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‘My Gun Jammed! Now What?’ A Guide to Proper Firearms Cleaning and Maintenance

By: Chuck Smick

CLICK!

“Dang! A misfire again!”

I was performing some advanced defensive pistol drills with a good friend of mine, who is also a firearms instructor and trainer. We train together on occasion and work usually on a variety of basic and advanced defensive pistol drills for self-defense. I was using Italian-made MAXXTech brass ammo during our training session. It was reasonably priced, and I’d used it before when I was practicing my shooting. I had experienced one or two rounds out of a container that miss-fired, but never this many (at least 6-8)!

I discussed this issue with my buddy, and he informed me that some of the European ammo had “hard” primers, resulting in a dented primer on the first attempted shot. I could put them back in the gun, and they would fire okay. I dislike irritating interruptions when I am training, but looking at the positive side, I was able to get in some needed malfunction drills, too.

Misfires or malfunctions are the last words a hunter wants to hear when he is in the field on an expensive hunting trip, and the last thing a hunter wants to experience on an otherwise successful hunt. A jammed gun, or more appropriately, a gun malfunction, can be the result of several different contributing factors. Bad ammunition or bad magazines are a frequent contributor to firearms malfunctions. I’ve personally had name-brand ammo (Winchester White Box and MaxxTech) fail to fire out of a brand new box right off the shelf. I’ve bought what I thought were high-quality, after-market magazines (Kimber) for my 1911, and had numerous malfunctions with that particular brand.

Another contributor to firearms malfunctions are improperly cleaned and maintained guns and magazines (or no cleaning and maintenance at all in some cases!). Proper cleaning and maintenance can help prevent malfunctions and protect valuable firearms for the life of the owner. All firearms should be protected like an expensive car. Yes, they should be used: shot and hunted with regularly. But guns need to be cleaned and lubricated to last a long time, so they function properly each time you use them or carry them for protection.

Proper cleaning and maintenance are critical to help with the following: (1) Malfunctions with your concealed carry firearm. Dirt, dust, and sweat, combined with frequent or everyday carry can cause your concealed carry weapon to malfunction at the worst possible time…..when you need it to protect yourself or loved ones. Don’t let that happen to you! Do your part to protect your carry gun with regular cleaning and lubricating…..and use quality defensive ammo (I prefer Barnes Tac-XPD Ammo, Super Vel, or CORBON ™). Shoot regularly and practice often. It could save your life.

(2) Heavy use, whether you are shooting hundreds of rounds in a day at a trap range or skeet range, and especially if you are shooting hot rifle calibers (high speed 7mm Mags come to mind), or you are using hot reloads -- these are all good reasons to protect your firearms with a good cleaning and lubrication often. I carry a cleaning kit and allow my barrels to cool and then swab the gun bores out and lubricate the guns after every few shots, when I carry my 7mm magnum and 300 Weatherby magnum to the range. These hot calibers heat up the barrel fast, so protecting the barrels of these guns is critical for longer barrel life and to prevent mechanism wear from heavy recoil.

(3) When you plan to store firearms for long periods of time, it is important to properly lubricate them inside and out, before storing to prevent rust accumulation due to moisture. Opening a gun case to find an expensive firearm coated with rust is something you do not want to experience! Humidity and moisture are the scourge of firearms in any situation. Do your part to protect them properly before storing any firearms, for a short period or long-term storage.

Choosing Proper Cleaning Solvents and Lubrication

Using the right cleaning and maintenance solvents and lubrication is important to providing your firearms with the best protection possible. I try to avoid petroleum-based products if possible, and have been using synthetic products (example: Mil-COMM products) or natural-based products such as FROG LUBE, to clean and maintain my firearms.

I like these products because they are safer and healthier to use, don’t have a nasty smell, and they last longer when under stress from a lot of heavy use, or if firearms are stored for long periods of time. I have personally seen firearms that were lubed with petroleum products, that were slightly rusted in just a few months after storage. I have not experienced that issue with MIL-COMM products or FROG LUBE.

