Most firearms owners have some sort of secure storage for their firearms, whether it is due strictly to the legal mandate, safety or just trying to protect their investments from unknown dangers.
What many don’t know is that many of the safes that we use pose hazards to the valuables we put in them. The confined space inside the safe not only reduces air movement, but also holds ambient humidity which can lead to the oxidation/rusting of the metal parts. Added to this are the products/chemicals commonly used to produce the lining or adhesives in the safe and, combined with the humidity, it can lead to an atmosphere that will create a chemical reaction that can actually increase the rate of rusting in the safe. As scary and counterproductive as this sounds, there is some easy way to combat this and protect your investments.
I have been very lucky over the years to not have corrosion occur to my firearms while being stored in my safe, and I say luck as I really didn’t take any of the necessary precautions to alleviate the issues that I am now aware of. There are many products out there to help with keeping your valuables safe. The first starts with the obvious: when returning from a trip, always allow time for your firearms to acclimatize prior to putting them away in a confined space. If you have just travelled back from a late-season hunting trip and your rifles were in the back of the pickup box for several hours, they could be frozen. Walking them into the warm and humid house will cause condensation to form. By letting them stay out in the open with good air movement for several hours, it will allow them to warm up and dry. Of course, all this will be done within safe storage requirements. Prior to putting them away, always wipe them down, inside and out, with rag that has been treated with an oil/protectant — not WD-40! WD-40 is a great product, but not for this.
Safely put away in the safe, you can relax. Or can you? A lot of damage can occur from firearms in the safe making contact with each other. Nicks and blemishes are quite common occurrences. These can be safely avoided with the use of a basic gun sock. Many come treated with silicone to prevent corrosion, as well. For the few dollars that they cost, they can really save the appearance of your firearms.
While wiping the firearm down and placing it in a gun sock will go a long way to protecting them, we still have the issue with the confined space, humidity and the possibility of the caustic conditions from the formaldehyde. There are serval ways to keep these in check. The NRA’s National Firearm Museum states that the ideal condition in a gun safe is about 21 degrees Celsius/70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 to 55 per cent humidity. These conditions can be observed with the purchase of a hygrometer, which will allow you to observe and log the internal conditions of your safe(s). Knowing the conditions is fine, but now we have to correct them and make every attempt to keep them at an acceptable level. There are many products that help with this. A rod-style dehumidifier is a simple heating element that is plugged into a regular outlet. They are designed to keep the air in the safe a little warmer than the outside temperature and create subtle air flow with rising warm air. I bought one back in 1990 and it is still in use today.
Another system is the rechargeable dehumidifier pack, these are usually a small box filled with moisture-absorbing beads. There will be a colour-coded chart on the front of the device that will indicate when the beads can no longer absorb any more, and then it’s plugged into an outlet for several hours, where internal heaters dry out the beads for another use. There are also metal canisters of the same material and once they have reached their saturation point, you can place them in a hot oven for several hours to dry them out to use again.
I have noticed some products that require beads to pull the moisture out of the air and allow it to drop into a holding pan below. I do not recommend these. The fluid that collects can be highly damaging to metal and metal finishes if spilled, I find it just easier to avoid these.
So buying that big, nicely finished safe is only part of the solution, it seems. For a few more dollars, it will be worth the price to ensure that your firearms do not end up rusting while being stored. They face enough harsh conditions out in the elements, no need to risk them further in storage.