The thermometer reads a bone-chilling -30° Celsius and the windchill makes it feel like -45°. Exposed skin freezes in a matter of minutes, so how does the cold affect your metal rifle components?
Hunters often spend hours, if not days hunting for their winter meat. The last thing you want to happen is to raise your rifle, find the deer in the scope, slide the safety off, and slowly squeeze the trigger, only to hear “click.”
It isn’t uncommon for a rifle to fail in extremely cold conditions. Most of the time the misfire can be blamed on a slow firing pin, delayed by freezing oil or grease within the bolt. The primer will usually be slightly indented, but the force of the firing pin hitting it is not enough to ignite the propellant.
Hunters faced with a frozen bolt can unload the rifle and work the bolt several times, pulling the trigger to help loosen the firing pin. After six to eight false fires the firing pin might be loose enough to work properly. But if there is lots of grease in your bolt, it won’t matter how many times you work it and the trigger, it simply won’t fire.
It’s better to prepare your rifle for the cold before you encounter the conditions in the field. New rifles are shipped with generous amounts of grease or oil on all components to prevent rust during transit. New rifles should always be stripped of shipping grease before heading to the range. The sticky lubricants can hold dust, powder residue, and dirt causing operation problems in some firearms. A clean bolt will ensure smooth operation but going lubrication-free in the extreme cold is the best option.
Remove the bolt from the gun and hold it over a pail. Use a can of brake cleaning fluid and spray the bolt until it is dripping out of all possible areas that could hold grease or oil. Turn the bolt to ensure the cleaning fluid gets into all moving portions of the bolt. Wait a few seconds then repeat the cleaning process. The brake fluid will cut and remove grease, oil, and dirt build-up and dry quickly without residue.
When the hunting season is over, apply a thin coating of gun oil or lubricant on the rifle and all working parts to ensure humidity won’t cause any rust while in storage.