How to care for firearms
“A clean gun is a happy gun.” –Every gun since always
Cleaning and maintaining your firearms will not only ensure that they will work properly, but it can also save/make you money in the long run, especially if you ever consider selling it. There have been many times when I have been out shooting with a group and someone has had their gun jam. Their first reaction is to inevitably blame the gun. However, when asked when they last cleaned their firearm, the answer is usually either never, or rarely. A simple cleaning can work wonders for a firearm’s function and appearance.
My first lesson in proper firearm maintenance came about when I sold my first gun. It was a Ruger Mark 1 .22 pistol. It had near perfect bluing. I didn’t know this at the time, but its great condition made it a collector’s item that would only go up in value. At the time I was more interested in shooting than I was in collecting. When I bought the gun I also purchased a tight fitting leather holster. I not only used the holster to carry the gun, but I also used it to store it. This caused the bluing on the side of the gun to wear off. When I took the gun in to sell it, the first thing the owner of the gun shop commented on was the fact that it had lost so much bluing on the side. This affected the amount I was able to get for it.
Cleaning your firearms can be a simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Don’t put off cleaning your gun because you think that you will need at least an hour. Ten minutes of cleaning is a lot better than no cleaning. You don’t have to take your gun completely apart and clean every single piece until they look shiny and new. Just running a patch once down the barrel will get rid of the majority of debris.
You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to clean your firearms. You can get a suitable gun cleaning kit for around $20 that comes with a cleaning rod, patches, lubricant, and solvent. I typically use “Hoppe’s Number 9” for my solvent and lubricant. Solvent helps break up and dislodge debris.(click here for Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Cleaning Kit)
When you fire your gun the bullet will leave bits of copper and lead inside your barrel. This can affect the performance of your firearm. A “Bore Snake” is a great product that will easily and effectively clean out the inside of your barrel (the bore). I prefer to use a Bore Snake over a cleaning rod for several reasons. The first reason being that I’m lazy and a Bore Snake is incredibly effective and easier to use. The second reason is that a metal cleaning rod can scratch the barrel and in doing so negatively affect the firearms accuracy.
Oiling your guns not only insures that they will perform properly, but also helps prevent them from rusting. As previously stated, I am a big fan of Hoppe’s cleaning products. I also use Hoppe’s gun oil on the outside of my guns to help protect them from rust. However, I recently bought some “Ballistol Sportsman Oil,” because it was highly recommended by a knowledge source for preventing rust.
Storing you firearms:
One of the most important things to consider is how you store your gun. A lot of this depends on what the gun is used for. For example, we keep a bolt action .22 magnum in the barn in case of predators or vermin. This is what I call a working gun. It is meant to be close at hand and used. This is not an investment piece or something that is meant to be handed down. It’s cared for so that it will work when it has to, but little regard is given to aesthetics.
However, I own several investment pieces that are meant to be passed down. As such, I put a lot more care and consideration into storing them. You don’t want to store your gun in a cardboard box or anything that will absorb moisture. When it comes to guns, moisture is the enemy: moisture equals rust. Your gun should get some air circulation. Don’t store them in anything that can trap/hold moisture, such as a Ziploc bag.
The “bluing” on a gun protects it from rust. The loss of bluing can greatly reduce the value of your firearm and cause it to rust. Just because you haven’t fired you gun in several months doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it out and oil it. I found this out the hard way when I took out my 30-06 after several years in storage and found out that it had started to develop some rust. Since then I clean and oil my guns every couple of months regardless of whether I have fired them or not.
When cleaning a treasured gun with bluing, you want to make sure that you don’t leave any fingerprints on it. Over time the oils from your hands can corrode the bluing. It’s important that you clean and oil the gun before storing it.
The biggest reason guns lose their finish is holster wear. When a gun is repeatedly drawn and holstered, the friction begins to take its toll and it doesn’t take long for it to begin to show. A leather holster is perhaps the worst way to store a gun (besides a bucket of water). Leather will absorb moisture while limiting air circulation.
I recently purchased a nice Smith&Wesson revolver with perfect bluing. The gun had been purchased in 1972 (44 years old) and only had 1 owner. I asked the man how he stored it and he replied that he had bought the gun for home defense and had just kept it in the drawer of his nightstand. He would take it out and oil it every once in a while, but besides that he didn’t do anything to it. I should note that he lived in a fairly dry climate.
Don’t fret too much if your gun loses some of its bluing. A competent gunsmith can help restore it or ship it to someone who can. If it was blued once, than it can be blued again. However, collectors prefer guns that have their original bluing.
If you are a cheap “do it yourselfer” like me, then there are some gun bluing kits on the market that you can use with great results. It’s a relatively simple processes (if I can do it, then so can you). The most popular gun bluing kit is made by Birchwood Casey.(Click here for a complete Gun Finish Kit)