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Fighting That Evil Rust

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From Mike Littman Of Tuco's First Shot Staff

Think of rust as a cancer. Once it has started it must be killed, removed, and blocked to make sure it doesn't come back. Wiping down and covering with oil will make it LOOK like the rust is gone but it lurks like a cancer waiting for oxygen to come forth again.

For the record I must state that the best way to fight rust is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place. Regardless, after a hurricane demolished my gun collection I did quite a bit of experimentation on the remains of the guns after the roof was pulled off of them three months later. They had sat in gun socks exposed to heat and rain and had been thrown about a room in 200+MPH winds and had a roof come down on them. The best method I came up with goes something like this.

Strip down the piece and wipe it clean as well as you can. I like to use the leg part of old denim jeans for this. Make sure to cut off all metal like zippers, rivets, etc before use. The old rags which touched rusted metal must not be used beyond this point until they are cleaned. The rags that are used must be cleaned and are best when tumble dried in a hot tightens their weave and wipes them of lint. Soak the disassembled parts in a solvent. Seven years ago I used kerosene, but today I would use Ed's Red.

Take a stiff toothbrush and begin to scrub parts. Be mindful of where the rust was and keep an eye out to see how it goes. Surface rust may only need this step. Deeper rust as is commonly found hidden under cosmolene on military rifles will need more aggressive actions. If the rust is not moving you must move on to the metal wool's. Start with extra fine bronze wool soaked in bore cleaner, Break Free, or something similar, again I like Ed's Red for this now. Go gently but firmly.

You must remove all is like cancer it will must be done with as little damage to the surrounding finish as possible. Make no doubt there will be SOME damage to your guns finish or at the very least the patina. Use of metal wool's will at the very least thin the finish or leave the finish 'shiny' sans patina. For serious pitting I have used the old trick of using pennies or empty cartridge cases flattened with a hammer to use as a scraper or pick. I have an aversion to using steel wool and though many do use it I would rather exert a little more elbow grease with the bronze wool and solvent than risk the finish with steel wool. Also steel wool tends to shed, thus littering the area with potential rust carriers. After all rust has been removed blow the pieces dry with compressed air if possible and give them a wipe down with clean rags. Now some form of preservative must be applied to prevent rust. RIG is excellent in this Capacity, as are a number of other brands.

To maintain the piece without rust in the future after this procedure has been accomplished make sure that after any handling of the piece a thin layer of RIG or which ever preservative you are using is applied. I have noticed a number of the old time collectors have a chamois coated with RIG that they keep near their safes. Whenever they put a gun away it gets a rub down with the chamois which seems to put just the right amount on the metal. Also be mindful of humidity levels near the storage area and air pollution if possible.

Simply put if you can place your gun storage safe in an area that has a controlled environment like an AC then you will be much ahead of the game. Some guys like to use a silicone rag to wipe down their pieces as well. I tend to use a silicone rag and then my chamois of RIG. Also don't put a stock back on a rifle that has soaked up a lot of moisture. Let it dry out slowly, naturally..this may take weeks..before placing an action back into a wet stock.

Hope this helps,

"Papaya Man"


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