The relationship between hunters and sticky stuff goes back to Neanderthal Man, which is to say 50,000 years ago or so. Our ancient cousins needed a way to keep flint spearheads from working loose in their shafts and developed a process called “dry distillation” by which they made a pitchlike glue from birch bark. We know that they were able to do it because we’ve found traces of the stuff on Paleolithic flint points, but we still don’t know exactly how. Neanderthals were no dummies.

What with the DIY trend in rifles, it’s become fashionable for manufacturers of gun accessories to included little tubes of sticky stuff with the hardware, but before you go squirting it hither and yon, it may be useful to review some general rules.

Just as your sanding determines whether a paint job will look professional or hideous, degreasing determines whether adhesive will hold. You have to get off all the oil or grease, not just some of it, or most of it, in order for Loctite, or whatever you’re using, to lock. As I wrote some time ago, regarding my flash hider working loose after only five rounds, the fault was not in the adhesive, but in my haphazard degreasing, and I should have know better. When Gus Norcross, who corrects my mistakes, got through degreasing, those parts were clean, and his glue job is still holding.

Degrease with fresh acetone or Birchwood-Casey Gun Scrubber. Don’t employ acetone that’s been used and poured back in the can. If it’s polluted, it won’t work.

Understand what your sticky stuff is supposed to do. Blue Loctite is for parts that may someday have to be disassembled without the use of an acetylene torch and a blacksmith’s hammer. It’s for parts that you may have to dismount in the field, like scope rings. (Although since the introduction of Torx screws, I haven’t used anything on either my bases or rings, and I have yet to have anything work loose. Degrease them with lighter fluid, put a drop of lighter fluid on the threads, and tighten until the screws make little squeaking noises like a shrew being strangled.)

Red Loctite should be used only after much thought and prayer. Whatever it’s holding in place is going to stay that way, and if you want to get it apart, you had best visit a gunsmith. Beyond red Loctite, you have Rocksett, a high-temperature ceramic adhesive that probably cannot be removed with a thermonuclear blast. There are many others besides these, and to get an idea of what’s available, go to

Use sparingly. All these adhesives are thin liquids when applied, and they will go boldly where no man has gone before. If you honk a great gout of Loctite into your scope base holes, it will find its way down to your bolt, which will never again go forward and back unless you have a gunsmith free it. The way you use these adhesives is, put a fraction of a drop on the leading thread of the screw, drive it home, and let the trip distribute the glue evenly.

If you have something larger, such as the barrel threads for a can or a flash suppressor, you can apply a drop, and then brush it into the threads or use a Q-Tip to spread it around. Don’t leave enough anywhere to collect into a drop, which will then go for a trip to someplace it shouldn’t.

Or you can hunt with a spear like the Neanderthals. They slathered on the pitch without a care in the world, and their spears worked just fine.