American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Dana Benner

Proper main­te­nance en­sures your gun will serve you long and well.

Clean­ing your firearm on a reg­u­lar ba­sis is the eas­i­est and least ex­pen­sive way of mak­ing sure it will work when you need it to. There are two types of main­te­nance for your firearm: field-strip­ping and a com­plete break­down. Con­sult your firearm’s man­ual be­fore do­ing ei­ther one. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers rec­om­mend that gun own­ers only field-strip their firearms and leave com­plete break­downs to prop­erly trained gun­smiths. Un­less some­thing goes wrong with your firearm, there should be no need to do a com­plete break­down; and if you clean your firearm reg­u­larly, there should be no ma­jor prob­lems.


What I am about to say should be com­mon sense, but I am go­ing to say it any­way: Make sure your gun is un­loaded be­fore clean­ing it.

How many sto­ries are in the news about some­one shooting them­selves or some­one else while clean­ing their gun? The ex­cuse is al­ways, “I didn’t know it was loaded.” That is ridicu­lous, and that per­son should not even own a gun.

Again, make sure your gun is un­loaded be­fore you per­form any sort of main­te­nance on it.


When I was in the Army, I some­times found my­self clean­ing my ri­fle in less-thanideal con­di­tions. Al­though that is not what I would have done if given the choice, there might be times when you will have to clean your firearms in im­per­fect sit­u­a­tions.

For­tu­nately, most of the time, you can con­trol the con­di­tions around you. So, first and fore­most, keep your clean­ing area as clean and or­derly as pos­si­ble. In ad­di­tion, many of the chem­i­cals used for clean­ing firearms are not good to breathe in or get onto your skin, so pre­cau­tions need to be taken (see the sidebar on the fac­ing page).


Be­fore you be­gin clean­ing, it is im­por­tant to have all your sup­plies ready. Bore brushes, patches, pipe clean­ers and clean­ing chem­i­cals should be gath­ered and within arm’s reach.

There are hun­dreds of clean­ing prod­ucts out there; as with any­thing else, some work bet­ter than oth­ers. Al­ways use a high-qual­ity prod­uct on your firearms. I have found that prod­ucts made by Outers and Shooter’s Choice work best for me. Hoppe’s also man­u­fac­tures a good prod­uct. Be sure to have plenty of clean­ing cloths (old cot­ton T-shirts work well for this) on hand.

You will also need clean­ing kits for each of your firearms (ri­fles, shot­guns and hand­guns). These kits are stocked specif­i­cally for the weapon’s cal­iber and gauge and must be matched to the firearm. The good kits will in­clude all the tools you will need, in­clud­ing clean­ing rods, jag and patch tips, and both brass and ny­lon bore brushes. (Some peo­ple swear by bore snakes, which do away with the need for clean­ing rods and patches, but I have to take their word for it, be­cause I have never used them.)


Af­ter a day in the field, whether I have fired a shot or not, I al­ways field-strip my firearms and give them a clean­ing. This usu­ally takes just a few min­utes. A morethor­ough clean­ing takes place af­ter fir­ing about

100 rounds on the range.

Some shoot­ers only clean their firearms a few times a year, no mat­ter how much they use them. That could be a dan­ger­ous and costly mis­take. You have no idea how many times I have seen firearms, ei­ther on the shooting range or in the field, mal­func­tion due to in­ad­e­quate care or the lack of ba­sic main­te­nance. Built-up cop­per and lead foul­ing can lead to poor per­for­mance in both ac­cu­racy and me­chan­i­cal func­tion­al­ity. Burnt gun­pow­der gets ev­ery­where, and it is cor­ro­sive, eat­ing into all metal parts. Once the metal is com­pro­mised, any small amount of mois­ture will cre­ate rust.

So, the bot­tom line is to clean of­ten, whether you think it’s needed or not.


Re­gard­less of whether your shot­gun is a double bar­rel, pump or semi­au­to­matic, the ba­sics are all the same. (How­ever, if you are work­ing with a pump or semi­au­to­matic, there are more parts that need to be cleaned, such as the bolt. Don’t over­look any of these parts when clean­ing.)


