Underlying Conditions

Moisture is a firearm’s enemy

There are some great memories made in the field in adverse weather conditions. Whether it is on a waterfowl hunt or a big game hunt packing through the rain, it is all fun. I do find though that usually with conditions like that, my memories seem to blur out the pain experienced from throbbing fingers and cold feet. I have been on many hunts where the only way I could have been wetter is if I would have been bigger.

Sealant added to keep moisture out of the wood stock.
Sealant added to keep moisture out of the wood stock.

We forget about the discomfort and focus on the more appealing parts of the hunt; however, our equipment can’t do as such, and repeated exposure to the severe elements can have long-term detrimental results. A lot of these ill effects on our firearms are greatly reduced these days just from the modern manufacturing procedures and material and components. Synthetic/plastic stocks, corrosion-resistant metal finishes and better lubricants sure do help ward off many of these. However, there are still wood-stocked firearms being made and used quite regularly.

As we all know, wood and water really don’t mix well over the long term. The water seems to migrate throughout the action and trigger mechanism. A quick wipe down in camp with a good oily rag and few patches of the same and the firearm is back to functional again. Right? Maybe not. I have come across many wood-stocked guns that have had the wood swell and warp from exposure to water. Not all wood stocks are sealed adequately from the factory.

Advertisement

My two shotguns that I use for my waterfowling are both still walnut stocked models. I had noticed that one of my stocks was showing some evidence of the wood swelling. It was time to take action to ensure that the stock would not get permanently damaged. I had the factory butt pad replaced with a quality recoil pad. During that process, I had the edge of the stock where it meets the pad refaced (a small amount of the stock cut off). The extra length of the pad still allowed me to slightly increase the length of pull, which I also wanted.

I removed the new recoil pad when I got home, easily done, generally they are held in place by two screws hidden behind two slits in the rubber. A little Vaseline on the screwdriver shaft will protect the pad from abrasion and keep it looking new. With the pad removed, I simply painted the exposed wood with a mixture of Tru-Oil and mineral spirits. The mineral spirits allows the Tru-Oil to soak into the grain easier, to seal the stock easier. If you have the tools to completely remove the butt stock from the action, I also recommend sealing the front of it as well. Once this sealant is applied, I allowed it to fully cure/dry before I reinstalled it to the action and the recoil pad. Any nicks in the finish also got a brushing of the oil mixture, I’m just trying to keep as much unwanted moisture out of the wood grain as possible. I will generally do this to any new and new-to-me wood-stocked firearm and then every couple of seasons thereafter. I am talking in this article about my waterfowl guns, but I do the same with my rifles which have wooden stocks as well.

Advertisement

If you have removed the stock off of the action, it’s also a great time to clean and lube the inner workings not always accessible through regular cleaning procedures. I am always amazed where I will find debris from plants when the firearm is cleaned. I don’t consider myself one who abuses his equipment, but even regular use in rather extreme conditions does allow the occasional pine needle or blade of grass to migrate in places where it can lead to issues. In fact, I have seen brand new over/under shotguns with trigger/safety issues due to a piece of sawdust from the stock production stuck in the trigger mechanism.

Of course, with rifles, swelling and warped stocks can lead to severe accuracy issue, but that is another issue we can address down the road.