Hunter’s Musk: The Scent Of Gun Oil


The easing of lockdown restrictions this week has lifted my spirits enormously. As it has yours, I’m sure? A tentative call to ‘Landowner No 1’ to ask if I was welcome back yet, resulted in more than a positive response. I was virtually begged to return to take care of ‘those pesky squirrels’. A request I’m always happy to fulfil.

Rather than rush headlong into the task, I decided to spend an afternoon preparing my rifles and kit-bag first. The latter being the most tiresome task, for reasons I will explain later. I am a frugal shooter, so my guns need little maintenance. Five decades of rifle hunting have taught me that the fewer guns you use, the more success you will have. Familiarity with your rifle and how it performs, in a variety of conditions, is the key to becoming an artisan hunter. Maturity has seen me strip away my large collection of rifles. The quest for that ‘perfect’ gun has long been superseded by the knowledge that there is rarely such thing as a poor gun. Poor shooters, however, are prolific.

I described myself as being frugal and can’t deny it. I have to be these days, with limited income and a shooting ‘habit’. There came a point a few years back when I thought I would have to part with all my guns for financial reasons. Those who know me (including a few shooting press editors) will know that if you take away my hunting, you take away my life. Thankfully, common-sense prevailed. I took stock of my collection (forgive the pun), picked out a few work-horses, and sold off the luxury (collectors) guns. After all, the gun is just a tool, whether pretty to look at or not. Though my semi-auto Hatsan 12 bore is camo-coated, my retained rifles are all traditional beech or walnut stocks (.22 springer, .22 PCP,  .22LR and .17HMR).

For my return to the field, I picked out my .22 BSA Ultra SE PCP air rifle and my .22LR CZ455 rimfire for some tender, loving care. Two wonderfully efficient pot-fillers that cost less than a grand for the pair. Out came the maintenance bag and the gun-mat. All that would be needed was a cursory barrel clean and polish of the optics. I look after my guns well, particularly during the harsher winter months when they’re subjected to soakings. Making a point of stripping, drying and oiling a drenched gun pays dividends, extending the longevity and function of any rifle or shotgun. Today’s light maintenance took just fifteen minutes for both guns. My first job was to check that both rifles were unloaded. I use garden wire as a ‘pull-through’. Cut a section twice the distance between muzzle and breech, plus a few extra inches for the ‘pull’. Double the wire over to form a loop at one end and add a twist to the wire every few inches along it. Make sure you remove the sound moderator from an air rifle (the rimfire shouldn’t be stored with a moderator on, ever).

Push the wire, loop first, into the muzzle end and feed it through to the breech. Pull the loop out a bit.Now cut a small square of lint-free cloth (the roll you see here I’ve had for 12 years!).

 Spray gun-cleaner liberally on to the cloth and roll it to form a plug. Now put this into the wire loop and draw the wire back down the barrel from breech to muzzle. Do this several times to remove all leading or residue from the barrel.

I used a photographers lens pencil to clean my optics. These have a light brush at one end to flick away dust and residue. At the other end is a soft pad to polish the glass. Simply breathe on the lens and clean from the centre using ever-increasing circles.

Next, I opened a V-90 ‘field patch’ to oil the action and stocks of both rifles. These tend to be a bit heavy on the oil so I cover the bluing, scope body and the wood, then let them rest for a while. Before throwing the patch away, I remember to apply it into the threaded end of the sound moderators to keep them lubricated.

Then I wipe all the surplus oil off the guns with a rag. It’s not a chore. Like many shooters, I love the scent of gun oil. Hunters musk, I call it. Now was the time to check my slings for integrity and to apply a touch of oil to any squeaky swivels.

Job done, I let the guns ‘air out’ for a while I wrestled with the kit-bag task. Rifle hunters, like anglers, can get a bit over-enthusiastic about how much kit they need with them to ensure they are successful. I’m as guilty as anyone in this respect but now and again I undertake a ‘ruthless cull’ of the kit bag, removing all the accumulated junk that adds to its weight. At least I don’t carry a roe-sack now, which I did in my younger days! After removing several items (folding saw, rangefinder, tins of spare pellets, catapult and ball-bearings, camera bean-bag et al) I found I could fit the remaining ‘essentials’ into a small trout fishers game-bag. Half the weight and everything I ‘really’ needed.

So how did I fare on that first return onto the land? Well, that’s a story for another day, ladies and gentlemen … but what I will say is that my sanity was  restored within hours.

Copyright, Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, May 2020