4 Rules For Cleaning Your Gun
As every responsible gun owner knows, or at least should know, keeping your gun clean is extremely important. Without regular maintenance, guns tend to get full of unburnt primer, and can be damaged by water and humidity. In the worst case scenario, unloved guns can develop rust and corrosion, and ultimately become unusable.
There is a great deal of debate about how often you should clean your gun. Some people swear by cleaning their weapons every time they are used. Others say that you can get by cleaning a weapon every month, or after a specified number of rounds have been put through it.
To my mind, the frequency with which you need to clean your gun depends to a great degree on what kind of ammunition you are using. Good quality rounds fire pretty clean, whereas junk ammunition will quickly lead to a build up of primer and other gunk which you really need to get rid of.
I also think that for most people it makes sense to set a timetable for cleaning your firearm which depends on how much you normally use it. Giving all of your weapons a thorough clean once a month, for instance, is a good way of keeping them all in good condition, and can actually be a fun activity if you set aside a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Once you’ve decided to clean your weapon, there are a few key rules that should be followed. Cleaning your gun incorrectly can lead to damage, which is the opposite outcome to what you want.
The most important thing when cleaning your gun, as with most other tasks, is to be prepared. This means not only having the right kit, but also having a work area that is suitable for the job.
If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the country with good weather, the best idea is to work outside. For most of us, however, that is not practical. If you have to work inside, choose an area that is well ventilated – ideally, you want your work area to be in a large room, and have a good sized window.
Get a sturdy table that does not move or flex when you lean on it. Avoid tables with casters or wheels, because they tend to move around at just the wrong moment, and this can lead to you accidentally dinging your gun. Do not use your kitchen table – remember that a lot of the chemicals you are working with are pretty poisonous, and you don’t want to contaminate your food with cleaning fluid or gun oil.
It’s also worth investing in a good gun cleaning kit. A set that is specifically designed for your weapon is best, although there is also a good range of generic kits that will do the job equally as well.
Once you are sat at your work table, take all of the ammunition out of your gun, and from your workspace. Clear away any boxes of ammunition or loose cartridges, and put them in their proper place. Check your gun is totally unloaded. Then check again.
Next, take a look at the manual for your weapon. This is a step that many old hands overlook, because they think they already know everything there is to know about their weapon. To my mind, this is both arrogant and counter-productive. The manual for your gun was written by an engineer who knows the weapon inside out, and will explain how to safely and thoroughly disassemble and clean your gun.
If you’ve got an older weapon, it’s likely that you have lost the manual. Don’t worry. Nowadays, you can get the manual for almost any gun online, and for free. Who knows, you might even learn something about your weapon that you never knew before.
A cleaning cradle and a non-slip mat can greatly improve the safety of working on your gun. These items will hold your gun steady while you work on it, and reduce the possibility of damage to your weapon, or – worse – accidental discharge.
Cleaning your gun should be a relaxing task, not a chore. When taking apart your weapon, and when cleaning each part, work methodically and slowly. Rushing this process will only mean that it will not be done properly, and you will have to clean the weapon again.
A good idea is to keep a couple of containers on hand, for keeping track of the small parts of your weapon. You can store the parts waiting to be cleaned in one tray, and those that are already clean in another. This helps you to keep track of where you are, and will mean that you won’t miss anything when you put the gun back together.
Be especially careful when cleaning the bore. The rifling here is critical to the operation and accuracy of your weapon, and is easily damaged by incorrect cleaning. Clean from breech to muzzle wherever possible, though on some guns this is impossible.
Store Your Weapons Properly
Although cleaning your gun is an important part of maintaining it, don’t stop there. Storing your guns properly, especially in the winter months when there is a lot of humidity, is critical for keeping them in good condition. Getting a decent gun safe is a good way of keeping your weapons dry and protected.
On the other hand, you should also take special care of your weapons if you live in a particularly hot climate, or have hot summers. The heat can lead to gun oil and lubricants quickly evaporating, and this can leave your gun unprotected. In hot climates, dust can also be an issue, but again one that is solved by buying or constructing a safe and sturdy gun cabinet.
Cleaning your weapons regularly, and keeping them safe in between, are the two most important aspects of maintaining any firearm. A gun stored in a protected environment, and not used, can last for quite a time before needing a clean, though you should always check all of your guns for signs of damage regularly.
In the end, it's not really different from any other rules for safe interactions with firearms or, for that matter, life. Be prepared, ensure you can work cleanly and don't rush yourself, and take the appropriate precautions when dealing with potentially hazardous items. Good luck and keep those barrels and actions clean.