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YOUR RIFLE wants to be your friend and will perform faithfully for you. All it needs to succeed at this is some careful but cheap attention, outlined in these 10 steps. And when I say cheap, I mean cheap. The total cost of all the products mentioned here is less than $60.

1. Scrub the Barrel

No, I don’t mean shove an oily patch through the bore–clean it so there’s nothing but bright steel inside. How? Scrub away with powder solvent, patches, and a phosphor-bronze brush, and then polish all the little grooves and lands with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Compound. When you can no longer see copper streaks from the muzzle end, you’re done. COST: $4

2. Fix the Dings

Major dents in a wood-stocked rifle can often be raised by laying a damp cleaning patch over the depression and heating the cloth with the tip of a hot iron. The steam will work its way into the wood fibers, causing them to swell, and the dent will either diminish or vanish. COST: $0

3. Hose Down the Action

Get a can of Birchwood-Casey Gun Scrubber. Next, take your barreled action out of its stock and remove the scope. (If you have a lever or pump or auto, remove the buttstock.) Now, working outdoors and wearing safety glasses, spray down the action, and in the case of a bolt gun, the trigger as well. The most amazing stuff will come out. Do not re-oil. I will say that again: Do not re-oil. COST: $6.80

4. Remove the Goo

While the barreled action is out of the stock, wipe off all the accumulated goo that’s on the underside of the barrel and the receiver. Do this to the corresponding surfaces in the stock as well. Re-oil the metal surfaces you’ve just cleaned. Lightly. I like to use Rem Oil, which is sold at just about all gun stores that are worthy of the name. COST: $2.50

5. Inspect the Base

While the scope is off the rifle, make sure the base screws are tight. If you’re really conscientious, remove the bases and check for oil that’s seeped underneath. Wipe it off. Degrease all surfaces, including base screws and screw holes, and replace the bases. COST: $0

6. Clean Your Scope Lenses

Use camera-lens cleaner and lens tissue. You can get this at any photo-supply store. COST: $8

7. Remove Rust

Light rust can be removed by scrubbing with 0000 steel wool and a little oil. (A rusted trigger is more serious; a gunsmith will have to take it apart and clean it or replace it.) A package of 0000 steel wool, which you can get at a hardware store, lasts for years. My own dates back to the Truman administration. COST: $8

8. Reblue Worn Areas

Some shooters consider bright spots to be the equivalent of campaign ribbons. I do, to an extent. But they are more likely to rust than blued surfaces, so you may want to get rid of them with a bottle of Brownells 44/40 Instant Gun Blue. COST: $10

9. Replace Burred Screws

The best way to get new ones is from a gunsmith. They buy spare screws by the bushel and can sell you the exact number and size you need. This includes not only ring and base screws but also bedding screws. COST: $6

10. Upgrade to Torx

Even if your slot- or hex-head base and ring screws are not damaged, consider replacing them with Torx screws. These rank among the great inventions of man because you can drive the suckers in tight and they are almost impossible to bugger up, even by the most ham-handed people. Base screws should be tightened until blood seeps from under your fingernails. Ring screws should be tightened firmly, not obsessively, because you may have to take your scope off in the field, where a screw that won’t budge is the last thing you need. You can buy an assortment of Torx screws and have enough to upgrade several guns. COST: $12