One of the most commonly asked questions by gun owners, especially new ones is “how often should I clean my gun?”. It is important to regularly clean and maintain your gun to ensure it’s in good working condition and safe to use. Maintaining a clean and properly lubricated handgun is an important aspect of being a responsible gun owner.
Certain gun owners especially veterans have a particular habit of keeping their guns spotless and clean ingrained in them due to their rigorous routines while in uniform. Others individuals actually enjoy cleaning their firearms as a hobby or past-time. However, the frequency of cleaning your gun should depend on how often you use the gun, the type of gun you have and if you have been shooting in extreme or adverse conditions, such as in wet or sandy environments.
The most common misconception is that you have to clean your gun every time you shoot or use it. It is not necessary nor recommended to clean your gun every time you use it. In fact, cleaning your gun too frequently can actually cause problems by removing the lubrication that helps keep the gun in good working condition.
Why should I clean my gun ?
It is important to understand the difference between using a micro-fiber cloth to simply wipe the outside of a gun as compared to disassembling the gun and thoroughly cleaning its parts. Wiping the outside area of the gun with a cloth should not be considered as cleaning your gun.
As mentioned earlier, the frequency of cleaning will depend on how often you use the gun, the type of gun you have, amount of rounds fired off and the conditions in which you use it. For example, going to a shooting range on a weekend to pop off a few rounds does not require any cleaning, unless you plan to lock and store your gun for prolonged periods. Similarly a firearm that is used for target practice or competition shooting is fired more frequently and requires more cleaning and maintenance. On the other hand if you are a duck or geese hunter, it would require you to trek through muddy grounds under overcast conditions. After any such trips, your gun needs to be thoroughly cleaned in order to prevent malfunctions and remain in good working condition.
The type of gun used will also determine the frequency of cleaning. A Glock 22 will easily run even if dirty, in rain and even under water. Glocks require little cleaning and maintenance and are extremely reliable. However, other firearms will start to malfunction if dirty. Traditionally semi automatic guns will require more cleaning than manually operated guns which can even fire when dirty.
The environment and temperature also play an important factor in your gun cleaning routine. If you live in a humid part of the country like Florida, rust and corrosion can form on your guns even if kept inside a gun safe. As per the National Rifle Association the ideal conditions for storing guns is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and no more than 50% of humidity. Similarity extreme heat and dust exposure reduces the firearms reliability and increases the chances of malfunctions and gun jams.
There are several reasons why it is important to clean your gun regularly:
- To maintain good working condition: Proper cleaning and maintenance helps to ensure that your gun is in good working condition and ready to use when you need it.
- To prevent malfunctions: Dirt, debris, and excess lubrication can build up inside your gun and cause it to malfunction. A dirty gun will have an impact on how your firearm functions and may even cause injury. Failure to eject the bullet after firing is a common malfunction caused by dirty guns. Regular cleaning can help prevent these problems.
- Safety: A dirty gun can be more prone to accidental discharges due to fouling or other issues. By regularly cleaning your gun, you can help ensure that it is safe to handle and use.
- To prevent corrosion & carbonization: Regular cleaning can help prevent rust, carbonization and other types of corrosion that can damage your gun over time. Carbon residue accumulated over time in the barrel of the gun can effect its accuracy and velocity.
- To improve accuracy: A dirty gun can be less accurate than a clean one, as dirt and debris can affect the movement of the moving parts and the flow of the bullets.
- To extend the life of your gun: Proper cleaning and maintenance can help extend the life of your gun by preventing wear and tear on the internal components.
- Inspection: Cleaning your gun a regular basis helps provides the opportunity for frequent inspection of parts to spot any issues while they are minor and before they grow into bigger problems.
- Storage: It is also a good idea to clean your gun before and after long-term storage to prevent rust and other corrosion. Guns cost money to purchase and you need to take care of your guns as it helps them to remain functional for a much longer time.
- If you have a gun that is prone to rust or corrosion (e.g. a gun made of carbon steel since it is more susceptible to rust and corrosion than other types to steel), you should clean and oil it more frequently.
Overall, cleaning your gun regularly helps ensure that your gun is safe and reliable when you need it. Initially, the entire process of cleaning your gun may take longer but as soon as you get used to it, the better and faster you will become.
How to clean a gun ?
To clean a gun you will need the following items:
- Cleaning rod
- Micro-fiber cloth (since it wipes off better than other materials)
- Solvent (such as gun cleaning oil or bore cleaner)
- Lubricant (such as gun oil or grease)
- Bore Brushes to clean the barrel (a nylon brush or even a toothbrush can be used)
- Alternatively you also also buy a Gun Cleaning Kit from Amazon that comes with all these essential items
Here is a general step-by-step guide for cleaning a gun:
- Make sure the gun is unloaded and safe to handle. Remove the magazine (if applicable) and open the action to ensure that the gun is empty.
- Disassemble the gun as much as possible. Refer to the owner’s manual for instructions on how to do this, as the disassembly process will vary depending on the specific gun.
- Clean the barrel. Use a cleaning rod and a patch or cloth soaked in solvent to scrub the inside of the barrel. You may need to use a cleaning jag or slotted tip to hold the patch or cloth in place.
- Clean the other parts of the gun. Use a brush and solvent to scrub the other metal parts of the gun, including the bolt (if applicable), the receiver, and the trigger assembly.
- Dry the parts of the gun. Use a clean patch or cloth to wipe away any excess solvent and moisture from the parts of the gun.
- Lubricate the different parts of the gun especially those parts that have metal touching metal. Use a lubricant to coat the moving parts of the gun, such as the bolt and the trigger assembly. Do not over lubricate the gun and a few drops of lubricant should be enough. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate amount of lubricant to use. This is an important step since guns have to be lubricated and not just cleaned. A thin film of lubricants helps reduce friction and the heat produced between the moving metal parts of the gun.
- Reassemble the gun. Refer to the owner’s manual for instructions on how to do this.
- Test the gun to ensure that it is functioning properly.
Note: These are general steps and you should refer to the gun’s owners manual for your specific gun. In general, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specific cleaning and maintenance requirements for your firearm and to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and maintenance. Normally tactical rifles require more through cleaning as compared to handguns.
Cleaning a Gun – Difference between a Field Strip & Detailed Strip:
Field Strip: Any semi automatic gun has 4 basic parts. The grip and frame, recoil spring, barrel and the slide. A field strip is if you take these four basic parts apart, clean them with a brush, oil and lubricate the moving parts, reassemble the gun and then wipe it off with a microfiber cloth.
Detailed Strip: In this strip you have to take apart the 4 basic gun parts and then disassemble the slide completely, including the firing pin, extractor, hammer and recoil springs. A detailed strip also involves removing the safety, trigger, sear, dis-connector, push rod, trigger assembly, and magazine catch from the frame.
At end of this strip the gun is completely disassembled. You need to oil and lubricate the parts before you reassemble the gun. Both field and detailed strips are done to assist in cleaning the firearm and also aid in identifying any damage. In both these types of strips it is importation to function test the gun after assembly to ensure its functionality.
A dirty gun can be less reliable, less accurate, and less useful than a clean gun. Overall, maintaining a clean and properly lubricated handgun is an important aspect of being a responsible gun owner and can help ensure that your firearm is reliable and ready for use when needed.