How to Remove Rust From a Gun

Pelican Flyer  |  June 20, 2020

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 Gets Rusty?

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, rusted surfaces 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 of us already have rust on our firearms before we can start the process of prevention. Luckily, there are some tried and true methods to 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 rusty spots.
  • 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. For serious rust, you may need to use a chemical rust remover or a strong acid to dissolve the rust.
  • 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.
  • 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 restore the gun to its original state.

Preventing Firearms from Rusting

Once you’ve taken care of existing rust, 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.

  • 5. Rinse it. If you’re using corrosive ammo of any kind, make sure to disassemble and flush your firearm out with warm water after every trip to the range. This will flush away the salts that will, if left uncleaned, cause your gun to corrode and rust. Make sure you let it dry thoroughly before putting it in storage.
  • 6. Clean it.thoroughly clean your firearm according to the manufacturer’s instructions after every trip to the range.
  • 7. Lubricate it.
  • 8. Store it properly.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.

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Protecting Your Investment

At the end of the day, treating and preventing rust can help you protect your potentially expensive and irreplaceable firearm investment. At the same time, it helps ensure that your weapons work exactly as they should so you never find yourself in a questionable situation with no defense.

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