Our firearms represent a major investment in cash, time, and commitment for most of us. We recommend planning your caring routine right after purchasing your gun. It makes sense that we invest properly in caring for and storing our guns so they will always be ready when needed and literally last our lifetime and more.
Firearms care means more than a quick wipe down after a day in the field or at the range.
It means thoroughly cleaning and lubricating your firearm. It means using the proper solvents, cleaners, and lubricants for the type of gun you are working on. It means properly cleaning your optics. And finally, it means safe and secure storage.
Cleaners, Lubricants and Protectants
Oddly enough that sounds like a do-it-all product like Break-Free’s CLP. While CLP is a fantastic product, lets take a look at the individual components of gun cleaning so you have a good idea of the broad range of products available to help you care for your guns.
Cleaners and Solvents
These formulations are designed to help you remove powder residue and fouling from your barrel and cylinders. They easily cut through the crud that burning powder leaves behind. I’m a totally old school guy and almost always clean my barrels with Hoppe’s No. 9.
For barrels that are showing a lot of copper fouling Hoppe’s Foaming Bore Cleaner makes removing copper fouling, lead fouling and powder residue super easy. Just squirt the bore cleaner in the barrel, let it sit for about 15 minutes and swab the barrel with a tight patch.
For barrels that tend to collect more copper fouling or may lead if shooting cast bullets, JB Bore Bright is a wonderful non-embedding polishing compound that not only removes the fouling, but actually polishes the barrel so the next cleaning is easier. In many rifles it may help improve accuracy and tighten up your groups.
Your firearms need some sort of lubrication to help protect them from the elements and ensure smooth operation.
Again, the majority of the time Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Oil is my go to choice. A small drop applied to rails, slides, bolts, the exterior of guns is usually all that’s needed.
That said, I’d venture a guess that more people are shooting semi-auto rifles and handguns now than ever before. The high speed movement of slides and bolts creates additional heat that some oils may not be able to handle over a long period of time. The other challenge is that lighter oils may migrate over time and during movement and not be effectively lubricating the moving parts.
For handgun slides I like Brian Enos Slide Glide. It stays where you put it, lasts a long time and comes in viscosities for normal temperatures as well as cold weather.
Break Free is a solid choice for semi-auto’s as well. And for those of you shooting AR platforms, many manufacturers recommend running their rifles “wet” to ensure proper lubrication and function.
There is also Slip 2000 ELP which is very good for those shooting in very cold weather. The Slip formulations actually bond to the pores in the metal to form a protective lubricating layer that continues to adhere to the metal over time. Some shooters report increased velocities as the barrel becomes conditioned.
For the most part, the oils and lubricants above do double duty as protectants. The role of the protectant is to displace moisture, salts, and dust. If we have a protective layer on our firearms that ward off these things, we can be sure our firearms will stand up to the rigors of our hunting adventures, the range, training or defensive purposes.
Cleaning Your Guns
If I line up 100 shooters and ask them the proper way to clean a firearm, I’ll likely get 100 different answers regardless the type of gun that needs cleaning.
So I’m only going to give some guidelines to get folks started down the right path to proper firearm cleaning.
If at all possible clean the bore from the breach end. This is important for a few reasons:
- First, you protect the critical crown at the muzzle from any wear or dings from your cleaning rod. If you damage the crown, over time your accuracy will suffer.
- Second, you push all the gunk out the barrel and away from the action and trigger group. You don’t want a bunch of solvent running into parts of the gun that are much harder to clean.
- Third, ask any benchrest shooter out there and they will tell you to only push a patch or brush through the barrel the direction the bullet travels. The barrel is made for projectiles to travel in one direction and anything moving the wrong way is damaging over time.
If you can’t run a rod through from the breach end as in a revolver or lever-action rifle or some semi-auto rifles, be sure to use a bore guide to center your cleaning rod in the bore and keep it off the crown.
Pull the patches or brush through the barrel from the breach to the muzzle. You can also use something like an Otis pull-through system. Just be very careful about pulling the cable over the crown repeatedly.
On a revolver be sure to clean every cylinder hole just like the barrel. And be certain to remove all trace of solvent or oil from the cylinder before firing the gun. Any oils left behind can cause pressures to spike.
