Unfortunately, many gun owners in Texas — and soon to be Florida — will be having to deal with guns and ammo that have been exposed to water. A lot of it. The NSSF and SAAMI have issued the follow guide for dealing with the situation:

Firearms owners who have seen their guns and stored ammunition submerged by flood waters in storm-wracked areas are probably wondering if their firearms and ammunition can be salvaged and safely used.

The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute® (SAAMI®) and National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) point to two helpful documents containing guidelines to assist gun owners in making sound decisions related to safely handling and treating or disposing of these items, emphasizing to always err on the side of caution and safety.

SAAMI, founded in 1926, is an organization that creates and publishes industry standards on firearms and ammunition. NSSF is the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry.

The SAAMI document “Guidance on Firearms That Have Been Submerged or Exposed to Extensive Amounts of Water” points out two major concerns about firearms that have been exposed to water: parts susceptible to moisture and rust damage such as metal parts, wood stocks and grips, and optics; and, secondly, infiltration of the action, barrel and safety systems by grit, silt and other foreign debris.

Always unload firearms before beginning any treatment process.

It’s important to limit moisture and corrosion damage to the component parts of the firearm. This can be accomplished by disassembling the component parts and using up to two coats of a moisture-displacing lubricant such as Hoppes #9 MDL or WD-40 to clean and stabilize the parts while, importantly, following the product’s directions so as not to damage, for instance, plastic or synthetic parts. Another tip is to allow wood stocks and grips to air-dry and not be force dried by exposure to heat.

The document emphasizes that once the firearm has been thoroughly dried, consideration must be given to having the firearm inspected and serviced by the manufacturer, an authorized service center, or a qualified gunsmith before putting the firearm back in service.

Dealing with Submerged Ammunition

To help firearms owners determine what to do with ammunition that has been affected by water and moisture, SAAMI offers another helpful document, “Guidance on Ammunition That Has Been Submerged in Water.”

Discussed are differences in moisture resistance between centerfire, rimfire and shotshell ammunition, and potential hazards associated with “drying out” cartridges, including possible deterioration and damage to cartridges due to drying methods.

Another serious hazard that could result from using compromised ammunition is the potential for a bore obstruction due to partial ignition of either the priming compound or the propellant powder charge, or both. Firing a subsequent round through an obstructed barrel can result in bodily injury, death and property damage.

SAAMI provides the following cautionary conclusion: “It would be impossible to ascertain for certain the extent of the deteriorating affect, if any, the water may have had on each individual cartridge. Therefore, the safe answer is that no attempt be made to salvage or use submerged ammunition. The ammunition should be disposed of in a safe and responsible manner. Contact your local law enforcement agency for disposal instructions in your area.

Resources:

Guidance on Ammunition That Has Been Submerged in Water
Guidance on Firearms That Have Been Submerged or Exposed to Extensive Amounts of Water

 

About NSSF
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 12,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.

32 Responses to What to Do With Firearms and Ammunition Affected by Flood Waters

  1. I have no direct experience with firearms, but quite a bit with engines. The key there is to keep the engine submerged until you are ready to tear it down. This limits corrosion and rust. I have disassembled many submerged marine engines and all they needed was drying out, cleaning, lubricating, new gaskets and assembly. So I recommend keeping your firearms submerged in water until you are ready to tear them down. Ammo? Good question.

    But all this makes me wonder, why would anyone let this happen to their firearms and ammo in the first place?

    • That was my first reaction. Why not spray them down with WD-40 and pack them in plastic bags in the attic or somewhere high and dry prior to evacuating? They knew they were going to get severe flooding. Heck, I packed up a bunch of emergency electronics in a faraday cage when I heard we had CME’s incoming this week and I wasn’t even expecting them to cause any damage. I guess I’m one of the few left that pay attention to the news and actually take action prior to potentially bad things happening.

    • I’ve had an old china clone flooded out last year, it sat with water in the crank case for about a year before I got around to trying to fix it. (I lost the governor spring so its bust for now.) No rust on the inside (oil). Aluminum block, the only rust was on the coil/magneto spinny thing.

      Id treat guns the same way we treated ours in the USMC after exposing them to open salt water for days on end… lots of rust busting, oiling, optics might need to be sent back to the manufacture for repairs. Snake the bore ASAP, thats priority #1, WD-40 and oil the triggers group, iron sites, and anything steel.

  2. And if the guns are totally FUBAR and can’t be fixed, find a gun buyback and turn them in for whatever money you can salvage.

    • With which we buy new (or old) guns!☺
      Just thought of something: if the gun is a total loss from damage and covered by the homeowners insurance, what happens to it?

      • I dont know who yoirinsurance is with, it depends on the companies policy. I have had insurance with allstate, gieco, and usaa, and all have NOT covered fireas in the basic homeowners policy. All of th required a special rider/valuable personnal property policy to cover firearms, scopes, and magazines. Ammo is considered a “disposable” item and has never beem covered at all

      • I’ve had Allstate and State Farm Mutual and both have limits on Firearms. You can either get a rider, or pick up a separate FA coverage policy. The rider from Statefarm was stupidly expensive, the NRA policy slightly less stupidly price. Eastern Insurance has a good ‘sporting arms’ policy, does not require serial numbers (for any single item less than 10K), and will not break the bank.

