Jan 10, 2016

Winter Shotgunning

With the Holidays behind us, and winter in its full glory, there are still lots of opportunities to get out with the shotgun. Late season bird and rabbit hunting opportunities are still available. Game farms are open for hunting/training sessions and there are numerous clay shooting opportunities.

Winter shooting is pretty straightforward, but it does require a little thought about gun care. A beautiful, cold, sunny winter day can still treat your gun like you were out in the rain. A little snow or ice on your gun may look innocuous enough, but when shoved back into a case to melt later, it will develop the same rust issues as any wet situation will.

The same thing can happen by just using your gun in cold weather and then putting it back into the case. That ice-cold metal can produce condensation and moisture, creating problems you won’t see until you open the case later.

When using my gun in cold weather, I always wipe it down before I encase it for the trip home. When I get home, I take the gun out of the case and stand it in a corner, with the muzzle down on an old towel, and let it warm up for an hour or two. If it’s a pump or autoloader, have the action open. If it’s a break open gun, take the barrels off the receiver, and stand them up. Later, preferably that evening, wipe them all over with a dry cloth again. Then run a dry patch through the barrel(s), followed by another that is lightly oiled. Then wipe out the entire action thoroughly with a cloth and a little oil of your choice.

If the gun was really subjected to wet or blowing snow, make sure you do a complete tear down of the action and clean as normal, but don’t load it up with lots of oil, especially an autoloader. Some people think more oil is better for an autoloader, but, especially non-synthetic, oil can “stiffen up” in cold weather and in warmer conditions oil attracts dust and dirt and can still “gum up” an autoloader action. Less is more in this case. If the gun has screw in chokes, pull them out, wipe ‘em down, lightly oil and reinstall.

Don’t forget the case! The materials inside gun cases can hold moisture for a long time, if the gun was wet, so is the inside of the case. If it has a full-length zipper, open it all the way, lay it out with the inside fully exposed so it can dry. If it doesn’t, I use my commercial wader/boot dryer and slide the case on one of the wader uprights and let it dry overnight or as the timer is set. You can do the same thing cheaply by using an old hair dryer, but be careful, run it on low and watch it so you don’t melt or burn anything.

Cold weather shooting requires a little extra careful, but it’s well worth it.