
Is rust gunning for your firearms? It’s time to go on the offensive and take the fight to oxidation! (clever, I know)
Your weapon’s case, your ammunition, your own hands, and the very air around you may be working against you. Even so, after reading this guide, you will have the tools to keep your guns operating like new for many years to come.
How Does Rust Form on Guns?
Rust is the result of a process known as oxidation. If left on the metal surfaces of your firearm, certain substances will mix with oxygen and eat your gunmetal away.
So, which substances should you be looking out for?
Picture this: you’re at the beach, sitting in the sand and drying off from the ocean. You decide to go for a walk. Next thing you know, that wet, salty, sandy bathing suit has given you a rash.
Rust is a lot like a rash, and both are brought about in much the same way.
Avoid rust on your gun by monitoring:
Rain: make sure your firearms are clean and completely dry before storing them away.
Ammunition: rounds containing potassium chlorate or sodium perchlorate in their primer will leave your firearm coated in salts.
Sweat: moisture from your skin, such as oils or sweat, is made up of mostly water and can contain salt.
Humidity: storing your firearms in a dry, temperature-controlled environment is key to preventing rust.
Salt and Rust on Firearms
Salt draws water. The more moisture left to sit on the metal of your firearms, the higher likelihood there is that rust will form.
Now that we know what causes a gun to rust, let’s look at what we can do to stop it from happening.
How to Stop Your Guns from Rusting
Take care of your firearms, and they will take care of you. To protect your metals from rusting, you’ll need the right tools.
Your firearm maintenance toolkit should include:
- Cleaners and lubricants
- Fabric patches
- Barrel rods
We recommend Hoppe’s 9’s Premium Cleaning Kit to clean your guns.
Each tool in your kit serves a unique purpose. Knowing when and how to use them is key to the health of your firearms.
Clean Your Guns Regularly to Prevent Rust
Cleaning solvents help break up the grime left on your gun from everyday handling and use.
After a day of shooting, whether on a hunt or at the range, clean your weapon’s metal parts by applying the solvent to a fabric patch and rubbing it into every nook and cranny you can. You’ll see your success when you give your gun a final pass with a clean rag and see no dirt or residue left over.
Harmful residues such as lead and copper can build up in your barrel as well. Attach a brush or fabric pad with the cleaner to your barrel rod and scrub it as you would the outside of the weapon.
Having a bore light can prove to be an invaluable asset in telling whether your barrel is truly clean or not. We recommend this bore light from Hoppe’s.
Remember: no dirt is the right amount of dirt!
Once your firearm is both clean and dry, the time has come to lubricate.
Keeping your gun well and regularly oiled will help prevent rust at the source by stopping substances from building up on the surface and protecting the metals from exposure.
Apply your gun oil to a fabric patch just as you would the cleaner and wipe down all the metal surfaces. Make sure to lubricate any moving parts on the gun. Triggers, hammers, and bolts all need to be kept operating smoothly.
You don’t want to apply so much oil that you leave your firearm feeling sticky, as this will only cause more dirt to latch onto it. As you can imagine, creating a dirt magnet defeats the purpose of cleaning your gun at all.
How Often Should You Clean Your Guns?
I recommend giving the gun a wipe down and the barrel a cleaning after every range visit to ensure proper operation in the future. I also like to do a full takedown, cleaning and oiling once a year regardless if you’ve fired any rounds with a particular firearm or not.
Some may say that’s a little excessive but if you’re like me, you love taking apart and taking care of your guns.
Control your Storage: Don’t Let Humidity Creep Into Your Gun Safe
Ensuring your firearms are stored properly can make all the difference when it comes to degradation and safety.
Store your firearms outside of their carrying cases in a suitable safe or secure cabinet and take steps to maintain a temperature and humidity-controlled environment within.
Removing Surface Rust from a Gun (and not messing up the bluing)
Whether you’re looking into a used firearm for purchase or inspecting your collection, identifying rust is essential in forming a plan of attack.
