THE PROPER CARE OF RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS
THE PROPER CARE OF RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS
By Maurice H. Decker.
AMONG the accidents that are liable to happen to the barrels of rifles and shotguns, the most common are swells, rings and fractures, which result from overloading with smokeless powders and from firing the arm when some obstruction is in the barrel. A firearm should never be discharged while anything, such as bullets, pieces of cloth, snow, or dirt are in the bore. Many a fine shotgun has been ruined by getting snow or mud into the end of the barrel unbeknown to the hunter, an occurrence that happens easily without his knowledge when upon some exciting chase. I recall an interesting illustration of what an obstruction is liable to do to the barrel of a high power rifle related by a U. S. army man, the truth of which he could vouch for, as the incident was an actual experience of his own. It seems he had been one of a small party of soldiers detailed to capture a certain young Moro insurgent leader in the Philippines.
The expedition had been successful and the party was bringing their captive back to headquarters when they stopped to spend one afternoon and night at a native hut beside a small river. The Moro was placed upon the veranda of the hut, which stood on the very edge of the steep bank that led down to the river twenty feet below. One private was stationed on guard duty and the others lay down to get what rest they could amid the myriads of insects that droned and buzzed around their heads. All were fairly tired out from the tiresome journey over hills and thru the jungle and at 6:00 when the narrator of this incident went on guard duty all the rest, including the Moro, were seemingly asleep. He relieved his companion of both his duty and his rifle and as all seemed quiet, leaned back up against the wall of the hut and tried to ward off the mosquitoes, mud-daubers and flies that buzzed about his face. Suddenly the Moro jumped to his feet and vaulted the railing of the veranda, stretched his hands up above his head and dived into the river below. He was not so quick, however, but what the sentry was aware of his intention before he disappeared into the water, for hastily raising his New Springfield he shot full into the man's back. The distance was so short it was impossible to score a miss and the soldier was sure he had blown the native's back to shreds. But to the utter astonishment of the party, now fully awakened, the Moro bobbed up in the middle of the stream, dived down again before a rifle could be raised and was never seen or heard of again. The rather dazed sentry dropped his rifle, which he now reflected had made a rather queer noise when discharged and glanced along its length. The barrel was burst open in a long jagged seam at the breech. Investigation showed that while the previous sentry had been on duty the numerous mud-daubers had been busily engaged in plastering the muzzle of the weapon full of mud. The keen eyes of the native had observed what escaped the eyes of both soldiers and had timed the moment of his attempt at escaping to the time when conditions were most favorable for its success. How he ever untied his feet without attracting attention and how he ever swam the river with both hands tied has never been revealed. Although word of him was never gotten afterwards the soldiers of that particular party were unanimous in voting that a Moro as smart as he must surely have made good his escape.
Aside from accidents, there are four factors in the depreciation of rifles and shot guns which the shooter has to contend with and guard against. These are rust, leading, erosion or gas-cutting and metallic fouling. Rust attacks all classes and styles of firearms and is, or should be, the easiest of all to prevent. The chemists tell us rust is the uniting of metal with oxygen, a chemical change assisted and fostered by the presence of moisture; but the thing most important to shooters is that a barrel wiped clean, dry and free from powder residue and then covered with a film of some good gun oil, will be safe from all the dangers of oxidation. Some advance the theory that grease or oil is not necessary for the prevention of rust if the gun is properly cleaned and set away in a dry place. This is probably true, but unfortunately this same dry place is not always handy when one is in camp or on a boat or canoe trip, and oft times the time or proper tools are not available to give the barrel a thorough cleaning. For these reasons I invariably prefer to use some such preparation as Marble's Nitro-Solvent Oil, which will neutralize all acids and corrosive action and supply by its good virtues any deficiency on my part in the operation of cleaning. In dry climates and high altitudes less trouble with rust will be experienced and I have examined several rifles which had seen considerable service in Colorado for a number of years without the slightest attention with a cleaning rod and which were in a very fair condition. One of these was a .351 Winchester that had been fired some 1500 times and its good, serviceable condition was a surprise to several marksmen who had an> opportunity to try it out at the range.
