How Often do You Clean Your Guns?

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

When I was in the Army, I was taught that I had to take care of my guns first, then I could take care of myself. There was good reason for that too; when you’re in a combat zone, your rifle might be the only thing that keeps you alive. A misfire at the wrong time could be the last thing you ever do.

I still know people who are that careful with their guns, cleaning them every time they shoot and cleaning their carry gun weekly. Sadly, I am not amongst them. I can’t claim to be that careful about maintaining my guns any longer, even though my drill sergeants did their best to instill that little bit of discipline deep within my soul.

So what happened to me?

First of all, I’ve come to realize that the way I treat guns at home and the way I would treat them in a combat zone are completely different. I don’t crawl around in the mud with my guns at home, even though I might have been forced to, had I ever gone to war. The rules in the military are based upon military necessity, not civilian necessity; and the two of those are totally different things.

While I suppose it is possible that the muzzle of my hunting rifle or shotgun would get plugged with mud if I fell with it, while out hunting, I would also check for that right away. Therefore, I would know that it had happened and stop to clean it out, eliminating the risk. That’s not the same as it happening in a combat zone. First of all, it’s much more likely to happen in a combat zone and secondly, I’m much more likely to be too busy to check it out.

I also don’t’ shoot anywhere near as many round hunting as I would expect to shoot in combat. Even a busy day of shooting while bird hunting is only going to mean a box of shells, maybe a box and a half at most. That’s nothing compared to a day’s shooting in combat, where an infantry soldier is expected to go through something like 280 rounds of ammunition on the average.

Yes, combat is much harder on firearms than civilian use. Therefore, what the military teaches makes sense… for the military.

But not for civilians.

This leaves us the question of how often you and I should clean our guns; not an easy question to answer. The glib answer is, “Whenever they need it.” But just how often is that? Even if we say, “When they get dirty” we’re still in trouble, because that is hard to define.

Other than mud, the biggest dirt problem for firearms is carbon buildup. When you fire any gun, the gunpowder burns, leaving a carbon residue in the barrel, chamber and mechanism. How much is left depends on the specific ammunition and firearm. Some gunpowder burns cleaner than others and some guns eject the gases better than others. There’s also a difference between how much carbon buildup each gun model can take, before there is a risk of jamming.

This is the key; how much carbon buildup the gun can take. But that’s not a cut and dried equation either, not even for a particular model of firearm. Carbon buildup is a problem because firearms work on tight tolerances. The carbon coats parts, taking up space that is needed for the parts to move smoothly, thereby increasing the chance of jamming.

But there is a simple solution to that; simpler than cleaning the firearm. That is to lubricate the gun. Oil breaks down the carbon and carries it in suspension, allowing the metal parts of the gun to move freely. As long as the oil is there, the risk of jamming is minimized.

However, that carbon suspended in oil does something else; it increases wear. Just like metal parts rubbing against each other will cause wear, metal parts with carbon particles between them will wear. While the oil helps to reduce this wear, especially for the clean metal parts, there is only so much it can do. Once enough carbon is suspended in the oil, it will cause wear, even if the gun is well-oiled.

So, what’s the right answer?

This potential for wear is the second reason why we need to clean our guns from time to time (the first is to avoid misfires). If you never clean your guns, wear will eventually get to be a problem. On the other hand, you don’t really need to clean them every time you shoot, as a certain amount of carbon buildup really isn’t a problem. What we all need to decide is how much carbon we can allow, without causing premature wear to our guns.

Once again, there’s no perfect answer for that; so your best guess is going to have to do. For me, I clean my carry gun about every two months and my practice gun about every month. That seems to work. How about you? How often to you clean yours? Till later, you might want to take a look and see if your guns need to be cleaned. That goes right in there with keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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