Like any tool or equipment that you may own, keeping your firearms clean and in good working order goes a long way in maintaining optimal performance. Even a rank novice knows instinctively that ‘clean is good’ when it comes to your guns, but there are some elements of the process that may be misunderstood, not considered or that get forgotten about due to laziness or neglect.
Why It’s Important
How critical the consistent and reliable performance of your weapon is, really depends on what you use it for (and how much you shoot). It’s one thing if you’re a hunter, recreational range or competitive shooter vs. someone who relies on their gun for defense or their job (ie. military / law enforcement). Accuracy is always important, but I’d REALLY want consistent performance if my life depended on it. In any case, here’s a sampling of some potential issues that you may encounter with a poorly maintained firearm:
- Potential for bore blockage (and chances of increased chamber pressure incident)
- Malfunctions such as failure-to-feed, failure-to-fire or failure-to-eject
- Diminished accuracy due to residue build-up (especially important for competitive shooters)
- Internal & external corrosion
- Excessive wear on internal parts
- Magazine feeding issues
- Overall durability & longevity of the weapon
Some Hints & Tips
First, it’s always a good idea to have a strong sense of how your firearms really function. This makes it easier to assess performance and identify any potential issues. Secondly, you should always be completely familiar with the owner’s manual that came with the weapon. Best not to guess or make any assumptions about its operation.
Make cleaning and inspection a part of your routine. Whether it’s based on the number of rounds fired or a set period of time – do it regularly.
If you subject your weapon(s) to harsh conditions (water / snow/ dirt / grit etc.) or live in an area with high humidity, you’ll want to clean and maintain more often.
Include magazines in the process. They can get gummed-up too and the springs can also fail over time.
Make sure that your ammo is clean and dry before use.
Buy a decent cleaning kit that works with your model of gun. You’ll need the specific tools and sizes. It’s a good investment.
There are a number of different suppressor types, and their maintenance requirements can vary. Some sealed units don’t always need the same level of cleaning as other gun parts due to the heat and pressure that they experience. Be sure to check the manufacturer specs for details. At the very least, keep your threads clean.
Be sure to use a cleaning/lubrication solution that is approved by the manufacturer of your gun. This helps to ensure performance and avoids any potential damage to the finish.
Get familiar with how much to lubricate all parts of your gun to avoid maintenance and operational issues. Too little can cause increased friction and wear with internal mechanisms – too much and your weapon becomes a residue magnet.
Keep track of any cleaning pads that you use to avoid leaving one inside somewhere.
It may seem like common sense not to shoot yourself or someone else while cleaning your gun, but it still happens enough that it’s worth mentioning. Here are a few things that you might want to keep in mind:
ALWAYS point the muzzle in a safe direction when handling a firearm (I know, but it had to be said).
NEVER attempt to clean a loaded weapon. Remove the magazine / eject any chambered round / visually inspect the chamber to ensure that it’s clear.
You should use protective eyewear when undertaking any maintenance work.
Don’t fieldstrip beyond what is indicated in the gun’s manual and do not attempt to modify or alter any parts unless you’re a qualified Gunsmith. Being ‘handy’ doesn’t count.
Replace any worn or broken gun parts immediately. Replace faulty magazines when necessary.
Double-check everything after reassembly and test for function before firing.
If you suspect that anything may be wrong with the weapon, do not attempt to use it.
Here’s the thing – there’s no real downside to keeping your firearms in tip-top shape, so don’t make excuses and get it done.
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