It's no secret that I hate cleaning our house. Scrubbing bathrooms and washing dishes just isn't for me. But I'll spend hours in my garage fiddling with my guns. Because it's both relaxing and satisfying at the same time. And like every other piece of survival gear you own, you need to keep your firearms well-maintained if you want to rely on it in a disaster.
The risks of a dirty gun
I've seen my share of neglected weapons, and there's a number of risks with a dirty gun. First and foremost are malfunctions. You cannot rely on a dirty gun. The mechanisms inside are complex, and as gunpowder residue builds up this can cause a whole variety of problems. Even if your gun looks clean on the outside. Plus, keeping your guns clean will increase their shelf life, and you'll also learn your way around the weapon, so you know how it works, and can fix it should there ever be a problem.
When should I clean my guns?
I'd love to tell you after every use, but this isn't practical in day-to-day life. Of course, it won't do any harm if you do clean it religiously after each session on the range, but for most of us we pick a happy medium and give our guns a clean after shooting 200 to 300 rounds, or every six months if you've got your guns in storage.
How to clean my guns?
I've created the perfect space for cleaning my guns, on my bench in the garage. I've got plenty of space to spread out, and there's windows either side so I'm not stuck breathing the fumes the entire time. It's a good practice to unload and move any ammunition to a separate place before you start disassembling any firearms, and you've got a clean area to work. I always use a gun cleaning mat, my wife got me this one as a gift and I love it.
Then you're going to need cleaning gear. I cut strips from old t-shirts, and you'll also want to raid the bathroom for an old toothbrush, some q-tips and your gun cleaning kit. Most kits like this one give you the brushes you need, which will include patches, a bore/chamber brush, punch rods, and also grab a little cleaning solvent and some lubricant. Oh, and I also found that a barrel cleaning rope is a good investment to ensure it's as clean as possible.
From here, it's just a matter of sitting back and getting to work.
Take out your owner's manual and follow their steps to disassemble the weapon. If you don't have it handy, there's plenty of walkthroughs on YouTube, or you could try downloading the instructions from the brands website. I'd recommend trying to get your hands on a guide, as this will have the most detailed information and will tell you exactly where the oil needs to be applied. This is important. Follow the instructions to the letter, as too much oil can attract dirt and dust, and stop your firearm working properly.
I want to say this again because it's an important point. Do not over-oil your firearms. Your gun will work just fine with a light oil, exactly where the owner's manual tells you to do it.
Then it comes to cleaning. Use some patches to apply the solvent and keep wiping until the black carbon residue no longer wipes off. It should be relatively easy for most areas, but you will need to use a little brushing to get into the chamber and where the bullets load. A wire brush here can get rid of any stubborn build-ups, and don't forget to clean your magazines too. Just remember these do not require any oil.
When you're cleaning the barrel, the trick is to push through in the direction the bullets travel. Especially if you're using a wire brush, it'll reduce the chances you do any damage to the very end of the barrel, though this isn't really a problem if you're using a barrel cleaning rope. Having the right tools to clean your guns is important, as it makes the job a whole lot easier. After using a little cleaning agent, use a barrel brush to break free any residue, then pass through patch after patch until it comes out clean.
The final steps of the cleaning process
Once you've cleaned every piece of your gun, you need to put it back together. Follow the steps in your owner's manual and run through a few drills to check you've done it correctly. Cycling through a practice fire, and ensure everything works, and I have a couple of dummy rounds I use to ensure the magazines are feeding correctly in my semi-automatic. The last step is to use a little bit of oil to wipe down your gun, but only a few drops. You don't want to overdo it and have it slippery when you're trying to shoot.
For me, cleaning my guns is almost therapeutic. I can see any problem areas that are developing from normal wear and tear, and I also know exactly how each works. Replacing parts and cleaning jams is no longer an issue. I can fix almost anything with the right spare parts, and I know my guns will be in good working order, no matter what. Will yours?