Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Prepper's Armory: Shotguns

When it comes to firearms, a very good argument can be made that the ubiquitous shotgun is the most versatile of them all. Whether loaded with lead shot for use on smaller birds, small game, or clay pigeons,  steel shot for waterfowl, buckshot for home defense, or slugs for large game, a single shotgun can successfully be used for all these applications.

Shotguns are available in a wide variety of different bore sizes, actions, and configurations depending on their primary intended use, but there can often be considerable overlap between these roles.

Caliber and Gauge

When first learning about shotguns, bore size may be confusing. Other than the diminutive .410, shotgun barrel diameter is defined  by a gauge number. This is calculated by counting the number of lead balls, the diameter of which are the same as the bore of the shotgun, which total one pound. A 12 gauge would need 12 balls of 0.727 inches, whereas a 20 gauge would require twenty balls of 0.617 inches. 

As mentioned above, the exception to this are .410 shotguns, which have a caliber designation. Using the above system, they would be considered just over 67 gauge; conversely, 12 gauge is around .73 caliber.

Patterning Shot

Whether birdshot or buckshot, when using shells loaded with multiple pellets the chosen load needs to be patterned, a method of testing to make sure the density of pellets is sufficient for the purpose intended. This process is well understood and involves shooting at a large target at a specific range, such as a four foot square at 40 yards, then counting pellet hit percentages while keeping an eye out for voids in the pattern. Here are two references on the procedure of patterning a shotgun.

If firing slugs, a shotgun is sighted in using the same techniques as any rifled long gun, though often at a shorter range.

Choke
One of the elements that effects pattern is barrel choke, which is a specific restriction at the end of the bore that either allows the pellets to spread immediately or compresses them slightly to delay the dispersal.

There are a variety of chokes available, but the five most common are, from loosest to tightest: cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved-modified and full choke. Most modern shotguns have removable chokes, so they can be changed as needed.

Depending on the intended use of the shotgun, one of these will be optimal, though often one of the adjacent chokes will be acceptable.

Actions

A selection of the author's shotguns

There are a number of different operating mechanisms for shotguns, but the three most common are break-open double barreled shotguns  (either "over-under" or side by side), pump, and semi-auto. While popular for a long time, single shot and bolt action shotguns are of less interest to the buying public these days.

Configuration
In addition to actions, shotguns are also set up for a variety of uses. While there can be considerable overlap between them, there are specific features that benefit certain purposes.

  • Skeet: These will have mid-length barrels (26" is fairly popular) and are often of lighter construction than other shotguns. Double barrel and semi-auto dominate this type.
  • Trap: Shotguns intended for trap will have longer barrels, but are otherwise similar in setup to skeet shotguns. Barrels over 32" aren't uncommon.
  • Hunting, ground: When going for small game such as squirrels or rabbits, shotguns will often have barrels slightly shorter than those used for skeet (24-26") and will usually weigh more being of heavier construction. Pump and semi-auto seem to be most prevalent here.
  • Hunting, waterfowl: Longer barreled (28-30") semi-autos rule the roost (heh) for this use.
  • Defensive: As 18" is the legal minimum without getting into the National Firearms Act of 1934, most shotguns designed for defensive purposes have 18 ½" barrels. They may also have additional "tactical" elements such as attached shell holders, adjustable stocks, slings, barrel heat shields, and even bayonet lugs. The most popular type in this configuration is pump-action.

In the shotgun world, there are many different options in both form and function. As such, there should be something for everyone.

Have fun, and safe shooting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Prepper’s Pantry: Garlic

Garlic is one of the staples of life, akin to water or oxygen... or at least it is to some of us. A member of the allium genus along with onions, shallots, leeks, and chives, garlic has been used as a food seasoning and folk medicine for thousands of years.

Growing Garlic
Garlic is fairly easy to grow and can can be grown year round in many areas, especially if planted indoors. While garlic can be started from seed, most garlic these days is grown from cloves. Larger cloves are preferred for planting as they are more likely to survive and produce another bulb. 

