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Firearms Maintenance 101

Firearms Maintenance 101

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Published by Burt Gummer
It’s the shot of a lifetime: After two days’ drive, an expensive game tag, and an hour-long stalk, you’re looking through your sights at a fat trophy just a hundred yards off. Meat for the winter. Memories for a lifetime. It’s a cold, blustery day, a spectacular morning after a hard freeze. The wind’s in your face with just a dusting of snow. You’ve settled into a textbook, solid prone position with a tight sling. Your pulse has steadied, you’ve taken your shooting breath, and as the crisply-honed trigger breaks--

instead of the anticipated crack and recoil, there’s just a loud snap you’ll never forget. The trophy hears it too, and is gone in a flash. Oh, you’ll have memories, all right--memories that will keep you awake at nights and tie your guts up in knots for the next ten years. Memories of how poor firearms maintenance cost you the biggest bull elk you’ll ever see.
It’s the shot of a lifetime: After two days’ drive, an expensive game tag, and an hour-long stalk, you’re looking through your sights at a fat trophy just a hundred yards off. Meat for the winter. Memories for a lifetime. It’s a cold, blustery day, a spectacular morning after a hard freeze. The wind’s in your face with just a dusting of snow. You’ve settled into a textbook, solid prone position with a tight sling. Your pulse has steadied, you’ve taken your shooting breath, and as the crisply-honed trigger breaks--

instead of the anticipated crack and recoil, there’s just a loud snap you’ll never forget. The trophy hears it too, and is gone in a flash. Oh, you’ll have memories, all right--memories that will keep you awake at nights and tie your guts up in knots for the next ten years. Memories of how poor firearms maintenance cost you the biggest bull elk you’ll ever see.

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Published by: Burt Gummer on Dec 25, 2008
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10/23/2012

 
Firearms Maintenance 101
(Originally posted by ML on the Hoods Woods Forum, 27 June 2002; reproduced here with theauthor's permission)Firearms Maintenance 101It’s the shot of a lifetime: After two days’ drive, an expensive game tag, and an hour-long stalk,you’re looking through your sights at a fat trophy just a hundred yards off. Meat for the winter.Memories for a lifetime. It’s a cold, blustery day, a spectacular morning after a hard freeze. Thewind’s in your face with just a dusting of snow. You’ve settled into a textbook, solid prone position with a tight sling. Your pulse has steadied, you’ve taken your shooting breath, and as thecrisply-honed trigger breaks--instead of the anticipated crack and recoil, there’s just a loud snap you’ll never forget. The trophyhears it too, and is gone in a flash. Oh, you’ll have memories, all right--memories that will keepyou awake at nights and tie your guts up in knots for the next ten years. Memories of how poor firearms maintenance cost you the biggest bull elk you’ll ever see.* * * * *A Forum member asks a question about guidelines for basic gun cleaning. I’ve decided to attemptan answer. So settle back while once again I rattle on for some length, or bail out of this post rightnow, before you descend into yet another of ML’s endless, over-written screeds.* * * * *Make a promise to yourself: The next time you fire a shot, or the next time you even uncase your rifle, shotgun, or handgun, vow that you won’t sit down to dinner or enjoy a glass or your favoritelibation until the firearm is cleaned and secured for the night. Period, end of story, no negotiating,no exceptions. No matter how much back-slapping or celebration the occasion calls for. Thefirearm deserves your loyalty and attention first.Once you’ve crossed that mental divide. To my mind, periodic firearms maintenance actuallyfalls into five parts:Inspection Cleaning Lubrication Preservation StorageWhy not examine them subject by subject?
 
