In this 2-part article on air rifle care and maintenance, I am going to principally refer to Weihrauch air rifles being a dealer for these guns. However, you guys that own other brands of air rifle can take home much of what is in this article as it basically applies not only to air rifles but rifles and handguns in general.
Those of you with more air rifle experience and conditioning that sees you looking after your air rifle, you may want to pass on this article.
Periodic Air Rifle Care and Maintenance.
Over the many years I have been involved with air rifles, I have noticed 2 things that keep air gunners apart from the general shooting fraternity. The first thing is that many, not all, but many air rifle owners do not clean or maintain their air rifles with the same dexterity that rim and centre fire rifle owners do. The reasoning that I have been given is that air rifle pellets do not ‘lead up’ barrels like conventional firearms do. Hmmm.….., wrong!
Pellets ‘lead up’ air rifle barrels just as much and sometimes more, depending on the quality of pellets used. Many air rifle pellets have lubricants applied to them to assist in the manufacturing process of such tiny castings and in some cases, to assist in reducing friction when fired in an air rifle. Some pellets have preservatives on them to reduce oxidising and cross-contamination when placed in a tin or amongst other pellets. Pellets also get deformed knocking around in the tins in which you buy them or through being carried in your pockets where they pick up lint, dirt and other contaminants – this can be alleviated to some degree by storing your pellets in a dedicated Pellet Pouch.
These lubricants/preservatives are basically contaminants in the big picture and tend to adhere to the rifling in the barrel. Over time and through irregular use, the build up of these ‘lubricants’ tends to alter in their physical composition and their semi-fluid status by becoming harder. This in effect then adds friction to passing pellets rather than assisting the pellet by reducing friction in the air rifle’s bore.
Causes for the state of change comes about by atmospheric changes such as heat and cold, rain and humidity, differing lubricants and cross contamination through using different brand pellets, and so on. Bottom line for whatever reasons, are that the traces of lubricant or preservatives do change their state over time and therefor should be removed with regular barrel cleaning, using approved cleaning solutions and kits.
The second thing I have seen primarily with air gunners is that many restrict maintenance to just oiling the barrel and visible mechanics of their air rifle. The problem arises here is that quite often rust and corrosion takes effect between the gun and the stock where it can’t be seen with the naked eye until the air rifle is removed from the stock. So, in this article I am going to cover the basics that I feel are required to keep and maintain your air rifle in premium condition.
As can be seen from the pellet on the left below, it has obvious signs of oxidization that would normally end up in the bore of your air rifle. Compare it to the image below right and there you have a better-quality pellet with less baggage. What is the difference apart from oxidization? Answer, Price.
The air rifle pellet to the right, is not only smoother and better defined than the one on the left, but it also performs a lot better with more consistent grouping.
By late 2020 we will have a complex pellet analysis on this website where you will find data taken from results obtained by firing various air rifles, both spring and PCPs. Some of the results we are currently getting are already at odds with common beliefs about air rifle pellet behaviour.
Often when I get an air rifle in for maintenance or to fit a Vortek Air Rifle tuning kit I find that the securing screws have been butchered by heavy handed clowns using the wrong sized screwdrivers and/or Allen keys. While the screws still work ok, they are a blight on an otherwise good looking rifle. Good air rifle care extends to using the correct tools to prevent such problems.
So before you get out your air rifle after reading this and proceed to strip it down, do yourself a favour and assemble the following:
- The correct width flat head screwdrivers that are needed – one without sharp edges above the flat head will ensure you don’t mark your stock (you can grind/file and polish the edges smooth which I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND).
- In the case where Phillips screws have been used, carefully size and select the correct screwdriver.
- Allen keys. Weihrauch air rifles use Metric Allen Keys while some British and American firearms use Imperial. Do NOT attempt to use the incorrect keys as you will only stuff up the screw inlet possibly rendering it impossible if not difficult to remove later.
- A basic set of pliers, small ¼” socket set, small hammer (key word here is “small….”), pin punches, wire brush, vernier calipers (they are quite cheap now and even come in a carbon fibre version which work quite well, see below), small mirror, tweezers, small file set, parts tray, small LED torch and a Mini Hook and Pick set.
