Owning a gun comes with the responsibility of proper maintenance and care to ensure its safe and reliable function. Regular cleaning and maintenance not only extend the lifespan of your firearm, but also go a long way to ensure both accuracy and reliable performance. Firearms safety is of utmost importance, regardless of the action being performed or your experience level. Read on as we explore essential tips and practices to ensure your safety while cleaning and maintaining firearms in your collection.
Safety first (also, second, third and fourth)
Before you even start the cleaning process, you must always ensure that your firearm is unloaded. First, remove the magazine, then check the chamber to make sure there is no ammunition present. A great habit to get into is to remove all live ammunition from the room in which you will be cleaning your gun.
Even if you are certain the gun is empty, it is essential to treat every firearm as if it is loaded to prevent accidents. Do so in a well-lit environment so you can see all parts of your firearm. When cleaning, always point the muzzle of your firearm in a safe direction. This practice is a fundamental rule of gun safety and should be followed rigorously, even when you are confident the gun is unloaded. Pointing the gun in a safe direction minimizes the risk of accidents in case of an unexpected discharge on the off chance you did not properly clear the firearm of ammunition.
Additionally, although it may seem like common sense to most, you should never clean or operate your firearms while under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. Full attention and being 100% present in what you are working on is required. Complacency leads to accidents, and experience level with firearms does not mean one can “take it easy” on the safety rules.
Safe and suitable workspace
Choose a clean and well-lit area for gun cleaning. Make sure the area you will be working in is free from distractions and that there are no small children or unauthorized individuals nearby. A dedicated gun cleaning station with proper ventilation is ideal for minimizing exposure to cleaning solvents. Cleaning solutions, whether they be for the home or firearms, typically contain ingredients that are best to keep to a minimum when it comes to skin exposure.
Additionally, it is considered a good practice to take steps to minimize one's exposure to lead. A good addition to your cleaning kit is a simple, cheap pair of rubber gloves. Not only will this minimize exposure to chemicals and lead, but gloves make the clean-up process much easier. Another handy product to have in your cleaning arsenal are De-Lead wipes, which are specially formulated to remove lead particles from your skin.
Gather the necessary tools and supplies
Having the right tools and supplies is essential for being able to effectively clean your firearms. Double-check to make sure you have a cleaning rod, bore brush, cleaning patches, solvent, lubricant, a cleaning mat and a gun vise to secure the firearm during cleaning. Investing in an assortment of quality cleaning tools will make the process more efficient and ensure a thorough job.
Choose cleaning solvents that are specifically designed for firearms. These products play an important role in firearm maintenance, ensuring their longevity and optimal performance. These solvents are specially formulated to break down and dissolve fouling, residue and other contaminants that accumulate in the barrel, chamber and other critical components of a gun after firing. These chemicals penetrate and lift deposits, making them easier to remove with brushes and patches. Additionally, many gun cleaning solvents incorporate rust inhibitors to protect against corrosion. Popular brands that you may see on the shelves at your local big box store or gun shop include Hoppes, Break Free CLP, Ballistol and many others. Be sure to use these solutions in a well-ventilated area during the cleaning process.
Disassembly and reassembly
Follow the manufacturer's instructions to disassemble and reassemble your firearm properly. If you have misplaced your owner’s manual, visit the manufacturer’s website—often, these manuals are available to download for free. Additionally, many manufacturers nowadays produce their own videos to give a good visual on how to disassemble and reassemble the guns that they produce. Ensure you understand the process thoroughly before attempting it, and be careful with small parts that may be easily lost.
After cleaning your firearm, it is important to perform a function test to ensure everything is in proper working order after reassembly. During this process, you will want to verify that the gun feeds and cycles properly. Having dummy rounds or snap caps on hand allows you to do this safely in your home. Remember, safety is key and you want to be sure that live ammunition is not present during the cleaning process. You will also want to verify that other mechanisms are in working order, such as the trigger, safety, magazine release, bolt release, etc.
Proper cleaning and maintenance of your firearm are essential aspects of responsible gun ownership. By following these safety guidelines and adhering to best practices, you can ensure not only the longevity and optimal performance of your firearm but also the safety of yourself and those in your vicinity. Remember, safety should always be the top priority when handling firearms, and a well-maintained gun is a safer gun.