The Opposite Of Dirty?

Kinda' Clean ... Sorta'

I’d say the second most-asked-about topic in the reader mail pile would be questions about gun cleaning. The first? “What’s the perfect home defense gun/ammo?” We won’t go there right now, but I promise to simplify that one later; and it can be simplified, honest.

Nevertheless, the gun cleaning questions are rampant and often accompanied by much hand-wringing and worrisome comments like: “Am I slowly destroying my (fill in the blank gun) by not completely taking it apart down to the last pin and cleaning it within an inch of its life whenever I shoot even one round through it? Am I a failure? Will my wife divorce me if I don’t? Would that be a bad thing?

Actually, you’re more than likely prolonging the life of your (fill in the blank gun) by not taking it apart down to the last pin whenever you shoot it. We’re not sure about the divorce thing though. A neighbor of ours owned a much-loved Ruger Standard Auto .22. He was one of those “detail strip it every time you shoot it and even sometimes for no reason other than you feel like it” guys. I have a vivid memory of that gun virtually coming apart in my hands when I first took it apart. And that’s not easy to do with a Ruger Standard Auto! The tolerances were so worn, it even rattled. Mr. Wallace had loved his gun to death.

What do you need to do to keep your guns ready to go? Not much, actually. I have several “levels” of clean for my own guns. Comedian Bill Murry once said, “A man’s laundry hamper can have several levels of dirty, some of which are still perfectly wearable.” Guns are sorta’ the same way. My “working” guns around our modest ranch here are wiped off now and again before I stow ’em. They don’t get shot much but are handled lots, so there’s no real need to clean them completely all the time.

With my carry guns, if I shoot more than a few rounds, I field strip it, give it a quick clean, lube it up, put it back together then shoot it at least once more to make sure it goes bang. Then I consider it ready. My general “safe queen” guns have their own “sub-levels” of clean. I can honestly say I never give it a second thought to shoot even a fancy gun, then simply give it a quick wipe and stow it. As a matter of fact, I have guns I’ve never cleaned, and have shot quite a bit. Heresy you say? Naw … just lazy, and damn, if they don’t seem to work fine. Don’t get me wrong, if you enjoy cleaning your guns, go for it, but most people over-clean, over-fuss and over-take-apart, causing undue wear and tear. Wipe off the outside so it looks nice, but don’t get any angst over the rest.

With modern powders and ammo — short of living in a humid climate — you don’t have to clean a bore simply because you shot the gun. I’ll be honest and tell you I don’t generally clean a “recreational” gun until it’s dirty enough to sort of be an embarrassment if I show it to somebody, or if it stops working because it’s kludged-up with crud. I think if I owned only a half-dozen guns I might feel differently, but when I might shoot a dozen in one day, the thought of cleaning all of them forces me to take a nap instead.

How To Clean

First, ignore most things you’ve ever read on a forum about cleaning or what products you have to use. Next, take it apart if it’s an auto (unload it first, etc., blah, blah) and have an old towel folded in half to put the bits on. Wipe everything off with some paper towels or those nifty red mechanic’s cloths. Once all the loose crud is wiped out (use Q-tips too), run a dry brush through the bore and chamber, then run a solvent patch through it and put it down. Then use a dry brush of some kind (toothbrush) to brush at the caked-on crud. No solvent or anything yet or you’ll just make black stinky goo.

If you have to, dab your toothbrush in a bit of solvent (put a splash in the lid) and go at the corners where the crud is still hiding. Dry wipe everything again. Once everything is looking nice, slightly dampen a patch with whatever solvent you have laying around (Hoppes is nice because of the manly smell) and wipe everything down. You’ll see a bit of black come off, the residue of what didn’t dry-wipe off. Then brush the bore with a brass brush, then a few damp patches, then some dry ones. Unless you’ve been an ogre, that will clean the bore. If it’s heavily leaded, then more brass brushing. Give everything a good dry-wipe again with towels or your fancy red cloths and a few Q-tips and you’re clean. Ditto for revolvers, but if you’ve been really messy with your sixgun, you might have to use a brass brush chucked in a drill to clean the chambers. Neat trick, eh?

Lubing is also frequently misunderstood and most people over-lube. Get a bottle of whatever lube you like, or was cheap or free. Get your Q-tips and put the oil on the Q-tip. Now run said Q-tip over the rails of autos, and anywhere there are shiny spots from wear. If it’s a wheelgun, all the same rules apply about shiny parts. Maybe once in your life, use some spray crud-cutter and blow out the revolver’s innards and oil it. Once things are together again, a final wipe and you’re done. Total time should usually be about five minutes if you’re slow. But if you’re lazy, you don’t even have to do that very often.

Hey, it works for me …
Listen to Roy Huntington, Tom McHale and Brent T. Wheat discuss the rights and wrongs of gun cleaning on the GUNS Magazine Podcast.