Cleaning Your Weapon
By: Hawk

No matter how precise and well made a piece of machinery is, if it is not lubricated and maintained properly it will break. When actively working as a gunsmith I have seen people who would almost have a stroke if one spec of dirt got on their car, but then turn around and think nothing of putting 1000 rounds thru their weapon and then just set it in the closet to patiently wait till the next urge to shoot hits. These folks are the gunsmiths assurance that they will never be unemployed. While talking to various other gunsmiths around the country, one thing is consistant. Lack of preventive maintenance accounts for fully 90% of all repairs that come in to their shops. This is due to little or no cleaning, or little or improper lubrication. NO, I do not mean just spraying the gun with WD-40 and wiping off the dripping excess. To the other extreme I do not mean running a cleaning rod through the bore till a rifle barrel looks like a shotguns either. The trick is somewhere in the middle, and that is what we are going to try and cover this month.

There is no way around it, to clean a weapon properly takes work. Now, as to how much work is the trick. I am going to share a few of the tricks and products that I have found that have worked for me over the years.

The tools needed for cleaning your weapon can be simple and few or as fancy as your wallet can stand. The first thing needed is a cleaning rod small enough to fit through the weapons bore. The rod should have either a Jag (the fancy name for the thingee screwed into the end of the rod) or a slotted tip. The second thing needed is a tight fitting brass brush to fit the bore. Next thing needed is an old toothbrush. Chemicals needed are a good bore cleaner and a good gun oil, and sometimes for some semi-automatic weapons, a good gun grease. These are the minimum items to clean a weapon properly.

The cleaning rod comes in many variety's both in style and materials. For the field I like a sectioned rod. I find it easier to use than a flexable type rod. For home use I prefer a one piece steel rod for its strength and ease of use. As to the on going argument on whether the rod should be of a soft (Aluminium or coated) or hard (Steel). I find that either will work without damaging the bore provided it is used carefully and wiped clean after every few strokes. You should always run the rod from the breech to the bore whenever possible to keep from damaging the crown of the barrel. If impossible like on the M-1A, a guide for the rod should be used.

The jag can be either a push type or a slotted type for pulling patches. When using either, the patches should go only one way and then discarded. In the field I prefer the slotted type as it allows a tore off piece of cloth to be used as a cleaning patch in an emergency. As to patches the cheapest way to obtain a bunch the exact size you need is to visit the fabric store and obtain a large piece of flannel and then cut to size.

The brush is the item that does the major part of the cleaning of the bore when it is used properly. Used improperly it can be the greatest cause of lost accuracy. The brush should be made of brass. Never use a steel bore brush. The so called 'tornado' brushes can destroy the accuracy in a barrel in a short time. While brushes come in specific bore sizes, you may want to get some one bore size larger for a really thorough cleaning of an especially dirty bore. For instance a .25 pistol brush works really well on a leaded .22 rifle barrel, or a .32 brush on a .30 caliber barrel. For those of you who use a .45, the company Champions Choice (800-345-7179) has a .50 brush that fits a standard rod for the .45. To properly use the cleaning brush it must be pushed all the way through the bore each way. Never get the brush half way in and scrub it back and forth. This just pushes the dirt into the barrel metal and ruins the brush.

The toothbrush is used to scrub all the places that cannot be reached with your hands or a cloth. Brushing under the extractor is such a spot. A few different dental picks come in very handy also for reaching those tiny crevices. A few sharpened hard wood sticks accomplish the same thing in the field.

As for bore cleaners they are almost as numerous nowadays as motor oils for cars. I have yet to find one of the new wonder cleaner/lubricators that works as well as a bore cleaner followed by a seperate gun oil. If you must use one though, I suggest Break Free after it is shaken really well first. This is what I use in the field to simplify the amount of items carried. At home I use the following bore cleaners, RB17, Shooters Choice, and the old standby Hoppe's. They are listed in the order of my preference. RB17 is very high in ammonia as its basic ingredient is horse manure. Laugh now, but try it and save hours of work. Only bad thing about it is you have to run a patch soaked in alcohol after it to neutralize the ammonia. Then you "MUST" re-oil as RB17 removes everything and rust will begin on the exposed metal if you don't. It will not hurt bluing or parkerizing. For those folks who have discovered the joy of spray bore scrubbers, ask yourselves do you want something better and cheaper? If so visit your local auto supply house and get the spray brake cleaner. It works even better than the spray carberator cleaner. Nicest thing about the brake cleaner is that you can get 4 large cans for about the same price of the medium size can of 'bore scrubber'. They are especially useful by sticking the small nozzel tube in the gas tube of the AR-15 and spraying. Cleans it right out and if it doesn't run a long pipe cleaner in there after spraying and spraying again. For really long pipe cleaners visit a local pipe shop and ask for 'bulk' cleaners of the regular size and long 'church warden' pipe cleaners. The church warden size will reach almost the entire length of the gas tube. This spray is especially useful in cleaning muzzle brakes, the fluted chamber of the HK-91, and the bolt lug area of the AR-15. Best of all it drys completely in a few minutes and all chambers should be kept dry to keep shells from sticking and breaking extractors. As you should leave chambers coated with oil when stored, a quick blast and the chamber is now oil free and dry.

As to a good oil I would suggest Break Free, Wilsons gun lube, or Rem-oil. NEVER use WD-40 as it is a penatrant and will get into loaded rounds and kill the primer. One of the cheapest and a real good oil I have ever used is 'Red Oil'. This is the oil that was made up by the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning for their shooting teams. It is made by mixing one quart of 10 weight motor oil, one quart of transmission fluid, and a can of STP. The motor oil can usually be found at the farmers co-op. It works good and is cheap.

As to a good grease to use, I suggest Tetra gun grease. It is expensive, but it works extremely well. This is vital for the bolt and carrier of the FAL and the bolt lugs of the M-1A, M-1 Garand, and the Mini 14.

For especially dirty bores I suggest Sweet's 7.62 Bore Solvent and J-B Cleaning compound. These last two items should be used when all else fails.

For weapons that use corrosive ammo, nothing works better than the old GI bore cleaner followed by flushing with hot water. CAUTION-this bore cleaner is POISON, so treat accordingly. It can be usually found at gun shows for $2 a can. If I fire corrosive ammo, I clean the bore for three days straight and have never had one rust yet. This is especially true for weapons that do not have a chrome bore.

For wood stocks, wax with Johnson's Paste Wax for hard wood floors both inside and outside the stock.

To keep all the tools you will acumulate for cleaning organized and free from harm, I use a fishing tackle box. It keeps all the different calibers I have to clean seperate and easy to find.

DBI has books and Wilson has a good video showing proper cleaning methods for cleaning.

As to how I clean a weapon, here are the steps I use.

1. Run a patch soaked with bore cleaner through the bore and let soak for 15 minutes.
2. Another soaked patch followed by running the bore brush through 10 strokes
3. Run dry patches through the bore. At least five.
4. If after the fifth patch the bore is still dirty, repeat steps one and two.
5. Run an oil soaked patch through followed by a dry patch.
6. Wipe and brush all other areas as needed then wipe down with a silicone rag.

There in a quick nutshell is how I clean a weapon.


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