Clean your guns often and well and they’ll pay you back tenfold. For some of my readers that know me well, know I love a clean truck and clean guns. You also know I have a love/hate relationship with doing these chores, but there’s no better feeling than knowing your guns are cleaned, oiled, and ready for shooting.
My dad taught me to take care of my things with the utmost respect for them early on in life. I’m grateful for everything I own and have been able to buy myself. If you think of the guns you own right now, how many hours of work did that cost you? If I think of the average cost of a stock Glock and the rate I was making post-college, that’s almost 40 hours, an entire week’s worth of work in order to afford that gun. Shoot, that was about the cost of my entire month’s rent. Now that might not mean much to you, but let’s add the cost of gun repair if something breaks. How much does a replacement piece and shipping cost? How about the cost of a gunsmith to repair something? The cost of maintaining your firearm is far less than the cost of repairing.
I know, I know, Glocks can run forever without being cleaned. While this may be true, letting carbon build and not giving the gun a proper cleaning can lead to problems later. Believe me, I shot on a pistol team that used the same guns over and over again with no cleanings and none of them were not functioning right. But I did get good at clearing malfunctions!
How often should you clean your guns?
I’m a competitive shooter and cleaning my guns before every match is a requirement for me. If one of my guns has a malfunction, I want to know that it was not because I neglected to clean the gun. If I do go a couple of range trips without cleaning my guns, I always clean them before a match no matter how much I don’t want to.
Some people prefer to get straight to cleaning when they come home from the range and some people clean right before they go to the range. And a select few clean their guns at the range. Either way, figure out a routine to clean your guns and stick to it. If you shoot your concealed carry gun, I highly recommend cleaning that gun immediately before putting it back to use (concealed carrying it).
When I buy a gun brand new or brand new to me (used), I immediately take it apart and give it a good cleaning. One of the reasons, aside from cleaning, to do this when you buy a gun is to learn how to take it apart if you need to. When you go to the range, there’s always a possibility that the gun will malfunction or the ammo could cause a squib. There’s nothing more embarrassing than YouTubing at the range on how to disassemble your gun. Also, been there.
A lot of new firearm owners have a fear of taking apart the gun since they could have trouble putting it back together. That’s exactly why you learn how to do these things at home. I teach new firearm owners to disassemble and reassemble their gun at least a dozen times to get used to it.
If you buy a used gun, you 100% need to clean it immediately as you have no idea what condition it might be in.
What should you clean?
Cleaning solvents are not all made equal. I’m a huge fan of Breakthrough Clean® products. I came across this company on social media one day and immediately was drawn to it because of their humor. Before even trying their product, I had two of their stickers on my laptop cracking people up. I mean, how do you making cleaning guns sound sexy and funny? Well, by talking about lube of course! Okay, okay, back to the blogging…
Their solvent was important to me because I saw it was safe to use on cerakote and hydro-printing. It also does a great job of getting rid of carbon and lead quickly and thoroughly. I also learned recently about the importance of copper remover. Copper can be found in ammunition as a thin layer of coating over the lead. Copper residue will take away your barrel’s accuracy and can damage it further. Breakthrough® Clean also makes a Copper Remover to fix this.
Every rifle, pistol, and shotgun barrel needs to be cleaned well so carbon and debris don’t build up. One of the best tools on the market to clean a barrel with is a Battle Rope™ from Breakthrough Clean®. The rope has a cleaning brush built into the rope and includes a detachable hard bristle nylon brush. This is a great tool to bring to the range as well to give your barrel a quick run through when it needs it. Be sure to spray solvent on and in the barrel or on the cleaning brush before running it through.
On a pistol, cleaning the inside of the frame and inside of the slide is important. Always apply the solvent first and watch it break down the grime. I use a Double Ended Nylon Brush to scrub the smaller, more difficult areas to get to and then use Q-tips to get down deeper.
On a rifle, the upper receiver needs to be cleaned and as deep into the barrel as you can get. I will spray solvent onto a Chamber Brush and attach it to a rod to twist and clean out the area you can’t get with a Battle Rope™. I then use Q-tips for anything I missed. Your bolt carrier group (BCG) needs to be stripped apart and each piece cleaned thoroughly. I use a Grip Carbon Multi-Scraper that is a godsend to clean your BCG with. The charging handle can also use a quick scrub and your lower receiver for any carbon or debris build-up.
On a shotgun, always check your magazine tube or magazines if you run a box fed shotgun for dirt, excess oil, clay, mud, etc. Shells will not feed right if there’s anything built up in excess. I like to use a solvent to clean off the action area from where your shells load, the lifter, the ejection port, and the bolt if needed.
The newest product from Breakthrough Clean® and every gun owner’s best friend is their Wipes. These are great to keep in your range bag, cleaning kit, and have on hand at a match. Instead of using a paper towel or cloth for wiping things down, use a Wipe.
What do you oil?
Each gun is different and the best way to know what to oil is to read the manual they provide or check out a helpful YouTube video of what to clean. If there are two metal pieces rubbing against each other, most always, I oil it. There’s a joke in there somewhere…
On a pistol, I’ll oil the pieces of the slide that moves back and forth on the frame. I’ll give the barrel a little oil as well. On a rifle, the BCG and charging handle should be oiled so that they move and function well together. I lightly oil the action on my shotgun. Inertia driven shotguns like I run recommend oil on the rails of the bolt and sides and plunger on the trigger group. The key to oil is knowing what oil works best in the temperature you’re shooting in.
At the end of the day, cleaning your guns should give you peace of mind, especially if you’re a competitor. If you use dirty ammunition, looking at you Winchester, make sure to especially clean those barrels! Remember, there is such a thing as too much lube.
So to round out this blog, quick question to the people. Who should have to clean your guns if you offered to let someone borrow them?
I appreciate it when someone has borrowed one of my guns returns it in the condition they received it, which is to say, clean. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter because I’m going to go through it once it’s returned anyway to ensure that it’s cleaned to me standard and in proper working order. Great article Kenzie. I would add that particularly when it comes to firearms with tight tolerances, like premium pistols, regular cleaning is critical to prevent abrasive residue buildup from “sanding” wear surfaces.