Decontaminating Your Firearms

Following the recent flooding in Texas, Florida and surrounding areas, many gun owners are going to return home only to find much of their possessions have been not only wet but submerged for extended periods. Following are some tips for not only cleaning but decontaminating those firearms and so that you can enjoy them for years to come.

No firearm is meant to get wet and go unserviced. Even modern “mil-spec” firearms designed to get wet and be fired without a loss of service should still be properly maintained as soon as possible following a dunking. But the recent events in areas subjected to Hurricanes Harvey & Irma add a new dimension to the scenario; a need for decontamination. In these areas firearms have not only gotten wet they have been submerged, often for days, in not only water but whatever other contaminants may have been present.

If your firearm gets wet, say while hunting or due to a sudden storm while on the range, you can generally get away with a “light cleaning”- making sure everything is wiped off and properly oiled. Unless signs of corrosion are present no harm, no foul.

Take your firearm for a swim, either by accident or on purpose, and the degree of follow-up depends on the specific firearm. Older firearms or those not specifically designed to endure this type of abuse may need the attention of an armorer. Modern firearms, especially duty weapons designed to be exposed or even submerged, should be dried and even field stripped but will generally be good to go.

But if your firearm has been not only submerged but left there for days AND potentially exposed to contaminants what do you do? At this point, it is important to note that it is impossible to know what your specific firearm may or not have been exposed to.

The following information was developed following personally contacting the in-house armorers at different firearms manufacturers. None had a standard response for caring for firearms following a flood- but each provided similar advice. IF you live in an area where there was a confirmed contamination by a specific chemical substance you should contact your firearm’s manufacturer to determine if special care is needed for that known substance.

First, you need to dry the firearm as completely as possible. This will not prevent further damage nor will it address any contamination. What it will do is help slow the process and potentially lessen any serious damage.

Your next step depends on your level of experience. If you are not comfortable conducting a full teardown you will need to contact a certified armorer, for the purpose of this article I will assume you are capable of completing this on your own.

NOTE: Many manufacturers will void the warranty of your firearm is such actions are taken by other than certified armorers. Conduct a complete inspection teardown of the firearm, paying particular attention to the following:

• Any signs of unusual corrosion or damage to internal components other than that associated with normal wear and tear. Examples of such damage would be pitting or discoloration, peeling/flaking, or corrosion. *If the damage is observed it is recommended the affected part(s) be replaced.

• Clean the entire firearm with a degreasing agent. Do not rely on a general cleaner or cleaner/lubricant. Many possible contaminants may be petroleum based and will not be removed by such products. * Check with manufacturer for specific approved products for use on your firearm.

• Re-oil / lubricate the entire firearm as per manufacturer instructions. Keep in mind the degreasing process will remove ALL petroleum based products including your normally present oils. This re-oiling process will involve applying a light coat of lubricant to much more than those parts treated following a normal field stripping.

• Before reassembling your firearm I recommend leaving it apart for at least a few days and periodically re-inspect each component.

• Once you are positive no damage has occurred reassemble, function check and return to service.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *