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Hardcore Hunting: 5 Tips for Keeping Your Rifle Functioning

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Years ago, I guided elk hunters during a late-season hunt in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains. It snowed constantly, with temperatures hovering around minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the hunters carried a semi-auto hunting rifle chambered in .30-06 Springfield. Snow would get into the rifle’s action and freeze up. Every time we set up to watch a meadow or felt like we were closing in on the author of a set of fresh tracks, we’d chamber a round in preparation for a shot.

I’d have to dig out my Leatherman tool and use it as a hammer to pound the semi-auto’s “bolt” rearward, breaking the ice and forcing the action open to chamber a round. I had to repeat the process to clear the chamber. It was dangerous, and a terrible way to treat a nice rifle. Additionally, the ice effectively converted the semi-auto rifle into a “one-shooter.” The bolt-action rifles in camp would ice up as well, but thanks to their design, still functioned, though stiffly.

Conditions like those are tough on rifles. Cold, snow, dust, ice, heat and mud all adversely affect rifles. Here are five tips to help you keep your hunting rifle functioning during a hardcore hunt in tough conditions.

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