Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cleaning Your Guns

If you are a new firearm owner, you have likely heard a variety of advice when it comes to cleaning your gun.  If you keep reading this post, you'll get my take on the subject.

First, let me say I clean guns a lot less than I used to.  When I was a new gun owner I would take apart and clean guns every time I used them.  Why?  It's what my dad did.  We only used guns to go hunting, and when we came back home we'd clean the guns.  It seemed pretty reasonable to me at the time.

But compare that cycle to how we maintain other mechanical objects and it doesn't really hold up.  I don't take apart and clean my bicycle every time I use it.  Or my chainsaw.  Or my car.  In fact, I pretty much never take apart, clean and re-assemble my car.  I do enough maintenance to keep it in good working order.  I've adopted that same approach with my firearms.

Most modern firearms are exceedingly reliable.  If you go onto youtube you can find various "torture tests" where people run thousands of rounds through a gun without cleaning it.  Even people who bury their guns and then shoot them without cleaning.  This extreme approach will likely increase wear on the firearm, so it's maybe not the best option for everyone.  But it showcases what sort of use and abuse a modern firearm can take and still function properly.

So with many things in life, moderation is the key.  Cleaning your gun every time you shoot 50 rounds is unnecessary.  Never cleaning it will accelerate the wear.  Here is my approach to cleaning handguns.

Handgun Cleaning Regimen 
Start with an unloaded gun.  Unload your gun and check it.  Then check it again.  Then check it again.  Always follow the 3 rules of gun safety!  More people negligently fire their gun when cleaning than other activity, except perhaps holstering.  
Every time you shoot your gun, wipe it down with an oiled patch or rag when you get home.  Wipe off the grime from the outside, the inside of the action and the frame rails.  Put a drop or two of oil on the frame rails if your gun is so equipped.  Oil the parts of the cylinder where it moves if it is a revolver.  Wipe off the top of the magazines.  Then it's ready to be put away.

Every thousand or so rounds or once a year (whichever comes first) take the time to take it apart and clean it.  If you the gun is a 22, you'll probably find a lot of gunk everywhere inside the gun.  Clean the barrel.  Most other guns are pretty easy to take apart, any person using their manual or a youtube video can do it.  Some guns may need a pin drifted out, a punch, a take down tool, even a ball point pen can work to get the pin removal started.  Some guns are more challenging (like the Ruger 22 pistols) and you may need to read or watch the instructions a few times to get it right.

Cleaning every thousand rounds isn't mandatory- some people run their guns a lot longer in between cleanings.  Here is a guy that ran a 22 rifle 10,000 rounds without cleaning.  You should find your own interval based on experience.

By the way, if you don't have a manual check the gun manufacturers website.  Just about all of them will send you a new manual for free, many also have manuals available for download.

Break Free CLP is available in a variety of container sizes
Don't be afraid to use oil.  The only downside to over oiling is the oily spots will collect dirt and dust faster.  But not oiling the right spots correctly can result in premature wear or malfunctions.  If you aren't sure about a spot, put a drop of oil on it.  You can consult your manual for tips. 

What sort of supplies do you need?  Not much.  For most handguns I only use Break Free CLP.  It's has a cleaning agent and a lubricant.  If you so desire you can purchase a solvent specific for gunpowder.   Hoppes #9 is the most common.  A small bottle of either costs $5 - $7.  If you use a solvent make sure to use an oil when you are finished.  WD-40 is not a good choice for cleaning or lubricating guns!  It does a poor job of either.  Don't use it.  Ever.  There are lots of good lubricants for use on firearms, there is no reason to resort to WD-40.  Ever.  Don't do it.  Use anything else.

To clean a gun you'll need some sort of consumable cloth.  Paper towels aren't a good choice since they tear easy and can leave behind lint and bits of the paper towel itself.  Cotton works great.  You can make your own out of old t-shirts or underpants, or purchase pre-cut ones from a place that sells firearm supplies.  You'll be best served by patches that are sized for the caliber of the gun you are cleaning.  Being the proper size means they will properly fit down the barrel.  If you have a 22, the patches are small enough they aren't useful for other jobs, so selecting a size that is twice the height and width could be a good idea.  That way you can use them for general cleaning and then cut them into quarters when it's time to clean the barrel.

When cleaning the barrel you may wish to use solvent instead of an all-in-one product.  You may also wish to use a bore brush, again in the proper size for your gun, to help loosen up lead and/or copper residue.  Alternating running a couple moistened patches and then a brush down the barrel is the best way to clean it in quick order.

You'll need a rod to clean the barrel, something to attach both a jag or a patch holder and a brush.  You can use a short rod specifically made for pistols, or a larger rod meant for rifles.  A short section from a longer multi-piece rod works fine for cleaning pistols.  A long rod meant for rifles can be unwieldy but can work if it's all you have.  Pictured here are two basic pistol cleaning rods you can find for $10 or less.  You don't need anything fancy to clean a handgun, so don't feel the need to splurge.

Your handgun may have come with a small rod like one of the ones pictured here.  This tool may work well for your purpose so there is no reason to buy something else to do the job.  You can also find rods that have brushes at the end, which is a reasonable choice if you only have one caliber of firearm and don't want to buy a rod that can use a variety of brush sizes.

For some other thoughts on the subject, I recommend this fantastic guide authored by the Corned Cat on gun cleaning.  You can also review this tutorial offered by Hoppes, a manufacturer of many gun cleaning products.

Otis, another gun cleaning supply manufacturer offers the 6 Rules of Gun Cleaning and a collection of more specific cleaning videos.  A third maker of cleaning products, Kleenbore, offers a cleaning guide as well.  If you prefer videos with pretty girls, you can watch Ashley clean a Glock.  Lastly, you can see some cleaning ideas from American Rifleman, the NRA magazine. 

Lastly, make sure your gun is unloaded before you start!  Then check again.  Seriously.

1 comment:

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