I was over a friend’s house today, and it was while I was standing in front of his Cannon safe I had the inspiration to write an article about proper storage of firearms in terms of temperature and humidity levels. Many of us own, or will at some point in our lives own, a safe for our firearm collection. Yet how many of us know that there is actually a proper temperature and humidity level to keep the inside environment at? We guess most of the times. Some of us buy the Silica gel packets or dehumidifiers from the sporting good stores, and hope our guns won’t rust away to nothing, but there are a few facts that can help keep our firearm collection in top condition. We beat up our gear enough out in the field; we own it to our weapons to give them a safe place to sleep.
Here a some quick tips that will keep your firearms nice and happy while in lockdown:
1. Silica Gel Dehumidifiers are a great way to remove moisture from the air, but they do not last forever…
Silica Gel beads lower the amount of moisture coming in contact with your firearms by absorbing the moisture and holding it. It does not “get rid of” moisture; as stated before Silica simply holds onto it and this is important to realize. Silica gel only works for so long, as the day will come when it can no longer attract any more moisture. For it to work effectively, it needs to be replaced, or recharged (usually by either placing the packet in an oven as per the manufacturer’s instructions, or by plugging into a wall’s electrical receptacle. Recharging the packets will remove the moisture from them, and allow them to start the moisture collecting process all over again. I prefer the ones you plug into the wall, monitor for a few hours like the instructions say, and then place back in your safe. (SEE LINKS BELOW) So guys, please don’t collect the little silica packets you find in the mail in the bottom of boxes and expect them to keep your weapons rust free forever.
2. The “Golden Rod” also works because of the magic of Science.
I find these rods to be a popular way to control humidity in gun safes. They work on the principal that by raising the internal temperature of your safe a few degrees, you lower the relative humidity in the safe since you are expanding the cold air, creating circulating current and some of the moisture leaves the safe when the warm air expands. An added benefit is that when you open the safe, moisture tends to condensate less on the firearms since they are warmer than the air coming into the safe. (I am a gunfighting major, not a science major, so I hope I got that science stuff right.)
3. Proper Temperature and Humidity Levels
There is much talk about what the proper levels for firearms in a safe are exactly. Everyone has their own numbers they are shooting for. To put it simply, the “perfect numbers” vary. There are so many factors, like the type of wood a stock is made of, that the number may be hard to estimate without having your entire collection analyzed by a firearms museum specialist. Even then, some comprimize is needed as each firearm will have its own perfect temperature and humidity levels required for optimum storage, and this can be hard to actualize since we only have a few safes.
One important thing to consider here; our goal is not preserving our firearms for 1000 years in a museum. We are not museums. We do not have separate containers for each of our guns; we have a few safes, and have to aim for numbers that we can try to maintain throughout the year to create a comfortable sleeping area for our weapons. Our goal, is safety, accuracy, and speed, not museum stuff… What does help us is the NRA’s National Firearms Museum very own Senior Curator, Doug Wicklund, has written a small paper about caring for our collections. He states that the idea year-round Temperature to shoot for is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the idea Humidity is 50% Relative Humidity. In both measurements, consistency is the key. A change too fast in humidity, for example, can lead to wood stocks developing cracks.
4. Buy a temperature and humidity level monitor
This may seem obvious, but many gun owners own Silica Dehumidifiers (that they think last forever) and don’t own a gauge to detect the level of these important measurements. The Humidity could for example, already be too low, and there they go putting more Silica Gel Packets into the safe worrying about rust while there stocks are cracking from the lack of humidity. Monitor, and aim for keeping the numbers around the above recommendations.
5. Best Practices.
Last but not least, another quick tip is that a gun safe with the proper gauges and dehumidifiers is like a refrigerator; it works well when set up properly, but if you leave the door open for an hour as you clean the guns/cook dinner, you will find it is not as effective in its job. I have seen it too many times; open the door to get the gun, and walk away for minutes at a time, and forget to close the door. Keep the door closed people.