Seeing that rough, reddish-brown mass accumulating on your favorite gun can be scary, but don’t worry. There is no need to rush off to the gunsmith just yet.
Surface rust is the first visible form that corrosion will take on a firearm. Luckily, cleaning early-stage rust is quite simple and will leave little to no damage to your gun’s parts.
You have several cost-effective options to explore when going about cleaning rust off your gun, one of which you probably already have in your home!
Rub with Gun Oil
First, if the rust showing on your firearm is minor and localized, try rubbing the affected area hard with gun oil. You should see your patch taking on a dark, dirty red color. Repeat this task with a fresh patch until you no longer see any rust on your firearm or the cleaning fabric.
CLP Can Work Wonders on Surface Rust
An all-in-one product, CLP’s do just as they advertise: clean, lubricate, and preserve. Apply CLP directly to the affected area on your gun and scrub with a cleaning brush.
Before choosing your brush, ensure that it will not scratch the finish by performing a spot test in an area you are less likely to see. Hoppe’s 9’s Premium Cleaning Kit has three different brushes: nylon, brass, and stainless steel. A steel brush will undoubtedly work faster than brass or nylon but could be rough on a gun’s finish.
Additionally, you may use fine steel wool to scrub out rust. Still, take caution if you are unsure whether scratching will occur.
Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide
An economical solution to cleaning surface rust with everyday household items!
Mix distilled white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in a one-to-one ratio to create your own at-home gun cleaning solution. For a single firearm with minimal surface rust, use a quarter-cup of each to produce one half-cup measure of solution.
Using a clean rag, absorb up enough solution to dampen the fabric and wring out the excess. Coat the affected areas with the solution as you would when applying cleaner or oil, and rub hard with the rag or scrub with a brush.
Cleaning Heavy Rust from your Gun
If left unchecked, rust will continue to spread and corrode your gun’s metal. If you find you’ve left your firearms to rust for an extended time, what are your options?
As rust continues to form and degrade your gunmetal, a variety of issues can arise. Here are some steps you can take to combat late-stage rust.
Take the Gun Apart
If your firearm shows major rusting, it may be best to take it apart to evaluate the extent of the damage.
You can find many tutorials online to help you disassemble and reassemble your make and model of firearm. However, if you feel you are not up to the task, there is no shame in turning to a gunsmith at this point.
Be Careful if You Soak Your Gun in Cleaning Solution
With your firearm stripped down, you should be able to see how much of the metal has been affected by the spread of rust.
Should previous methods of removal mentioned above not clean away the rust, you may want to consider soaking your parts in a cleaning solution.
In some cases, you may need more than one soak before a majority of the rust dissolves, making other cleaning methods more viable.
Be advised: if the rust has spread deeper than the surface, soaking the parts will likely remove the finish or bluing in the affected areas.
Removing Surface Pitting
Pitting appears as small divots clustered together on metal surfaces. Pitting inside your firearm’s barrel could lead to misfires, inaccuracy, and damage to the projectile. On the outside, pitting could tear clothing, rip soft gun cases, and looks generally unappealing.
Sometimes, pits in your gunmetal may not appear until you begin to clean off the rust because the buildup was previously filling these pockets in the metal.
The best fix for pitting is prevention. Still, if you find yourself with a firearm that has been rusted over and shows signs of pitting, there are corrective measures to be taken.
Ridding your firearms of pitting will require more invasive operations such as sanding or the implementation of a surface filler.
If it has come to this, you should know that there’s likely no saving that sleek black finish on your firearm’s barrel or body.
Using 600 grit sandpaper yields the best chances of leaving your gun’s parts unscathed and rust-free and could potentially smooth out shallow pitting in the metal.
Ensure your sanding job is as even as possible with the Shop Fox Sanding Block.
Don’t delay saving your firearms from the harmful effects of oxidation! With these tips and tools, your guns will be looking great and firing like new in no time!