Fix it in the Field

1Hunting is a tough sport and sometimes bad things happen to your guns. Here are a few of the more common gun problems and how to do firearm repairs in the field.

2 Frozen Bolt

First of all, shame on you for this one.  I have seen it happen many times when the temperature drops down in the neighborhood of zero and if your gun fails to fire in extreme cold, it usually means you messed up. You should have degreased the bolt before the hunt. That said, I have also seen freezing rain form enough ice inside the bolt that the gun would not fire. Some things you just can’t control.

In the field, take the bolt out of the gun and put under your clothes, the armpit or crotch is the warmest. For the record, I tried both and I vastly favor the armpit. You will need to keep the bolt under your clothes until it’s warm. Then it will function until it gets cold again.

3Back at camp you can use lighter fluid, gasoline or Coleman lantern gas to remove the grease. Soak the bolt overnight and then slosh it around to flush out the grease.

Work outside and a good distance from any flame. I once had a Coleman lantern ignite the fumes from a 5 gallon gas can from ten feet away. I was outdoors on a boat dock and I was holding the can and pouring the gas.  Trust me; it’s not something you want on your life experiences list. I was extremely lucky not to have been seriously burned.

4A dry bolt will work temporarily, but you should re-lubricate if you can. There are plenty of good lubricants on the market today that maintain viscosity at extreme temperatures such as Break-Free CLP, which is rated to 65 degrees below zero. If you are hunting in colder weather than that, you have bigger problems than I can fix.

 Plugged Barrel

This one is common. For example, a few years back I fell off a snowmobile while on a late season elk hunt. My rifle barrel was plugged full of snow, which for the record is much better than mud.  Either way, it’s a common problem.

5The best solution is to have a segmented cleaning rod with you. But, who thinks that far ahead? Never try to shoot an obstruction out of the barrel. At best, you will wreck your gun, at worst you will die. Also, don’t try to cut a tree branch and jam it down the barrel. That almost always results in a branch stuck in the bore in addition to the snow or mud.

Remove the bolt or open the action on a rifle or shotgun and completely unload the gun. Make damn sure you have it completely unloaded and the action open so it’s inoperable. Then stuff a handkerchief in the action to catch the gunk.  Put the muzzle in your mouth and blow as fast and hard as you can. Short, hard, rapid, blasts are better than a constant pressure. This will remove most obstructions. If it does not work, try warming the barrel by rapidly rubbing your hand up and down the outside. Or use a lighter, a truck tailpipe or (carefully) a campfire. You are only trying to melt whatever is in there enough so you can remove it, so don’t let it get too hot.

6Once you have the obstruction out of the bore, clean out the mess in the action with the handkerchief. If it’s mud, chances are it is not cold enough to freeze, so carefully pour water from the breech end, letting it run out the muzzle to flush out the dirt and crud.

If you have a solid obstruction that cannot be removed this way, like a stuck bullet or compacted mud, then you must use a rod. If that fails, find a gunsmith.

 Broken Stock

You fell and now your rifle’s stock is broken. This fix is not pretty, but it will help you complete the hunt. Most camps have some sheetrock screws, wood screws or a few nails hanging around, find them. You can do this repair with just glue and tape, but some “structural” support like screws is far better. Even finish nails will work. It’s best if you can pre-drill the holes to keep the stock from splitting. Coat all the broken areas with epoxy glue. Put the pieces together and gently tighten the screws or tap in the nails. Then wrap it all with lots and lots of electrician’s tape. Start at the center and wrap to one end, overlapping by half. Then come back, past the center to the other end. Go back and forth this way for several passes. Apply enough pressure to stretch the tape to ¾ of its width.  Each wrap of the stretched tape provides more tension and more strength. Make sure that you wrap the tape well past the broken area, at least two inches on each side, more if you can. Let the glue dry overnight and be gentle for the rest of the hunt.

7If this was a high dollar custom walnut stock, you have my condolences, because the only permanent repair that looks good is replacement. Think about a high end synthetic stock. They are stronger, never warp in the weather and can be permanently repaired if it ever breaks again.

 Sling Swivel Pulled Out

8If the sling swivel pulls out of the stock it’s probably a coarse “wood screw” thread and the odds are the hole is stripped. First fill the hole with epoxy glue, then jam a couple of wooden matches in to fill it and cut them off flush with the stock. Now screw the swivel back into place using a nail or an Allen wrench through the hole to turn it. Wipe off the excess glue, let it set at least overnight and it should hold fine for the rest of your hunt.

Of course, the list of potential problems is much longer than this. When they crop up on a hunting trip, think like a Marine, improvise, adapt and overcome. Every problem has a solution; you just need to find it..

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