When guns are put away to remain unused for a considerable length of time they should be given particular care in the matters of cleaning, wiping and oiling. In regions where a very damp and humid atmosphere prevails, the use of the Marble Anti-Rust Ropes will be found to be a wise precaution. These Ropes are made of cotton wicking and when saturated with oil are drawn through the weapon where by reason of their being longer and larger than the bore they exert a constant pressure of oil against the entire circumference of the interior of the barrel. These ropes are of special value to hunters who take trips into other States or into country requiring a week's journey to reach the game, a; they afford a dependable protection to their weapons while en-route. Canoeists and trappers who travel by boat, particularly upon salt water, will find a few of these devices will save a lot of worry about the condition of their gun barrels. As Anti-Rust rope for a 12 gauge shotgun requires three and one-fourth ounces of oil and a .30 caliber rifle rope about two-thirds of an ounce. To saturate the ropes place them coiled up into a shallow pan and pour on oil until they will absorb no more (a 12 gauge rope will hold seven to eight ounces) and then ring them out as dry as possible. As much oil as stated above will remain in the ropes when they are ready for use.
The most useful little device for the out-of-doors man that I have ever used for cleaning rifles is the style known as the Government or Field cleaner. This implement consists of a stout cord on one end of which is a bristle brush with slot in lower end and on the other a weight, also with slot, for dropping through the barrel. This little cleaner is complete for rendering "first aid" to dirty guns and can be easily carried in ones pocket. This eliminates the necessity of packing a metal rod along on hunting trips when one's outfit is chosen for light weight and convenience and which are liable to be bent or broken. If one is in a hurry to swab out his black powder rifle he can put an oiled patch in the slot below the brush and one drawing through cuts out the powder residue and oils the bore. After a .25 or .32 caliber black powder rifle has been fired 25 to 30 times it begins to lose in accuracy unless some of the fouling is removed. The field cleaner is the only practical implement for the hunter to carry with him for this purpose also for cleaning out high power rifles .after one has used in them the pistol shells in the supplementary or auxiliary chambers before resuming the use of the regular loads. The Marble Company are making an implement of this style except that in place of the bristle brush they use their regular brass rifle cleaner. This makes a much more durable cleaner and one of greater efficiency. Prompt action is desirable when smokeless powders are used, for if the polish or fine finish of the barrels interior surface becomes destroyed a sure foothold for rust and especially leading is provided.
There are to my knowledge four different ways by which rifle barrels become leaded. These are by fusion, by the use of greaseless bullets in the .22 calibers, by lead bullets jumping the rifling, and by the presence of a rough or rusted spots in the bore, which scrape and retain particles of the soft cast bullet as it passes. Fusion means the melting of the base of the lead bullet caused by the heat of the powder gasses behind it, portion of which fuse on to the inner surface of the bore. These accumulations are very minute at first, growing gradually in size and may exist for some time before the shooter ever expects their presence. Fusion should not happen in properly balanced black powder loads, more often it occurs- when smokeless powder is used behind soft cast projectiles and with some of the factory mid and short-range charges.
When we say a bullet jumps the rifling we mean that it is shot straight through the barrel and does not follow the spirally arranged groves which are intended to give it the spinning motion upon which the conical projectile depends for its range and accuracy. A bullet may jump the rifling for only a very short distance or for the entire length of the barrel, depending upon the conditions present and of course when this jumping occurs, the sharp corners of the lands clip off and retain small particles of the lead. Overloading with smokeless powder, erosion and deformation of the chamber and that portion of the rifling adjoining the chamber cause this action.
I believe that rough and rusted spots in barrels are the most common causes of leading. These rough surfaces act on the bullet the same as a nutmeg grater, scraping off minute particles from the bullet as it passes and which are usually melted and fused to the barrel by the heated gasses following immediately. If a rifle is but slightly leaded, vigorous action with good stiff brass scratch brush and some of the solvent cleaning preparations will remove the deposits. In cases of a more serious nature, one should procure a quantity of mercury, cork up the breech, pour it in and then plug up the muzzle. The gun should then be laid away for a few days and moved occasionally so the mercury will have a chance to come into contact with all parts of the barrel. Mercury has the property of uniting with lead and removes or dissolves it from the bore accordingly. In very bad cases of leading the rifle should be sent to the factory where it was made and where it will be cleaned out as good as new and at a very reasonable cost. This is really the most satisfactory and cheapest course to pursue in bad cases of leading, for the cost will sometimes be less than that of the mercury required to do as clean a job.