The best soil for garlic is loose, dry, and well-drained. Mixing sand with regular garden soil gives good results; the actual ratio will depend on climate, rainfall averages, and other variables, but generally no more than one part sand to four parts soil is recommended.

If in a colder climate and planting outdoors, it's best to plant the cloves a month before the first hard freeze so the roots can get established, then let the plants over-winter in the ground. They should be ready for harvest in late spring.

Garlic is generally divided into two main varieties, Hardneck and Softneck.

  • Hardneck garlic is more robust and is more likely to survive in colder climates and produces larger cloves and bulbs. It can be easier to peel and many people consider hardneck to have a more vibrant flavor. Some of the hundreds of named examples of hardneck garlic include: Italian, French, German Red, German White, Romanian Red, Spanish Roja, Ukrainian, Yugoslavian, and Music.
  • Softneck garlic prefers warmer climates and both bulbs and cloves are smaller, though there tend to be more cloves per bulb. Because they don't have the hard center stalk, softneck garlic is preferred for garlic braids. It also stores better than its hardneck cousin, potentially lasting up to twelve months in ideal storage conditions. Some varieties of softneck garlic that may be found include: Inchelium Red, California Softneck, California Early, Italian Loiacono, and Silver White.

More information on growing garlic can be found on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website.

Storing & Preserving
Once harvested, garlic is hung upside down in a cool, well-ventilated area for about two weeks. After this time has passed, the stalks are cut off and the garlic is stored in a dark, well-ventilated location that's between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Garlic can also be preserved in vinegar, either through hot water canning/pickling or in the refrigerator. Be cautious if storing garlic in olive oil; to avoid botulism, the garlic needs to be acidified in vinegar to minimize bacteria or thoroughly dried first. Even so, garlic stored in oil should be used within a month or so to minimize the bacterial risk.

Rosh Hashanna Chicken Soup
While there are a tremendous number of garlic recipes, Rosh Hashana (New Year on the Jewish calendar) has just begun, so here's my family recipe for chicken soup, a.k.a. Jewish Penicillin.

Ingredients

  • Celery – 10 stalks + leaves
  • Garlic to taste
  • 2 onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 parsnips
  • Parsley (fresh)
  • Dill (fresh)
  • 1 Plum tomato
  • Whole chicken
  • Salt and pepper
  • Gizzards
  • Water to cover
  • Thin Egg Noodles

Recipe

  1. Carefully wash the chicken. 
  2. Remove the giblets, saving the gizzard for the soup. 
  3. Cut the chicken up and place in very large pot. 
  4. Cover with water and bring to a boil. 
  5. Skim the water occasionally and boil a total of 1 hour covered.
  6. Cut up the veggies. 
  7. Tie the carefully washed herbs in bunches so it is easier to remove them.
  8. Add the veggies to the pot and cook for another hour while covered.
  9. Remove veggies and chicken from soup and skim off as much fat as possible. 
  10. After you take the chicken and the veggies out, strain the soup through a very fine strainer. I usually do this twice, and the second time I put a piece of paper towel in the strainer to make it really clear. 
  11. Refrigerate the soup. Before heating to serve, skim off any hardened fat.
  12. Cut up the chicken and remove from the bone. Set aside to serve in the soup.
  13. Cut up carrots and parsnips to serve in soup.
  14. Cook the egg noodles, separately then add before serving.
  15. Serve hot with some fresh Challah bread on the side.


Always keep in mind the old saying: You don't measure garlic. You keep adding it until the spirits of your ancestors whisper "Enough, child."

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Guest Post: Fire Preparedness Aboard Ship

 by Sean Smock


Sean is a member of our Facebook Group. This is his first post for us.

Let us consider the concern of fire while aboard a ship. We’re going to ignore anything with a professional crew, who have people trained in damage control and fire fighting, as well as boats which are too small to go very far from shore like rowboats, canoes, and daysailers. Instead, we will focus on ships that will be where you will be spending the night, far from shore, with many exciting ways in which they can catch fire. 

