Weapon Maintenance

Cleaning guns is not the most fun part of shooting but is definitely a necessary evil. In fact everything from proper function to accuracy depends on it. When it comes down to it eighty percent of the problems people bring their guns to a gunsmith for are maintenance related. I’ve had complaints of the safety not working. Get inside the gun and its packed full of grass seed. Yes, the safety needed to be repaired but it malfunctioned because of the filth inside the gun.

Why does cleaning matter so much? Friction. Friction is both a guns best friend and it’s worst enemy. Too much of it and nothing works too little and it us unsafe. The best way to combat grime where you can’t reach is with a spray cleaner. Gun Scrubber, Remington’s Rem Action Degreaser, and Hornady One Shot are a few of the good brands. Don’t be afraid to make a mess. You may want to hold the action over a garbage can so it will drain in there and not on your floor. Just flush out as much gunk as you can. It doesn’t hurt, on your bolt guns, to remove the action from the stock once in a while and so triggers can be cleaned also. With the trigger clean and a couple drops of oil you will also notice a smoother, lighter feeling trigger pull. If you don’t feel comfortable removing the stock on your own by all means take it to a gunsmith and he will be happy to do it for you.

Accuracy is something we all shoot for. We all know that a dirty barrel isn’t as accurate. Everything depends on the cleaner you use. At gunsmithing school the running joke was that our wives should use Hoppe’s #9 as perfume. Now the original is great, don’t get me wrong. The Navy used it on the big guns aboard ship during WWII. It does have one flaw though. There is nothing in it to remove the copper jacket fouling in your barrel. Too much copper fouling and say good bye to your accuracy.

Here’s how we start fixing the problem. Read the label on your bottle of cleaner. If it says there is ammonia in it you are off to a good start and have less problems with accuracy. Ammonia will dissolve copper, carbon, or shotgun wad residues in your barrel. Here’s a tip to remember. Rifling is only about .005″ deep so it doesn’t take much to fill it in. Getting the copper out will restore lost accuracy as long as your bore is still good. If your bore is pitted or otherwise damaged no amount of cleaning will help. My personal favorite is Tetra Gun cleaning solvent. Though Hoppe’s bench rest does have ammonia in it Tetra Gun still has a higher concentration level. If you don’t have such a cleaner head for your local sporting goods store or Midway USA catalog (http://www.midwayusa.com) and get some. Solvents like Barnes CR-10, Butches Bore Shine, and Shooters Choice are some other good choices. Just open a window or the smell will give you a migraine.

Here is where I am going to loose some of you. I really do recommend cleaning at least your barrel after every time you go shooting. That’s how we keep the accuracy robbing copper from building up and your shoots will be more consistent. If done after every shooting session it will only take 10 or 15 minutes if cleaning with a rod or two pulls of a bore snake to get the barrel as good as new. That goes for rifles and pistols alike.

Just clean as usual with your new cleaner but before oiling spray your action cleaner we used on you inside of the action down the barrel. Then dry the bore well. This step neutralizes the ammonia. Though we need the ammonia to clean with too much of it will eat away your bore. After the bore is dried with two or three patches run an oil patch down. Finish up with another dry patch. The oil only needs to be in the pores of the metal. Any more just attracts dust and we are right back to a dirty bore.

Finally lets oil the action. Head for the medicine cabinet and grab a couple Q-Tips. Put a drop or two on the head of one and make that go as far as possible. We only want to leave a slight film of oil behind. Now here is where to oil. Ready? If it shines it gets oil. The shinier the area the more

friction is occurring. If it doesn’t shine oil (other than rust prevention, dry that oil back off though) isn’t necessary. Now like everything else we have a few exceptions. You want to let one drop roll down the hammer to the sear engagement. Then work the hammer a few times. @%!! the hammer and release it while controlling the hammer. Don’t let the hammer fly on it’s own. You could end up causing damage. The rails the bolt travels on should be oiled with the Q-tip if it shines or not. After the gun has some age they will shine. If you can get to the trigger group oil any moving parts you can reach with the Q-tip.

These tips coupled with what you already know has you well armed to take care of your guns. Happy shooting.

13 responses to “Weapon Maintenance

  1. Drew

    Great overall cleaning advice, I already use most of the products suggested and have had great results. I purchased my Bushmaster M4-X15 in Oct 2007. It has been thoroughly cleaned after most uses, and fired (on the average) 2-3 times month @ 90 rnds per visit to the range, often less. What are your suggestions on parts replacement/professional maintenance?

  2. gundoctor

    You’ve taken good care of it. Be proud of that. Parts replacemen is a breeze. If it looks worn out it probably is. If the springs feel light (extractor especially) replace them. This can all be examined while cleaning the rifle. The older the rifle gets you might want to think about having a gunsmith look at it about once a year. This way if you miss undue wear on something the smith can pick it up before it becomes a safety issue.
    Great question Drew.

  3. Drew

    As I am sure it is an issue for a lot of people, I recently moved – and am now beyond reasonable traveling distance to my former gun supplier/gunsmith. I have found a local one I plan on using…but trusting them with my equipment is another story. What should I expect in terms of parts replacement & cost? More importantly, given your experience, do you have tips on how to assess a ‘smith’s reliability/recommendations? I prefer to have a professional help maintain my rifles annually, but don’t expect to get had over the price, frequency of “required” work, etc. Thanks again for the information; most helpful.

  4. gundoctor

    For a detail strip, clean, and inspect you can expect around $50. Parts needed will be extra. That should be a once a year to every 6mo depending on the volume of use. For a good estimate on parts cost take a look at Brownells.com the price you pay for anything needed should be at or close to their retail prices. Feel free to ask the Smithy the general charge ahead of time. I’d be happy to let you know what I think of their pricing.

  5. Richard Rosenberg

    Hello,
    I am a newbie AR-15 owner.

    Up to now I have owned a handgun and was taught how to clean it by an NRA instructor.
    I realize that this post is about 2.5 years old, so I am wondering where you would insert Slipstream if you were writing this today? Where would you recommend using the grease? I have come across several references to “oil what rotates and grease what slides”. If the purpose of putting a light layer of oil down the barrel is to “fill the pores” would you now use Slipstream oil there?

    If I run a bore snake after each shooting, do I need the copper cleaner?
    I want to build a critical parts kit. I am thinking I should have a replacement Bolt, (what brand?) maybe a complete spring set. What else would you recommend?

    Many thanks for sharing your expertise.

    Richard

  6. Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for rookie blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

    • Sorry, your comments keep getting caught in the spam filter because you add your website. I appreciate your complements. It’s not always easy to keep your blog relevant but that’s one of the key things you need to pay attention to. Once your posts are too out of date or no longer provide current information you start loosing readers. The other key is to make regular posts. That’s something I struggle with personally. Taking the time to write informative posts while running a business and writing a book is tough at times.

  7. Awesome post. Very helpful. Thanks for the info.

  8. Its wonderful as your other content : D, thankyou for posting .

  9. Jim

    Great article on cleaning!!
    I have been using Wipe Out Tactical Advantage and find it to be a superior cleaner. Like you, I’ve used just about everything out there but I find the Wipe Out does a much better job. There is nothing in it that can harm your barrel but it sure gets the copper and carbon out.
    Just thought I’d pass that along.

  10. I agree. we should always perform a regular cleaning of our firearms to maintain best performance however it is best not to overdo cleaning. I wonder why some clean obsessively when it causes more harm than good. As long as you have the best gun cleaning solvent for your firearm, there should be no problem.

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