Make no mistake, neglecting your rifle will eventually end up biting you when you least expect it. We all get away with casually neglecting some of life’s small details, but having a rifle fail from inattention can be catastrophic and unnecessary. Here are some tips to keep your rifle safe and ready for hunting season.
Check your action. Whether you are shooting your old faithful or breaking in a new rifle, you need to check the action to make sure no surprises await you in the field. On older rifles, you will need to check everywhere for cracks. You will also need to cycle several shells to confirm proper performance of your magazine as all springs wear out over time. This is the best time to check for feeding and extraction.
Confirm your zero. Hopefully, you are checking your rifle’s performance year round, but in reality most hunters only pull out their rifles before hunting season. If you are guilty of this, then you will need to shoot a few groups to make sure everything is tuned up and tuned in. I always shoot a three shot group and then check for loose screws or parts. If I find anything out of place, I correct it and send a few more rounds down range.
Clean and foul your barrel. There is a long standing question that has perplexed rifle shooters for ages; why do dirty barrels shoot better? It is a fact that cheaper, non-custom factory rifle bores have tiny imperfections. These microscopic flaws cause inaccuracy, but when a shell is fired, the copper residue from the expanding bullet can fill in these areas and therefore, make the rifle more accurate.
To achieve maximum accuracy with your rifle, you will want to always shoot through a cool barrel and clean thoroughly after each shooting session. For long term gun storage, keep the barrel clean, but for hunting precision, shoot a round or two through the barrel and leave your weapon dirty. This will keep you dialed in. Some bench shooters shoot as many as 100-150 rounds without cleaning to insure exactness.
Check the extras. In three decades of hunting, I have had my front sling swivel stud come off my stock more than a few times. One time my rife fell off my shoulder and landed right on the objective bell of my scope, knocking it way out of zero. Don’t let this happen to you. Check your swivel studs, and check your stock over really well for cracks. Cracks can be an early-warning sign that damage has occurred and at the least will need to be checked out. It is also a good idea to check your rifle case to make sure everything is functioning properly and check any bipod attachment points and hardware.