As I write this, large portions of Texas, the Caribbean, and Florida are still reeling in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Charleston, South Carolina saw its share of flooding, and the entire east coast is potentially a target for incoming Hurricane Jose. Given the nature of the region affected, a whole lot of gun owners were affected by these storms. This raises an interesting question: as property protection is a vital step in preparing for a storm, what are the best methods for storing guns during a hurricane? Many of us own enough guns that evacuating with them all is going to be difficult—if we are able to evacuate at all. So how can you keep your firearms safe and dry during the storm?
While there are no guarantees of safety during a hurricane—for your guns or anything else you own—there are some steps you can take to stack the deck in your favor. Let’s go over some approaches you can use to help protect your firearms.
Insurance is Key
With your guns, as with all of your possessions, the first step is making sure that your insurance policy is up to date and paid off. Many homeowner’s policies cover firearms, but you will need to document the extent of your collection. Photos of each firearm, along with the make/model/serial number and condition, need to be on record with your insurance company. You should probably have that data saved elsewhere too, both in hard copy and uploaded to Google Drive or a similar cloud service. If worse comes to worse, it’ll help your insurance company process your claim and begin replacing what you’ve lost.
Inspecting Your Storage Situation
With the paperwork out of the way, take a look at how you’re storing your guns. I sincerely hope that most of us have invested in a gun safe of some sort. This is a necessity for both security reasons and for safety from natural disasters. A sturdy safe is at least water-resistant, and strong enough to withstand a collapsed roof. In the aftermath of a serious storm, it will help to ensure that the bad guys don’t raid your stash—particularly if properly bolted to the floor or a concrete slab in a garage.
With that having been said, gun safes are most likely water proof, not water resistant—and they certainly do nothing to protect from the condensation likely to form on metal surfaces in the swinging temperatures and humidity that follow a tropical storm or hurricane. Storing guns during a hurricane has to take these factors into account.
What if you don’t have a safe and are making do with a security cabinet or some other secure(ish) storage approach? Fear not; we’ll discuss how to handle that a bit later when we deal with evacuations.
Storm-Proofing Your Guns
Back in the Long Long ago, there was a lot of information floating around the 2A community about how to bury firearms “just in case” of Soviet invasion, a government ban, or other such calamity. If you want a trip back in time, I recommend taking a look at a few of those articles—I recall that Claire Wolfe wrote one that is alternately informative and hilarious. While I hope the need to bury a firearm is past us in this country, some of the techniques they used can help protect your guns from a hurricane.
The enemy, as always, is moisture and other corrosives. The trick is to give your guns a good cleaning with non-corrosive products—Hoppe’s or Clenzoil for instance—and then lightly lubricating every part with a high quality gun oil. Wooden stocks and grips should be waxed with an appropriate protective product. For burying a weapon, older and wiser heads recommend disassembly and then lubricating each part separately before wrapping it waxed paper. I would suggest that for the relatively short term storage of a hurricane, field stripping and lubricating a gun and then wrapping it in a layer or two of tightly wound waxed paper and then wrapping that package in heavy duty plastic wrap and duct tape would be sufficient.
After that the guns go into your safe. Your safe will benefit if you add a couple of extra desiccant or moisture removal products; while commercial options are best, in a pinch wide mouth bowls of rice and baking soda will at least help—bearing in mind that baking soda is a bit corrosive and should only be used if your guns are wrapped up well. Sealing the door of the safe with caulk or duct tape or both adds yet another layer of protection. Folks in Florida used similar approaches during Irma and the results were better than expected.
Guns Without Safes
So, for whatever reason you don’t have a gun safe. The budget doesn’t allow it, or there’s no room in your apartment, for instance. Never fear, you’re not entirely helpless.
Wrapping your gun like we outlined above is the first step in storing a gun during a hurricane, regardless of your storage circumstances. If you don’t have a safe, I might suggest wrapping and storing the bolts or slides separately in a hidden spot. If the worst happens, you’ll at least avoid arming the bad guys. After that, lock your guns up as best you can—a metal storage cabinet, an unused chest freezer with a lock, or—in an absolute pinch—the trunk of a car parked above the flood line. It’s not ideal, but frankly nothing is when it comes to hurricanes.
What if You Have to Evacuate?
Evacuation is one of the worst parts of a major storm. You’ll be stuck on the highway, likely in bumper to bumper traffic and for hours on end. The atmosphere will be tense, and that tension can lead to violence. Storing your guns during a hurricane is tough, and evacuations make it worse.
If you can take everything with you, do it. Store any guns you don’t want immediate access to in locked cases underneath the rest of the stuff in your trunk. Out of sight is out of mind, and you want to avoid attracting undue attention from both Law Enforcement and your fellow man. If you cannot evacuate with your entire collection, I recommend storing your guns as we discussed above. However, I also recommend taking the bolts or slides of any guns you’re leaving behind with you. Again, you’ll refrain from arming the bad guys if it all goes wrong.
Evacuation might involve out of state travel, so you will want to know the laws which apply to your destination, for both gun ownership in general and CCW in particular. Do some research and form a plan in advance.
What Say You?
If you’ve ridden out a hurricane or two, take a moment in the comment section and let us know what you did to keep your guns secure. Your experiences might benefit someone else and keep them from coming home to a ball of rust instead of clean and well stored firearms. If you’re in a region that’s been affected by one of our recent storms, please hang in there. We’re thinking about you, and we wish you a speedy recovery from whatever damage you endured. If you’re outside of the storm zone, please consider donating the charity of your choice—a whole lot of people need help right now.