Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Come Clean: Maintaining Your Carry Gun

I talked to a friend of mine from the range the other day. He said he has a friend (yes, the friend of a friend) who is a narcotics officer. He was shooting at his quarterly qualification when he tried to fire his last two shots. The Glock he was using froze up. A Glock? They’re “indestructible!” After field stripping the gun the only problem was dirt. The trigger bar that has a connector that releases the firing pin was so cruded up it would not release the pin. The gun was completely dry. The officer said that he was told by an instructor that oil just attracts dirt and to not use it. This blew my, and my friend’s, minds. I could not believe that a competent instructor in a government agency would give such bad advice to a field officer! This narcotics cop should be glad that failure did not happen in the middle of a raid of a meth lab!
Ever wonder how your pocket has so much dirt and crud in it? Just living every day exposes you to many types of dirt and grime. These things will work their way into your carry gun as well. You should be shooting your carry gun often but whether you are or not, your gun is getting dirty. All guns should have regular maintenance done to them regardless of shooting them. This should be done routinely. I would suggest monthly. This is a tool that your carry to possibly save your life. Don’t you think cleaning and confirming the weapons reliability would be a high priority?
Start with your magazines. Magazines you say? I’m confident that not too many shooters think about their magazines and their cleanliness. Magazines are the cause of 90% of misfires. If that is true then why would anyone NOT clean and maintain this important component. Do each magazine separately so as to not mix up parts.
Ever look at how much dirt and debris ends up in your pockets each day? From bits of taco shells, donut frosting to fibers, mud and blood, these artifacts from your working environment will also find their way into your equipment. Properly maintained, modern service pistols are as reliable as any tool made by man. Just as anyone who carries a defensive handgun requires regular range practice to maintain life-saving shooting skills, carry guns require regular cleaning, lubrication and maintenance to deliver as-designed reliability and service life.
Whether fired or not, your carry pistol must be cleaned at least every month. This includes your magazines, which are natural collectors for all sorts of crud. “Dirty, bent or improperly assembled magazines are the leading cause of malfunctions in modern service pistols, after operator error. It’s estimated that fewer than 5% of officers practice shooting of their own accord, so we can assume even fewer properly maintain their weapons,” according to a veteran law enforcement trainer.
Modern service pistols are designed to be easily maintained, so there’s really no excuse not to take thirty minutes a month for a thorough job. A six-step maintenance regimen is simple: Make safe, disassemble, clean, inspect, reassemble and test. Think of lubricant as a critical component of your pistol which wears out periodically, whether fired or not. Everything you need to remove that “broken lube” and replace it with new protection is readily available at any sporting goods outlet.
Before proceeding, make sure your weapon and magazines are completely clear of ammunition, and that no ammo is anywhere in the vicinity of your cleaning area. I say again: Make sure your pistol and magazines are completely unloaded and remove all ammunition from your cleaning area! Next, prepare a brightly lit, well ventilated area with supplies, and wear eye protection and solvent-resistant gloves. It’s a good idea to work over a plastic tub to control the mess and catch loose or broken parts.
Start with your magazines; disassemble, clean and reassemble each one separately per manufacturer’s instructions, taking care to note how the springs fit. Springs and followers can vary between mags of the same brand, so avoid the temptation to simply disassemble and clean them all at once.
Brush out the mag body, and use some powder solvent on a patch to remove fouling and gunk from the follower and base plate. Straighten out twisted mag springs one coil at a time by hand until the follower sits squarely, but never stretch a shortened, “dead” spring as this only fatigues it further; replace it instead. Magazines do not require lubrication, though you may run a silicone gun cloth inside the magazine tube if you work in a high-humidity environment where rust is an issue. Reassemble each cleaned, dry magazine carefully; damage usually results from careless cleaning, disassembly or reassembly, not from normal shooting or handling.
Now, verify clear once more and carefully field strip your pistol, laying each part out in order as you go. In particular, note which way the recoil spring assembly fits in the slide. Some pistols use one tight end coil to retain the recoil spring on the guide rod, and the action will bind if it’s installed backwards. Using an old toothbrush and a powder solvent such as Hoppe’s No. 9 or CLP, scrub the breech face, feed ramp and other heavily fouled surfaces. While the frame and slide assemblies soak a moment, work the bore with a soft brass brush and solvent to fully clean fouling from chamber and rifling. Don’t scrub back and forth, as this will damage the rifling; just make complete passes each way.
When the powder solvent and brushing have done their work, remove the major crud with a paper towel or shop rag, scrubbing with more solvent as required. Then, spray each assembly with Gun Scrubber to remove all traces of solvent, fouling and old lubricant. Once dry, look for obvious parts breakage. One quick check: the extractor should hold an empty case in the slide against moderate shaking.
Your pistol should be lubricated with a light film of oil to insure reliable function on demand. Break Free spray foams on contact, efficiently coating interior parts stripped by the Gun Scrubber. Don’t overdo it! Just a quick shot to the area is enough. Accessible surfaces can be “painted” using a cotton swab dipped in oil. The bore should be dry, but place an extra drop on locking lug surfaces. Reassemble and hand-cycle the action several times, wiping off any excess lubricant that emerges.
Pistols don’t wear out as much as they hammer themselves to death, so judicious use of a high-viscosity lubricant for practice only will definitely extend service life.
After cleaning your holster and magazine carriers and checking them for positive retention, function test your pistol for safe and reliable function. First, manually cycle the slide with each empty magazine in turn, setting aside any magazines that won’t positively lock back the slide every time. Next, make sure the decocking lever or other safety systems operate as designed. Finally, dry fire with snap caps.
Get in the habit of reloading your pistol and magazines in a specific place, not where you clean, dry-fire or securely store your unloaded weapons. Be safe, be smart, stay alive.
Cleanliness is one of the best things you can do for your guns. Taking care of the tools that will take care of you is an imperative part of your defense plan.
Semper Paratus
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