How to Clean Rust Off a Gun
If it's metal, it will rust. That includes guns. Not even a protective coating on a modern firearm is 100 percent effective in preventing rust. Rust has many guises: it can be anything from tiny little spots to unsightly swathes of corrosive brown.
Even worse than affecting the cosmetic appearance of your gun, it can make it erratic and unreliable, damaging the mechanisms and making it unsafe to fire.
An optimally functioning firearm is a rust-free gun. In this article, we'll walk you through rust removal, and how to prevent gun rust.
- Rust looks bad, and can also make your gun unsafe to fire
- Bluing may prevent rust on your guns for a while, but it won't make them rustproof
- The moisture from sweat makes corrosion on the surface of your carry weapon more likely
- There is more than one method to remove rust
- When it comes to rust on your firearms, prevention is better than a cure
How does rust form on your gun?
Rust occurs when iron, oxygen, and water vapor chemically react to form iron oxide. This oxidation can cause pitting and scarring on the surface as well as the individual gun parts.
All firearms are prone to rust, even modern ones that are anodized with a protective coating. Bluing protects the metal surfaces of your firearms, but that doesn't make your gun 100% rustproof. Even a small scratch, or the gradual wearing down of the protective layer on the surface over time compromises any rust protection on your firearm.
Rust is very common on carry guns because they are held close to the human body. This exposes them to sweat and high humidity. Moisture then condenses on the surface of your gun and inside the gun parts, causing rust.
How does rust affect your firearm?
Rust is much more than an eyesore. It creates a rough surface on the moving parts of your gun, and this leads to drag. Drag impedes the function of your gun, making it unreliable.
Rust degrades the moving parts in a gun by increasing the amount of wear between contact points. If a magazine spring is rusted, it could lead to failure to feed. A rusty slide also may not extract, cycle, or eject.
Rust in the barrel and the chamber can increase the pressure that in a worst-case scenario, can cause your gun to explode in your hand.
How to remove rust from your gun
There are four easy methods to remove rust spots from your gun, depending on how badly affected it is. Before you start, safety first. Be extremely careful and double-check that your gun is not loaded. Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
1. Removing rust with a soft steel wool pad
If there is only a small amount of rust that isn't embedded in the metal, simply use steel wool pads (fine or extra-fine - the kind used for final wood finishing). Unlike a soft rag, this abrasive material is hard enough to remove the unsightly iron oxide from your gun but softer than the metal it has formed on.
With a bit of steel wool and little elbow grease, you can take care of the most basic rust removal. Don't put too much pressure when you scrub.
Be aware that when you're cleaning your gun with any oil and abrasive material, you're also removing the bluing.
If it's not working, go to method number two below.
2. Cleaning with gun oil
If the surface rust remains after you've lightly scrubbed it with a bit of steel wool, it's time to add some lubrication into the mix. Apply the gun oil to the rusted spots on the gun and leave it to soak in. The lubrication plays a role in loosening the rust from the metal parts, making it easier to gently rub it away.
You can use a dry cloth, steel wool, or a copper brush to wipe the rust away. If you see the oil changing color from clear to rusty, it means you're making progress!
Cooking oil and an abrasive material can also do the job, but it's not as effective on older deep-set rust. Oil can cause a mess, so make sure to wipe off any excess oil from the weapon parts.
3. How to clean rust off a gun with a battery charger
This is the perfect method to remove rust if you have a firearm that is copper, brass, aluminum, or an alloy, especially if it is severely affected by heavy rust.
- Make an alkaline bath by mixing 1 tablespoon of washing soda per gallon of water in a plastic container
- Create a mechanism that will hold the rebar firmly submerged below the water beside the firearm.
- Attach the positive (red wire) clamp to the rebar, and the negative (black wire) to the firearm that is submerged in the alkaline bath.
- Switch on the battery charger to a low setting. You'll notice the mixture begin to bubble and the rust falling off the firearm, displaced onto the rebar and in the water. (Note, that these are hydrogen bubbles, so be sure to do it in an area that won't spark, or in an outside area that won't have hydrogen build-up through the process.)
- After a few hours, you can remove your gun from the mixture (after you've turned the battery charger off safely). The surface rust will have been removed, and you can very easily wipe the remainder of the rust spots away with a rag.
For a video example of how removing rust by electrolysis works, check out this video. You should also be aware that this process will remove all bluing from the metal surface of the gun, so it's very important to add a layer of rust protection after you're through with this method.
This is the easiest of all the methods. The advantage of WD-40 is that it does not affect the bluing of the metal surface. The drawback is that it won't remove tough ingrained rust.
All you need to do is:
- Spray the gun with WD-40 solution. Leave the solution for about 24 hours.
- Respray it
- Clean the surface with a cloth.
Prevention is always better than removal. We've written on the six best ways to store your guns to prevent rust. Give it a read for an in-depth look at everything you need to know about rust prevention. The key takeaways are:
- Store your guns in the right case - this should be dustproof, waterproof and shockproof with padded foam. Check out our range of specialist gun cases that tick all the boxes for safe storage for any weapon in your armory.
- Keep the case in the right place - the temperature needs to stay at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and in a dry place with a humidity of between 50% - 55%.
- For longer-term storage, use a dehumidifier, cosmoline, or vacuum seal bags to keep the environment optimal.
- Clean and oil your gun regularly. This will eliminate any microscopic particles that makes your gun vulnerable to rusting.
- Avoid taking your gun out in bad weather. If you do expose your gun to less than perfect conditions, clean it as soon as possible when you back at home base.
- Avoid corrosive ammunition. The primer in this older ammo contains potassium chlorate, which deposits salt when fired. Add some moisture and it's the equivalent of storing your gun in the exposed sea air.
Removing rust from a gun will protect it from damage and extend its useful life.
Once it's rust-free, keep it that way. Invest in gun cases that protect your firearms from the conditions that damage them, and keep them safely stored at home or when you're traveling.
We're always happy to help you with all of your gun storage queries. Don't hesitate to contact us anytime.