I also recommend that you spend the money for quality cleaning rods, brushes, and attachments. I prefer brass over plastic. I strongly recommend avoiding cheap plastic attachments. I’ve had them break off on the rod and ruin an otherwise good cleaning rod. Most experienced gun owners, myself included, recommend one-piece cleaning rods. I have no issues with the bore snakes on the market either, and use them myself. These snakes are convenient to carry on the range and in the field. Quality will pay off in the long run and can prevent damage to the inside of your barrel from cheap cleaning rods and accessories.

Preparation of and Cleaning the Firearm

Start by INSURING THE FIREARM IN UNLOADED!!! NEVER ASSUME IT IS UNLOADED. Then start taking the firearm apart and breaking it down as far as you feel comfortable taking it down. Your individual experience with firearms will dictate this.

Wipe the parts down with a shop towel and use a nylon brush to remove the gross dirt and crud and previously used cleaning products, if they were petroleum-based. Spray all of the disassembled parts and inside of the gun and barrel with a good cleaner. Insure the cleaner gets on the difficult-to-reach areas also. Let the cleaner soak for a few minutes (or longer if necessary). Take clean patches and Q-tips (designed for cleaning firearms) and saturate them with the cleaner and start wiping down the gun parts and inside of the gun; use the Q-tips to clean the hard-to-reach areas and cracks and crevices on the inside of the gun. Clean them until there is no residue on the patches and Q-tips. Wipe down the exterior parts of the gun with cleaner-saturated patches also.

Dip the bore brush in the solvent and scrub the inside of the barrel with the brush from the breach if possible. Saturate several patches with bore solvent and thoroughly clean the inside of the barrel until the patches show no powder residue or copper fouling shows on the patches.  Wipe everything down with a clean shop towel when you have finished cleaning all the gun parts.

Lubrication is the next critical step. Start with a synthetic gun grease (or FROG LUBE) and lubricate all parts of the gun with patches with the grease on them. Give all the parts a light coat of grease. A very thin film is all that is needed for proper protection. Use the Q-tips to get the grease in hard-to-reach cracks and crevices, and other hard-to-reach areas of the interior of the gun.

I use a few drops of oil in areas that can’t be lubricated otherwise (trigger assembly group comes to mind on some firearms). Next, saturate patches with a good quality synthetic gun grease and wipe the inside of the barrel with these grease-covered patches. This serves several purposes: it will increase barrel life, increase velocity, and protect the inside of your barrel from rust. This may also increase your accuracy, too. NOTE: Synthetic gun grease stays in place and does not migrate to other areas of the gun like oil or petroleum-based products will do, and the grease will last much longer than oil. I was amazed how much smoother my guns functioned when I switched to a good synthetic gun grease.

Wipe down the exterior of the gun and re-assemble the firearm. I store my guns in high-quality cases. I place my rifles in a gun sock, then put them in a hard case and lock them up.

Protecting your firearms from wear, dirt, grit, grime and moisture will provide you with a lifetime of enjoyment in the shooting sports, hunting, and protection for you and your family from two and four-legged predators. Do your part by cleaning and lubricating your firearms properly, with good quality cleaning and lubricating products. It will pay dividends for you over the years, and just may prevent a JAMMED GUN at the wrong moment!

Consider having your firearm(s) professionally cleaned by a qualified gunsmith or armorer once every few years, especially if you use the firearms heavily or shoot 1000s of rounds a year through your guns. A good gunsmith will take the gun completely down, inspect it, clean and lube it. This will give you a good peace of mind when it is critical for your gun to go “BANG” in a critical situation, or on that once-in-a-lifetime hunt.

Chuck Smick is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, and avid hunter and shooter. He served in the U. S. Army and Army Reserves as an Infantry Officer and Paratrooper. Chuck is an NRA Certified Instructor for firearm, Personal Protection Inside the Home and Outside the Home, and is an NRA Certified Range Safety Officer. Chuck can be reached at csmickoutdoors@gmail.comor csmickpaducah@yahoo.com

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