This week's edition of "Traplines on Cypress Creek" discusses why it is important, for safety reasons, to carefully clean and inspect your gun after a hunt.

Tempus Fugit. By this weekend we’ll have passed one more nail in the coffin, I suppose. How did 2011 get here so quickly?

This past week I saw an interesting story play out and one that should serve as a reminder to Waterfowlers about their guns and gun safety.

Perry Bendelewski of Magnolia is an ardent waterfowl hunter. In fact, there are hardly enough adjectives to describe a young man who is more into hunting these big birds. It’s nothing for him to run through a case of ammo in weeks instead of months like most waterfowling fanatics might. From sea ducks to snow geese, if the season is in, Perry is hunting them.

He came by the shop with his Beretta Xtrema last week to show me a barrel that had been blown apart. Assuring me that it did not happen on the first shot (as most obstructed barrels do) this one had become unglued in the middle of the hunt. The ventilated rib was ripped off and a 12-inch aneurysm had ruptured right in front of the forearm lug. I asked what he’d been shooting and he said that he was using factory 3.5-inch magnum shells that the gun is designed for.

I sent him to the local Baretta expert here in Magnolia, Bruce Ney. Bruce called me back and gave me Beretta’s explanation.

It seems that the Beretta line of fine guns warns shooters never to use steel shot in chokes smaller than the screw in modified they supply with the gun. They explain that anything smaller will create a backpressure that will slowly, but inexorably, weaken the barrel. As the weakest point in any shotgun barrel is the point where the forearm lug is welded to the barrel, that is the common place that barrel ruptures take place.

In this case, Perry was using one of the premium after-market choke inserts. According to Beretta, this device tries to constrict the steel pellets, which aren’t budging like the old lead pellets, along with the bismuth and synthetic pellets would. Each shot, especially the big magnum loads, create extreme backpressure that the premium lightweight barrels can’t withstand.

Looking at Perry’s barrel closer after this explanation, we could see where the steel shot had cut through the wadding and gouged the barrel in several places. Additionally, we found that the chock could not be removed and had expanded within the muzzle of the shotgun, which created more backpressure.

As funny as it might seem, the cheaper firearms tend to do a bit better. They are heavier and thicker walled, yet they still suffer the long-term effects when steel shot is used with full and extra full chokes sold by aftermarket manufacturers.

The best advice is to clean your gun every time you return from a hunt. Check the inside of the barrel for pitting and the outside for any bulging that may be occurring.

Replacement barrels aren’t cheap by any means, but neither are hospital bills and funerals. Be safe out there.