Weather Ready Firearms

Properly preparing firearms for extreme weather conditions takes the worry out of whether they will go bang every time you tug the trigger.

Weather Ready Firearms

Animals have a sixth sense regarding weather, and when change is in the air, they anticipate it and feed hard. Knowing this, I was confident the east wind that was blowing in was sure to bring moisture and challenging weather — and provide the perfect opportunity to get out and do some coyote hunting. 

I had been waiting on an east wind to hunt a particular cattle ranch, where feed bunks and a calf shelter provided an ideal setup. I hid in the shelter and placed my e-caller about 20 yards out front, at the end of the feed bunks. It was a natural spot to draw in predators, because they often scrounge the area for mice and other critters that feed on the spilled grain there. 

I positioned the e-caller and speakers to cast upwind, where a large block of trees provided excellent cover and habitat. My two-gun setup included a Franchi Affinity 3.5 loaded with special coyote shotshells and a Savage Model 110 Predator rifle chambered in .223 Rem., loaded with Federal Premium Varmint & Predator loads. I held the shotgun at the ready and leaned the rifle against the shelter, its Trijicon riflescope dialed to its lowest power setting so I could quickly get on target. 

I started with the sounds of a wounded hare and slowly turned up the volume. I hadn’t been sitting for a minute when the first coyote appeared in the trees, running in my direction. I sat tight and got excited when a second and a third coyote appeared. All three were in the open and racing toward me when two more ’yotes appeared in the background. Having five dogs coming to the call at one time was beyond exciting, and I sat motionless and ready to spring into action. 

It took only seconds for the small pack of coyotes to get to the caller. I rolled the first at 25 yards with the shotgun, and my second shot was just behind a prominent male streaking like a lightning bolt to get back to cover. The third shot ended his run, and I quickly swapped out the scattergun for the rifle. A third coyote was tracking at about 100 yards, and I steadied the crosshairs and squeezed off a shot. 

I could have used a second shooter to help with the cleanup, but I was happy with the performance of my firearms. They operated like well-oiled machines, thanks to my annual checkup and maintenance program. 

Extreme cold can cause frost of firearms and hunters, so preparation is essential.
Extreme cold can cause frost of firearms and hunters, so preparation is essential.

Beating the Weather

An annual tune-up and cleaning of your favorite predator guns means preparing them for any weather conditions. Like the Postman’s Creed, neither rain, snow, sleet or hail should keep you from taking your favorite predator rifle or shotgun into the field. And, thankfully, there is no shortage of proven products, tips and tricks for ensuring optimum year-round performance. 

I live in a region that’s perfect for cold-weather firearm testing and hunting. There is a period every winter when the mercury drops to -40 or even -50°F, creating the opportunity to test various lubricants and gun products. A frozen firing pin during a late-season elk hunt forced me to experiment to find a working solution to ensure all my firearms are ready for any hunting environment. 

So, when the cold weather settled in, the experiments began. First up were a semi-automatic rimfire, a shotgun and a bolt-action rifle. All were stripped clean of any oils or other lubricants, and I applied different products to each gun and placed them on my deck in the bitter cold for six hours. The test results would be easy to determine because the gun would either function or it wouldn’t. It was a big test for extreme cold, and one product worked well in all the firearms, allowing them to shoot and cycle on the first trigger pull. 

Over the years, I have tried many products whose makers claim work in extreme cold, but I had not found a working solution until recently, when I discovered Real Avid Gun-Max Gun Oil — an advanced gun-metal grade formula for protecting, lubricating and cleaning modern guns and specially formulated to work in the cold. 

The results surprised me, and I made follow-up plans for a cold weather predator hunt, to test whether my guns would fire and function properly in real world conditions. I was not disappointed and looked further into the formula to understand why it worked. 

The bottom line is that this product works in extreme cold. Moisture freezes, so any amount on or in your firearm is not good. Gun-Max Gun Oil has inhibitors that displace moisture for extended corrosion protection. The oil formula includes anti-friction additives that bond to metal surfaces for longer-lasting lubrication of moving metal parts. 

Real Avid has an assortment of firearm cleaning products and kits for shotguns, rifles, handguns and AR-15s. Check out all their options at

A semi-automatic shotgun is a great choice for cold-weather predators, as long as it cycles consistently.
A semi-automatic shotgun is a great choice for cold-weather predators, as long as it cycles consistently.

