To Clean or NOT to Clean Your Fireams
Posted by John McClain on Dec 18, 2023 6 Minute Read
When I bought my first firearm, cleaning it after every range session was an absolute must. It was brand new. It was my baby. It was like a brand new car that you don't let anyone bring food or drinks into – and you park on the backside of the parking lot where no other cars are near you. It didn't matter if I had shot 50 or 500 rounds, that gun was going to be cleaned when I got home.
Cleaning your firearm is something that you can either do on almost a religious basis or only do when it’s absolutely necessary. Over time, every firearm owner will develop their own cleaning regimen. In this article, I want to talk about when I feel it's necessary to clean my firearms and how deep you have to go when cleaning yours.
SHINY, HAPPY PISTOL
When I started shooting in competitions, I began to train regularly, so, naturally, I went through more rounds. I was cleaning my firearm three to five times a week. As you can imagine, that started to become a tedious and constant chore that I put myself through.
A few years passed, and I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Michael Voigt. We were at a match together and I commented while at lunch that I had to get back to my hotel so I could clean my gun. He asked me if I had had any malfunctions, to which I responded, “No. I just want to make sure I don't have any malfunctions the following day.” He then asked me if I had cleaned the firearm before coming to the match to which I responded, “Of course.”
Mike looked me in the eyes and told me that if my gun couldn't get through a couple thousand rounds of ammunition without jamming, I should send it back to my gunsmith. After all, when you pay that much for a piece of equipment, keeping it completely clean should not be something to worry about regularly.
PISTOL WEAR AND TEAR
The tools that we use regularly for everyday carry, competition or the range are put through a rigorous process to ensure that they can handle thousands upon thousands of rounds fired through them. Not only that, but they're expected to do it in all kinds of climates and conditions, such as the hottest, the coldest, the driest, the wettest, and the dirtiest. Most of these firearms will be used by law enforcement, security companies, the military and everyday civilians all over the world.
Now, I'm not telling you that you don't need to clean your firearm ever, but have you ever tested your firearm to see how far it can go or how hard you can push it before it starts to fail? The answer that I get from most firearm owners is “no.” That’s because they think that a super clean firearm should always work. I'm not saying that thought process is faulty, but it’s nice to know what the limit of your equipment is. It’s like that brand new car; it’s nice to know how far you can go before your fuel light turns on. To be completely in sync with your equipment means you have to know when to back off the accelerator.
BREAKING DOWN YOUR FIREARM
The next thing that I see when it comes to cleaning firearms, is the debate about how far you need to break your firearm apart to clean it. I'm a firm believer in the saying, “If it's not broken, don't fix it.” I have let some of my competition guns see 8,000 to 10,000 rounds before giving them a “deep clean.” Each time I would go to the range, all I would do is apply some more oil, load her up, and fire away. This is typically how I handle my firearms during the off-season or when I'm preparing for a match. Not to say that I want my firearms to malfunction, but if I wanted to practice how to negotiate through a malfunction, I most definitely want it to be while I'm practicing instead of at a match. This is why I try to push my firearms to the limits when I train… and partially because I’m lazy.
So, when exactly do I clean my firearms? Well, the answer is simple... I hardly clean my firearm that thoroughly. My general rule of thumb is this: if the toothbrush that I use to clean my firearms can't reach it, then it's not something that needs to be cleaned for a while. Even when I do a deep clean of my firearms, you will not typically see me scraping and scrubbing to get every little bit and particle of my parts. All I want to do is get the big stuff out of the way without messing with my firearm’s rhythm. Oil has worked its way into the deepest darkest crevices of my firearm through thousands and thousands of rounds, and, for the most part, that's not a bad thing.
CLEAN UP YOUR ACT
How I handle and treat my firearms can be completely different from what you need. I'm not saying that you should never clean your firearm, and I’m not saying you shouldn't clean your firearm after every range session. What I would suggest is pushing your equipment beyond your comfort zone. Your firearms tools were developed to be used in some of the worst conditions that a human being could possibly endure and are designed to work when it matters most. Field strip it, brush it out with a toothbrush, run a bore snake through your barrel a couple of times, put the thing back together, and get back to work. You’ll be surprised just how far you can go before you really need to clean your firearm again.