The Art Of Gun Maintenance

We’ve got a rule around our house about getting home from a hard day of hunting or shooting.

First, you take care of the dogs.
Then, you take care of the guns.

Then, you take care of yourself.

While the dogs usually remind me who comes first, the guns can’t hound me for attention. But whenever I get lazy about keeping them clean, dry and oiled, I imagine my grandson passing on my guns to his grandson. I know they won’t last that long unless I work at it.

I consider myself kind of nut about taking good care of guns. I hate to admit that I wasn’t always that way and I had to learn from mistakes.

Gun Care Pays Off
One day I pulled out a 2-year-old shotgun to go quail hunting, only to find it covered with a deep, nasty rust. I was shocked; I had no idea what had happened. Then it slowly dawned on me: I’d taken the gun turkey hunting months before. Because it hadn’t been fired and hadn’t gotten wet, I didn’t think to clean it. But it had been hot and I’d been sweating. The moisture and salt from my hands had started a rusting process, and now the receiver was ugly and pitted. It was a costly lesson.

The first step to good gun care is organizing your tools. You’ll need gun cleaning rods and tip accessories of the right size for your gun. You’ll also need solvents that will clean up residue, some penetrating oil, and gun oil. Get cleaning patches of the right size, or some soft cotton rags and a scissors for cutting your own patches. You’ll also need some newspaper to lay out and catch spills.

The best way to clean a gun is to work from the inside out. Double-check to be sure the gun is unloaded, then disassemble it as much as necessary to reach all the moving parts. This will vary depending on the type of gun you have. On a double-barrel or over / under shotgun, remove the forearm and barrels. On a bolt-action, remove the bolt. On a semi-auto, you’ll need to take off the forearm, barrel, bolt, and maybe the trigger assembly, since semi-autos get dirtier than other actions.

Scrub the bore with a rag-wrapped brush soaked in solvent. Three times or so through is about right. Be very careful not to scratch the bore, especially around the muzzle. Use plastic or brass cleaning rod tips, and work from the chamber end of the bore where possible.

On really dirty rifles, copper residue from bullets might be caked in the rifling. You’ll need to do more scrubbing with a copper brush and copper solvent to remove that. Hoppe’s #9 is one of the most popular, all-around bore-cleaning solvents.

Penetrating Oil For Moving Parts
Clean all moving parts with a good penetrating oil such as WD-40. Spray it into the bore and between any moving parts and crevices. Be sure to spray it around the firing pin from inside the frame. If there’s moisture in the mechanisms, the penetrating oil will drive it out.

Allow the gun to stand for awhile for any moisture to evaporate, and then apply a light coating of gun oil. Don’t lubricate moving parts, especially firing pins, with heavy oil if it’s very cold. A heavy oil may become stiff and prevent the part from moving at a crucial moment. Use a Teflon or graphite powder lubricant such as Dry Lube in such situations.

Once this “dirty work” is done, wipe off the excess with a cotton rag. Soak a cleaning patch in oil and run it down the bore. (Keep in mind later that with a rifle or pistol, your first shot or two through a clean, oiled bore may impact a bit differently than the others.)

Now you can reassemble the gun. Finally, wipe the entire gun down with an oiled rag or silicone cloth, being sure to get all your fingerprints off. It helps to use two rags one to wipe with, one to hold the gun with to avoid fingerprints.

Store the gun in a dry, safe place like a locked gun cabinet.

Some final tips on gun cleaning: Keep a rag and small bottle of oil in each gun case – it will help remind you and make it easy to clean your gun after every use. Always refer to an owner’s manual for special cleaning instructions pertaining to particular models. And remember that safety comes first. Accidents can happen during careless cleaning.

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