Rust is the mortal enemy of your firearm. Corrosion pits the surfaces of your guns, reducing their reliability and decreasing their resale value. Moisture is the worst enemy of your guns in storage, and we all have those. Those are the ones you like but you don’t get out all that often. So they sit in storage and get a little dusty. Before you know it, they’ve been sitting for a year or two, and surface rust has crept up on the crown of the barrel, maybe on a set screw or two, and probably wherever any bluing has worn off.
About Rusty Guns
Guns have tough jobs and lead tough lives. The residue from burnt powder is inherently corrosive, although advances in powder technology continue to provide clean-burning powders with very little residue. But we throw our guns in leather holsters for entire days and cover them in salty sweat, or we traipse through the forest, scratching the surface on a thousand tree limbs and barbed wire fences. When we put them in a safe out of sight and out of mind, these minor scars have a tendency to become major sources of corrosion. Mounting your guns on walls in the open keeps them immaculate in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment, where you can always keep an eye on them.
What Causes Rust on Guns?
Rust is a form of corrosion. Corrosion, by definition, is the deterioration and loss of materials due to chemical and electrochemical reactions. In short, when the conditions are right, it will rust.
All corrosive actions begin on the surface of metals, hence the name ‘surface rust.’ technically, all rust is surface rust in the beginning. However, if conditions do not change and the corrosion is not addressed, the rust will eventually permeate the material. Remember, corrosion is the deterioration and loss of materials. By definition, corrosion is always the reduction of iron-based materials.
Just like cars and trucks, the location makes all the difference. If you live in Phoenix, you don’t have to worry too much about rust. But if you reside in Miami, well, you should wash your cars and clean your guns often.
Speaking of Miami, or anywhere with salty, humid air, it is not your imagination that your ferrous metal items rust quickly: in seawater, dissimilar metal items corrode at a rate of 1,000 times or more than that of the same items in the open air and a low salt environment. This absolutely goes for guns, especially in the chamber area where you have multiple types of metals in close contact. Salty air will begin working on those immediately.
Again referencing the U.S. Air Force’s technical order on corrosion, which is, in my opinion, the definitive resource on corrosion, the following are factors that influence corrosion and the rate of corrosion:
• Type of metal. • Presence of a dissimilar, less corrodible metal (galvanic corrosion). • Anode and cathode surface areas (in galvanic corrosion)Temperature. • Heat treatment and grain direction. • Presence of electrolytes (hard water, saltwater, battery fluids, etc.). • Availability of oxygen. • Presence of different concentrations of the same electrolytes. • Presence of biological organisms. • Mechanical stress on the corroding metal. • Time of exposure to a corrosive environment.
How to Eliminate Rust
Rust is simple chemistry. There are four conditions that will lead to rust, and since rust/corrosion is basic chemistry, then remember this: all structural metals will corrode to some extent in a natural environment.
The four conditions that lead to rust are:
- Anode-the metal which has a tendency to corrode. For firearms, it is steel other than stainless steel.
- Cathode-a dissimilar conductive material that has less tendency to corrode than the anode. This can be a different type of metal, a protected part of the same metal, or even conductive plastics.
- Electrolyte-conductive liquid to connect the anode and cathode. You can think of a bunch of examples. For concealed carry, how about sweat? It’s basically seawater.
- Electrical contact-this is metal-to-metal contact that must exist for electrons to move from the anode to the cathode.
(Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force T.O. 1-1-691)
This is a sequence that must exist in order for rust to occur; corrosion cannot occur if you remove any of these features.
Why Do Guns Rust in Storage?
The simplest way to break the corrosion chain is to keep your firearms clean of any corrosive agents (burned gunpowder residue, solvents, etc), and to keep a light film of a firearm lubricating oil on metal surfaces, especially dissimilar metals that are in close contact.
Note: be careful with greases. Grease attracts dirt, residue, and moisture. Corrosion can occur from moisture that was trapped in grease, plus too much grease gums up mechanisms. Also, a safe is not an optimal storage location for firearms because they seal in the air. Unless you are actively dehumidifying your safe, it is sealing in humid, stale air and basically making a coffin for your guns and ammo.
The other reason is a little more anecdotal. There is such a thing as out-of-sight, out-of-mind. When your guns are all sitting “safely” in a safe, we are all prone to forget. Months slip away. Meanwhile, your guns are sitting in a humidifier.
How to Prevent Rust in Storage
Keeping our guns in a climate-controlled house is the best way to remove the component of electrolyte from the corrosion cell. As our air conditioners run, they pull humidity from the air. However, gun safes are often sealed and retain a much higher level of relative humidity than the outside conditioned air.
An open-air gun wall is the best way to accomplish this. Our mounts are as secure as a safe with many locking mechanisms available. Plus, your guns will always be at the forefront of your attention. A seen gun is a clean gun.
Also, our line of accessories for our gun walls ensures that they will not only be at your attention to stay clean and dry but that they will be ready at a moment’s notice when the balloon goes up. A gun wall is an awesome way to keep tabs on your weapons, to make sure they are clean and dry, and we happen to think it makes a nice conversation piece at any dinner party.