Sweat It Out

People who are interested in armed self defense always want to discuss certain details about their defensive arm.  Make, model, caliber, type of ammo.  There is endless conversation concerning the relative merits of this or that gun, this or that after market feature, this or that defensive ammunition.

Why talk about it so much?  Mainly because people want others to know that they have given a great deal of thought to maximizing their potential for surviving a violent criminal attack.  They reason that they are more effective in a gunfight with this gun instead of that one, this style of grips over another, or this particular brand of hollowpoints.  These details are sexy!

chippendale dancer

I generally don’t mind if people want to talk to me about such things, but there are more important issues at hand when it comes to choosing a handgun for concealed carry.  Issues such as reliability, concealability, durability, and price.  You have to deal with these before you get to the sexy.

I have been spending a fair amount of time over the past two weeks trying to help a student of mine with an interesting problem.  You see, she is a runner.  Not only that, but she is a marathoner who spends five days a week heading at speed for the far horizon.

stick figure of a running girl

She wants to take her gun with her when she is fleet of foot and on the road, a decision I approve of.  The problem being that the only place she can carry it without throwing off her stride or causing a major distraction in some way is in a shoulder holster.  This means her handgun is going to be steeping in underarm sweat for a couple of hours every day she trains.

tired and sweat soaked runner

So the question is : How does she protect her gun, the device she needs to rely on to function correctly in an emergency, from the corrosion that saltwater brings?

Hmmm.  Tricky.

I am sure that a lot of my dear readers have suggestions as to which type of gun she should buy, and I am sure that they are probably good ideas.  Unfortunately, they won’t do my student any good.  She has already purchased a Kel Tec P-3AT, which is a very small and light gun chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge.


Polymer frame, which obviously isn’t prone to rusting.  Lots of metal parts other than the frame, though.

kel tec p-3at parts chematic

I was mulling the problem over (“How does she protect all the little internal springs?”) when a memory of a student from years past floated to the top of my bubbling stew of thoughts.

This young man suffered from an interesting ailment.  His hands were particularly moist, and his sweat was oddly corrosive.  It only took twelve hours or so before any metal surface he touched started showing signs of rust.  Even if we didn’t go to the range and fire the guns, I would have to clean and oil the firearms and magazines he handled during the classroom lessons.

rusty rifle barrel

Could it be that my running student had similar acidic wetness?

She said that she didn’t know, but we had to find out in order to determine the correct response.  I had her run around the block for twenty minutes while I lazed about in her living room and browsed some reading material that I always bring along, just in case.

She returned with a decent lathering.  I handed her some extra magazines that are used for loading/unloading drills, and had her hold them firmly under her arms for a few moments.

double stack stacked double

She tried to hand them back, but I had her seal them in a plastic bag.  After a few days they had an odd odor not normally associated with the shooting sports, but were still rust free.  Looks like my student has boring old garden variety sweat instead of the high octane type, but that is all to the good.

The most common way to prevent rust on handgun parts is to simply drip a little gun oil on a clean cloth and wipe them down.  I didn’t think that this would do the job under the type of harsh conditions her gun would experience, and so decided to act as if her defensive arm was going to have to endure a time at sea.  Constant damp, fluctuating temperatures, and a lot of salt.  What do mariners use to protect their equipment?

I purchased some silicone grease, and carefully applied it to the parts of her gun.  We took several trips to the range, testing the reliability of the firearm when it was loaded down with the white goo.  Actually worked pretty well!

Okay, so that was the gun.  What about the ammunition?  Wouldn’t all that wet eventually cause the cartridges in the gun to go inert?

A military historian I admire once said that the Russians never threw anything away, they just saved it for the next war.  That certainly seems to be that case with their military ammunition.  Russian ammo bought in the surplus market always comes with some sort of red sealant painted around the join between the bullet and the case, as well as on the primer.  This pretty effectively renders the cartridge waterproof.

russian military surplus ammo

russian military surplus ammo primer

So what was it?  Varnish?  Shellack?  Something else?  Looked like I was going to have to scour the hardware store for various products, and start experimenting.

My student said she already had something that would serve, and vanished into her bedroom.  She emerged with a clutch of little bottles containing nail polish.

nail polish

What the hell, it already had a brush and everything.  The stuff she had was pretty thick, and I was afraid it might cause a jam, but she thinned it down with some clear liquid that stunk to high heaven.  (Can you tell I don’t know cosmetics worth a darn?)  We painted up about 100 rounds with nail polish at various viscosity, and then went back to the range to see what would happen.  Bottom line is that it worked fine, but we started to experience a lot of little flakes of nail polish on the gun if it was applied too thick.

The plan is to lightly coat all parts with silicone grease, and to thoroughly clean the gun every month or so.  Her ammunition will be sealed with a very small amount of nail polish, and she will change the old cartridges for fresh every time she cleans the handgun.  If she notices spots of rust during the monthly cleaning, she will call me and we’ll come up with an improved plan.

So there you have it.  And why am I regaling you, dear reader, with this turgid tale of sweat, silicone grease, and nail polish?  Just to show you why no one has ever accused me of being sexy!

chris farley chippendales

12 thoughts on “Sweat It Out

  1. Don’t know the manufacturer, but I have seen video of a holster that hand gs down from the center of a bra. The draw consists of one hand lifting the shirt and the other pulling the gun. Demo seemed to be pretty quick, maybe that would help.

    • That is a great idea, James!

      She is a rather crafty girl, as in arts-and-crafts sort of crafty. She sewed her own holster out of denim fabric and some elastic bands she got from the craft store. I’ll suggest carrying the gun over the breastbone. It certainly is small and light enough for it to work.

      Thanks for the input!

      • I believe you are thinking of Lisa Looper’s Flash Bang. That might be an option. Also, modern ammo is pretty resilient. When it comes time to change to the ammo, take it to the range. Shoot off the loads being retired to see if you are experiencing any degradation. I suspect they will perform as new.

  2. Send it off to Birdsong & Assoc. and have them put their Black-T finish on it. Treats everything including springs and screw threads, and afterward it is literally “no sweat”.
    (Seriously 400 hours saltwater test and they quit waiting for corrosion.)

  3. I’d suggest putting a plastic liner against the gun. I had a glock I ran with in an iwb holster (I tried all sorts,found an iwb with the belt cranked down worked best for me) and I ended up with the round corroded into the chamber after a lack of maintenance. That was not a lot of fun to fix.

    So I cut up a quart Baggie and used that to keep sweat off the gun after that, which worked fine.

  4. “and his sweat was oddly corrosive.”

    Pfft, lightweight. I’m convinced I’m part xenomorph as I can etch a fingerprint into a brass case or copper bullet in minutes and steel firearms in under an hour.

    My first handgun I bought from an old korean war vet FFL who scoffed at my desire for a Sig P220. He tried steering me to the 1911 by showing me his old service pistol. I told him I probably shouldn’t touch it but he insisted, obviously proud of his pride ‘n joy. After I handed it back he started to wipe if off with an oiled rag, then swore under his breath and started scrubbing.

    I’ll second emdfl’s advice. Have her send the Keltec off for coating. I currently carry an old school carbon slide P228 and after coating it’s remained rust-free even with me sweating all over it.

  5. Yeah, Guy, I’m working on anything I plan to keep goes there. My “truck gun” is an AK underfolder that lives in a Nike bat bag. Had it done there and the only thing I have to do to clean it is flush it with water. Then wipe with a water-displacing fluid.

  6. Might try Eezox in the future. Goes on wet, dries to a film, and it’s about the best protectant I’ve tried. Seems to last well, too. Coat of it on the steel parts just might do it.

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