It is important to keep your firearms cleaned and maintained to preserve their value and functionality. It is also critical to keep them working safely. Taking proper care of your firearms will give you peace of mind knowing that they will work properly if you need them. Good maintenance habits will also help you know the ins-and-outs of your guns and have more confidence when using them at the gun range.
The key to cleaning your firearms properly is preparation. You need to work in an area that has good lighting, is well-ventilated, organized and very clean. If you have space to work in your garage or outside, that is best. If you have to work inside, choose a large room and work near an open window.
The table you work on should be sturdy and not move or wobble when you lean on it. Never work on a table that has wheels. Additionally, it is best not to work on your kitchen table or any table you eat off of because of possible contamination from the cleaning agents. You'll be cleaning your gun using gun oil copper, chemical solvents and carbon or lead fouling.
After you have picked out a workspace, remove any ammunition from the area. Before you begin, take all loose or boxed ammunition and return it to its proper storage area. Once that is done, you can bring your gun to your work area and make sure it's clear of ammunition and ready to work on. If your firearm has extra magazine clips, make sure they are fully emptied as well.
To ensure you clean your firearm properly, follow the owner's manual from the gun manufacturer. It will explain in detail how to take your firearm apart and properly clean it. Many tools can help you get your firearm cleaned properly, but they are not often found in typical cleaning kits.
Use a rubber mat to work on that has a non-slip surface. This can protect your work area and the gun parts while you clean it. A cleaning cradle for your firearm will keep it under control while you are cleaning it and leaves your hands free to clean the equipment and control loose parts.
If you have an old coffee or cookie tin, that can be useful to hold loose parts while you are cleaning the firearm. This will make it so that smaller parts do not get lost. Ideally, you should have one container for dirty parts and one for the clean parts. A common frustration with cleaning a firearm is the tiny springs getting lost. Sometimes they can be tricky to find. Use a flashlight to find any springs or pins that drop on the floor. Even the smallest gun part will cast a shadow.
Once your firearm has been fully disassembled, the boar should be cleaned first. Your firing accuracy is highly dependent on the rifling at the muzzle. You do not want your cleaning rod to hit the muzzle opening. Hitting the muzzle opening can end up leaving it open or misshapen. To be safe, always clean your firearm from breech to muzzle.
Next, choose a cleaning rod that matches the correct diameter of the caliber of your gun. Cleaning rods that are too big will get stuck, and rods that are too small will not clean properly. To loosen the fouling, begin with wet patches. Lead or copper fouling will need the use of bore solvents. Use a lead solvent if you have been using unjacketed lead. Try to push the patch through in a single and smooth motion. Do not scrub or change direction while cleaning the bore. Repeat the process until the patch comes out clean.
Once your bore has been cleaned, you may choose to let it dry and use it the same day. If you plan to clean it and store it, you will need to protect it from rusting. Soak a patch with oil and run it down the bore. Take note, however, that you will need to remove the excess oil before going to the gun range field. If you do not swap out the oil before using your firearm again, there could be excessive pressure in the bore that could end up being dangerous when you fire the gun.
Once you're happy with your cleaning job, you can reassemble your gun right away. Never leave your gun disassembled for long periods because you run the risk of losing or breaking parts. Once your firearm has been fully reassembled, it is important to check the trigger and safety for proper function. If you prefer, you can clean the outside of the gun and oil it before storing it. Do not overdo it because too much oil can soften the wood and ruin the joints between the stock and action.
Responsible gun ownership includes keeping your guns clean and safe. Clean firearms will be safer, more reliable and have higher accuracy. The more time you take to clean and get to know your gun, the easier it will be to diagnose function and accuracy issues.