Tom Gresham writes [via Ammoland.com]:

Firearms and ammunition flooded and possibly abandoned in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and southwest Louisiana must be addressed immediately, say experts who offer specific actions for gun owners.

The number of guns which were affected by the flooding numbers at least in the tens of thousands, and may well exceed 100,000, not to mention ammunition, which could exceed one million rounds.

The key, said Tom Gresham, host of the nationally-syndicated radio show “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk,” is to get control of the firearms, to clean and protect them, and to address the safety issue with submerged ammunition.

“Many of these guns are family heirlooms,” said Gresham. “It’s common for a gun to be passed down from a grandparent or even a great grandparent. Losing those family connections to a gun that has rusted to uselessness simply is unnecessary.

By now, residents have gone in and gotten their guns, so they should be in safe hands. But, they must act quickly to save and protect their valuable possessions.”
On “Gun Talk” radio, Gresham recently talked with experts who offered three key actions for gun owners.

1. Dry Out Your Guns

Affected firearms need to be disassembled and the metal parts soaked in penetrating oils designed to displace water. Stocks, grips, or any wood or plastic parts that may hold water must be removed beforehand. Leave the parts separate as they dry, then reassemble. After the process, if gun owners are at all unsure whether the gun is safe to shoot, Gresham suggests a gunsmith be consulted.

The key, according to Johnny Dury, of Dury’s Guns in San Antonio, is to get the water out, using a water displacement oil or spray. Water that’s trapped in the parts of the gun will cause rust — a gun’s worst enemy.

If the gun was submerged in salt water, Steve Ostrem, of the online gunsmith supplier Brownells, recommends cleaning the gun first with fresh water, then following with the penetrating oil.

For Ostrem’s product suggestions, and other advice on salvaging flooded guns, check out his interview on Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk radio.

2. Keep Them Dry

Once the gun is successfully dried out, keep it in a dry environment. Gresham says preparing the gun as you would for long-term storage, using the necessary coatings and rust preventatives, and placing it in dry, humidity-free location will protect guns from further damage.

Gun storage bags, combined with silica gel or vapor barrier products protect firearms from the high humidity often encountered after a flood.

3. Do Not Shoot Submerged Ammo

Gresham said the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s guidelines for ammunition which has been submerged is to not shoot it. Water may have seeped into the cartridges, rendering them unreliable, or possibly unsafe.

Owners can either dispose of the ammunition, or they can recycle it. Check with the local authorities about how to properly dispose of flooded ammunition. Or, even better, reload it.

Water damaged ammo contains a lot of salvageable material. It can be taken apart, and the bullet (projectile) and brass case can be reused.

The propellant (“gun powder”) can be discarded. If the owner cannot or does not want to reload, the affected ammo can be donated or sold to someone else for safe reloading.


About Tom Gresham’s GUNTALK Radio:

In its 23rd year of national syndication, Tom Gresham’s GUNTALK radio show airs live on Sundays from 2PM-5PM Eastern, and runs on more than 200 stations every week. Listen live on a radio station near you (http://guntalk.com/site39.php) or via live streaming from one of the stations here: http://guntalk.com/site38.php. All GUNTALK shows can also be downloaded as podcasts at http://www.guntalk.libsyn.com, Apple iTunes, and i-Heart radio, or through one of the available Apps: GunDealio for iPhone, GunDealio for Android, Gun Talk App on Stitcher, the Gun Talk iPhone App, and the Gun Talk App for Android on Amazon. GUNTALK can also be heard on YouTube, at http://bit.ly/144G3OU. More information is available on their website.

54 Responses to Three Things to Do About Submerged Guns and Ammo

  1. The stock wood of guns submerged could take months to dry out fully, especially in that high-humidity area of the country.

    Guns that are re-assembled with wood that has been submerged in salt water need to be regularly disassembled from the wood, and more oil applied to the wood/metal interface area. The salt in the salt water will penetrate the unfinished areas of the wood, and will “sweat” out over the years, corroding the steel. Browning found this out the hard way when they tried to “salt cure” walnut blanks for stocks a few decades back…

  2. If you’re one of those guys that stockpiled tens of thousands of rounds of ammo this situation could be a major financial setback.

    • Milsurp ammo cans. A little plumbers grease to refresh the seal and good to go. They make good durable storage for handguns too, in a pinch.

      (Living at altitude, most cans I buy arrive somewhat presurized – if there’s no “pop” on the first opening it’s time for a new seal.)

    • I have to question who would buy thousands of rounds of ammo to stockpile it and then not adequately prep it for long term storage by protecting it against the elements? Very rarely is 10k rounds preferable to 9k rounds + proper storage (sealed airtight containers w/ desiccants).

  3. If I knew a hurricane and flood was coming, I would have made preparations beforehand to protect them. The best way handle the issue of flooded guns and ammo is to make sure they don’t get flooded to begin with.

    • Great question!
      I wanna know also.
      I plan on doing a submersion test in my pool when I return home from my evac from Lee Co to ORL for Irma.
      I will learn the lessons taught this weekend.

      • Yes steel ammo can are water tight as long as the seals aren’t compromised. Don’t buy the plastic ones they are water resident only because the lid overlaps the side. The O-ring DOES NOT SEAL on the plastic cans, put something on the O-ring, Vaseline, grease, chalk etc., and close them if you don’t believe me they do not touch the bottom and make a seal. I did a test with these in my pool and they leak but not the steel cans with a good seal. Most steel, even the Chinese cans, gave a good seal, I would still try to get the cans made in the good ol’ USA though, they gave a whose when opened. If you can’t do a pool test try a candle inside and close give it a few minuets and the candle will go out from lack of oxygen not a ideal test but will give a indication of the seal.

        • OBTW my pool is 8 foot deep where I placed them. Heck of a time getting them to the bottom, had to load them up with a lot of weight..

      • Speaking of pools, I heard on Fox this morning that a barracuda was washed up and into a guy’s swimming pool, and he was out there with a fishing pole trying to catch it.

    • I would imagine it depends on the depth it was submerged. It will work great out in the rain and snow i’m sure. Submerged may be a different story.

    • The guy in this link supposedly submerged plastic and metal ammo cans in a pond for a year. The metal cans seemed to hold their seal. The plastic cans, not so much.

      • Look at the junk plastic ammo cans he used though. They don’t even have an o ring completely around the top! This test tells me nothing about plastic cans with actual complete o rings. Plano cans and most others sold have a complete o ring, even Harbor Freight’s plastic cans come with a complete o ring. If he actually believed that a can without a complete o ring was going to keep water out he is an idiot.

    • I’ve seen ammo cans dumped in rapids from capsized canoes, bounce hundreds of feet and come out the other end a little scuffed – contents shaken but still dry.

      I could certainly see ammo surviving just fine in ammo cans underwater for a few days.

  4. With regard to the wet ammo, dismantle the ammunition to recover the projectiles and cases. A kinetic hammer is going to take too long. Use a collett bullet removing die in your press. Pour out the powder into your garden as it is a fertilizer. Dispose of the primers. Keep the cases if they are not corroded.

    • Even if the cases are corroded, they can be cleaned. The primers will have to be fired (how else can you get them out un-fired? A decaping pin would detonate them in the press. They must be fired first.

      • A decapping pin won’t detonate a primer unless you slam it hard. I’ve punched many live primers with a die without incident. Just go slow and use the minimum pressure required to push the primer out. I wouldn’t recommend a lee hand held decapper though. That could get sporting in a hurry.

      • I’ve punched out live primers many times (as in dozens) over the years. I’ve never popped a single one. You just have to take it slow and apply just enough force.

  5. One of the old tricks for cleaning after corrosive ammo was mixing Ballistol and water. The Ballistol would settle into nooks and crannies after the water evaporated. This might help a bit when you do the initial clean water flush of the previously-submerged parts.

    • Chris T,

      I don’t think the Henry AR-7 was designed to be submerged to any significant depth/pressure. That is why it is suppose to float.

      • The reason the AR-7 floats is because its mostly made from a plastic type material. Also the metal used is mostly a nonferrous type. I’m not implying it won’t rust. The steel parts will. But that rifle will last longer in a wet environment than any other long gun.

        And has anyone included a weapons cleaning kit with some type of gun lubricate, in their Go or Bug Out bag???
        Just something to think about.

        • Chris, you surely know that is non sense, don’t you?

          With high quality stainless steels and modern “super” coatings/finishes, the Henry has no chance of lasting longer in a wet environment.

        • Issac
          If my AR-7 falls over board, it floats, I can get it back. If an AR-15 or shotgun falls overboard. They are not coming back. Also with less metal the AR-7 has less possible rust issues.

          I wonder how many people dropped their guns in flood water and didn’t get them back???
          My 22 caliber AR-7 is better in my hand than a 12 gage shotgun at the bottom of the flood water.

    • Do you really want a bunch of annoying New England transplant liberals to invade Idaho and radically change the states government, to solid democrat, and introduce higher taxes, gun control, and an obscene amount of regulation? Didn’t think so.