I start by lay­ing a towel or news­pa­pers on the floor. I pre­fer to work on the floor, be­cause I can’t drop and lose any pieces if I am al­ready there.

Af­ter sep­a­rat­ing the bar­rel from the rest of the shot­gun, I set it aside and be­gin to work on the re­ceiver. The first thing I do is spray the trig­ger as­sem­bly and other hard-to-reach places with cleaner/sol­vent. The spray cleaner cleans out any dirt or foul­ing that might ac­cu­mu­late there. Then, us­ing a pipe cleaner, I re­move par­ti­cles bro­ken free by the cleaner. Us­ing a clean cot­ton cloth, I take some bore cleaner and clean the re­ceiver. An old tooth­brush works well for scrub­bing the crevices.

Once that’s clean, I wipe off any ex­cess cleaner and then put a light coat of gun oil on ev­ery­thing I can get to. (I can’t over­state the im­por­tance of wip­ing off any sol­vent or cleaner from the firearm, es­pe­cially from wooden stocks and fore­arms, be­cause they will ruin the fin­ish if they are left on.)

Set­ting aside the re­ceiver, I then work on the bar­rel. If your shot­gun has re­mov­able choke tubes, re­move them and clean them sep­a­rately.

I clean the choke tube first and then re­place it. Moss­berg highly rec­om­mends


never clean­ing the bar­rel with­out the choke tube in place, be­cause do­ing so can dam­age the fine threads in the bar­rel. To clean the bar­rel, at­tach the bore brush to your clean­ing rod, dip the brush into the bore sol­vent, and then run it through the bar­rel a few times to loosen dirt and foul­ing.

Af­ter the bore has been scrubbed, re­move the brush and run clean patches through the bore. Do this un­til the patches come out clean. Re­peat this process as needed.

Don’t over­look the hand­grips or fore­arm stock. Wipe these parts with a clean, dry cloth. This is im­por­tant, be­cause dirt does get trapped in these parts, as well. Once clean, lightly oil and then re­assem­ble the shot­gun.

It is pos­si­ble that some parts can be as­sem­bled in­cor­rectly, so double-check your work of­ten. When the gun is fully as­sem­bled—but be­fore load­ing it with am­mu­ni­tion—work the me­chan­i­cal as­pects of your firearm to make sure all me­chan­i­cal parts work freely and prop­erly. The final step is to lightly oil the en­tire out­side of the firearm to pro­tect its sur­faces and pre­vent cor­ro­sion.


Al­though they are a lit­tle more com­pli­cated than shot­guns, ri­fles are easy to keep clean. What makes a ri­fle a “ri­fle” are the spi­ral grooves in the bar­rel called “ri­fling.” It is im­por­tant to keep residue from build­ing up in those grooves, or the ri­fle will not shoot prop­erly.

(In the in­ter­est of safety and de­pend­abil­ity, make sure to read the owner’s man­ual

be­fore tack­ling these projects. If you still have ques­tions, con­sult a gun­smith or the man­u­fac­turer.)

The less com­pli­cated the ri­fle is, the eas­ier it will be to clean. Bolt- and lever-ac­tion riles are, by far, the eas­i­est, be­cause they have fewer mov­ing parts. On the other hand, semi­au­to­matic ri­fles have the most parts, and some of them are very small. Un­for­tu­nately, more parts to clean means more parts to lose.

All semi­au­to­matic ri­fles have a spring; in fact, some have more than one. The spring is the most dif­fi­cult piece to deal with. It could come fly­ing out dur­ing disassembly; it can get bent dur­ing re­assem­bly; and I’ve even seen springs re­assem­bled back­ward. Be very care­ful when re­mov­ing and re­plac­ing the spring(s).

The big dif­fer­ence be­tween clean­ing ri­fles and clean­ing shot­guns comes when it is time to clean the bar­rel. Most shot­guns are smooth­bores—mean­ing that they have no ri­fling—so the di­rec­tion in which you run the clean­ing rod through the bar­rel re­ally doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence.

How­ever, the same can’t be said for ri­fles. The best way to clean a ri­fle bar­rel is to go in the di­rec­tion of the ri­fling—from the breech end to the muz­zle. As with shot­guns, take your time, and run patches through the bar­rel un­til they come out clean.


