Taking Care of Your Guns Before You Store Them - NSSF Let's Go Shooting

Taking Care of Your Guns Before You Store Them

After you purchase a gun, you must store it properly. But, just like that lovely vintage lace dress from your great grandmother or a treasured coin collection from your favorite uncle, you must take care of your newly acquired item properly before storing it.

Make it a Clean Machine
First thing you should do with any newly acquired gun is clean it. If it’s brand spanking new, it’ll need at least a patch or two run through it to absorb oil from the factory, and you should do this either before you take it to the range and shoot it for the first time or store it. If it’s a used gun, you’ll definitely want to take the gun apart (after you’ve made sure it’s unloaded, of course), following exactly the directions in the manual regarding disassembly and reassembly. If you didn’t get a manual with your firearm, you can either request one from the manufacturer or go online to the company’s website (for currently produced and most other relatively modern firearms), to find the appropriate publication. You can always take a newly acquired gun to your local gunsmith (remember to bring it to him unloaded), and have them disassemble it and give it a good once-over to see if all the parts are in working order; this can be especially prudent with used guns. If you choose to go the gunsmith route, while you’re visiting with them, inquire whether they can store the gun for you until you acquire a proper storage device for safekeeping at home.

After you’ve cleaned your new gun, you’ll need to store it properly. Tom McHale has described different types of gun safes that provide options for the many different ways and places you intend to use your firearm.

Make a Record
Before you put your gun under lock and key, you should record its serial number, any specifics about the gun, and the price you paid for it. Snap a photo of the gun and file it someplace safe, along with your descriptive record. If someone steals your gun or it becomes destroyed in something like a housefire, such a record will help immensely with a future police report and insurance claim.

Appraisal Options
With new guns, you know their value (or at least enough, even given the slight variations in retail price), which can help greatly with insurance coverage and claims. With used guns, however, especially those that are inherited and may have significant monetary value, as well as recognized collectibles and antiques, you will likely want to have such firearms appraised.

Not everyone needs an appraisal, nor does every gun. How should you decide if you need one? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will you need an appraisal for insurance purposes?
  • Would you like to have an appraisal because you want to know the gun’s market value?
  • Are you planning on donating a particular firearm to a charitable organization or museum? (Note: The appraisal fee for charitable donations may be deductible.)

When searching for an appraiser, do not hesitate to ask for qualifications, experience, and references. Get more than one appraisal when possible and, if you want to check on the values, purchase the latest edition of Blue Book of Gun Values, Standard Catalog of Firearms, or other comparable valuation guide.

Don’t Shoot It!
Jim Supica, Director of the National Firearms Museum at the National Rifle Association, recommends that if you acquire an unfired gun and don’t intend on ever using it, leave it unfired. Don’t even dry-fire it. He says, “Even if the gun has never been fired, if the action has been worked to the extent that wear is visible, the value may be less than “NIB” (new in the box) or “AS NEW” to a collector. For example, the faint drag line that appears on the cylinder of a revolver that has been dry-fired a few times will reduce the value to less than “AS NEW” for a condition purist on an out-of-production revolver.”

Supica says you should keep the original box of any gun you purchase. Older guns especially often had a serial number penciled on the bottom or marked at the end of the box by the factory. These small things are important to collectors.

Supica also recommends noting each gun’s historical significance, and this should happen whether it’s a family heirloom that’s been passed down through generations, or whether you’re buying a current model you expect to pass down through your own family members or sell sometime in the future. Supica advises, “Take time to write it down now in a notarized statement. Keep the document with the gun.” Again, he reminds gun owners to identify each gun by its serial number and to explain how the aforementioned information is known. He concludes, “All too often, history is lost forever when a gun changes hands.”