You trust your weapons to perform when you need them, but can they trust you to take care of them when they need it? Cleaning a weapon is easy; anybody can simply field strip their weapons and feel good about what they are doing, but truly caring for your weapons will keep them battle ready and looking great for years and years.
We’ve all seen that antique, rusted-out gun that has obviously seen better days. Occasionally you also see the showpiece that just couldn’t look better, as it had really been loved and treated like a valuable item. It’s these guns that hold value, write history, and show the world that it was an important piece of the owner’s life.
It’s not necessary to be in love with guns to treat them well and keep them in good shape; there are functional reasons for the upkeep and care for your firearms. They need to be able to work when you draft them into duty.
The level of care will likely mostly be determined by your personal preferences for the pieces.
- Do you want to refinish the firearms when they become worn?
- Do you really desire a show piece in your weapon?
- Are you a performance geek about your firearms?
- Do you keep a majority of your guns in storage?
- Do you live in a harsh environment?
If you will want to refinish your weapons at some point, you will want to be careful about the additives and the storage methods you use as well as the cleaning products you use.
- Silicon cloth gun wipes will make a gun look incredible, especially if it is a rich blued color—it really makes the finish pop and shine. The problem is if you try and refinish a highly polished blued weapon which has been treated often with silicon lubes or wipes (especially those which are propellant driven-cans of spray for example), you will likely be spending a ton of money to refinish a gun that will never look good again. The silicon can “soak” into the metal, causing splotchy and uneven bluing on higher polish finishes. On matte guns, you will see an uneven surface finish. Many times, it is even impossible to remove the silicon penetration with bead or sand blasting.
- Stainless steel slides which are blued, like those on the Sig series of guns, should not be cleaned with trichloroethylene (a spray similar to brake cleaner), as the bluing will not tolerate the chemical for very long. You will begin to see wearing in places where there really isn’t a reason for it, and it is ridiculously difficult to refinish. It is notoriously difficult to refinish stainless steel with blackener (bluing), as the different alloys sometimes contain too much nickel and chromium, and in the case of high-end alloys, too much cobalt. The finish can become very uneven, and the gunsmith will not be able to do much about it. Make sure you take this into account when you clean your weapon often.
- Do not use any harsh cleaner on alloy (aluminum) and steel when they are in contact with each other. This can permanently damage the gun. Dissimilar metals plus chemicals can cause reactions that will damage guns quickly and irreparably in many circumstances.
- Never use a de-leading cloth on a blued weapon, and consider not using a de-leading cloth in the barrel (yes, it seems counterintuitive to accept this advice), as the chemicals can cause heavy pitting, much worse than lead. Consider using a wire brush in the barrel to remove the lead mechanically instead of chemically. Harsh chemicals are really less advantageous when cleaning guns. It is better to stick with smart cleaning.
If you are looking for showpieces:
- Try to avoid excess oil, so wood “furniture” (stocks, grips, etc.) do not become saturated with it. Wood that becomes saturated with oil will be easy to splinter and will swell and lose its finish. The color will change in the saturated areas, and the wood may eventually split.
- Don’t be afraid to use multiple types and styles of brushes in cleaning the weapon, and don’t be afraid to keep them dry. Utilize common sense with your choices of brushes and their matching locations on the weapon. Don’t use a stainless-steel wire-bristle welding brush on a finely polished and blued weapon; however, it may be okay to use a super-fine soft stainless brush on certain areas of a stainless steel weapon.
- If you are ever unsure, get a finer brush or a less harsh cleaner.
- If you have an ultrasonic cleaner, NEVER leave the parts in the solution for more than the maximum recommended time or five minutes, whichever is less. The micro bubbles will pit the metal. Cavitation is a real possibility with these types of cleaners, no matter which strength you use.
- Never use any cloth on finely checkered wood. The cloth will leave lint on the checkering, and the cloth may rub off the finest points to the diamonds.
- Keep the guns somewhat temperature controlled, and definitely monitor the moisture on the area they are in. Rust and expansion will ruin a gun in no time.
Are you all about performance? Isn’t that the point? Yeah.
- Use natural lubes which do not contain silicon.
- Try using molybdenum disulfide or choke tube lube in tiny quantities for heavy (concealed) contact areas like frame-to-slide fit.
- Try a two-part graphite lube for delicate trigger parts.
- Consider having important parts plated or finished with a high-performance finish.
- Avoid dry firing on very fine trigger systems.
- Keep extra springs on hand ALL the time.
- Do not shoot in poor conditions unless you will immediately clean and re-protect the metal, and make sure that no debris exists inside the weapon.
- Use very high-tolerance high-quality ammunition when you have fine chambering or super-performance barrel and chamber systems.
- Opt for a crowned barrel, and be careful how you clean the barrel on finely rifled barrels.
Keeping guns in storage can cause problems if not done properly.
- Cosmoline will work, but it’s ridiculously hard to clean and smells horrible. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE WEAPON UNTIL IT IS THOROUGHLY CLEANED.
- Try Boeshield T9 spray. It lasts a long time, is relatively easy to use, and will protect your weapons well. It is easy to clean and forms a thick barrier. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE WEAPON UNTIL IT IS THOROUGHLY CLEANED.
- Don’t use silicon sprays or cloth unless you will not be refinishing the weapon.
- Try your best to regulate the temperature and moisture in your storage area.
- Check the guns often, but don’t touch the metal, as the acid in your skin oils and fingerprint residue can cause a lot of rust.
- Don’t EVER store a weapon in contact with leather. The chemicals in the tanning and dyeing process WILL ruin the finish and leech into the metal.
Do you live at the beach? The desert? A desert island with a beach?
- Salt water kills guns, even stainless steel guns. Stain-less not stain-free: high-wear areas on nickel-plated or chrome-plated guns are vulnerable also. Even aluminum is not immune; you will need to check often and clean often, even when the guns seem clean.
- Hot weather can expand the metal and the wood on firearms, and when you combine it with moisture, you are looking for trouble.
- Extreme cold weather can cause problems with lubricants, cheaper plastics or woods, and even resin based composites, so try to keep them insulated from the extreme cold.
- Don’t leave mud, leaves, or any other organic materials on a weapon for very long, and NEVER put it away after being in contact with such items without thoroughly cleaning the weapon, EVEN if you can’t see residue.
You will someday need to count on your weapon. It could be at 215 yards with a large buck in the crosshairs, or it could be in the darkness in defense of your home and family. You need to know it will function flawlessly, and you cannot keep that confidence unless you take your weapon’s care seriously. It is simple, and it is cut and dried. You just need do what it takes to keep your guns dry, clean, and lubricated in the contact spots. When you need to count on them, they are there—now be there for them.
©2011 Off the Grid News