When you buy a new rifle with a wood stock, you take it out to shoot it the first time. That is the exciting part of a new rifle. This is also true when you buy or receive a used rifle with a wood stock or an older wood stocked MILSURP rifle. Once you get past the initial excitement of the “New to You Rifle” it comes time to think about Gun Maintenance and protection from the elements. Along with the cleaning of the barrel and action, there is the care of the “Furniture” (the wood stock, some hand gun grips can also fall into this category). If your new rifle came with a stock that has been varnished or finished with a Polyurethane sealant or similar sealant a quick wipe down to remove oils, dirt, or moisture is usually sufficient. However some new rifles and most older MILSURP rifles have wood stocks that have been finished with oil. Maintenance of this finish serves multiple purposes. First if protects the wood from moisture (think about the water rings on a wood table, this is actually damage to the finished wood and why we use oil based furniture polishes to protect the wood) Second, oiling the stock keeps it from drying out and splitting and cracking due to age. Third is aesthetics, most of us like our guns to look as good as they function. For a new rifle stock this can be a long process for the aesthetics, to get the polished sheen that can be seen on well cared for MILSURP Rifles, can actually take several years, whereas the wood protection aspect starts with the first treatment.
Starting with Wood Stocked MILSURP Rifles, think rifles from the turn of the 20th century (’03 Springfield, M1917, M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and others of that time frame). The stocks on these were all finished with oil from the Armory that made them. The oil used was Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO). Perusing Military publications for these rifles directs the individual Sailor Soldier, or Marine that part of the regular maintenance after cleaning the rifle is to Hand Rub the Stock with BLO. This was done at least weekly. And sometimes literally with the bare hand (though excess oil was rubbed off with Wool Ticking) (old mattress covers). Over the years of doing this to the rifles a low sheen was developed by the burnishing of the finish during use of the rifle and during repeated maintenance. This burnished sheen took decades to develop in some cases.
For the new owner of these MILSURP rifles the stock oiling should take place 2 or 3 times a year (I personally use Cotton Flour Sack Cloth for this purpose on my ’03 Springfield and my Savage 30-06).
Materials: Boiled Linseed Oil (Available at most Hardware/Paint Stores) in Quart or Gallon Cans
Denatured Alcohol (Available at most Hardware/Paint Stores) in Pint, Quart, or Gallon cans.
Soft Cotton Cloth (such as Flour Sack Cloth) available at many Department Stores or Fabric Stores.
CAUTION: Denatured Alcohol is Flammable and Burns with an almost invisible flame. Heated Boiled Linseed Oil can also be Flammable. Read Warnings and Cautions on containers before use.
Step 1 should always be CLEAN the RIFLE as you would normally do (even if it hasn’t been fired since the last Cleaning), wipe the stock lightly with a soft cloth slightly dampened with Denatured Alcohol to remove any Petroleum Based Gun Oils that may have gotten on the stock during rifle maintenance.
(Hint) Some owners like to let the rifle sit in the sunshine to warm up (during cold weather (winter months) the stock can be warmed in a heated room (75 degrees or higher) for a few hours) before applying the oil, as this will aid in the absorption of the oil.
Step 2 apply BLO to all exposed areas of the stock (you should have enough BLO so the surface appears shiny wet yet not runny.
Step 3 Allow rifle to absorb BLO for 10 to 15 minutes then wipe off excess BLO using a clean soft cotton cloth.
If the MILSURP Rifle has a new replacement stock, the procedure is the same, but the application timing is changed. The new wood furniture should be oiled once a day for a week, then once a week for a month then once a month until the end of the first year (the new wood will absorb much more BLO than an older stock will). This will give the new wood, a good base finish that will allow for 2 or 3 times year applications. (I would recommend a light oiling if the rifle stock is used during wet weather)
For new rifles with Oil Stained wood stocks consult the manufacturer’s recommendations and warrantees first. For Laminated Wood Stocks check with the stock manufacturer as discoloration or delamination may occur. If consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations and warrantee, I recommend an application of BLO once a week for a month, then once a month for the remainder of the first year, being careful to protect synthetic butt pads and any soft rubber from oil saturation. I also recommend using absorbent cloth such as flower sack cloth or undyed soft Cotton cloth. The burnished sheen may take a long time to show up, but as stated earlier the Protection of the wood starts with the first application.
Enjoy your Rifles for years