Getting Clean

cleaning rifle

Often the question is raised “how often should I clean my weapon?” Even those who aren’t comfortable *asking* sure seem to perk up when it is asked.

The truth is, as with most questions I am asked, the answer is [drum roll…] It depends.

It depends on the finish, which in large part depends on when the firearm was manufactured.

Prior to the advent of the “tactical tupperware”, with it’s often derided as toy-like – because it was made of polymer – construction and feel, most guns were “blue” in the finish. Let’s talk a moment about bluing. The process of bluing is actually a controlled “rusting” of the firearm with a couple of different benefits. Bluing, with it’s “controlled” rust, would help protect the metal. Also, bluing would darken the barrel and reduce the glare which would be present with an unfinished or raw metal barrel. There is cold bluing and hot bluing. That is too in-depth for this discussion but suffice it to say, bluing is achieved by applying about 6 chemicals which are nasty enough on their own, though they have cool names like “sweet spirits of wine” and “blue vitriol”, I’m surprised the people involved in the process aren’t spitting out kids with hooves on their foreheads. There is also a process called “browning” for firearms. Those who enjoy extra credit, should research it a bit and give us a synopsis in the comments.

Blued firearms, while prettier, are higher maintenance. We can all remember grandpa showing us his Smith & Wesson revolver and quickly wiping our fingerprints off of it. Bottom line. Any time you fire a blued gun, a good and thorough cleaning is in order.

Over the last 35-odd years, blued guns have pretty much gone the way of the do-do bird. As I type this post, I struggle to think of a manufacturer turning out blued guns (it is late so if I missed any, please do point it out to me in comments, you’ll get to make fun of me, we’ll all laugh – it’ll be fun). Nowadays, our modern firearms have finished with cool names like “Tenifer” [if I ever have another daughter – that’s her name] and “Melonite”. Other options include hydro-dip and even a baked-on {and now air dry) ceramic-based coating called “Cerakote”.

These finishes are much lower maintenance but they are not maintenance-free. It is incumbent on all shooters to keep their weapons in working order. The all-too-common misconception is these finishes are somehow “self-cleaning”. They are much easier to clean and far more forgiving toward the lazy, the fact is, this tool may be called upon to defend your very life one day. Take care of it, and it will take care of you. At least field strip it and snake the bore.

Field stripping consists of removing the slide on an automatic. If you are shooting a revolver (as I often do) let’s face it, you’re a massive badass and have minions to clean your gun for you. Have *them* wipe it down and snake the bore.

To field strip an automatic:

  • Keep the firearm pointed in a SAFE direction
  • Remove the magazine
    Lock the slide to the rear
  • Visually and digitally inspect the chamber to make sure it’s clear
  • KEEP the firearm pointed in a safe direction while releasing the slide
  • Consult your owner’s manual or REPUTABLE online source to locate your model’s slide removal mechanism. On a Smith & Wesson M&P, for example, the slide removal lever is on the left side of the firearm, just in front of the trigger guard. Also on the left side of the slide is a half-moon shaped relief in the slide. While aligning the “half-moon” of the slide centered on the top front corner of the slide removal lever, rotate the slide removal lever clockwise until it is vertical. Once you have achieved this, release the slide. KEEP the firearm pointed in a safe direction and pull the trigger. The slide should now be free to slide off the front of the firearm.
  • Hold the slide in your non-dominate hand, upside down. The recoil spring should be visible.
  • Depress the recoil spring slightly from the rear and lift it up about ½ – ¾ of an inch and remove it from the slide.
  • At this point, grip the barrel by the lug, moving it forward slightly, you should then be able to lift the rear of the barrel (the chamber) and remove the barrel by pulling it toward the rear of the slide.
  • At this point, you can take an old toothbrush or gun cleaning brush along with a little cleaning solvent ( I actually use Simple Green on my modern automatics) to remove dirt and debris from the “rails” on the slide as well as the corresponding rails.
  • Use a bore snake or some sort of cloth patch to drag the bore of your firearm
  • Once you have removed the dirt and debris and cleaned the bore, apply a little gun oil to the outside of the barrel and apply a little to your bore snake or patch (it’s best practice to not shoot a dry bore).
  • Replace the barrel, then the recoil spring.
  • Reattach slide to your frame.