Much of what I’m discussing will be familiar to people who are experts at land based firefighting, or at least have some level of familiarity with land firefighting, as smoke detectors, the fire triangle/tetrahedron, extinguishing agents, and fire types are all factors on land as well as on the water. 

Detection 
Detection is first because it is the most important. If you’re not planning on sleeping aboard the craft, and it’s a small enough craft for you to have line of sight on everything that’s liable to catch on fire, you can forgo a maritime smoke/fire detector. However, if you’re going to be sleeping or the vessel is larger, your options are “Set a fire watch” and “get smoke/fire detectors”. This is quite frankly the most important part of fire preparedness: an undetected small fire will become a big fire, and an undetected big fire will pose a major threat to life and limb for everyone on board. All effective action regarding fire requires that the fire be detected, and the earlier the better, because you can't put extinguishing agent on a small fire that you don’t know about. You can easily be trapped by, or overcome by the smoke and gaseous byproducts of, a larger fire that you are unaware of. If you do nothing else, buy a smoke detector. 

The Fire Triangle/Tetrahedron
In order to sustain flame, each fire needs three things:
  1. Heat
  2. Fuel
  3. Oxidizer
This gives you the fire triangle. Add the chemical reaction that is fire, and you have the fire tetrahedron. Remove one leg of this triangle/tetrahedron and the fire goes out.

Basic Extinguishing Agents
All extinguishing agents act to remove one of those legs:
  • Water mostly acts as a cooling agent, absorbing heat (especially when it turns into steam) and removing it from the fire, which makes it very effective at not only putting fires out, but making sure they stay out. Unfortunately, water is only safe to use on solid fuel fires.
  • CO2 acts as a smothering agent, displacing oxygen and removing the oxidizer from the equation. Just be aware that CO2 extinguishers build up static electricity, and thus must be grounded prior to use. 
  • AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Fluid) and equivalent can be used as a cooling agent like water, or as a smothering agent for liquid fuel fires. In both uses, it works to help keep the fire out, limiting the risk of reflash
  • Dry chemical extinguishers interrupt the chemical reaction itself. If you acquire no other extinguishers, a dry chemical one is probably the one to go with, as most of the time dry chemical will be effective. If you own a fire extinguisher, it's probably a dry chemical one; they’re the most common, the cheapest, and work on most fire types. At the prices they sell for on Amazon, even on the high end, everyone should have at least one, even if you don’t have a boat. When using dry chemicals, be aware that they’re very irritating to breathe, and are usually highly corrosive, and electronics will need to be detail cleaned or replaced. Even if you avoid any smoke inhalation, dry chemical will make you wish for breathing protection. 
  • Fire blankets aren’t technically an extinguishing agent, but they’re a very useful and inexpensive tool, and can be used to smother some small fires. 
You should have extinguishers in all spaces where cooking, engines, gasoline, oil, poorly managed extension cords/power strips, and dryers may be found. 

Fire Types
There are four classes of fire to be concerned about, and each of them is fought in somewhat different ways, (mostly) using one of the above listed extinguishers.
  • Class A (Alpha): These are the basic solid fuels: wood, cloth, dried paint, pipe insulation, plastics, etc. Water, AFFF, and dry chemical extinguishers are all effective. 
  • Class B (Bravo): These are liquid and gaseous fuels: propane, gasoline, kerosene, etc. 
  • Class C (Charlie): Electrical fires.
  • Class D (Delta): Metal fires (and not just magnesium, either; even iron can burn under the right conditions).
Fire Alarms
The first thing you do upon discovering a fire, regardless of size or type, is to announce that there is a fire and the rough location of that fire in the loudest voice that you can manage, and using a PA or internal mass communication system if at all possible. Do this even before attempting to fight the fire! Quite frankly, fires aboard a ship are too dangerous for you to take the risk of being overcome by the fire prior to warning others.

