Q&A With Travis Tweet: Pre-Season Shotgun Maintenance
By M.D. Johnson
If I’ve said this before, my apologies; HOWEVER, and even if I have said it before, my father’s words regarding shotgun maintenance ring as true today as they did 51 years ago when I started hunting with him. And those words are
“If you take a gun into the field, even if you don’t shoot it, it gets wiped down. If you shoot it, even once, it gets broken down and cleaned.”
Note that he didn’t have to say “period” or “bottom line.” That’s just the way it was with my old man, and the way I was taught to treat firearms.
Does it make a difference, this apparent obsession with gun cleaning? Well, I have a Remington Model 1100 that looks and operates just as it did when I pulled it out of the box on Christmas morning, 1979. Same with my dad’s first shotgun, a 1952 Winchester Model 24 16 gauge.
Take good care of your firearms — and your vehicles and your chainsaws and yourself — and they’ll take care of you. Cliché? Perhaps. But it’s a sentiment my father and I believe in strongly.
Slayer Pro, Travis Tweet, believes it too. Thirty-seven-year-old Tweet resides in northwestern Washington and will be kicking off his eleventh ’fowl season in the Pacific Northwest in 2023. This week, the U.S. Marine — “once a Marine, always a Marine” — talks shotgun maintenance and readiness in the days and weeks prior to that most hallowed of days: The Opener.
Slayer Calls (SC): If you remember everything else — decoys, dog, blind bag, boat, camouflage, etc. — prior to opening day but forget about your shotgun, is that okay? I mean, it was clean last year, right? And it worked. So, no problem?
Travis Tweet: Terrible. Early on in my [USMC] basic training, my drill instructor instilled in us the theory that ‘you will take care of your equipment before you take care of yourself.’ So the first thing I do [after the hunt] is take care of my equipment, especially my shotgun.
Pre-season shotgun care actually begins at the end of the previous season. You do a deep cleaning and oil it up really well before storage. Then, when it comes out, you take it apart again, inspect it again and give it another cleaning, ’cause you can’t clean a gun too much.
Author’s Note: I’ll jump in here for a moment. Due to the fact that I spend most of my time hunting the tides and saltwater, the ‘deep cleaning’ that Tweet speaks of here, for me, is a REALLY deep cleaning. Everything gets torn apart, including the magazine tube (spring, cap, keeper), and everything gets scrubbed and wiped, wiped and scrubbed. Choke tube, too. If I don’t do this, the firearm rusts — sometimes badly.
SC: Are you doing yourself and the resources a grave disservice if you don’t get out to the range and pattern your ’fowl shotgun prior to the season?
Tweet: Every single duck hunter has been there. Early season, and you can’t hit the broad side of a barn, let alone a duck landing in the decoys. You definitely want to pattern your shotgun before the season.
First, [patterning] builds confidence, and that confidence helps you become a better shooter. It’s really simple; just a big piece of paper with a circle. And I’m checking to see how my ammunition performs at 20, 40 and 50 yards. If need be, I’ll try different ammunition in order to find the one that gives me the best pattern.
SC: Let’s say in your pre-season inspection, you notice something doesn’t seem right. It’s a break or a crack or a mechanical malfunction of some nature. Do you attempt a repair yourself, or do you consult a certified gunsmith?
Tweet: If you’re taking a gun into the field, you had better know that firearm. There’s a lot of resources out there, like YouTube, that cover all makes and models. You should be able to confidently take that shotgun apart, inspect all of the parts, do a function test, and [repair] anything within reason that needs repaired. Shotguns are really simple. Sometimes you get into components like the trigger group that are more complicated, and there, I’d highly recommend taking it in to a gunsmith.
SC: Curious, Travis. Do you carry a field repair kit — a gun kit — into the field for those ‘just in case’ situations?
Tweet: I always keep a Gerber Multi-tool with me — That’s from my time in the military — and I do carry a Bore Snake. I don’t like to carry too much [in my pack]. If I’m packing six or seven dozen decoys, I try to be minimalistic on everything else.
Author’s Note: Okay, so my obsessive side rears its head, but I do carry a small field shotgun maintenance kit in my blind bag. A short, collapsible cleaning rod, tips and patches. Choke tube wrench. Screwdriver set. Multi-tool. And a selection of spare parts, like an O-ring, operating handle (I had a handle fall out and into the marsh several years ago. Ugh!) and an entire bolt. This goes back to my muzzleloader days when I packed enough gear into the field to completely strip, repair and reassemble my black powder shotgun or rifle.