- Carbon Vernier Calipers are a must in most work carried out on an air rifle.
- Degreasing spray or fluid. This can be an automotive degreaser which is a lot cheaper than the dedicated firearm degreasers that are on the market. I have found no benefit in one degreaser over the other apart from price.
- If you need to touch up bluing, you will need:
- some Bluing solution in liquid or gel form
- clean toweling or cotton material
- paper towels
- applicator – brush, sponge or soft cloth
- Wire wool – preferably stainless wool if you can get it.
- Gun Oil or Silicone Spray. Some ‘die-hards’ will debunk Silicon Spray in favour of good old “gun oil” like their Grandpa used. I’m not going to get into a pissing contest here over which is better but just say that times have changed, and a good Silicon Spray is just that, “good” and they work just fine, though when dispensed from an Aerosol, they tend to ‘dry out’ leaving a mottled film on the bluing. This mottled film is still Silicone only it has been diluted with Aerosol solvents to enable it to be spayed from a low pressure canister. When these solvents disperse, they tend to leave varying thicknesses of Silicone film behind, hence the mottled look you get after a few hours.
Air rifle care and maintenance requires Gun Oils, these come in different qualities with some being really crappy and others very good. Having worked in the USA, where I mixed with a number of Gun enthusiasts there who use Mobil 1 synthetic engine oil. I have even spoken to some seasoned Police who swear by it as it has many of the qualities required to protect your firearm from rust and the like. I use it and have done for many years with great results and the best thing of all, is it is readily available in small quantities and it is a lot cheaper than the ‘Gun Oil’ you get around the traps. Mobile 1 Synthetic oilAs air rifles do not get as hot as centre fire rifles or handguns, I use a 5W30 grade Mobil 1 and I recommend that anyone reading this should give it a go. Mobil 1 is a polyalphaolefin based synthetic motor oil and not a regular mineral motor oil. As a ‘gun oil’ in the true sense of the word, the specs of Mobil 1 appear to exceed that of Rem Oil and Militec-1, both very respected gun oils.It should also be noted that automotive oils are subjected to extremely competitive marketing and so a lot of constant research goes into making the oils better, whereas “gun oils” are part of a very miniscule niche market where large research programs are not affordable. Hence the growing gap in quality between the two types of oils is becoming evident .
- Cleaning kit for air rifle care. Here you need a dedicated Gun Cleaning Kit:
- A ‘Pull Through’ rod of the correct diameter.
- Bronze Bristle brushes of the correct size.
- Pull Through Loop to pull cotton patches through the barrel.
- A good supply of flannel cleaning patches that should only be used once before discarding. Make sure that they are the correct size.
- A Bore cleaner or Solvent for de-leading rifle barrels.
ATA Cleaning Kit
- An air rifle stand to hold your gun steady for cleaning and working on it is a must. You only need to drop your air rifle once to understand me.
I seriously suggest that you make it out of wood if you don’t want to buy one. If you do make it, make 2 grips, one for the complete air rifle and another so you can hold the rifle mechanism when you break it down.
- Basically a wood box where your gun cleaning tools and solvents etc. can be stored.
- Inside the box you have 2 sets of stands, one for the complete rifle and another for the rifle mechanism plus your dedicated rifle tools.
- I will post a set of drawings and photos shortly of how to make one and you can copy this for yourself. Any problems then just buzz me.
- You need a large coffee tin or similar to drop your used cloths and rags into when you have finished. These should then be soaked in water before being discarded. Oily cloths and those with solvents in them have been known to self combust and I’m guessing a fire in your gun room or safe is not really what you may have in mind.
Air Rifle Care Part 1 Summary.
That should just about do it for your air rifle maintenance kit. As far as the screwdrivers, pliers and Allen keys go, I have found it prudent to go out and buy the specific tools I require and keep them separate from my automotive tools – this saves you from dicking around in the garage looking for the right gear each time you decide to work on your air rifle, trust me.