The Importance of Firearm Maintenance
The rough definition, “Firearm Maintenance – is a series of periodic preventive maintenance procedures aiming to ensure the proper function of a firearm, often with the use of a variety of specialized tools and chemical solutions.”
Just like brushing your teeth to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, firearm maintenance is there to help prevent, failures, rusting, and other common issues associated with firearm failures and breakdown. Firearm maintenance should become a routine and should be part of a regular schedule. Depending on usage and storage should determine your routine.
Being that a firearm is a relatively expensive investment, even the cheaper ones, a good foundational cleaning kit is a must for any gun owner. Below are the basics and a great place to start when looking to build your own cleaning kit.
Cleaning solvents help remove the carbon buildup from your barrel and other key parts, and they are best used in conjunction with cotton cleaning patches and swaps. Note that cleaning solvent and gun oils are not the same thing (these will be covered later). You start with solvents and finish with oils. You should only use a minimum amount of cleaning solvent as an excess solvent can negatively impact key firearm parts like the trigger, ejector, and recoil spring. There are many types of solvents out there these days, but a few that have stood the test of time are Hoppes & CLP. For most of my cleaning, I tend to use CLP as it works great to both clean and protect parts.
Gun oil is another necessary piece needed to effectively clean your firearm. Gun oil helps lubricate your firearm and protect it from the onset of rust and can help reduce friction on key parts. You’ll find all in one oils and solvents and lubrication specific oils. Which one to use is a matter of preference, but the most comprehensive solution is usually a combination of a cleaning solvent and separate gun oil.
A good cleaning rod or bore snake is an essential part of any cleaning kit. A good rod will come as a kit with interchangeable pieces, while a bore snake will be specific to your caliber and barrel length. Rods come in several different materials like aluminum, fiberglass, carbon fiber, and brass. Brass usually represents the strongest option although it will be heavier. It is ill-advised to use any other material as it may scratch your barrel. A bore snake will usually be a cloth material that is semi-absorbent and flexible that is sized specifically to your caliber. Both are a great option, but rods tend to lend themselves to be little more versatile.
A good quality bore brush (not to be confused with a bore snake) will help remove residue and keep your barrel as clean as possible. Brushes are caliber specific, to be used in conjunction with your rod, so for the best performance, use only approved caliber brushes in your firearm barrel. You can also find some universal brushes out there depending on how customized you want your kit to be. Brushes come in a variety of materials but again brass is the most popular material.
Another essential part of the cleaning process involves a patch holder. Patch holders are configured to fit a variety of barrels, but make sure the patch holder you select is approved for your chosen firearm caliber. Patch holders are usually made of brass, and they will attach to your cleaning rod just like a bore brush. An alternative to a patch holder is a cleaning jag that acts more like a pushing device for the cleaning patch. Jags are slightly less wide than the caliber barrel you’re cleaning, and you’ll need to get one specifically designed for each barrel you plan to clean.
Of all the items in your kit, make sure you stock up on patches. They are great for running solvent through your barrel, wiping down slide parts, and overall are a utility item to be used as you see fit, but since they are absorbent and also gather carbon, you can only use them once before they need discarding.
A silicone cloth is a pre-treated piece of cloth that is essentially dipped in a silicone solution. It is the perfect material for use as a wipe down cloth for the outside of the firearm. If you looking to get that little extra oil off and clean the exterior of the firearm, while helping to prevent rust this is a great final step to your cleaning process.
EXTRAS (NOTE: THESE AREN’T NECESSARY, BUT NICE TO HAVE)
The most seasoned firearm owners always caution owners about cleaning rod damage. For only a few extra dollars, you can add a muzzle guard and protect the muzzle crown from unnecessary damage. Muzzle guards also keep the cleaning rod centered, and they are usually composed of brass materials.
A bench block is used to help remove pins when taking down a firearm. While not a necessity, they are a nice to have as they help to keep your take-down pins from flying all over the place while you disassemble your firearm.
FIREARM CLEANING MAT
If you’re cleaning a firearm with many advanced parts to disassemble and reassemble, then a firearm mat can be a great investment. A quality firearm mat serves several purposes. It provides an ideal cleaning/work surface, it is non-slip so it keeps gun parts in place, and it can also be printed with a diagram of your chosen firearm so you have a guide to where every part fits. Firearm mats are also resistant to cleaning chemicals, and even if you don’t necessarily need the diagram, they are a good investment for firearm cleaning around the house. They also help protect your work surface.
There are many companies out there that create kits and parts for cleaning your firearm and there isn’t just one option. Personal preference tends to play a roll in what you choose to use and what brands you ultimately end up using. Below are a few inexpensive options if you are in the market for a starter kit.