Clean the exterior of the gun with the solvent of your choice. Use a cleaning patch with a bit of solvent or Q-Tips to get the nooks and crannies and remember to get the gunk and moisture out of the screw heads. You may notice the patch starting to turn brown. That is surface rust.
That is why it is so important to clean your guns each time you use them. Use a dry patch or cotton cloth to wipe away any excess solvent on the gun.
For the most part, the trigger group in modern rifles, handguns and shotguns is pretty well protected from the environment. However, I recommend that you remove your trigger groups at the end of your hunting season or after a really wet or humid range day and clean them and lubricate them thoroughly. You will be surprised how much debris will accumulate as well as rust on the surface of the components. For actions that are not easily disassembled, you can use Gun Scrubber. It easily cleans hard to reach areas, flushes out crud and dries very quickly.
Finally, apply a light coat of oil or protectant on the exterior of your firearm prior to storage. This will help stave off the effects of moisture and humidity while your gun is in the safe. If you are storing the gun for an extended time, run a lightly oiled patch through the bore as well. Just be sure you thoroughly dry the bore and chamber or cylinder before firing the gun again.
If you have a wood-stocked gun be sure to wipe down the stock and remove any dirt or left over residue from your cleaning session. To help protect your finish apply a light coat of Ballistol or Birchwood Casey Gun Stock Wax. These products will help clean, polish and protect your wood stocks.
Today’s scopes and red-dot sights are better than ever and will last a lifetime with a little care.
Be sure you cover the lens of your optics with the scope covers or even just a Ziploc bag. The solvents and oils we use to clean our guns can cause the expensive coatings on our scope to deteriorate rapidly and reduce the efficiency of our glass.
Once you are done with the gun cleaning, turn your attention to the optic.
Use the recommended lens cleaning solution to clean the glass. Spray the lens liberally to help “float” any dirt and abrasive material off the glass. Use lens cleaning cloths or 100% cotton cleaning patches to soak up the solution and any dirt around the outside edges of the glass.
Though very popular, I advise against using things like the Lens Pens. All you are really doing is pushing dirt and abrasives around on your expensive lenses.
Wipe down the scope with a very lightly oiled patch. Take care to get the rings, screw heads and the bottom side of the optic.
With everything cleaned and lubricated, you are now ready to store your gun.
In this day and age every shooter should invest in a safe to store their firearms. A safe provides many benefits over the traditional gun cabinet or just storing your guns in a closet.
A quality safe provides a barrier against theft. In some cases a safe may offer protection against fire. Finally, a safe protects your guns from getting into the hands of those who are not or should not be allowed to access firearms.
Ideally, your safe should be located so that it can bolted to a concrete floor with specialty anchor bolts. This just adds an additional layer of protection against theft and access.
Buy your safe a size or two up from what you currently need. If you are a shooter your collection will grow and having room to store additional guns will be a lot easier than buying another safe down the road. You can also store your camera gear, ammo, personal and financial documents in the safe if you have a bit of extra room.
If your safe is in a room that is colder or in a garage or if you live in an area with high humidity invest in a safe dehumidifier. Some units, like the Eva-Dry Dehumidifier, utilize silicone beads to absorb moisture. When the unit has reached its capacity, just plug in the Eva-Dry to dry the crystals and place it back in the safe when fully dry.
You can also get the silicone beads in bulk at a craft store, place them in a one quart paint can and just set them in the safe. Every month or so take the can out, place it in the oven per the manufacturers instructions and dry the crystals, then put them back in the safe.
Use something like the Liberty Safe Handgun Rack to store your handguns so they are supported and separated on a shelf. Do not store your guns in pistol rugs, gun boxes or the original boxes. For the most part these are just containers that trap moisture and cause your guns to rust.
Store your long guns with no cases or covers on them. The only exception might be if you have some very high end wood-stocked firearms. The gun socks that are silicone impregnated help prevent safe dings and will displace moisture so your expensive rifles or shotguns have an extra layer of protection around them.
Cleaning may not be the most exciting part of shooting sports, but it is a critical part of the game. After every shooting session, take time to inspect, clean, lubricate, and properly store your guns for a lifetime of shooting enjoyment.