Rust and cold weather related to guns

Rust and cold weather related to guns

This is a discussion on Rust and cold weather related to guns within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; 1. Rust. Let's talk about rust: the physics is slightly less boring if understanding it will help to protect guns. Corrosion is a process whereby ...

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Thread: Rust and cold weather related to guns

  1. #1
    Member Array sentioch's Avatar
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    Rust and cold weather related to guns

    1. Rust.

    Let's talk about rust: the physics is slightly less boring if understanding it will help to protect guns.

    Corrosion is a process whereby one metal gives some of its electrons to another metal. Since the electrons act as a glue that holds the metal together, this causes the piece of metal that lost electrons to corrode, and it leaves behind a by-product, which in the case of iron (a component of steel), is called iron-oxide, or more commonly just rust.

    The metal which gives electrons is called the anode and the metal that receives electrons is called the cathode. You may remember that these terms are also used to describe batteries. This makes sense because if electrons are flowing from one piece of metal to another, then that flow of electrons is an electrical current. In other words, a rusting gun is no different than a discharging battery.

    Because steel is a mixture of different metals, it is not completely homogeneous, and therefore the anode and cathode could be different parts of the same piece of metal. However, the more different the metals are, the more they will want to trade electrons. Thus it is more likely that if there are two different types of steel in close proximity on a gun, that one of them will develop rust and the other will not. For example, on my AR15 the firing selector is a good anode and the body is a good cathode and thus the firing selector will rust much more easily.

    2. Electrolytes

    It gets worse. The air isn't just pure oxygen, it also contains carbon dioxide (created from animals that breathe), and when water is exposed to carbon dioxide in the air it forms carbonic acid (there's your battery acid) which makes it an even better electrolyte, able to transfer electrons faster and rust faster. If you add salt to the water (such as in the sweat dripping off your gut), then it also becomes a better electrolyte. So in conclusion, if you are loving to fondle your gun and let the salts from your hand get on it and then breathe your acid breath all over it, you're probably not helping.

    Ok...so you just keep your guns dry and you won't get any rust. Right? Nope...

    3. Cold weather

    When you take a cold gun into a warm place, the metal warms up by taking heat from the air. Warmer air can hold more moisture than colder air, so as a result the air that is being cooled down must release some water on the surface of the metal (condensation). Condensation occurs anywhere air can get to...thus it occurs in the interior as well as exterior of the gun. Once you have water and oxygen, rusting begins to occur.

    This means that when you take your gun inside after wearing it around on a cold winter day, you are putting water all over and inside it, spurring the rust process. Keeping grease on the inside and cleaning the condensation off will help, but three are more effective ways to prevent this condensation from occurring in the first place.

    Before taking it into the warm place, put it in a ziploc bag. When you take the bag, filled with cold outside air, into the warm place, then the hot air will transfer its heat to the colder air inside the bag first, meaning that the condensation will form on the outside surface of the bag rather than all throughout the internals of your gun. Leave it in the baggie for 10 min or so and you won't have to worry about cleaning it manually. If you are extremely paranoid, a silica packet inside the bag will absorb any additional moisture that forms inside the bag. Although this is probably overkill for your firearms, it is a trick that you can also use on finnicky electronic devices...for example this is how photographers prevent rust in their cameras during winter photo-shoots.

    Of course, you probably love fondling your guns every day so I doubt the gun condom idea is going to be very popular.

    4. Storing in cold weather

    So as long as you keep water off the gun, and you don't bring it inside, you should be good right? Good to keep your gun in the car over winter for example, right?

    If your gun is in an airtight case, then yes. But if the case is not airtight, then the air temperature itself will naturally change over time. Every single day the air gets warmer, and this allows it to absorb moisture from the surroundings (such as snow). Then every single night the air will get colder which means it will release that moisture as condensation on everything the air can touch, like your gun. If you store it in your car, then put the heat on, then leave it in the car, the air cools down and can form condensation on everything inside the passenger region.

    5. Safe storage tricks

    Based on understanding how the rust works, it is clear that there are some simple things you can do to keep your gun safer. First, for small handguns you can make sure they are kept in an airtight container to protect them from condensation due to temperature fluctuations. Second you can put a silica packet (those little white baggies that come with electronics) into your case and this will help absorb any moisture that does get into the bag or case.

    The steel in your gun very likely has other metals added to it which increase its resistance to rust ("stainless"), or it may have special finish that helps reduce rust such as chrome, blued steel or gunmetal. I'm not very familiar with gun finishes. More temporary preventative measures are to use grease/lubricants and anti-corrosive agents.

    Inside of an expensive gun case, you might also consider putting a VCI emitter, which not only absorbs moisture but slowly dispenses corrosion inhibitors that bind to the metal automatically so you don't have to.

