What to Do with Firearms and Ammunition Affected by Flood Waters

  • NSSF and SAAMI Provide Guidance on Dealing with Submerged Guns and Ammunition

NEWTOWN, Conn., Sep. 7, 2017 — Firearms owners who have seen their guns and stored ammunition submerged by flood waters in storm-wracked areas are probably wondering if their firearms and ammunition can be salvaged and safely used.

The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute® (SAAMI®) and National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) point to two helpful documents containing guidelines to assist gun owners in making sound decisions related to safely handling and treating or disposing of these items, emphasizing to always err on the side of caution and safety.

SAAMI, founded in 1926, is an organization that creates and publishes industry standards on firearms and ammunition. NSSF is the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry.

The SAAMI document “Guidance on Firearms That Have Been Submerged or Exposed to Extensive Amounts of Water” points out two major concerns about firearms that have been exposed to water: parts susceptible to moisture and rust damage such as metal parts, wood stocks and grips, and optics; and, secondly, infiltration of the action, barrel and safety systems by grit, silt and other foreign debris.

Always unload firearms before beginning any treatment process.

It’s important to limit moisture and corrosion damage to the component parts of the firearm. This can be accomplished by disassembling the component parts and using up to two coats of a moisture-displacing lubricant such as Hoppes #9 MDL or WD-40 to clean and stabilize the parts while, importantly, following the product’s directions so as not to damage, for instance, plastic or synthetic parts. Another tip is to allow wood stocks and grips to air-dry and not be force dried by exposure to heat.

The document emphasizes that once the firearm has been thoroughly dried, consideration must be given to having the firearm inspected and serviced by the manufacturer, an authorized service center, or a qualified gunsmith before putting the firearm back in service.

Dealing with Submerged Ammunition

To help firearms owners determine what to do with ammunition that has been affected by water and moisture, SAAMI offers another helpful document, “Guidance on Ammunition That Has Been Submerged in Water.”

Discussed are differences in moisture resistance between centerfire, rimfire and shotshell ammunition, and potential hazards associated with “drying out” cartridges, including possible deterioration and damage to cartridges due to drying methods.

Another serious hazard that could result from using compromised ammunition is the potential for a bore obstruction due to partial ignition of either the priming compound or the propellant powder charge, or both. Firing a subsequent round through an obstructed barrel can result in bodily injury, death and property damage.

SAAMI provides the following cautionary conclusion: “It would be impossible to ascertain for certain the extent of the deteriorating affect, if any, the water may have had on each individual cartridge. Therefore, the safe answer is that no attempt be made to salvage or use submerged ammunition. The ammunition should be disposed of in a safe and responsible manner. Contact your local law enforcement agency for disposal instructions in your area.


About NSSF: The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 12,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.

Sandbar Hunting – Discovery, Ancestors, Archaeology

  • A great way to spend a post-flood summer.
  • The Missouri River is a conveyor belt for fossils and artifacts.
  • Finding bits of the past is like stepping onto a time machine.
The author’s son found this Bison antiquus vertebra on a sandbar across the river from Jefferson City.

By Jim Low

A wetter-than-average spring has the Missouri River bank-full today, but it’s only a matter of time until it falls to summer levels, exposing hundreds of sandbars or, as I like to think of them, time machines.

During spring floods, the Missouri River and its thousands of tributaries carve away at geological deposits between the Rocky Mountains and St. Louis.

Missouri River sandbars seem featureless at first. Look for areas where receding flood water has deposited larger articles. Eroding banks and the upstream side of wing dikes are productive spots, too.

It digs out bones of long-extinct animals, collects artifacts from Indian camps and unearths shark teeth that fell to the bottom of the inland sea that once divided our continent in two.  Along the way, it also plucks trade goods from the rotting hulls of wrecked steam ships and objects whose origins and functions are mysteries.

Discovering an arrowhead or a huge leg bone triggers a welter of questions and speculation.

Intact arrowheads are more common than complete fossils.

Was the animal killed by a hunter or a saber-toothed tiger?

Who made the arrowhead? How did he or she lose it?

Was it carried to this spot in the vitals of a deer… or perhaps a mastodon??

The result is a pleasant sort of temporal vertigo.

One moment you have both feet planted firmly in the present.  Then, in an instant, the currents of time are tugging you back to the Pleistocene period and beyond.

This year’s natural exhibit of historical artifacts is being arranged right now beneath the mocha-colored waters of the Big Muddy.  When it opens, admission will be free to anyone with a kayak, canoe or motor boat.

The Missouri Department of Conservation maintains dozens of river accesses at convenient intervals, making it easy to plan an expedition.  The exhibit changes every time the river overtops sandbars and islands, and the first explorers get their pick of newly deposited prizes.

Sandbar archaeology has a small but dedicated following in Missouri.

The holy grail of this group is a skull of a Bison antiquus.  These huge grazers were 25 percent larger than modern bison and had horns a yard across.

Every few years, a photo of a proud beachcomber displaying such a treasure appears in a river town’s newspaper.  My own personal best find was the topmost 1/3 of an elk antler.

University of Missouri-Columbia Archaeology Professor Dr. Lee Lyman examines an Indian artifact. He estimated the age of the elk antler in front of him at 7,000 to 8,000 years.

I nearly walked past it, because only one eroded tine poked a few inches above the level surface of the sandbar.  At first, I thought it was a stick of wood.  Then I noticed that it had a hollow core and looked as if it had been gnawed by a rodent, which made me think of antlers.  Imagine my awe when I pulled on it and a massive, 2-foot end portion of an enormous antler emerged from the sand.  The whole antler likely would have had 7 points.

Investigate anything that protrudes above the sand. It could be the find of a lifetime.

Lee Lyman, then a professor of archaeology at the University of Missouri, identified my antler fragment as coming from an elk.

North American elk are descended from Eurasian red deer that crossed the Bering Land Bridge into North America during the last ice age.  The pattern of forking and slightly webbed junctions are intermediate between the typical antler shape of ancient red deer and modern-day elk.

Based on the degree of divergence from red deer, he estimated that my specimen was 7,000 to 8,000 years old.

Aside from Bison antiquus skulls – which are, let’s face it, unbeatable – the coolest thing I ever saw rescued from a sandbar was an intricately carved piece of personal ornamentation.

Lyman identified it as a robe fastener.

It was made from half of a turkey wing bone split lengthwise.  It was jet black with age.  The carving was exquisite in its detail and symmetry.  What I wouldn’t give to know the story of this piece of art!

Professor Lyman speculated that this exquisitely carved turkey wing bone might have been a robe fastener.

Pillaging artifacts and fossils from archaeological sites would be both unethical and illegal.  However, once the river washes objects away from their original locations, they lose their geologic and geographic contexts, greatly reducing their usefulness in unraveling the history they represent.

What are these? Darned if we know, but they were cool enough to come home in a pocket.

For this reason, items found on sandbars are fair game for collectors.

If no one picks them up, they will only be washed downstream – and probably reburied forever – by the next flood.  The exception is human remains, which must be reported to law-enforcement officials, even if they appear to be very old.

Artifacts found on the river are not entirely without scientific value and professional archaeologists take a lively interest in amateur finds.

If you make an interesting discovery, contact the archaeology faculty at the nearest university or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ State Historic Preservation Office.  They can provide fascinating insights about its identity and origins.  Then you can legitimately say you have added to the body of archaeological knowledge.

Looking for artifacts and relaxing on Missouri River sandbars is a wonderful way to spend a summer day.