By Steve Tracy I Editorial director
Clean Your New Gun!
My dad shot in a pistol league every Tuesday night when I was a kid. When he returned home after his evening of range competition, he would immediately clean his guns. I’m pretty sure the unique smell of Hoppes No. 9 is permanently embedded in the walls of my boyhood home’s basement workroom. Without fail, my dad cleaned those guns right after he shot them. Then he would zip them back up in their cases and snuggle them back into his safe.
I’m sure part of my slight OCD affliction with cleaning firearms began back in those days. I learned that new guns must still be cleaned before they’re fired for the first time. Manufacturers build firearms and test fire them. Most makers don’t have the time to clean these guns, so they simply apply a protective coating or film of oil or cosmoline (defined as a brown, wax-like, rust preventative conforming to US Mil-Standard MIL-C-11796C Class 3, for those who always wondered.)
I’ve seen officers buy a new gun and bring it to the range for qualification without cleaning it first. I saw a new 1911 freeze up when its owner didn’t lubricate it because “it’s a new gun.” A fellow shooter brought a new Sig Sauer X5 9mm competition pistol to the range and was perplexed because it kept jamming. Others made fun of how much money he spent on a gun that jammed. I went over and asked him if he cleaned and lubed the gun before shooting it. His answer was, “No, it’s new. Why would I clean it?”
I showed him the small tube of lubricant Sig provides in the box. We placed some of the lube into both slide rails and racked the slide back and forth a few times. The gun ran perfectly for the rest of the evening.
I have always likened guns to cars. Did you ever try that “wash and wax—all in one” product? The claim is that the soapy substance in your bucket will wax your car as you wash it? Didn’t really work well, did it?
As opposed to “all in one” firearm cleaner/lubricant/protector, I prefer one product for each step. I’m also not a fan of using synthetic motor oil on firearms. I know some swear by their money-saving use of non-firearms related products, but I don’t mind spending five dollars on a firearm-specific lube that lasts several years.
I have found some products specifically geared toward AR-style rifles with gas-impingement operating systems. These guns get dirty and they get dirty in their chamber areas where you would prefer them not to get dirty. There’s not much you can do about it, except use one of the several chemical lubricants that bond with your gun’s metal surfaces.
They form a protective coating (sort of like a car wax) that keeps the dirt and carbon grime on top of the coating. It makes cleaning much easier as the dark stuff just wipes away. After a long day of training with a rifle, cleaning it quickly is a welcome process.
Modern semi-automatic handguns are much less prone to jams due to the buildup of grime. This is in part due to their design, their tolerances, and their materials (polymer frames with steel-insert frame rails). However, all firearms require maintenance and police officers should be carrying properly cleaned and lubricated guns at all times.
We all know cops with guns so dirty or poorly maintained that they wouldn’t function properly when it came time to fire them at the range. Spilled soda or coffee can wreak havoc on the internals of a handgun.
I confess to having a wire spring break on my duty pistol while shooting it in competition. The idea that it could have happened on duty in a gunfight was terrifying. New spring kits should be installed after a decade of carry or sooner.
Night sights don’t last forever and need to be swapped out when they become dim. Magazine springs may need to be changed as well; however, modern metallurgical technology seems to have cured that problem. Your results may vary.
I have had very few issues with new guns over the years. It seems that many issues raised with the mechanical operation of firearms are often user caused. Clean your guns. Lube your guns. Protect your guns during storage and wipe them down often when carrying them on your hip.
The newest firearm finishes claim to require no protection and repel everything from rain to snow to salt to microbial attacks. Sounds a lot like that fancy “one time only” paint protector for your car. A hand-applied coat of wax once a year still keeps your vehicle looking good. Wiping down your gun’s metal surface with a silicone or oiled rag can only protect its diamond/tennifer/black-satin chrome finish even better.
Take care of your gun so it can take care of you when you need it. Looking at these kinds of incidents, including Columbine and the most recent active shooter events, we see that the most likely outcome of the police confronting a shooter is that the shooter commits suicide or gives up. There is also the result where the police shoot and kill the murderous offender.
It used to be that specialized police units like SWAT were the ones patrol units called for help. They still are for barricaded subjects and other situations, but more and more, patrol officers are the ones taking on immediate life saving duties.
There’s a meme out there in cyberspace that shows Andy Griffith’s four-door cruiser with a red gumball light on top. Below that photo is picture of a Lenco BearCat with “POLICE” emblazoned on its side. The caption asks, “When did we go from this…to this?”
The answer would be another meme with a photo of Otis, Mayberry’s town drunk who would lock himself up in Andy’s jail. Below that photo would be a picture taken from a news helicopter of Columbine High School on that fateful day in 1999, or perhaps the Twin Towers burning, or a picture of riots with Molotov cocktails being thrown. The caption would read, “When we went from this…to this.”
Times have changed. Police work has changed. We’ve changed. PM