I'm going to take a few minutes and talk about the inglorious side of firearm ownership, and that's cleaning and maintenance. There is an old say that goes, "Guns have only two enemies - rust and politicians." Well, I do what I can about the politicians each time the absentee ballot comes in the mail, but the maintenance and rust prevention is where I really shine.
First off, do you really need to clean your gun? Yes! But what if you don't use it? The answer is still yes! Why so? Well, storage can take its toll on a firearm just as much as shooting can. I've seen a lot of guns that have bad corrosion from sitting around inside gun cases or in vehicles that weren't weather tight.
I'm going to cover cleaning, maintenance, and proper storage for firearms. The reason why is because all three of these things work in harmony to either keep your gun looking brand new or looking like crap.
It is not difficult to clean your weapon. You just need to know how to field strip it and break it down to the major components. This will allow you to properly clean your weapon and ensure that all the components get cleaned and lubricated. Now, I'm not going to go into details on how to properly field strip your gun because we could be here all night talking about it. There are just too many kinds of weapons out there.
Rather than focus on how to clean the gun itself (your owner's manual should tell you), I'm going to let you in on the 3 products I use personally. It doesn't matter how long I've owned my guns. They all look fantastic. Part of that is a predictable cleaning regiment, and part of that is the products in which I use. The three products I use are Eezox, Tetra Gun grease, and Break Free CLP.
What is Eezox? Eezox is a synthetic cleaner, lubricant, and rust inhibitor. Unlike petroleum distillates, it is not flammable, and it is dry. Yes, dry lubricants are out there, and this one works great for concealed carry use because Eezox does not stain clothing or holsters. When it cures, after initial application, it bonds with the metal, creating a barrier that keeps moisture out. Since it gets into the pores of the metal, it makes it difficult for carbon to build up in places like the barrel. This makes it very easy to clean after use and during regular maintenance. I use it on all of my handguns.
Tetra Gun grease is another synthetic formula. It is a fluoropolymer grease, which has properties similar to the teflon coating of a frying pan; you know, the kind that eggs don't stick to. Well, it's the same principle here. Grease is thicker than oil, and unlike oil, grease will not run or drip. The advantage of grease is that it stays put. Tetra Gun grease is slicker than goose crap and does a great job of keeping sliding components wear-free while staying where it is applied. Additionally, it can be smeared onto the metal and wiped off, leaving a smooth surface. Tetra Gun is similar to Eezox. It bonds to the metal and gets into the pores, which keeps the copper fouling and carbon out. Everywhere I've applied Tetra Gun grease, I've just had to wipe off to remove carbon. It also does not attract lint. It has free electrons which repel lint and dust. Neato! I use Tetra Gun Grease on handgun rails primarily. It will not negatively interact with Eezox because they are both synthetics.
The last product in my cleaning kit is Break Free CLP. Unlike the two previously mentioned products, Break Free is a petroleum distillate, which means it is oil. The CLP part stands for Cleaner, Lubricant, Protectant. It really is good stuff. My choice of this stuff is in a spray can because it's convenient. It does a good job of removing most fouling from barrels and cleaning up actions. As a lubricant, it does well to keep the moving parts moving without excessive wear. As a rust inhibitor, it also does well, keeping my AR15 looking brand new. With Break Free, I don't need separate solvents and oils, although I do keep Kleen Bore Formula 3 solvent on hand in case of really bad fouling, but it's not a primary solvent. I use Break Free on all my long guns and one of my pistols.
How often do you clean your guns? At the very least, take a look at your gun(s) once a month if not being used and check for corrosion or surface rust. Clean accordingly. For concealed carry pieces that see a lot of dust, lint, sweat, moisture, and banging around in a holster, check and clean every week or so.
Maintenance is vital to a gun's life expectancy. Much of maintenance goes along with cleaning because when you clean your gun, you should inspect your gun. If necessary, purchase new parts to replace worn out or broken pieces. If the cause of weapon failure is beyond your knowledge, having a gunsmith you can take the gun to is a good thing. The most important part about maintenance is preventive maintenance. If a part is wearing out, it's better to replace it before it breaks than after. Usually, replacing broken parts will cost you more in the long run because it will probably break something else or mar your gun's finish.
Storage is important. Proper storage of firearms will add to, or take away from, the longevity of the firearm. Never store a gun in a case with foam. Foam will draw out the oil and allow moisture to remain trapped against the metal or wood of the firearm. With nowhere else to go, the moisture will interact with the metal and you have rust!
Whether you choose to store your guns in a safe or a room or a closet is completely up to you. I'm not addressing storage for households with children or pets. I'm speaking simply to the gun itself and what is best for it. Fortunately, safe gun storage also goes in line with what is best for the gun itself. I store my guns upright in a dry room in my house. I have a light on in this small room 24/7 which helps dry out moisture. You can't get away from humidity completely, but you can certainly minimize its affect on a gun. Storing the gun upright without touching anything will allow the moisture to evaporate from the weapon, which will leave it dry. When storing a gun treated with oil, make sure the oil is not slathered on. Wipe off the excess. Otherwise, the oil will drip down. For those worried about oil's affect on wood stocks, store your gun with the muzzle end down. Place a rubber or felt pad on the floor so the muzzle won't get scratched or scuffed. In a safe, you can get desiccant packs or electronic rods that keep moisture at bay. Never store a gun that hasn't been properly cleaned or dried after use outside.
Of course this entry wasn't written for the die hard gun-toting owners of America. It was written for the average gun owner who needs some questions answered. I hope this does the job.