    • The gulf of Texas got an entire year, and a record wet year of rain at that, in 3 days time. What would happen if you got a heavy year’s worth of snow in 3 days? What would happen if you got a heavy year’s worth of rain in 3 days? Now imagine that covering more than a 100 mile radius. Nothing like that has ever happened in recorded history. It is a new world record.
      And “move to higher ground” works just fine as you can live without our country having ports, fish, refineries, or oil.
      Think…then type.

      • Let me rephrase that:

        4. Please consider moving to higher ground now, before you no longer have a choice.

        Not necessarily Idaho, mind you, but you’re more than welcome to come here. We’ve got lots of room, especially in the desert. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

        Oceans are going to rise. Oceanfront property is going to sink. Hurricanes are going to get worse. It’s inevitable at this point.

        Beat the rush.

  6. Been a volunteer during the floods a few years back here in Prague and it is unbelievable how much damage a flood can bring. Also amazing how stupid some people can be, even some officials trying to manage the relief efforts (and doing more harm than good in the process). So I wouldn’t bet on *any* storage devices and advise moving one’s guns and ammo to places where the water has next to no chances of flooding and other people have next to no chance of being difficult or worse about those guns. I know that’s easier said than done, but I’d say that things like ammo boxes are good for keeping the rain out, not keeping the insides dry when it’s submerged under ten feet of water and mud and banged about a bit by flowing water or debris or even the house collapsing etc.

    Also, you might not be able to get to your guns the moment they stop being submerged, so the elements might have a lot of time to work on those guns. Some will end up past salvage.

    A t-shirt my other half sometimes wears says: guns have two enemies – corrosion and the EU. This time, the enemy is natural, not political.

    • Very good points Martin.

      If you see a hurricane coming, move your important stuff (including firearms and ammunition) to a location where they will not be flooded, period.

      If nothing else, go to a secluded location in a forest and hide your stuff where no one is likely to find it for a few days. All that you need to do is wrap your stuff tightly in a tarp, rest it on sticks a couple inches above the dirt, and pile sticks and leaves over it. Make sure your tarp generally matches the color of the forest: probably dark green when the forest has lots of green, and brown when the forest has lots of brown. Also make sure that no one saw you carry your stuff into the forest — and try not to leave an obvious trail of disturbed dirt, leaves, rocks, broken/cut branches, footprints, etc. Most importantly, make sure that you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO FIND YOUR STUFF AFTER THE STORM, even if the storm messes up the forest a bit!

  7. Are Harvey and Irma the new “lost all my guns in a boating accident on some random river excursion”?

    Any Sig P226 (SEAL edition) owners able to report how well their pistol fared?

  8. Bought 4000 rounds of USGI TW .308 that had been submerged(not in cans) for $0.10 each – these were all on stripper clips that had rusted to a point the rounds were hard to remove. Tumbled the heck out of ’em, loaded “em in belts for a 1919 and ALL went bang at a MG shoot ! We sold chances at running a 100 rounds as a fundraiser so we came out all right. If they’d been in cans, I expect they would have looked like new !

  9. Darwin says “When you had a week’s warning of a coming hurricane, you shoulda woulda coulda moved your ammo and guns!”

  10. If your ammunition is not stored a metal ammo cans with rubber seals, then you are WRONG.
    There are “guns experts” on You Tube displaying their 10K 15K or 20K rounds of just one caliber of ammo. I notice they don’t talk about the rubber sealed ammo cans to store them in. I wonder how many of them are now under water in Texas or Florida???

  11. First rule don’t let your firearms/ammo get wet. If you live in a flood/hurricane prone area you should already have a plan in place to protect them. Same as your family of pets. I have seen the destruction caused by these types of events and chose not to live in these areas. Never bet against Mother Nature. She always wins.

  12. The easiest solution is to send them to me (postage paid). Here in Colorado at 8000ft, the water has to get really high. I even accept the already flooded ones. I’ll take good care of them — promise.

    Seriously though, tumbling loaded ammo can have dire consequences. The tumbling process can scrub the moderator off of the powder granules or break them into smaller pieces. Both increase the burn rate, which ups the pressure, which can BOOM!. It’s safest to disassemble, polish the cases/bullets, and reassemble.

  13. “Three Things to Do About Submerged Guns and Ammo”

    Well, in regards to the ‘ammo’, learn how to reload, invest ~$750 for a good reloading setup, disassemble the ammunition that’s been submerged, and reload it to your specs.

    If you recover the cases and bullets (the two expensive components), your break-even point for almost all ammunition will be less than 1,000 rounds, plus you’ll have a superior cartridge and the ability to load as and when needed.

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