Do not attempt to fight large interior fires. If you can’t put a fire out quickly, evacuate and do not attempt to fight it. Becoming a Screaming Alpha is one of the less pleasant ways to leave life, and smoke inhalation isn’t much fun either. If you have any dependents that are unable to evacuate, or whom cannot be trusted to evacuate on their own, that should bias you towards evacuation rather than fighting the fire. Lives are more important than things, so do not risk the lives of others to save your boat. 

Fighting Fires
When it comes to actually fighting the fires, there is some divergence. Most extinguishing agents will work on Class A fires; water, AFFF, dry chemical, and (for smaller fires) fire blankets are all effective. Just follow the directions on the extinguisher for using it and aim at the base of the fire.

Class B fires are a bit trickier, as water and CO2 are not options, and per at least one study from the Netherlands, neither are fire blankets. If the fire is contained in a cooking pot, put the lid on it; otherwise, AFFF and dry chemical should be used. AFFF should be applied not directly to the fire, but rather by bouncing it gently off of something else onto trying the burning liquid; the reason for doing this is to avoid splashing the burning liquid around while still covering the entirety of the flammable liquid with foam. With dry chemical extinguishers, use as you would with a class A fire.

The best way to fight a Class C is to turn off the power so that it becomes a class A fire. This not only makes it easier to fight the fire, it removes the initial source of the fire too, so that it won’t start the fire right back up after you put it out. Know the electrical system of your craft, and what to do to secure power to electrical equipment quickly. If you can’t turn off power, you’re going to be using CO2 or dry chemicals to fight it. 

If you’re unlucky enough to encounter a Class D fire on your ship, be aware that none of the common extinguishing agents are recommended for use on such fires. Jettison the fire if at all possible; if that isn't possible, then abandon ship. 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, keep in mind that extinguishers are not meant for fighting large conflagrations, and saving people is more important than saving things. If you could reasonably say “the room is on fire” instead of saying “that pile of oil soaked rags is on fire” it’s time to make like Brave Sir Robin and bravely run away. Even if you’ve got a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and full Firefighting Ensemble, you probably won’t have a team of trained firefighters helping you -- and if you do, and you’re not a trained firefighter, get out of the way and let them do their job.

If you successfully put the fire out, congratulations! You’re not done yet, though. Now you get to sit there with an extinguisher and make sure it doesn’t reflash until the firefighters arrives. This is especially important with CO2 and dry chemical extinguishers, because once the CO2 or dry chemical clears out, the fire will quickly resume burning if the fuel is still hot enough. Regardless, just because the fire is out does not mean it will stay out, so keep a weather eye on it until the professionals take over. 

The Most Important Thing
In the end, the most important thing is detection, followed closely by preservation of life. Having all the right knowledge and  extinguishers does you no good if you don’t know about the fire. Even if you do have the knowledge, err on the side of caution, and don’t try to fight fires that are beyond your capability. A boat can be replaced; a family cannot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Long Distance Travel Planning

My wife and I just returned from a long, out-of-town trip to a place I dislike and for reasons that were unpleasant. Nevertheless, it was a journey that had to be made.