Brake Cleaner Strip Down

New firearms often come with packing grease on their metal parts to safeguard the surfaces while in transit to sales outlets. It’s like a layer of insurance for firearm manufacturers. However, if you do not clean the grease off working components, it will cause issues. Rifles can fail or misfire in the extreme cold due to a gummed-up firing pin, for example. I experience this while on the late-season elk hunt. I emptied the gun and worked the action and pulled the trigger multiple times. This loosened the firing pin to where the rifle was functional, and later in the hunt I tagged an elk. Having the foresight to work the bolt and free it from the freeze-up provided a positive outcome, but I never want to have to do it again.

Freezing oil or grease can prevent metal parts from moving properly. The primer is often indented, but the force of the firing pin hitting it is not enough to ignite the primer and propellant. 

Preparing rifles for the cold, especially a new rifle shipped with grease or oil in the barrel and action, is simple. Remove the bolt from the gun and hold it over a pail to collect debris. Take an aerosol can of brake cleaning fluid and dowse the bolt until it is dripping into the pail. Turn the bolt to ensure the cleaning fluid gets into all moving portions. Wait a few seconds, then repeat the process. The brake cleaning fluid will cut and remove grease, oil and dirt build-up and dries extremely fast without leaving residue. It returns the metal to its original state without corrosion protection or lubrication. If possible, disassemble the bolt to get at all grease that might be hidden within. 

After the brake cleaner strips off the oil, grease or lubricants, apply Gun-Max Gun Oil or a similar product as the protective coating. High-tech oil provides excellent protection during storage, especially in areas with high humidity. Humidity can cause problems when firearms are stored for prolonged periods without protective oil on metal surfaces. 

Changing Temperatures

Temperature change can wreak havoc with a firearm when going from extreme cold to warm environments. During the hunt, once a firearm is cold, try to keep it cold. Frost becomes moisture on the metal and can quickly cause problems. The metal will develop a frost coating when moving in and out of the cold, into vehicles or back to the house. Placing the firearm under the heater in a vehicle can accelerate moisture build-up, and when trying to use the gun the same day, it could freeze up. 

When predator hunting in the cold, use a gun case to store the firearm when returning to the vehicle. Place the case in the bed of the truck or trunk of a car to reduce frost build-up between sets and hunting areas. The case protects the gun from moisture and helps to regulate the temperature, avoiding extremes. Birchwood Casey CopperTect protective gun sleeves were ideal but are no longer made, but you can add a desiccant bag to any gun case. The bags have a hygroscopic substance used to induce or sustain a state of dryness (desiccation). They can be purchased in stores or online. 

After the Hunt

When your hunt is over and you return home, open the firearm’s action and stand it in a corner to warm. Frost will form on metal parts and slowly turn into visible moisture. Placing the firearm with the barrel down keeps any excess moisture from running down the barrel or into the action. A water displacement oil or cleaner can be used to wipe the metal, removing the moisture and treating it to prevent corrosion. 

Free-floating barrels need to be treated top and bottom. Work an oiled cloth between the barrel and stock to remove unseen moisture and leave a protective layer behind. The firearm will be ready for action the next time you are. 

Camouflage the Shiny Spots

Changing environments can make it challenging to stay concealed. A dark rifle stock and barrel will stand out in a sea of white snow, so it’s important to camouflage the shiny and dark parts of the rifle and optics. There are tape and wraps available to blend your firearm with any environment, with snow camo and several green or dark options are on the market. They are easily removed, and several brands are reusable. I prefer not to leave the tape or wrap on the firearm, because I want to see any moisture and be able to clean and protect any metal parts. 

If you live in a cold climate, experiment with cleaning and protective products to see what works best for you. A deep freeze can be used in the warmer months to test some products and to see how frost builds on metal. A freezer is not as cold as Old Man Winter but is cold enough to create a slow firing pin when the wrong products are on moving parts. It is an interesting exercise where you learn about firearm maintenance by seeing what cold does to the metal. It is easy to see corrosion start in untreated areas, which can also happen in humid environments.  

When your favorite hunting rifles and shotguns are maintained for winter use, they are protected for the rest of the year when unforeseen issues arise. 


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