Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

Obviously, any gun carried or kept for personal protection needs to be kept in a state of reasonable cleanliness and some lubrication. How much, though? That’s a good topic for discussion.

This is something that everyone has their own take on. There’s a right answer, of course, which is “a gun should be cleaned as often as it needs to be and should be lubricated as much and as often as it has to in order to ensure reliable function.” Exactly what that entails is another matter.

I clean mine every time I go to the range, unless I only fire a few rounds. Pistol practice is always followed by a field strip and cleaning with Hoppes Bore Cleaner, generous lubrication of the barrel and slide/frame rails with Hoppes lubricant, and a wipe down with a bit of Rem Oil. At least, most of the time it is.

Granted, I carry an alloy frame pistol, so it needs to run wet. A bit less lubrication is okay if you carry a poly-striker gun, but not none. Even a Glock will malfunction if not cleaned and lubricated.

I think a personal protection gun needs to be kept as clean and lubricated as possible, but that’s just me. I want the thing to work if I need it to; I don’t want to leave it to chance that “well, it’ll probably work.”

If I’m just taking my rifle out to check zero or my shotgun to pattern a load, which I’ll do a few weeks before hunting season, I’m liable to skip it because I’m only firing a few rounds.

What determines an appropriate level of fouling to warrant a cleaning? A few nanometers of powder and carbon residue aren’t really going to impact a whole lot, so a person that didn’t do a heck of a lot of shooting could probably get through an entire year without really cleaning their pistol.

Bear in mind that the ammunition you use plays a role.

So if you shoot, say, Federal Syntech ammunition, which has a total polymer jacket projectile and clean-burning powder, you could put a lot of rounds downrange before you really had to worry about it. You could say the same about many similar brands/boxes of ammunition that are designed to leave less powder residue, use lead-free and heavy-metal free primers and powders such as Winchester’s WinClean and others.

However, if you use the cheaper stuff, you probably should clean the pistol. If you shoot surplus ammunition, you really need to clean it. A lot of that cheap, nasty steel case surplus ammo has corrosive primers and propellants, so getting your gun cleaned after shooting is a must.

I mostly shoot Blazer Brass in my handguns. It’s a bit dirty, but it feeds reliably, is accurate, and is also cheap, as a box of 9mm runs me about $10, unless it’s on sale. Paying almost $20 for the same number of bullets I’m just sending into a berm doesn’t seem worth it, and frankly taking a half hour to clean and lubricate my pistol isn’t really a hardship.

In an odd way, I actually like doing it but then again I’m one of those weirdos that actually changes his own oil and kind of looks forward to it, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask about this.

As to lubrication, here’s where things get a little complicated.

So, there is such a thing as too much lubrication, but it’s only in specific instances. Excess lubrication can absorb particulate matter, which – potentially – might interfere with operation. However, and this is just my opinion based on my observations and experience, most of the beliefs about lubrication are half-true at best.

Okay, to explain that a bit.

It’s definitely true that semi-auto shotguns are a little less reliable when it gets wet and truly cold, meaning the mercury has dipped below 20. Lubricants can absorb moisture at cold temperatures. That’s why duck and goose hunters have for decades wiped their, say, Browning Auto 5, Remington 1100 or Benelli SBE dry and applied light lubrication prior to hitting the blind when it gets cold out there.

Either that or they ditch the gas gun and pick up their 870. An autoloader can fail; a pump doesn’t. So, that’s an instance when that’s true.

It’s often said that semi-auto pistols shouldn’t be over-lubricated, because too much lubrication can interfere with the firing pin leading to light primer strikes.

What people mean when they say that is “don’t get lubricant into the firing pin/striker channel.” That’s easily done, since you aren’t supposed to lubricate the breech to begin with! Where you’re supposed to apply lubricant on a semi-auto pistol is the barrel and the slide/frame rails.

As far as excess lubricant attracting too much particulate matter, has that happened to you? It hasn’t to me. It’s possible in theory, but if there’s enough particulate matter to interfere with cycling, that means you don’t clean your gun often enough and since I’m pretty fastidious about cleaning my pistols it hasn’t happened.

The only thing left to be said will be your comments.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.