Q:I recently got a good deal on two rifles that had been damaged in a cabin fire. Their stocks need to be replaced, but the receivers and barrels look alright after some cleaning. If I put new stocks on the guns, will they be safe to shoot?
A: Steel that has been heated beyond the critical point (around 1,400 to 1,500 degrees F for high-carbon steel) for a prolonged period, and then allowed to cool gradually, is essentially undergoing an annealing process that will reduce its hardness and strength. In a fire, a gun not protected by a gun safe may well be exposed to such temperature levels, potentially weakening its barrel or receiver, and making it more susceptible to failure under the stresses of modern high-pressure ammunition. Any gun that has been in a fire should therefore be treated with suspicion, especially if there is evidence of exposure to high heat levels. An experienced gunsmith equipped with a Rockwell hardness tester should be able to assess the safety of any such gun.