Owning a handgun requires responsibility. And this responsibility includes proper care and maintenance. In this article we’ll focus on revolvers and pistols.
Although revolvers will generally need less maintenance, you still need to pull that wheel gun out, look it over, and wipe it down every so often. Stainless steel guns also will need less maintenance, but they can and will rust without proper care.
Maintenance means keeping the gun ready and preserving it long term. Cleaning is what you do to your weapon after use.
First up, make sure the gun is empty (yes, that means checking three times and then once more for good measure!) Remove all ammunition from the room in which you’ll be maintaining and cleaning your gun. Select an uncluttered place without carpets or rugs and a flat surface.
Even if your gun is locked up for months on end without use, it still needs to be maintained. For external rust, old style blued guns suffer the most. Those with Melonite or Tennifer finishes fare better. Stainless steel guns, as well as the chrome- and nickel-coated guns are also good, but they too can pick up rust spots and these may compromise good function.
When you’ve used your handgun, rub it down with Rem-Oil or a silicone cloth before storing it. After checking it on the outside, field-strip the gun every so often. The carbon steel parts inside such as springs, sears, etc are also prone to rust. All guns need this wiping down.
Use moisture-protection bags for guns in storage or dehumidifiers for your safe.
If you get your gun dirty, clean it. Even on a plastic pistol, most gun parts that involve firing are made of machined steel. This steel travels back and forth over other steel, and the tolerances between these two parts are machined to an exact specification. If you get burnt powder in this space, or sand, or dust, the stuff in there turns into sandpaper, grinding away at your gun’s working surfaces.
All handguns need good quality cleaners. There are many products available on the market such as Hoppe’s or Ballistol.
Even if you like using an all-in-one lube/cleaner, you sometimes need a specific copper remover or cleaner for your weapon. Hoppe’s #9 and Gun Scrubber are both good for a heavily dirty barrel or to remove lead from a revolver. If the gun has old style bluing, check the cleaner first on a hidden area to make sure it won’t damage the finish.
Field strip the gun and clean/scrub the barrel, slide, and inside the frame. Take care to remove any carbon, lead or fouling with a spray, brush, Q-Tip, pipe-cleaner or rag. Then it’s time to apply oil to places with metal to metal contact.
Once you’ve put it back together, function test it. Take an empty magazine and place it in the gun, pull back the slide and see if the slide lock works. Then eject the magazine and rack the slide a few times. If all’s good, place the eraser side of a pencil in the barrel and pull the trigger. If the pencil shoots up, the firing pin/trigger system is working. Then rack the slide and verify the hammer/trigger reset. If all checks out, you’re good to go.
Revolvers & auto-pistols
Revolvers require a lot of painstaking work when cleaning. The lead and fouling that accumulate in rings around the cylinder face are tough to clean. A good solvent such as Hoppe’s #9 and a bronze brush are the best tools.
It’s also crucial to clean the cylinder face and top strap. Use a bronze brush to scrub the black carbon deposits away.
Barrels should be cleaned only with brass rods (not steel!). There also are great fibreglass rods – which probably are a better bet.
Clean the barrel of an auto-pistol from the back and use an old toothbrush on the feed ramp to get it nice and shiny. Crud can build up on it and this is a primary cause of failures to feed.
Look after your investment
For those in salt water or marine environments, cleaning is even more important (as is maintenance). Salt water will cause a disaster on a gun if left alone. Needless to say, anytime your gun gets submerged in water, you should disassemble it and make sure the parts are clean and dry. Wet (non-plastic) parts can be dried in the oven and then oiled. Heaven forbid, if your gun drops into salt water, dunk it into fresh water as soon as possible to stop the salt water corrosion.
A firearm is a significant investment because they’re indeed the ultimate durable consumer product. So, if you take care of your gun(s), it/they will take care of you.