While hunting with a firearm, it is vitally important that we keep our gun clean and debris free. Snow, mud, and other foreign material can easily work its way inside of your barrel if you are not careful. It happens to the best of us. You slip and fall in the mud, and the bore of your rifle sticks in the ground. Snow can work its way into the barrel the same way. Though less common, water can even be the cause of a barrel obstruction if it is raining and enough water gets into the barrel. I’m not saying that every time you are out in the rain shooting it is going to happen, but the possibility does exist. I have seen cases of this happening with waterfowl hunters who dropped their shotgun into a lake and then fired it.
It doesn’t take much to form a dangerous obstruction. 1/4 inch of mud or snow inside the barrel can be enough. When you attempt to fire a gun that is obstructed, the pressure can rapidly build up to unsafe levels. If this happens it can cause a catastrophic failure of a firearm, which is extremely unsafe and can damage or ruin your gun. If the pressure inside the chamber and bore reaches levels beyond what the firearm can handle, it can turn your entire gun into a projectile as the explosion sends metal shrapnel flying back to the user.
A Simple Safeguard
You should try to avoid ever putting your barrel on the ground. The worst issues from obstructions come from mud actually getting packed into the bore. I was on a spot and stalk bear hunt and sidehilling down a fairly steep embankment. Even using a trekking pole, I lost my grip and slipped, sliding down. After getting the rest of the way down, I unloaded my rifle and inspected the bore and there was quite a bit of mud packed into it. If I had fired it I am sure it would have blown the barrel apart. I had to stop and take the time to field strip the rifle, clean the bore, and then get back to hunting.
Since then, I have started using an easy solution that prevents me from having to worry about a barrel obstruction. I take a nitrile glove and cut off one of the fingers. Ensuring that my rifle is unloaded, I pull the rubber finger over the top of the barrel. I then take a bit of tape and wrap it around the bottom of the rubber. The pressure from the rifle firing will easily remove the glove before the bullet exits the barrel. It will not affect your accuracy at all and is safe to use. Two important things to note are: ensure that the gun is unloaded before attaching the glove finger to the muzzle, and make sure that you do not push the glove down into the barrel. You want it stretched taught so that it forms a flat nitrile surface across the top.
Another tip is to always keep a bore snake with you while hunting or shooting. It is a long fabric rope with a bronze brush on one end and a small weight on the other. You drop the weight down the barrel from the chamber side and then pull it through the barrel. The small lightweight cleaning device is excellent at quickly scrubbing the inside of your bore. You can pick up a bore snake for under $10 and its a great thing to throw in your pack.
Any obstructed firearm can pose a dangerous hazard to the user. Keep your barrel covered with either nitrile or tape, and always keep a bore brush on you in case you need to clean the barrel in the field. Following these simple steps can ensure that your firearm remains safe to use while hunting.