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The 10 Myths of Firearms Maintenance

Written by Cohen, Greg

Everyone has an opinion about how to maintain firearms, including what to use to clean them… from bore solvents and miracle oils to patches, brushes and ultrasonic machines. Unfortunately, not enough officers take the necessary care to ensure optimal performance from their weapons, nor do they realize the potential hazards of a poorly maintained firearm. Since every firearm owner’s manual recommends some level of care, it should be obvious that some care is better than no care in keeping the weapon in fire-ready condition.

MYTH# 1: You only need to clean your sidearm once a year, ideally during qualification.

REALITY: The average policeman hates to clean his firearms. The fact is, most officers don’t keep them clean, if they know how to maintain them at all.

“When it comes to lubrication, they either use too much or not enough,” Barry Frost, a U.S. Marshall, explained. According to Frost, range malfunctions occur too often because the guns are either dry, or too much residue had built up and caused a jam.

Though supervisors and rangemasters instruct and inspect correctly, the only way to ensure officer safety is to reinforce personal responsibility through education. An officer’s or citizen’s life may ultimately depend on a reliable weapon.

MYTH #2: Thorough cleaning and lubricating are necessary after every shoot.

REALITY: According to Jim Owens of FN Herstal there is no substitute for the peace of mind you will have by properly maintaining and inspecting your weapon.  It is the operator’s responsibility to make sure the weapon is functioning properly.  One day, that mindset may very well save somebody’s life.

But, you don’t need to suffer from obsessive / compulsive disorder to get the job done. If you start with a quality lubricant, a light cleaning might be all you need for most maintenance events. 

MYTH #3: Guns work better dry in desert environments. 

REALITY: According to a veteran U.S. Special Forces armorer with extensive experience in maintaining weapons being used in the Gulf right now, sand and dust interfere with proper function. Dry weapons plagued by debris heat up and fail. Any lubricant is better than nothing and grease may work better than a light oil.

MYTH #4: You don’t have to clean your weapon if it still operates.

REALITY: “Thinking like that can get you killed,” Bud Hartrampf, gunsmith, 1st Special Forces, Ft. Lewis, said. Hartrampf indicated that the soldiers are instructed to simply clean off their weapons with a canteen of water because that’s all they have access to.

MYTH #5: Overcleaning with solvents is good. And the nastier it smells, the better it works.

REALITY: Cleaning is just one step of the process. A cleaned gun is a dry gun. You must then lubricate to ensure smooth action and some level of protection for the hardware.

As far as solvents go, they are designed to break down lubricants, so you don’t want residue left on parts before lubing. Actually, following up a solvent treatment with a wiping of 90+% isopropyl alcohol gets that residue off. And it dries quickly. 

To take it a step further, the traditional CLP (Cleaner Lubricant Protectant) concept is not as effective as working with a separate cleaner and lubricant-protectant products because the ingredients may counteract one another.

MYTH #6: A thin coat of oil is better than a thin coat of grease.

REALITY: Oil is wet. It is a debris magnet for powder, sand and dust. You also can’t establish a hydrodynamic barrier to protect the parts. Plus, you can’t establish a dry film lubricant with oil. What oil does well is migrate, and get into hard-to-reach spots like triggers. Grease, when applied in a thin coat, creates a friendlier environment.

MYTH #7: Greases and oils are all the same. It doesn’t matter what lube you use.

REALITY: Greases and oils are most accurately identified as viscosities. Not all greases are the same, nor are oils. The formulations of those products and their material composition are more significant. Graphite, moly, silicone, lithium and Teflon all have different characteristics, and differ even further when mixed with other materials. In other words, judge each product independently. 

The worst choice would be WD-40, which most closely resembles kerosene in chemical composition. It frees up a part when it’s sprayed, but fails to provide long-term lubrication, and even opens the door to rust and corrosion.

MYTH #8: Don’t treat the chamber with a lubricant.

REALITY: As long as you remove excess material by swabbing it dry with patches, it is appropriate because it helps extraction, whether you’re talking about feeding, extraction or firing. On the other hand, a moist chamber can lead to the hyper-expansion of the cartridge casing, and ultimately, an extractor jam.

MYTH #9: Petroluem-based cleaners are just fine. 

REALITY: Petroleum distillate cleaners leave roughly a one percent residue on parts. Although this helps minimize flash corrosion, it creates a barrier for lubricants from being able to bond with metal surfaces. The net effect is reduced performance and increased powder residue buildup which is sometimes identified as gumming up.

MYTH #10: The only way to really preserve a weapon in storage is to pack it with a lot of thick grease.

REALITY: You’ve just made a mess. But there’s another way to prevent the peppered rust effect of father time. There are several good lubricants that double as protectants so that you can stow away a weapon even in a cool, damp basement with just a thin coat of lube. And you won’t have to spend time wiping off that packing grease later.

 

Greg Cohen is the vice president of sales and marketing for Mil-Comm Products, www.mil-comm.com. He may be reached at segaco@optonline.net.


Published in Law and Order, Jan 2004

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FN HerstalMil-Comm ProductsU.S. Special Forces
 

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