    6. Something to think about

    This report is not intended as a guideline or recommendation as to how to care for your gun. Only you can decide what is the best way to care for your gun....and I am not suggesting that everyone carry sandwich baggies around with them.

    Rather I just wanted to explain how rust occurs so you know what's risky and what isn't and how to prevent it if you are going to enter a high risk scenario. For example, I wish I know this information before I left my AR15 in a non-airtight case in the trunk of a car for 3 months in winter, as that damage could have been prevented.

    "In a world of compromise, some don't." -HK


  2. #2
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    Thanks for the post...certainly worth reading.
    Stay armed...avoid the rust...stay safe!
    The last Blood Moon Tetrad for this millennium starts in April 2014 and ends in September 2015...according to NASA.

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    Member Array rglyons's Avatar
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    Good post! Like being back in science class.

    An old-timer back in my muzzle-loading/black powder days knew that powder residue could and would start rusting finishes almost immediately.

    He recommended us "newbies" to use car wax on our original and replica Kentucky rifle metalworks to prevent moisture from getting to our finishes. It worked really good for me and it has carried forward to my modern weapons. It's worked for me! Also prevents rusting from perspiration on CCW.

    Again, EXCELLENT post.
    Yeah, My old CCW 9 MM is nicknamed "Barkey"
    New CCW LCP is "Elsie"
    and my 12 Ga S x S Coach gun is "Boomer"
    Wife's weapon is "Miss Pearl" (SP101 .357 w/mother of pearl inserts)
    We're old so we can get away with that.

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    Distinguished Member Array C9H13NO3's Avatar
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    Don't know if you know the answer to this one, but can metal rust under paint? I bought my 870 new and used krylon flat camo spray paint to camo it. I also painted the receiver and barrel. It was new and had no rust, so it it possible for the painted areas to rust below the surface of the paint without my ever knowing it because I can't see the metal?
    -Ryan

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

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    Member Array Coltman 77's Avatar
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    Excellent post sentioch. Thanks for sharing.
    "Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less".
    General Robert E. Lee

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    Member Array sentioch's Avatar
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    Now let's look at the technology that is already used for passive prevention of firearm rust...we like this because it doesn't require any work on our part. Plus it's nice to appreciate all the technology that goes into your purchase.

    Stainless steels.

    Various other metals are mixed in such as Manganese, Silicon, Chromium, Nickel, Molybdenum, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Selenium, Titantium in order to achieve a good balance between hardness and corrosion resistance. I'm not going to go into details here.

    Passivation methods.

    Passivation methods are ways to make a material "passive" so that it does not interact chemically with other things, ie, corrode. Most passivation methods involve an electro-chemical interaction to change the surface metals that is somewhere from a few nanometers to micrometers thick. The following are methods of adding additional protection to the stainless steel surface. I will order these in order of simplest to most advanced (and generally the more advanced methods are the most effective).

    1. Paint - A layer of paint can be helpful. The surface should first be scraped and sanded smooth to be perfectly clean, then apply epoxy primer and then rust-inhibiting paint on top of that. These contain traces of active metals such as Zinc, chromate, lead, barium metaborate. If it is rust-inhibiting it will say so on the can. A good paint job will prevent oxygen and moisture from getting to the metal below and this will prevent rust. However, if there is a scratch in the paint, then oxygen can get inside and start to rust underneath the paint, creating those "rust bubbles". In some cases this may actually accelerate the rusting process.

    2. Bluing - is an electrochemical passivation method that changes the surface metal to make it more rust-resistant. There are many different methods of bluing but "hot bluing" is the most modern and gives the best rust resistence. Steel parts are immersed in a solution of potassium nitrate, sodium hydroxide and water that is heated to boiling (about 100 celsius). Stainless steel is immersed in nitrates and chromates. The effect is that it oxidizes the surface steel into black iron oxide, also called magnetite (yes it becomes magnetic), which is the counterpart to red iron oxide (rust). After the bluing process, treating with a a light oiled coating provides some rust resistance.

    3. Chrome plating - A thin layer of chromium is deposited onto the surface by submersing in hot (35-66 degrees celsius) chromic acid and sulfate. This forms a protective barrier of chromium which prevents oxygen from reaching the steel underneath and protects better than bluing. However if there is a scratch in the chrome, then oxygen can get through the scratch and start to rust and the rust can spread underneath the chrome. In some cases this can actually accelerate rusting. Another disadvantage is that chromium is extremely toxic.

    4. Parkerizing - More modern and effective than bluing or chrome. The metal is submerged in a light phosphoric acid that may contain either zinc, manganese and is heated to 260-290 degrees celsius. This creates a non-reflective gray to blackish surface which is thicker and more protective than bluing. A light treatment of oil is also necessary to complete the rust resistance.

