Today’s hunters are blessed with the most advanced rifles, cartridges, and sighting systems in history. Today, there are rifles that can literally be left out in the rain and snow without worry about rust or warped stocks. This is a huge advantage to the hunter that often hunts in adverse weather, whether it be rain and snow, or dust and heat. If you go to a gun store, you will find all kinds of rifles with synthetic stocks, and some kind of rust proof finish on the metal. Most of these rifles are of stainless steel, which will rust eventually, but which is much more resistant than blued carbon steel. Hunters are buying these rifles by the thousands, as they give numerous advantages in the field. They allow the hunter to worry less about their rifle’s condition, indeed, allowing the hunter to concentrate more on the hunt. Plastic, or synthetic stocks, are immune to warpage, so the liklihood of a warped stock throwing the rifle’s sights off is pratically non-existant. These rifles are very practical for hunting in tough conditions, such as Alaska, where moisture is a daily occurence, and can wreak havoc on metal and wood stocks.
However, what if you just love the looks and feel of walnut stocks and blued metal? What if you can’t see yourself carrying the latest plain, ugly, but entirely practical, plastic stocked, stainless steel rifle? That’s the problem with today’s synthetic stocked rifles. They’re all the same. One stock looks identical to another. That’s what happens when they come out of the same mold. Wood stocks, on the other hand, all have their own unique look. Not only that, but what about the feel of good wood? Wood stocks have a warmth about them that plastic just cannot match. There’s something about wood, particularly walnut, that brings warmth and character to a firearm.
So what if you have a strong preference for blued steel and walnut? Does this mean that you’ll have to forego some hunting opportunities because you’re rifle isn’t up to par with the weather? Hardly. What you’ll have to do is prepare your rifle in such a way that it will be resistant to moisture and/or dust. With a little pre-hunt preparation you can make that wood stock all but impervious to rain. You can also easily make blued steel a lot more resistant to rust. Yes, it will require a little extra maintenance than with synthetics and stainless, but it will be well worth it if you love to hunt with your traditional wood stocked rifle.
Making your wood stock resistant to moisture is relatively simple. What you’ll need is a good wood filler or spar varnish. Birchwood Casey, Outers, and a variety of other gun-care firms make it, or you can pick up a commercial brand at the local hardware store. Remove the stock from the barreled action, and remove the butt pad as well. Now use the wood filler to completely seal any open wood pores in the barrel channel, action area, and the area under the buttpad. You may have to do this two or three times before all the pores are completely filled. Once the pores are filled and the finish dried, you can put three or four coats of auto wax on the same portions of the stock. If the outside of the stock has a urethane finish, then it’s usually ready to go, but oil or older varnish finishes can also use a coating of auto wax, or maybe even furniture polish. This will help the outside of the stock to shed water. You should also place a strip of electrical tape along the gap between the forend and the barrel. This will help keep water from reaching the inside of the stock. However, even if some water does get through, the rifle stock should still be fine if the pores have all been previously filled.
You can also coat blued steel with auto wax to help resist rust. Auto wax can cut the chances of rust by an enormous amount. Even better, you can use such products as Rust-Guardit, which can be sprayed on the metal. Or you can coat the steel with some sort of modern gun oil like Break-Free, which is much more effective at preventing rust than auto wax. The last thing you’ll want to do, is place a small piece of electrical tape over the muzzle of the rifle. This will prevent water from entering the barrel while being carried. You don’t even need to remove the tape if a shot happens to present itself. Gases in front of the fired bullet will pop the tape off the muzzle long before the bullet exits the barrel, and will have absolutley no effect on accuracy.
If time is taken to follow these steps, then there will be little chance of the stock warping during a hunt. The wax and rust preventatives won’t last all season and you might have to repeat the steps if you spend a lot of time in foul weather. However, these tips will keep your traditonal rifle running in wet weather as well as a synthetic stocked rifle. You should never have to experience any stock warpage if the rifle is prepared in the above manner. All it requires is a little extra maintenance, and you can take your favorite wood stocked, blued steel rifle on any hunt that you desire. Being able to use your favorite rifle just adds so much more to a good hunting trip.