If you want to hold onto a gun, but you won’t be using it for a while, what do you do with it? The answer for quite a while there was to bury it somewhere on your land until you were ready to start using it again — or in case of zombies. But is that really the best option for long-term storage? We’ll leave that one up to you to decide. The more important piece here isn’t necessarily where you store your firearms long term, it’s how to prepare them for storage. Whether you’re dropping them down a hole on the old family property or simply storing them away in your gun safe, preparing an AR 15 (or any gun) for long-term storage comes with a few different steps. This isn’t just cleaning it and stowing it safely until you head to the range in a couple of weeks. If you’re looking to store your rifle for months or years, you’ll need to:
Of course this is step one. Cleaning your firearms should always be a key component of safe gun storage, no matter how long or short they’ll be stowed away. Whether you only use your gun on an indoor range or you haul it through the dust, mud, and grime of hunting, it is going to collect a lot of gunk. Make sure you’re breaking it down as much as possible and cleaning out every little nook and cranny to avoid encouraging any internal rust or other damage. Also, since your firearm will be sitting untouched for a while, be sure to carefully clean away fingerprints so the oil from your skin doesn’t sit on the gun and affect the finish. When everything is clean, apply only a thin layer of lubricant to the metal surfaces. Avoid getting lubricant on any plastic or wooden components of your firearms since the ingredients in the lubricant will ruin non-metal materials. If your rifle does have wooden components, treat them with wax to minimize swelling or cracks.
The biggest issues with long-term gun storage are protecting against moisture and grime, which can wear away at a gun if left to sit for long periods at a time. It’s also a good idea to remove some accessories. Your AR 15 rail grip can probably stay, but any optics should probably come off for long-term storage, simply to minimize scratches to your firearms and damage to the accessories. The big thing to keep in mind is that choosing reliable storage methods will go a long way toward minimizing the potential for environmental effects that could wreck your gun. Good protective measures include:
This is a great option for short- and long-term storage because it secures your firearms. Gun safes are designed specifically with gun protection in mind, so they will help guard against moisture and grime — assuming your firearms are stored properly, of course. They are a great option in particular for those of you who live in more humid areas, as you can easily access and check your firearms for rust with a key, passcode, or fingerprint scan.
The silicone-imbued material is great for storing firearms because it repels moisture. Now, don’t take that to mean you could toss your firearm in the bathtub when wrapped in a silicone gun sock; that’s definitely not how it works. The silicone treatment is enough to ensure the fabric of the sock doesn’t hold onto moisture, which means a lot less worry about rust since there isn’t material trapping moisture right against your firearm. The fabric also provides some level of scratch protection. Silicone-treated gun socks aren’t a perfect solution, however, since many of them close with a drawstring, providing a less-than-perfect seal.
Like silicone-treated socks, gun bags are a good option for giving your guns extra protection against scratches. Unlike silicone gun socks, however, gun bags don’t provide nearly as much protection against moisture. This isn’t necessarily a problem unless you live in a humid area. If that’s the case, you’ll want to employ additional moisture removal methods. The upside, as many of you likely already know, is that gun bags are a good multi-purpose option since they can be used for both storage and transport. This is also a good way to store come of those custom AR parts and accessories with the gun without actually having them attached while the gun is stored.
We’ll mention this one because it is actually a viable option — however, this comes with a hearty word of caution. You can, if you have no other options, use wax paper to protect your firearms. It repels moisture and helps reduce scratches while a firearm is in storage. However, to be even remotely effective, you’ll need to wrap your guns carefully, mummy-style, and secure it with masking tape. If there are gaps or points where your gun pokes through, the wax paper loses a lot of its effectiveness. Again, let us reiterate: this is a stopgap measure. If you’re planning on long-term storage, it’ll be much better for your firearms to invest in actual gun-specific protective measures.
You’ve probably noticed that the litany throughout this blog is that moisture is bad for guns. We’re going to hammer that just a bit more because of how little time it takes for moisture to spiral into rust. Save yourself heartache and expenses and invest in some dehumidifying help. Powered dehumidifiers will be better to remove moisture from the air in a larger space, like a full room. Desiccants — like those small silicone packets that come in new shoe boxes — are smaller and don’t need power to work, but you may find you need to swap them out on occasion, especially if you live in a humid area.
There’s a common current among the gun community that storing your gun in the cardboard box it came in is plenty of protection. If you hear that advice, ignore it. While that might be a decent way to nix scratches, cardboard of any kind isn’t ideal for storage because it absorbs moisture. As moisture builds, it will get trapped right around your gun and encourage rust.
The other big one to avoid is anything with a sheepskin lining. Like cardboard boxes, sheepskin will attract moisture rather than repel it.
Proper protective measures will help your AR (and other firearms) last much longer, no matter how much time they spend in storage throughout the year. Depending on what they’re made from, custom AR parts and accessories may need slightly different storage and care than the firearm itself. Our rail scales are all machines from G10, so you don’t have to worry about rust or humidity damage. If you have further questions, connect with the RailScales team.