Airguns are mechanical objects that have numerous parts. Any object of this type requires some maintenance, but airguns are not necessarily “high maintenance” devices. Moreover, most airguns are remarkably durable. Over the years I have witnessed the abuse of airguns by some shooters, but they just kept on functioning.
Like other mechanical devices, airguns will last longer and perform better if they are regularly and properly cared for. Fortunately, the procedures are neither complex nor expensive so there is little excuse for not taking care of an airgun appropriately.
The first step in caring for your airgun is to read and follow the directions given in the owner’s manual. There are two important reasons for this. First, the owner’s manual applies to that specific model so the information is exact. It is not simply about putting a couple of drops of oil on some part that your airgun doesn’t even have. Second, the information has been prepared by experts who are extremely knowledgeable about your airgun and how it functions. If I have heard one “secret” about how to care for an airgun, I have heard a dozen. Such “advice” may be sound, but often it comes from someone who knows very little about airguns and never had the instruction manual.
If you have a particular airgun, follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for that airgun. If it says to apply two drops of oil to the pump wiper, do not apply five drops. I have a beautiful air rifle that looked almost new when I bought it. When I got it home, I found that it didn’t work properly. The note that came back with the rifle after it was fixed said, “Too much oil.” The excess oil had clogged the valve assembly. I am sure that some exuberant owner had thought that he should oil the gun after every few shots, but generally a couple of drops of oil after 200-500 shots is more realistic.
Dropping or careless mishandling is a common cause of damage to airguns. Treat you airgun as the precision instrument that it is. Allowing it to fall or bounce around in a vehicle may knock things out of alignment. Some airgun parts are made of plastic. They are perfectly suitable for their intended job under normal use, but they may not last long if the gun is abused. I see many older airguns that would be still functioning if they had not been abused. Do not force any button or lever that doesn’t move as it should. Try to find out what is preventing the control from operating properly.
When pumping up a multi-pump, make sure that you do not twist the pump handle as you operate it. If you do, it is possible to twist the linkage so that it does not operate smoothly without rubbing on the sides of the channel. Also, use a steady, even pumping motion rather than spasmodic jerks. Never exceed the number of pumps specified for your airgun (usually eight or ten). If the owner’s manual lists eight pumps as the maximum number, follow that advice. If you do not, you may damage the seals and shorten the life of your airgun.
Break action (break barrel) air rifles operate by pulling the barrel downward to cock the rifle. After a pellet is inserted, the barrel is pushed back to its original position. Do not slam the barrel upward with a great force. The barrel is held in place by a locking mechanism that can be damaged if the barrel is slammed upward. Accurate shooting requires the barrel to be indexed in the same position for each shot, and this may not be possible if the locking mechanism is damaged.
The valves of air and CO2 guns need a small amount of lubricant. Crosman Pellgun Oil® is the proper lubricant for the job. A drop of Pellgun Oil on the end of a CO2 cylinder is sufficient to lubricate the seals that engage the neck of the cylinder. A drop of the oil on pivot points and O-ring seals will keep things working smoothly. When a CO2 gun is fired rapidly, the expanding gas cools the surrounding metal parts and the inside of the barrel. In humid conditions, this can even cause moisture to condense on these parts. I have examined far more CO2 guns with barrels rusted on the inside than I have pneumatic guns. I make it a practice to run a dry patch down the bore of my CO2 guns after they reach ambient temperature just in case moisture may be present.
Many airgun parts are made of some sort of durable composite material that is virtually impervious to moisture. However, certain airguns have barrel sleeves and pump mechanisms that are made of metal that will rust. I once removed an airgun from the case in which it had been transported for several days to find that the entire barrel had a reddish appearance due to rust. Coating external metal surfaces with a thin film of oil will prevent most rusting, at least for a short time. Just place a few drops of oil on a small piece of cloth and rub the metal surfaces thoroughly. There are several commercial rust preventatives, and I have found Birchwood Casey’s Sheath® to work very well. Always wipe external metal surfaces with oil or Sheath before putting your gun away. Even when the gun is in a case it is possible for moisture to condense on it which will lead to rusting. However, every airgun deserves a good case to protect it from bumps and the elements.
Because airguns operate with a blast of air, most small particles of residue are blown out of the barrel as the airgun is fired. Occasionally, the bore should be swabbed out with a clean, dry patch. I use no solvents on airgun bores because of the danger of the solvent getting into the valves. The valve seats are usually made of some sort of plastic or rubbery material that can be damaged by cleaning solvents. Just push a dry patch through the bore a couple of times to remove any small particles of lead or other material. Do not allow any gun cleaning solvent to enter the pump mechanism or cylinder compartment of an air or CO2 gun.
If the airgun has a stock made of plastic, use a damp cloth to wipe away dirt and salts from sweaty hands. If the stock is made of wood, wiping it with a piece of cloth that has one or two drops of oil applied will help keep the wood looking good. With a little maintenance, most airguns will last for a long time. If you are like me, you may actually enjoy the extra time spent maintaining such a loyal friend.