Fires do happen, and guns are saved from damage. Some decades ago the Andy Palmer Inn in Dearborn, Michigan, burned. The Inn featured hundreds of firearms mounted on the walls as decoration. The fire was put out. A few of the firearms were damaged beyond repair, but most were salvaged and needed only to be disassembled, cleaned, reassembled, oiled and hung back on the walls of the rebuilt Inn.
However, if the fire burns for long, firearms will be damaged beyond usefulness. The stocks will be burned to ashes, and the metal parts affected to varying degrees. The barrels may be warped and even turned to scale (thin shotgun barrels). Steel melts at around 2,800°F, depending on the alloy. Aluminum goes at approximately 1220°F, depending on the alloy, while brass and zinc alloys go somewhere around 1725°F and 787°F, respectively.
The temperature of an average house fire depends on many variables. According to one authority, the temperature is in the 1000°F to 1500°F range, and could be much higher. Firearms subjected to high heat should never be fired again, even if they appear relatively undamaged, except for having the stock burned, since steel loses its temper, springs especially.
Your correspondent’s Grandmother was born the year Custer decided, too late, that a tactical withdrawal might have been a wiser decision than the decision he made. When she married Granddad, her father gave her a present of money. She and Granddad bought some good land and began farming. Several years and seven children later, the farmhouse burned, the result of four small children playing with matches. Granddad was at the other farm and one of the older boys was sent on horseback to fetch him. Meanwhile, neighbors saw the smoke, and rallied to remove as many of the household goods as possible.
According to Grandmother, Granddad came galloping on a bareback horse, turned into the lane, jumped off and his first words were: “Did you get my rifle and shotgun out?”
“Are you okay?”
“Are the children alright?”
“They’re fine. I sent them to the barn to keep warm.” Priorities!
Fires do happen and some firearms are saved. However, if you own more than a few firearms and do not have them insured separately, it’s time to take inventory. Contact your insurance agent and discuss the subject. A pile of rusted, blackened, warped and melted metal doesn’t have a great amount of value. Insurance could be cheap.
This article is an excerpt from the 62nd Edition of the Gun Digest Book 2008. For more information, please visit www.gundigeststore.com.
This gun collecting series brought to you by NM Collector Software.
Recommended books for gun collectors: