*Cold Weather Weapons Maintenance and Usage*
By Gypsy

Most of us already know how to care for our weapons. But what happens if you are in an area where the daytime temperature never sees the sunny side of zero? Or, even colder, -50? At those extremes, weapons maintenance takes on a whole different perspective. Things just have to be done another way. 


At 50 below zero, your biggest concern is whether or not your weapon is frozen. It will be extremely cold, and the slightest bit of moisture will freeze the action solid. Therefore, a thorough wipe down, after the weapon is warmed up, is essential. You can clean it normally, but DO NOT use anything like Break Free or CLP. At -50 they are the consistency of Molasses. What you need is a special, arctic grade of weapons oil. The army calls it Lubricant, Arctic Weapon (BTW - What is an Arctic Weapon???), and it's the consistency of 0W motor oil. It's made by Castrol's Specialty Lubricants Division, but I'm not sure where you would find it.

Supplies you need to have on hand when cleaning include swabs (also known as patches), bore brush, chamber brush, pipe cleaners, old dental tools, Q-tips (if you can get the one's that are medical grade, they don't fuzz up and leave cotton strands in your weapon as easily), rods, and anything else you feel you need. Just remember that some of these are necessities, and others are niceties. Also, include a goodly supply of rags.

Make sure you clean all parts of the action. Any moving part can get water into it, freeze up, and cause either no function or breakage. Be prepared to disassemble your weapon a LOT further than you normally would for cleaning, to include takedown of the trigger group. If you aren't comfortable doing that, then do a basic cleaning out in the cold so the weapon doesn't change temperatures. Start by wiping down everything with a rag to get off the bulk of the frost, then clean the weapon normally as it warms up.


Imagine for a minute, you have been out standing guard for several hours at sub zero temperatures. You get relieved and go back to your nice warm tent. And, following common SOP, you bring your weapon into the tent with you. What happens? Condensation happens. You bring anything that is metal and at an ambient temperature of, say, -35 into a tent heated to over 75 degrees, and it's gonna get wet. Unless you are extremely disciplined, all you are gonna do is place your weapon on the floor next to you and go to sleep. And if there comes a 100% stand-to, your weapon will freeze solid, and you won't be any use it on anyone. It takes several hours for it to warm up and dry off.

Therefore, you have 2 choices: leave all weapons outside the tent in the cold so they remain the same temperature, or use some discipline and WIPE IT OFF. The leaving outside has the large disadvantage in that you need to post a guard on it or lock the weapons rack. Neither is a good idea, so take the 10 minutes or so necessary and wipe off your weapon.


When you go to fire your rifle, don't go full auto right off the bat. Your weapon is still extremely cold, and the sudden change will ruin it. Fire in semi, and fire slowly for the first few rounds until it warms up. You will know when it's warm, there will be steam coming off the barrel. The steam is called ice fog, and it occurs when the air temperature is below -25. There is nothing you can do to avoid it, just keep moving so the enemy doesn't use the huge smoke cloud over your head as a target.

Place a piece of tape over the muzzle of your weapon. It will keep the snow out of the barrel, and if you need to fire, you can just shoot right through it. It won't cause severe backpressure to the round. In addition, if you have the ability, wrap something around your upper receiver near the chamber and ejection port to keep snow out of there too. Not all weapons have dust covers.


Keeping these things in mind, hopefully your arctic experience with your weapon will be successful. Remember, the key, like in anything we do, is discipline.


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