    5. Ferritic nitrocarburizing - The most modern method and better than simply parkerizing. Nitrogen and carbon are infused into the metal at temperature ranges of about 550-600 degrees celsius. This adds scratch and corrosion resistance. There are two main variations;

    a) Gaseous, uses brand names of Nitrotex, Nitemper, Deganit, Triniding, Nitroc, Nitrowear.

    b) Salt bath. Brand names: Tenifer (Glock), Tufftride, Melonite, Nu-Tride/Kolene, Sursulf, Tenoplus.

    Do not ask me about the specific differences between the effectiveness of these different brand names because I have no idea.

    Now think about all the rust resistance technology in a Glock. First the metal is a stainless steel. Then there is the Tenifer finish, 0.05 mm thick with a 64 Rockwell C diamond cone hardness rating that is 85% more corrosion resistant than chrome plating and 99.9% salt-water corrosion resistant. Then on top of this, there is also a Parkerizing finish!
    Last edited by sentioch; November 16th, 2010 at 04:58 PM.
    "In a world of compromise, some don't." -HK

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    Or just move to Florida and forget about cold weather problems.
    Retired USAF E-8. Lighten up and enjoy life because:
    Paranoia strikes deep, into your heart it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid... Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth

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    Distinguished Member Array C9H13NO3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    Or just move to Florida and forget about cold weather problems.
    I would think the high humidity in FL would be worse than cold weather.
    -Ryan

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

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    VIP Member Array tkruf's Avatar
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    I do know that rust will travel underneath painted surfaces. But it will not travel under this stuff. I just wonder if anyone has ever tried or thought about trying this on a firearm. I did the inside of a motorcycle tank that had rusted with this stuff and it looked like new and will never rust again.

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    VIP Member Array tkruf's Avatar
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    Very interesting information Sentioch. Thanks for posting. So I guess that Stainless steel is beat out by Tenifer and Melonite finishes. What about Duracote and/or Keracote? Is stainless better than these? and which category do these fall into, similar to chrome plating?

    It would be nice if there was a posting of the types of finishes that come on different firearms. Everyone knows that Glock is Tenifer finished. What about Springfield XD's? I think they used to be Bruinition (not sure on spelling), which was basically a black oxide, but I think they are now Melonite finished.

    Ok so I got a question about this. According to Springfield Armory's site. The black XD's are Forged Steel with Melonite finish. The Bi-tone is Forged Stainless Steel, Satin Finish. Stainless better than the black Melonite? or the black Melonite better than the stainless satin? I'd really like to know the answer to this one because I'm looking at getting an 9mm XDsc.
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  11. #11
    Member Array sentioch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkruf View Post
    What about Duracote and/or Keracote? Is stainless better than these? and which category do these fall into, similar to chrome plating?
    I believe (though not positive) they use stainless steel in all guns. If you simply polish that, you have a stainless steel finish. Painting, Bluing, Chrome plating, Parkerization, and ferritic nitrocarburizing are all additional layers of protection that can be added on top of that stainless steel core....so yeah, they offer additional protection. You can combine different layers of protection. For example the glock Tenifer finish combines nitrocarburizing with a final layer of parkerization.

    DuraCoat and CeraKote are high quality paints. I ranked paint before bluing because it is just a coating that does not chemically change the metal, unlike the other methods which are all chemically changing the exterior layer of metal. However this does not mean that Bluing is going to provide better rust prevention than a good quality paint job. Also, if you get a "DuraCoat" finish they will also Parkerize it before painting it as part of the process.

    It would be nice if there was a posting of the types of finishes that come on different firearms.
    Definitely...maybe some other members can help out by finding that information and posting here
    "In a world of compromise, some don't." -HK

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    Battery acid is Sulphuric acid H2SO4 & not Carbonic acid.
    Just a technical correction.

  13. #13
    Member Array sentioch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QKShooter View Post
    Battery acid is Sulphuric acid H2SO4 & not Carbonic acid.
    Just a technical correction.
    It is true that sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is the the type of acid used in a lead-acid car battery. However I was referring to a battery in the general sense, "battery acid" is simply the acid used in a battery, and a battery can be made using any type of acid (or no acid at all). For example, if you stick any two pieces of metal into a potato, you now have a battery which uses a mild phosphoric acid. You can make a battery by simply putting vinegar in a cup and inserting some nails into it. I taught a class to some of my high school students and had them experiment making batteries out of different electrolytes and different materials for the anode and cathode. You would be surprised...pretty much any random combination of things will work to some degree. Technically speaking, a piece of metal that is rusting is a battery too, although not marketed as such.
    "In a world of compromise, some don't." -HK

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