This made me consider how my wife and I prepare for long trips in the car. We have a checklist with variations depending on destination and purpose. We also tend to over pack when we go away.
  • Navigation. Even though GPS is prevalent and generally accessible, we always map out the route before we get on the road. This helps with any possible detours that may occur, or points of interest we'd like to see.
  • Breaks. Over a decade ago I injured my back, and since then I can only take a limited amount of time in a car before I need to get up and walk around. These breaks help both in reducing leg cramps and in keeping us alert on the road.
  • Fuel. On a long trip, we try not to let the car get below half a tank of gas before we stop to refill. This ensures we always have enough fuel to get to the next station, even if we have to skip a string of them due to extreme prices, too many customers, or lack of gasoline at the pumps. 
  • Cash. While not accepted everywhere anymore, it's always a good idea to have a supply of cash on hand when traveling. If phone/data/wifi goes down credit cards may be useless, but cash still works.
  • Hydration. Most people live their lives insufficiently hydrated. On a long drive it's too easy to either forget to drink enough or, even worse, drink too many caffeinated and/or sugary beverages which act as diuretics. One 16.9 oz bottle of water per person per 100 miles is probably a good baseline; I tend to drink more than that.
  • Nutrition. While fast food restaurants cluster around highway exits, they can't always be counted upon to be open and even the better options aren't all that healthy. A bag of shelf-stable snacks, such as dried fruit, nuts, and pretzels as well as a cooler of cheese sticks, chocolates, etc. can help considerably.
  • Biology. If we're eating and drinking, those fluids and solids eventually have to come out, so don't wait until the demand is urgent before finding a bathroom. Last year, when the government-mandated craziness was at a higher level, we went from Nashville to Knoxville. This was about two and a half hours of driving, and very few bathrooms were open to the public on that trip. Even with the calls to wash our hands for so many seconds repeated constantly, fast food restaurants weren't allowing patrons in to use their restrooms. As a man, I had the usual alternatives of "nearly any tree", but such was not the case for my wife. Fortunately, we were able to find options farther from the highway exits.
  • Electronics. With cell phones, Kindles, tablets, and more part of our daily lives, it's important to be able to keep them charged. We have a selection of cables and adaptors in our cars to take care of all our devices.
  • Defense: Depending on the destination we may just have sidearms, but if we're going to be away overnight I prefer to have at least one long gun with sufficient ammunition, as well as a cleaning kit and basic tools. Unfortunately, it's not always legal to bring firearms to certain destinations. While I'd prefer to stay away from those places, it's not always possible, and alternatives for defense that are legal in many jurisdictions are available.

All the things listed above are in addition to the normal supplies we keep in our cars at all times such as blankets, flashlights, rope/cord, etc.

Proper planning prevents poor performance. Travel safely.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Guest Post: the Presto Precise

by George Groot




George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.
 




The Presto Precise 10-Quart Multi-use Programmable Pressure Cooker Plus is probably not what you consider a “blue collar prepping” device at $130, we are a family of four, live in a modest suburban neighborhood, and have scheduled activities for our two sons nearly every night of the week. For us, at this point in our lives, time is the most precious commodity, and therefore we find value in time-saving devices. After careful consideration we purchased this device; in addition to being a pressure cooker & slow cooker, it is also a water bath canner and pressure canner, but the reason for the purchase was the pressure canning function.

https://amzn.to/3BHscRp

Here are a few of the better reasons why we spent over twice what a quality stovetop pressure cooker would cost:
  1. Small scale. It is easier to work in “small batch canning” here and there when things are on sale, and the device does all the temperature and pressure monitoring. We have experience with stovetop (external heat) water bath and pressure canners, and they should definitely be part of everyone’s prep skills, so this augments that nicely while the power is still on.
  2. Convenience. That “small batch canning” turns cooking dinner into an opportunity to make leftovers soups and stews into preps, as making a big batch when things like pork, chicken or beef are on sale is relatively smart. This means instead of dedicating a large amount of time to “canning” as an activity, it’s now available as a relatively easy chore to work into the daily schedule.
  3. Low acid foods. Dried beans are a staple in our diet, but they aren’t particularly quick to make into edible foodstuffs, so turning a 2 pound bag of dried beans into shelf stable, ready to go cooked beans is super helpful. And due to their low acid content, you need to pressure can beans.
  4. The time/value equation. How much is your time worth? With a stovetop canning setup, you are the only control system to make sure the water doesn’t boil off, that enough pressure is there throughout the canning cycle, and so when you are “canning” you aren’t doing much else away from canning. This is generally not a problem... unless you start having competing requirements such as caring for young children or elderly parents, or even wanting to do something for yourself. With the Presto Precise, you can safely walk away once the pressure canner is set up and, as long as you don’t lose power, come back to a finished product.
  5. Waste heat management. No need to turn on the stove; as a self-contained appliance there is much, much less waste heat in the house until we release the pressure. This means that canning in the summer time isn’t a sweat-filled sauna session just because we had a few extra pints or quarts of stew, or produce was on sale.  Be advised, however, if you use the Presto Precise as a water bath canner (its alternate function by removing the pressure release valve) you will have to deal with more waste heat... but being better able to manage that excess heat is a nice feature.
Is this appliance as good a prep for you as it is for us? The answer is “it depends.” 
  • Yes: If you have the money to spare on one, and you intend to use it regularly to build up your pantry, and you have a good place to store it where it won’t be forgotten, then go for it.
  • No: If you use canning mainly as a seasonal thing (preserving stuff from the garden, or only after a hunt/large animal slaughter) then cheaper external heat water bath and pressure canners are what I would recommend, since those have worked well for over a century now.
For us, it's a 4 out of 5 star purchase. It's electricity dependent, which knocks off a star, but since we already had extensive water bath canning supplies (mostly from thrift stores), it filled a niche. My family has used both water bath canning and the pressure canner this season to preserve food, and the Presto Precise is definitely more convenient to use, even if the throughput isn’t super high. It works for us, in our space, and I’m glad I made the purchase. So far the most difficult thing about having it is convincing our youngest child that the refrigerator is where he needs to go for food, not mom’s canned foods in the garage.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