InspectionWhen you settle down to clean a gun, give it a once-over first. Checking for loose scope-mounting screws, a sling-swivel stud that’s backing out, a scratch or gouge to the finish thatrequires special attention, a crack in the stock’s tang--anything out of the normal, or anyanticipated wear areas. Keep your eyes open during the disassembly and reassembly process aswell.CleaningThis means more than just cleaning the bore; it means cleaning every part of the arm whichrequires attention. The stock and exterior surfaces may need nothing more than a quick wipedownwith an oil-impregnated rag. If the arm has been subjected to a lot of dust or moisture, it mayrequire detailed disassembly. Here, some books may be helpful. The NRA has published twoexcellent works, "Firearms Assembly--Rifles and Shotguns" and "Firearms Assembly--Pistols andRevolvers" (see links here):(Rifle and Shotgun) store.nrahq.org/nra/produ...d=PB+01600(Pistol and Revolver) store.nrahq.org/nra/produ...d=PB+01590Jerry Kuhnhausen has written a series of manuals which are absolutely the best available, bar none, and that includes the military publications. You may view/order them here:www.gunbooks.com/catalog.htmlIn addition, your tax dollars have provided some excellent Field Manuals and Technical Manuals(FM’s and TM’s) for the M1903 Springfield, M1 Garand, M14/M1A, M16/AR-15, and M1911.Search for them online or for sale as bound volumes with the following information:M1 Garand Field Manual FM-23-5 M1 Garand Ordanance Maintenance Manual TM-9-1275 M1Garand Operator and Organizational Maintenance Manual TM 9-1005-222-12 M1 Garand C & DSniper Rifle TM 9-1005-222-35 M14, M14E2 FM 23-8 M16A1 Operators Manual TM 9-1005-249-10 M16, M16A1, Bipod Rifle M3 Operator's and Organizational Maintenance Manual TM 9-1005-249-12 M16A2, M4, M4A1 Operator' Manual TM 9-1005-319-10 M16A2, M4, M4A1 Unitand Direct Support Maintenance Manual TM 9-1005-319-23 (Highly recommended) M1911A1Direct and General Support Maintenance Manual TM 9-1005-211-34 M24 Sniper WeaponSystem (Rem 700) TM 9-1005-306-10When most shooters think of weapon’s cleaning, they think of swabbing out the bore. Here aresome thoughts. First, when cleaning the bore, always clean from the breech/chamber end to themuzzle. Why? Dragging a cleaning rod over the muzzle--and eventually you will--is detrimentalto accuracy, as it ovals-out the muzzle’s end. If you can’t clean from the breech (a revolver,certain autoloading rifles like the Ruger 10/22), then at least use a cleaning-rod guide at themuzzle. Better-quality cleaning rods will include one in their construction; usually it looks like a brass "funnel."
 
In cleaning the bore, you want to remove powder residue, and jacket or lead residue within the barrel. To remove lead, you’ve got to scrub it out with a stiff brush and solvent. (Certain electro-chemical devices exist, and may do an excellent job, but I personally still rely on elbow grease.)To remove powder residue, a patch or brush soaked in solvent will usually suffice. To remove jacket material, an ammonia-based solvent applied with a wet patch and followed with a wet brush, then repeated, will usually do it. To revive really terrible, neglected bores, plug the muzzle,fill the bore with kerosene, and let stand overnight. Scrub with a stiff nylon or bronze brush, andrepeat until you’re down to clean metal. To clean a rusty shotgun bore, I wrap a .45-caliber bore brush with 0000 steel wool, soak in kerosene, and scrub away.Additional thoughtsOld (pre 1950) ammunition or military-surplus ammunition from Eastern Europe often usescorrosive compounds in their primers. These deposit salts in the bore, which precipitate reallyaggressive rusting. Cleaning procedures after firing such ammunition requires the use of water;I’ve found a mix of warm water and a mild soap (such as Simple Green) work well. Don’t bestingy with it, either--really pour it down and scrub away, repeatedly. When that step is done,follow by pouring boiling water down the bore. (I know it’s counter-intuitive, but the boilingwater will dry the bore if you use enough, by heating the barrel’s metal to the point where anywater in the bore will flash evaporate.) Continue with the conventional solvent/patch/brushcleaning for bullet-jacket fouling as you normally would.After firing black powder, clean with lots of the scrubbing/hot water/soap solution as well--black  powder fouling of itself promotes aggressive corrosion.A chamber bore guide, while not necessary, keeps excess solvents and crud out of theaction/magazine, although I have to admit I hardly ever use one, simply protecting the areas witha paper towel or rag.Special ConsiderationsSome firearms, by the very nature of their design, require special attention. Semi-automatic riflesor shotguns immediately spring to mind. Most of these use propellant gas bled from the barrel toactuate a piston or some other mechanism which unlocks and retracts the bolt. (Blowback or recoil-operated/delayed blowback systems like those of the M1911, Glock, or Remington Model8 do not use bleed gas, and as such require less specialized attention.) These systems--pistons, ports, and so on--need to be cleaned for reliable functioning. So-called "direct impingement"systems such as the M16’s/AR-15’s blow propellant gasses directly back to the bolt carrier, and assuch blow (dirty) propellant gasses back into the bolt/action area, again requiring more cleaninghere than, say, a bolt gun. Simply wiping the area down with a solvent and drying with cleanfabric will usually do it.Further considerations include "coke" in the system due to over lubrication. Oil, whether in your auto engine or in your autoloader’s gas system--does not burn clean when exposed to sudden,

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