  3. Now I totally understand the theory that Trump caused these Hurricanes on purpose. He made sure to hit these pro-gun states so it would ruin a bunch of firearms so they would have to go out and buy a bunch of new firearms which will give a big boost to the gun manufacturers who have been slumping since Trump took office. Its all to satisfy the evil NRA!

    Wow, I’m surprised I didn’t make the connection sooner!

    • Donald Trump? Oh baloney I say!
      But consider this:
      The worst of Irma will be on 9/11. Coincidence? I don’t think so. You know where hurricanes never go? Wyoming, that’s where. You know who lives in Wyoming? Dick Cheney, that’s who.

      Damn Dick Cheney and his weather machine.

  4. “why would anyone let this happen to their firearms and ammo in the first place?”

    They were unable to take them when they left?

    It really makes no difference to the question at hand, what matters is what to do *now*.

    I’m inclined to believe you may have a point on leaving them in water until you can get to them, I know recovery operations like shipwreck salvage and aviation flight data recorders uses that method when found underwater…

  5. What could be better? How many of us “lost” our guns in the water! You know, the boat sank etc.
    Yes the hurricane destroyed my guns. Oh wait……I’m in Spokane. So what, minor technicality!
    The smoke melted my guns.

  6. Well, for the guns, just hit it with a lot of WD-40 until you’re ready to tear them down for cleaning. As for the ammunition, I’ve been to plenty of wildcat ranges and scavenged plenty of ammunition in various states of rust or tarnish. Rimfire is indeed, the most susceptible to inclement weather. However, I would simply wipe them off, (maybe with a disinfectant. Ew…) and then fire the ammo slowly. If you get a squib, you should be able to tell that something’s not quite right, and then remedy the situation with a cleaning rod or a wooden dowel.
    Then again, the recommended procedure of disposing of the ammo properly, may be best if you’re super concerned about your guns.

  7. The hurricane is scheduled to pass overhead this weekend
    I have coated all my guns in either duracoat or cerakote
    So the outsides are rust proof
    I’m right now glopping CLP’s collector long term storage oil in the bores and receivers and actions
    Then they go in contractors thick garbage bags in the safe
    That’s the best I can do
    If we lose the roof or have a 20 foot storm surge they will be submerged
    and we will have to leave by rubber dinghy with all 3 kids, the cat and the dog
    My wife put her foot down that we will only bring one pistol in the dinghy!

    • God be with you! Might as well get a bug out bag ready: important papers, vaccination records, birth certificates/Id’s, some cash, a dry box/bag for your phone’s, and yes – your one gun. Wifey is right, you’ll have way too much else to juggle to worry about more than one.

  8. WD-40 is a good water displacer – that’s what the “WD” in WD-40 stands for. It was developed to get water-based cutting fluids off of the workpiece in machine shops.

    There are other lubes, however, and other methods.

    You could do far worse than getting a 55 gal drum of water-displacing oil or lube. There are several variants of this. LPS lubes has LST and LPS-1. Du-Lite (the same guys who make hot blueing salts and hot blueing systems) have Kwikseal water displacing lubes – Kwikseal A would be my choice.

    If you and your buddies get together and buy a 55 gallon drum of some water-displacing lube, you could do far worse than to put the stuff into a drum with a removable header, pull your guns’ woodwork or stocks off, and then immerse the guns into the 55 gallon drum until you’re ready to clean them. The water-displacing oil will drive out the water from even the internal spaces (eg, inside the action, bolt/ etc) of the gun.

    These oils work because they have a high affinity for spreading their film over metallic surfaces. They get between the water and the metal’s surface, and kick the water out of the way. This is what gunsmiths and gunmakers use when we’re hot blueing – the last two stages of hot blueing are to rinse out the hot blueing salts – first in a hot rinse bath, then a cold rinse bath. After that, the gun parts are typically immersed into the water-displacing oil for at least 30 minutes, then put on a rack to drain the oil out.

    • “These oils work because they have a high affinity for spreading their film over metallic surfaces”

      Sounds like Hentai.

  9. The issue with only using WD40 is that in the case of moisture from a hurricane there could potentially be a lot of salt. I would think that they would recommend a similar cleaning method to what you would do after shooting corrosive ammunition. Hoppe’s would probably work, as well as, Ballistol or just plain old hot soapy water followed by something like WD40

    • Nothing is better at dissolving salt than water. Well, not a chemist, so I’ll rephrase that: Water is a fantastic solvent for sodium chloride.

  10. You mean most people don’t store their ammo in watertight containers, like .50 cal ammo cans, with desiccant packs in them? A flood might ruin the sticky notes stuck to my ammo cans, but I wouldn’t expect the ammo sealed in them to see any water.

    • “Wonder if you can make a locked safe waterproof with a silicone goop seal ?”

      You will likely have to destroy the safe getting it open again…

  11. Iv saved all the cosmoline from both my mosins. Should be enough for a few rifles, handguns, ammo, the rest of my familys stuff….

  12. As one who reloads, here’s how I would handle questionable ammo. Pull the bullets and make a note of the caliber and weight. If the powder looks dry, it’s probably okay and I would reseat the bullet and put the previously wet ammo in a marked container to shoot very slowly in case you get a squib. If you have any doubt about the powder, it makes a great fertilizer. It’s mostly nitrogen. I would then punch the primer out and re-use the case and bullet checking both carefully 1st of course.

  13. I stashed my gun and amno in my friend’s trunk before evacuating. I only really took essentials. Paperwork, gun/ammo, spare clothes, and other supplies I had previously had put together in case of an emergency.

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