Hand­guns are bro­ken down into re­volvers and semi­au­to­mat­ics. While the clean­ing process is ba­si­cally the same, there are a few lit­tle dif­fer­ences you need to be aware of.

Let’s look at re­volvers first. For this, I turned to my friend Mark, who is a re­volver expert. Here is his process:

Af­ter prep­ping the area, open the ac­tion and leave it open. Take a thick cloth and wrap it around the ham­mer and frame to pro­tect it from any dam­age. Us­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate clean­ing rod, go through the same process that would be used to clean the bar­rel of a ri­fle. Al­ways be sure to re­move any re­main­ing bore cleaner with clean, dry patches.

Mov­ing on to the frame: Use a cloth, a stiff ny­lon brush or even pipe clean­ers to get de­bris or foul­ing out of less-ac­ces­si­ble places, es­pe­cially where the cylin­der fits into the frame. To clean the cylin­der, run patches through each cham­ber, us­ing a brush if they are re­ally dirty. Close the cylin­der and wipe the en­tire firearm with a cloth damp­ened with gun oil. Cy­cle the ham­mer to en­sure the firearm will op­er­ate

prop­erly and to spread the lu­bri­cant equally.

Clean­ing a semi­au­to­matic hand­gun is not any more dif­fi­cult, but it is dif­fer­ent. Semi­au­to­mat­ics break down into four parts: re­ceiver, slide, bar­rel and spring. Al­though all these hand­guns do break down in a sim­i­lar man­ner, re­fer to your owner’s man­ual be­fore you per­form this step.

Once the gun is dis­as­sem­bled, wipe the spring with a clean cloth and set it aside. Us­ing a pipe cleaner and a dry cloth, wipe down the slide. If there is any residue built up, use a lit­tle bore cleaner and a stiff ny­lon brush to break it free. Wipe it down again un­til it is clean. Set the slide aside.

Use a pipe cleaner to clean the mech­a­nism in the re­ceiver, in­clud­ing the trig­ger. Wipe that down and set it aside. Clean the bar­rel us­ing bore cleaner and the ap­pro­pri­ate bore brush or patches. I have a word of cau­tion for you here: Be­fore putting any oil on the firearm, con­sult the man­ual. All semi­au­to­mat­ics have lube points, and too much oil can ac­tu­ally harm the func­tion of the firearm.

Re­assem­ble the firearm. En­sur­ing it is un­loaded, make sure ev­ery­thing works prop­erly. If it doesn’t, take it apart again and see where you went wrong.

There is one more step I take be­fore I put my firearms away: I al­ways spray them down with a light coat of rust pre­ven­ta­tive. I re­ally like two prod­ucts. The first is Rust Pre­vent, made by Shooter’s Choice, and the sec­ond is Get­some 1000, which is made by Get­some Prod­ucts. Spray your gun down, and then wipe off the ex­cess.

Re­mem­ber that a firearm that doesn’t func­tion prop­erly when you need it is ba­si­cally worth­less. A lit­tle time and care spent keep­ing your weapon in top con­di­tion are well worth the ef­fort. There is no such thing as clean­ing your firearm too much!


Some of the au­thor’s pre­ferred gun-clean­ing prod­ucts

Be­low, left: Use a tooth­brush with ny­lon bris­tles to clean threads on a choke tube. Then re­place the tube in the shot­gun bar­rel be­fore clean­ing the bar­rel to pro­tect its threads.

Left: In­spect the firearm to make sure it is un­loaded prior to disassembly and clean­ing. (Photo: Mark God­dard)

Be­low, right: Us­ing spray cleaner with a pre­ci­sion ap­pli­ca­tion tube to tar­get ar­eas in­side a shot­gun re­ceiver

Above: Run­ning a brass bore brush through the bar­rel

Check­ing a Glock for safety prior to disassembly

A Glock is dis­as­sem­bled and ready to be cleaned.

Far right: Re­assem­bling a Glock semi­au­to­matic pistol af­ter it has been cleaned

Right: Clean­ing the slide from a Glock pistol us­ing a brush with stiff bris­tles

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