How to Remove Rust From a Gun

June 18, 2020

pelican consumer blog how to remove rust from a gun

Whether you’re working with a 100-year-old antique firearm or a modern handgun fresh from the range, you need to be vigilant about oxidation, which leads to rust. Rust occurs in firearms because some ammunition contains corrosive materials that leave behind salts — copper, lead, etc. — and because metal mixed with salt and humidity can kickstart the corrosion process. Even if you’re using the cleanest ammo around, you still need to think about rust prevention and storage in a quality gun case.

What Happens When a Gun Starts to Get Rust Spots?

Besides the fact that rust literally deteriorates your firearms and makes them look old and unattractive, it also presents a number of performance and safety issues. Roughed up, surface rust can create drag, which causes friction and pressure. Friction in different parts of your gun can mean different things — a rusty magazine may prevent loading, while a rusty barrel could lead to an explosion.

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How to Remove Rust from a Firearm

Unfortunately, many gun owners already have rust on their firearms before they can start the process of prevention. Luckily, there are some tried and true methods of rust removal that can help you return your weapon to pristine condition. Here’s the best rust-busting method to keep in your back pocket the next time you’re dealing with excessive oxidation.

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  • Take your gun apart. Working in a well-lit, safe environment — preferably one that you don’t mind getting dirty — start by removing any ammo from your gun and setting it aside. Break down the firearm as much as you can to get clear access to the rust spots. Obviously, take your time and make sure you remember how to reassemble it when you’re all done
  • Use some light oil. In order to bust the rust, you’ll need two important things: a light oil and a slightly abrasive brush or piece of steel wool. Start breaking down the rust by liberally applying a layer of light gun oil and working it into the nooks and crannies so that any oxidized areas are addressed. Applying light oil to the area tends to be enough for most normal rust. For serious rust, you may need to use a chemical rust remover or a strong acid to dissolve the rust built up on the surface of the gun. If your gun is starting to look more like a copper penny than a well-cared-for tool, you’re already behind.
  • Scrub the gun. Work in the oil using an all-purpose brush or toothbrush. A stiff-bristled brush or steel wool can be useful here, too, but you don’t want anything too abrasive that might damage the finish of your firearm. In severe cases, some people find success abrading the rust away with power tools, but you need to be extremely careful with this method so you don’t damage the surface. It’s best to leave the power tools on the shelf until you’ve worn out all the options that require a bit of elbow grease.
  • Still rusty? Send it to a professional. Not seeing results with your own rust removal efforts? You can always send your gun off to a firearm restorationist who will use professional techniques to remove the heavy rust. Consulting a local gunsmith is a good idea if you don’t feel you can restore your firearm properly. A gunsmith or other professional may also have specific tips for how your local area’s weather can affect your firearm’s storage needs.

Preventing Firearms from Rusting

Once you’ve taken care of existing rust on your gun parts, it’s crucial that you follow all rust prevention precautions to ensure that the compromised spots don’t worsen and to prevent new corrosion from developing. After all, you’ve put in the necessary work to get your gun back to its former glory, so why go through that all again?

  • Clean it. Routine cleaning helps to get rid of any of those corrosive materials that may settle inside the gun that might not be addressed with a simple rinsing. Using your gun cleaning kit, thoroughly clean your firearm according to the manufacturer’s instructions after every trip to the range. You want to be routinely cleaning your firearm with special attention to any moving parts that could cause the gun to jam if not properly cared for.
  • Lubricate it. Routinely oiling your gun is the very best defense against oxidation because it prevents water from settling on the surface and accelerating the rusting process. After all, oil and water don’t mix.
  • Store it properly. Storing your gun in a clean, dry case can prevent it from coming into contact with moisture, dirt and corrosive materials that can lead to rust. Choose a protective pistol case that has a watertight design to help prevent any moisture from seeping in and causing damage. Make sure you choose the right size and style for your firearm. Use a purpose-built rifle case for your rifle and a pistol case for your pistol. For added protection, store your gun with a corrosion kit that will help remove contaminants and keep the gun safe for longer-term storage. Make sure the kit contains a desiccant gel pack as a means of preventing any additional moisture build up as well.
  • Check it often. You want to get ahead of any issues and clean rust off as you notice it. If you put your gun away for a long period of time, you may not notice pitting or other rust issues until they’ve been there for a while. Keep all metal parts of your gun rust-free by checking its condition regularly. For firearms like hunting rifles that may be put in relatively long-term storage, it’s critical to check on it at least a couple of times between seasons.

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Protecting Your Investment

Any gun enthusiast is going to cringe at seeing their firearm with rust, and a little bit of maintenance goes a long way here. If you live in humid climates or anywhere the weather is harsh, you may have your work cut out for you, but it’s worth it to keep your firearm operating properly and safely.

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