If you have ever been hunting you know that there is a reason it’s called ‘hunting’ rather than ‘getting’. It’s inevitable that things go wrong. Thinking back, I remember vehicles getting stuck, flat tires, forgotten equipment, and much more.
There is one constant in the universe. No matter how well you plan, something unexpected will always happen. Especially when you’re going into the back country and can’t just run to the store to get something.
For hunters the problem is often that surprises with their gun are the game stoppers. There are a few common problems that you should check for before you leave on your back country trip. A few of them can be solved in the field. We will talk about both and how to best deal with them.
1. Stiff or sticky action. You would be amazed how often a gunsmith gets in a gun with the complaint that it will not cycle.
Solution: Nine times out of ten its just dirty and dry. The quick fix, use a product like Powder Blast™ from Break Free™ to blow out the dirt and dried lubricant. (This type of cleaning removes all oil and can damage finish on stocks.) That’s right oil can dry out, it becomes like a varnish coating parts and making them stick so they do not slide past one another properly. Don’t forget to oil when your done cleaning. You should have sighted in your gun before heading to the field, then you would have caught this problem at home.
2. Horse or 4 wheeler rolled on your gun.
Solution: This can be a game stopper for more than one reason. First, inspect carefully to see if the barrel is bent. If the scope is obviously damaged, it might still shoot OK, find a place, preferably away from your hunting area to test the scope. (You will have to shoot to see if it’s still sighted in.) This is one time that iron sights can be a life saver. You can prepare for this ahead of time by selecting scope mounts that allow you to easily remove the scope with either minimal or no tools. See thru scope mounts are a compromise to allow you to see iron sights at the same time as the scope, I avoid them at all costs.
3. Safety sticking, either on or off.
Solution: If you already in the field, the best fix is a little lube on the safety or trigger where the parts interact. Work the safety on and off many times to see if the problem solves itself. An empty chamber is the only safe answer if the problem persists. Safeties are only a mechanical device and should never be trusted to keep the gun from firing. (Safe gun handling rule: Never allow your muzzle to cross anything you do not want to destroy.) Obviously, if this happens during prep for the trip, take the gun to a gunsmith, or take the time to make sure the problem is fixed.
4. Accuracy has evaporated, can’t hit the broad side of a barn. You pull down on that 1000 pound 14 point buck at 75 yards and totally miss him. Later you take a poke at a doe at 50 yards and miss.
Solution: In the field, switch to iron sights, or a different gun. Many hunters keep a spare gun in the truck “just in case”. First chance you get, hit the range and check your scope for accuracy and to see if it’s still sighted in. Either you will prove the gun is OK or you will find out you had buck fever. Scopes can go bad without notice, if your scope fogs up, then assume it is time to replace it or send it in for service. It is possible that some other factor is causing accuracy issues, ie check the trigger guard screws to make sure they are tight, and check the muzzle for damage. Cracked stocks can cause sudden changes in accuracy or point of impact as well. Copper fowling of the barrel can cause accuracy problems too, take care of this before the season.
Solution: Many possible causes. First look to see if the firing pin is leaving a mark on the primer. Remove the firing pin assembly from the bolt, clean it and the firing pin tunnel to make sure there is not powder, brass, or other blockage. Some guys think if a little oil is good that more is better. Not true, just a drop or two of oil on the firing pin is normally all you need. Too much oil can become thick enough in cold weather to cause a misfire.
Clearly this is a fairly general list. What it points out more than anything else is that preparation is the best way to avoid problems. Another thing that jumps out is the need for some simple tools in your field kit. A set of screw drivers and a field cleaning kit can take care of a surprising number of simple problems.