Shotguns become leaded from two causes. These are the use of soft shot and a neglect on the shooter's part of the polish of the inner surface of the barrels. The inside of a new shotgun barrel will upon examination be found to be of a mirror-like smoothness and to possess a brilliant polish. This finish has to take the part of the lubricant upon the lead bullet and when it is neglected, becomes rough or rusted, lead is liable to be deposited by the soft shot passing through. The remedy is therefore to give the barrel careful and prompt cleaning, using plenty of good oil such as 3 in 1, and to shoot chilled shot as much as possible. Shotguns are the easiest to clean of all firearms because of the large bore and absence of grooves and lands, and as the residue of all modern shotgun powders is easy to remove, particular attention should be taken with the operation of oiling. A good cleaning rod, jointed with brass threads and three implements can be purchased for as low as twenty cents and should be in every shooter's possession. The soft cotton swabs that come with gun rods should be reserved for applying oil after the bore is cleaned and used thoroughly after each cleaning. For removing slight deposits of lead the Lefever, Marble and Tomlinson scratchers are excellent but I always prefer to use no brass brush at all as long as there are no indications of this trouble. Chilled shot for use in guns is becoming more popular each year and with good reason, too. They give better results in range and penetration and reduce to a minimum the dangers of leading.
I remember when I first became interested in high power rifles and purchased a few, that my main concern about the arms was the fear that extensive use of the metal cased bullets would wear out the rifling until the barrel would become useless. The truth of this matter, which I found out shortly, is that the wear of cased bullets ranks third in importance in determining the length of a weapon's life. The two conditions or erosive agents first in the concern of the shooter should be erosion and metallic or nickel fouling. The term erosion means a gradual wearing away of the metal of the chamber and bore of the barrel adjoining, which is caused by gas-cutting, the action of the smokeless powder gasses which at high velocity and high temperature actually eats away the steel. In many of the high power rifles the bullets are a trifle smaller than the bore of the barrel and they depend upon upsetting or expansion at the base to fill the barrel completely and hold the powder gasses back to deliver their full energy in imparting velocity and power to the projectile. Now if these bullets upset properly at once as soon as they left the shell all would be right and well, but many do not expand until started on through the barrel and consequently little jets of gas spurt by and ahead of the ball and do the damage as stated above. I do not know of any way in which this erosion may be prevented in the ordinary commercial rifle in which we must use the ammunition the factories make. But fortunately this process is not a rapid one and if the shooter can keep his weapon clean and free from rust and metal fouling there is no doubt but what he will get his money's worth before its accuracy and usefulness is destroyed by erosion.
Metallic fouling is the most serious destructive force we have to contend with in high power rifles. This is similar to leading, only the deposits left along the bore of the barrel are of the metal plating and metal cases of the bullets instead of lead. It is strange, but very few rifles seem to be effected alike and equally with this trouble. In cases of the extremely high velocity small bores this fouling is quite severe and gives the shooter considerable trouble but with such rifles as the .38-.50 and .351, which possess a larger bore and slower moving bullets, less difficulty will be experienced. The remedy is frequent and vigorous cleaning with some of the solvents which are now upon the market and due precaution that the trouble does not accumulate beyond control. As none of these dissolving agents seem to work the same in all rifles and suit the users uniformly no particular one can be recommended. The rifleman should try them all until he finds one that leaves the bore of his weapon in bright, new condition, free from the shiny little lumps and deposits that bespeak the presence of this fouling. I am of the opinion that the use of the Ideal gas check bullets will aid greatly in keeping the barrel in fine shape. There is no chance of fouling being left by them and I strongly believe that the sharp edges of the gas-check will clean out the bore as it passes through.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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