Proper maintenance of your firearms is crucial if you want to keep them in working order, and especially if you’re going to keep using them.
But gun-owners old and new alike are found to be without a vital piece of information: the answer to the question of “how often should you clean your gun?”
Many think that you should clean your gun after each use. However, that can seem impractical to some; moreover, you can get away with less frequent cleaning sessions.
The answer to this oft-asked question, though, depends on the type of firearm and the specifics of how they’re used; there is no short answer. We know it’s confusing right now but bear with us. Keep reading for a detailed answer.
Why Do Guns Need to Be Cleaned?
Before we go into the specifics of gun-cleaning and its prescribed frequency, first, it’s worth it to consider just why guns need to be cleaned. “Well, that’s pretty obvious,” you say. “They get dirty!”
You’re right, of course, but it goes deeper than that.
Every time you fire a gun, some propellant is burned. This results in the deposit of some carbon residue, which can build up and accumulate over time. Beyond carbon residue, trace metal bits are also found in firearms. Getting rid of this residue is an important reason why we clean our guns.
You already know this, but guns are (usually) made mostly from metal. And if you know anything about metal, then you know that it’s susceptible to rusting. Rusting occurs due to the oxidation of the metal.
The result is every gun owner’s nightmare: the ruining of a beautiful metal finish. But it can have even worse, irretrievably damaging results when combined with corrosion.
Corrosion goes hand-in-hand with rust. Over time, corrosion can also set upon your gun, exposing more areas that can then oxidize and begin to rust. Together, rust and corrosion can eat away at metal until it becomes weak or becomes pitted over. That’s the last thing you want for your gun!
The sources of corrosion are varied: water, air, moisture, sweat, oil from skin… and even cleaning solvents. Cleaning and oiling your guns regularly prevents the build-up of these external influences and guards against potential rusting and corrosion.
Ensuring Smooth Operation
When it comes down to it, firearms are quite intricate machines. Without the right balance of properly functioning parts, a gun can easily fail in its operations.
Grime, residue, and grit can hinder the proper functioning of your gun by obstructing the movement of its internal parts. This can result in failed feeding, ejecting, or even firing.
Ensuring Safe Usage
In the worst-case scenario, a dirty firearm can pose severe safety hazards. If you let your gun get too clogged up and dirty, you end up with unpleasant things like out-of-battery discharges and bore obstructions.
How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?
Now that you have a better idea of why it’s so important to clean your guns, we can get down to business. To begin with, the question of how frequently your gun needs to be cleaned depends on two things: how frequently you’re using it, and in what conditions. Furthermore, it also depends upon your personal preferences.
Each time a handgun is fired, a number of contaminants become involved: oil, sweat, carbon, powder residue, etc.
If these contaminants are left on the gun for too long, it won’t be able to function properly.
So if you own a handgun, then cleaning it after every shooting session is generally thought to be a good idea.
That might seem like a lot of work; however, we recommend at least field-stripping and then performing a basic wipe-down.
Another situation in which a gun should be cleaned every day is if corrosive ammo is being used regularly, as it can result in high levels of corrosion and rust. Furthermore, if your gun is exposed to moisture or water, you should clean it immediately.
Let’s face it; none of us has the time to do regular full-detail cleaning of our guns. However, that doesn’t take away from how important it is to do them.
A good way to schedule full-detail cleanings is to follow the number of rounds fired from your gun. You can choose to get a cleaning done for every 3000 to 5000 rounds.
You can do a full-detail cleaning of your gun, but it’s usually recommended to enlist the help of a professional, such as a qualified gunsmith or your gun’s manufacturer.
Following Heavy Usage Conditions
There are a number of situations in which your gun might be subjected to heavier use than others, for example, long shooting sessions or extended use in unclean external settings.
In these situations, it’s a good idea to go through with a more detailed cleaning session for your gun. The bore should be checked for obstructing debris, and parts should be lubricated after cleaning thoroughly.
If it’s a Carried Weapon
When it comes to concealed carry, the rules can be a little different for when a gun should be cleaned. That’s because, even if it’s not fired, frequent exposure to the outside world can cause contaminants to easily accumulate on the gun’s body.
So, you have to remember to wipe it down each time your concealed-carry handgun comes off. Carefully wipe it down so as to eliminate sweat or dirt. You have to be careful, especially when it comes to sweat, as sweat accumulation can speed up corrosion.
And if you’re looking to field strip your concealed carry handgun or subject it to a detailed cleaning/inspection, we would recommend doing so once every two weeks or, at the very least, once a month.
Guns are devices with intricate mechanisms whose performance depends heavily upon the proper working of its parts. Preventing rust, cracks, corrosion, and erosion is tantamount to ensuring the smooth functioning of your gun.
So if, before reading this article, you weren’t convinced of the importance of cleaning your gun regularly, then hopefully you do now.
Good luck, and stay safe!
Joseph Fox writes on a variety of topics ranging from reloading ammunition to gun cleaning. He has been featured on various publications like thetruthaboutguns, Sofrep & many more. Joseph is also the founder of Gunloading, where he reviews different types of reloading & firearm products available on the market.