"It's just a scratch. Why the big deal about cleaning it?"

Because not cleaning it might lead to a real problem, up to and including death.

This is a tale about cellulitis infection. It's caused by common bacteria that are harmless unless they can get into your body, and all it takes for that to happen is a little scratch or scrape. It's a personal tale.

Last summer, the evening after a day trying to get some mowing and cleanup done between rain, my left foot was a bit sore. No big deal, I thought, I probably banged it on something earlier. That was a Tuesday. The next day it was a bit swollen and a tiny bit more sore.
By Thursday, it was a bit more of each, but no big deal. Come Friday evening, it was noticeably more swollen and definitely had more soreness. I promised myself that if it wasn't better by Monday, to the doctor I would go.

Saturday morning, I knew I had a real problem when I woke up in the driveway, wondering why I was face-down and bleeding. I'm not sure how long it took to get my mind to the proper line of thought, which was "I need help, and that means a phone." I finally made my way back into the house, where I kind of collapsed on the desk. Eventually I remembered why I was there, and called my daughter.

How serious was it? When she first got there she thought for a moment that I might be dead. I passed out again while she was calling 911, and again while the ambulance guys were working on me. 

This was my first ambulance ride, and I'd rather not repeat it. There were no red lights or sirens, but I'll tell you this: if you have a bloody head injury and they've called ahead that you've gone unconscious twice since they arrived, you practically fly into a treatment room.

Happily, various antibiotics will kill this infection. They had me on an IV full of them for two days, then sent me home with a prescription for the oral versions. 

Which brings me to this year. Last month I had pruned some holly and everything seemed fine, but when I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom a few weeks ago, my hand was sore. Yes, I'd gotten a few scratches on that hand, but right after I finished pruning I'd washed and put some New Skin on them. As it turns out, I probably should have done that when the scratches happened.

That morning my hand was more sore, and it had a swollen patch on the back. I went to work about 9 am; by 10 am, it was more swollen and painful, so I called the doctor's office to see if could get in. No joy; it was the Friday before Labor Day, and most people were already gone. By 11 am I told my coworker "I need to head to the emergency room." He wondered why I waited this long, so off I went. 

When the doctor came into the exam room I told him about last year,. He took one look at the hand and said "I think that's what this is," so once again I wound up in a treatment room with an IV of serious antibiotics running. I think part of their motivation involved me suddenly getting woozy and having trouble speaking properly -- again, like what happened last year. This time it was caught early enough, or maybe the hand/arm is easier to treat; in any case, after about an hour of the antibiotics I felt much better, and shortly after that they sent me home. 

In a survival situation, this same illness would have been bad at best, and at worst could easily turn fatal. Take care of those scratches and dings as soon as possible with soap and antiseptics. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Prepper's Armory: Cleaning Long Guns

Last week was pistols; now we finish this series with cleaning long guns.

