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Scott Rall: Give that gun the attention it deserves

The chicken chasing days are just about over for this year.  

Chicken chasing is my slang term for pheasant hunting. The term was derived from my waterfowler friend, Jim Cox. He always referred to pheasants as ditch chickens or ditch parrots. Either one works for me.

Minnesota season closed on Jan. 1. South Dakota closed on Jan. 6, and Iowa closes on Jan. 10. The last season to close is Kansas, and that season will shut down on Jan. 31. The reason they are open later is that they start about three weeks later in the fall.

I have been asked several times over the past few weeks if I would be willing to help some of my hunting friends clean their guns. A gun that gets little attention during the season, or after, is not going to be a very good friend in the field.

Different kinds of guns can take differing amounts of neglect. A pump gun can go a long time between cleaning. An over-under comes in second.The gun that requires the most attention is a semi-auto-loader shotgun. That is a gun that will fire one round per trigger pull. It automatically expels the spent shell and loads the next. That allows the hunter to make several consecutive shots in close succession.

Most gun owners cannot disassemble and re-assemble their own gun in the way it needs to be done in order to keep it performing to the best of its capabilities. They can and do disassemble the gun into its major parts, but never get into the guts of the firearm to remove all of the invasive stuff that gets in there.

So what can actually get into the guts of my shotguns? More than I thought possible.

I spent the first two months of the 2018 pheasant season with a new gun I purchased a year ago. It was a Browning A-5 Sweet 16.  

The gun was manufactured by Browning and a few others for many years but was discontinued back around 1970. The reason for its demise was that the consumer was getting more and more interested in the 12-gauge shotguns of the day.

It was re-released again in 2017. I had one from 1965 and had to have the new model to match. Anyway, I was hunting with this gun and the safety locked up on me. There was a seed or other impediment in the trigger assembly that kept the safety from operating correctly.

I took it home and laid it out on the kitchen counter. I disassembled it and was blown away by the amount of material that was clogging the inside. Seeds of every size and color were there.  Cattail fuzz mixed with moisture and lubrication oil had turned into what look like paper mache. The inside of the springs were also filled with seeds. I have seen guns that needed cleaning before, but never one of mine and never like this one.

It was a pretty new gun to me, so I did what every other gun owner would do. I Youtubed it and found a video of how to do it correctly. Not only was there one, but there must have been a dozen.

I tore it down and after a thorough cleaning, the safety was still sticking. I operated the safety from the fire to safe position about 400 times and finally a small seed was produced. When the seed fell out, the safety worked perfectly.

There is an old saying that a gun only has two enemies — politicians and rust. Not taking care of your firearm does not make you its enemy, but it would sure like you better if you cared for it properly.

Good gun maintenance will help keep any gun working better and longer. If you only hunt a few times each year, you might only clean your gun one time per year. If you hunt a lot, then it might be every three weeks or so. It just depends on where you go and how many hours you spend in the field.

Always start with an unloaded gun. I use Remoil and paper towels. Use the helper videos to do a good through job, and always go light on the oil. The metal parts need very little lubrication.

Too much oil will get thick and sludgy when the weather is cold. It also attracts dust. Dust turns to dirt and with a little moisture added in, you have a 7- to 8-pound paper weight instead of a trusty smoke pole.

Many of you will wait till the night before the opener next season to see what lasts year’s accumulations look like. Over that time, you might even get a little rust. Take an evening and watch a few videos, and take time now so the next pre-opening evening all you have left to do is look at a map to see what special spot you will hunt in first tomorrow.