What a terrible fate our friends on the upper Texas Gulf Coast have experienced in the recent flooding resulting from the record breaking rainfall of Hurricane Harvey. If your firearms have suffered the same fate there are somethings that need to be done to avoid a total loss.
So what should be done to limit the damage that flood waters can cause to expensive fire arms? Restoring Firearms that have been exposed or immersed in flood water is generally a three-phased process.
1. STOP THE DAMAGE FROM GETTING ANY WORSE. Check first to make sure the firearm is unloaded. Remove firearms to a safe, dry location. Document the condition of the firearm by taking digital photos noting the date and time the firearm was recovered for insurance purposes. If multiple firearms are involved, identify the highest priority to the lowest priority firearms to work on. Highest priority should go to the most expensive firearms and firearms with a wood stock. On guns with wood, remove the wood as soon as possible, then remove any metal fittings that may be attached (sling swivels, butt plate or recoil pad, trigger guard, etc.) Wipe the water from all surfaces of the wood and allow it to air dry. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HEAT THE WOOD IN AN ATTEMPT TO HASTEN THE PROCESS. NO OVENS. NO HAIR DRYERS. HEAT WILL WARP THE WOOD. While the wood dries (which, realistically, could take days or weeks), take immediate steps to remove all water from the metal parts of the firearm. This best done by field stripping the firearm and using WD-40 and an air compressor or canned compressed air to force the water out of the crevices of the firearm, with special attention given to extractors. Wipe off the WD-40 and apply a light coat of gun oil, CLP, or other good quality anti-corrosive made for firearms to all metal surfaces. Then move on to the next gun. This is a time sensitive process, so focus more on separating water from from metal and move on. Detailed cleaning will come later.
2. DETAILED CLEANING OF THE FIREARM'S MOVING PARTS. After all the effected firearms have been through step one, the next priority is to break the firearm down to its smallest parts and clean them with a general purpose cleaner like Simple Green, thoroughly dry the parts and coat them again with a good quality anti-corrosive (gun oil, CLP, Corrosion-X). Reassemble and function check. If you are not comfortable with completely disassembling your firearm down to the smallest part, take it to a gunsmith. By this time, the wood should be dried to the point that any long term damage will be evident so you can determine whether or not it can be salvaged and restored or replaced. This is where the digital photos taken may help with offsetting the cost of recovery.
3. RESTORE/REPLACE PARTS OR WOOD DAMAGED BEYOND RECOVERY. Where wood surface is discolored or grain is raised causing a rough appearance, resurfacing and resealing the wood will be necessary. If the stock is damaged beyond restorabilty, then replacing the stock becomes the priority. If the firearm is a collectible or relic and the stock is no longer available, then you will need to decide whether or not to engage a gunsmith to fabricate a new stock. If the metal surface is discolored, then a gunsmith can help you decide whether or not to re-blue.
Phases 2 & 3 can be done as time and resources permit. But Phase 1 must be done as soon as possible after a firearm has been recovered from flood water if damage is to be limited to the extent possible.
My thoughts and prayers go out to my many friends in the Houston area. If I can answer specific questions on a particular firearm, don' hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.