Rifles
Rifles have more variety than handguns due to their many different types, so this section will be bit more general, but I’ll add a few asides for specific actions or components.


Start with basic disassembly (this varies by rifle pattern) and run a patch wetted with solvent down the bore, working from chamber to muzzle if possible. If the barrel has to be cleaned from the muzzle, such as with the M1 Garand, use a muzzle guide to help protect the barrel crown.

Another option with rifle barrels that can’t be cleaned from the chamber is to run a bare cleaning rod down the barrel from the muzzle, attach the patch or brush in the chamber area, and pull the rod back through. While it is more effort to repeatedly attach and remove rod end accessories, this reduces the chance of the rod flexing and the metal patch holder rubbing on the rifling.

Make sure to use a properly sized patch. If it feels like it’s taking too much force to get the patch through, stop, reassess and try again with a smaller patch. A patch that’s too big for the caliber can get wedged in the barrel, possibly breaking the patch holder at the same time, and this can present a challenge to remove. The best solution is often to use a corkscrew-like rod attachment called a worm to pick out the patch a bit at a time. Under no circumstances should you try to force the patch out with another rod, as this will almost certainly make the problem worse. 

Once the solvent is soaking into the barrel, clean all the action parts, making sure to get into the nooks and crannies where fouling can hide. While cleaning the bolt, pay special attention to the breech face and locking lugs for signs of wear or peening. This is especially important with heavier recoiling rifles. When checking the bolt face, look for any brass fragments that might interfere with the extractor or ejector.

For the AR-15 family of rifles, a special chamber brush is available that cleans both the chamber and the space between the locking lugs and the chamber. This gap is a prime spot for residue to hide and impede function. In fact, a chamber brush is a good idea to have in any firearm cleaning kit.

Clean any carbon residue from the tail of the bolt and inside the carrier (another good use for a homemade scraper), and check the gas rings on the bolt and the gas key on the carrier for wear.

Clean the magazine tube, box, or well as appropriate to the type of feed system. Once reassembled, check the magazine and/or feed spring for proper tension. Dummy rounds or snap caps can help with this test.

Finish cleaning the barrel, wipe down all the parts, reassemble, and perform a function check.

Shotguns
Overall, break-open (also called break-action) shotguns are probably the easiest to clean due to their simplicity. Semi-automatic and pump shotguns can be more complicated depending on disassembly and reassembly requirements.
 

With most break-open shotguns, disassembly consists of removing the fore-end, opening the action, and removing the barrel. With pump and many semi-auto shotguns, disassembly involves unscrewing a retention nut from the end of the magazine tube and then removing the barrel.

Getting into the fire control parts can be more complicated, sometimes considerably so. Thankfully, these components are fairly well sealed against firing residue, so more detailed disassembly isn't usually required.

Things to look for in shotguns include:
  • Loosening of the hinge pin in break-open shotguns
  • Wear to the barrel lockup and magazine spring in repeating shotguns
  • Damage to the firing pin(s)
  • Wear to the firing pin opening(s) in the frame
  • Dents in the relatively thin barrels
  • Plastic wad reside stuck in the barrel
  • Cracks in the stock
Wooden shotgun stocks are prone to cracking above the wrist (the location where the stock attaches to the frame), due to oil draining down out of the action and soaking the wood. Semi-automatic shotguns frequently crack at the rear of the fore-end, often caused by over-tightening the barrel retention nut.

Cleaning consists of the usual wet patch down the barrel; cleaning the action, bolt, breechface, and other parts depending upon the type of shotgun; cleaning the barrel; then wiping everything down and reassembly. Action testing dummy rounds and snap caps are available in shotgun calibers as well.

Shotgun patch holders and bore brushes require a special adaptor to work on rifle-sized rods. If you’re going to be cleaning shotguns frequently, I recommend getting a dedicated shotgun rod, which are heavier and thicker than rifle rods.

Hopefully this overview has given you some useful information for keeping firearms clean and reliable.

Stay safe, and good shooting.

The Fine Print


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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