Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Prepper's Armory: Firearm Cleaning Equipment

The number one cause of firearms malfunctions is, by far, a poorly maintained gun. Properly cleaned and lubricated firearms generally operate more reliably and last longer than ones that aren’t.

I’m sure many of our readers, especially those with military service, are already very familiar with cleaning firearms; hopefully this series of posts will add to that knowledge, and possibly suggest some alternatives.
IMPORTANT: Do not have any live ammunition in the cleaning area!  Confirm this before starting and make it a regular habit whenever firearm maintenance is to be performed.

The basic tools for cleaning a firearm are:

  1. Aluminum or
  2. Brass cleaning rod
  3. Scraper
  4. Jag
  5. Patch holder
  6. Cleaning brush
  7. Bore brush
  8. Patches (not illustrated)

There's an impressive variety available in all these different components; there are a number of options just for patch holders, from simple multi-caliber loops to more specifically-sized jags. Patch holders are available in both metal and plastic.

Patches need to be properly sized to the barrel. The best patch material is cotton, either light flannel or T-shirt style weave. They can be purchased pre-made or cut out of old t-shirts.

Brushes are another area of great variety. They are caliber specific, so it’s important to use the correct size. These brushes are consumables and need to be replaced when they show signs of wear.
  • Nylon bristle brushes are not as aggressive as the others, but they can be used with solvents designed to remove copper fouling which would damage bronze brushes if used together. 
  • Bronze bristle brushes, an the other hand, are more aggressive and tend to last longer before needing replacement.
  • The stainless steel tornado brush is even better at removing bore fouling without presenting any sharp ends that could scratch the barrel. However they don't get into the corners of the rifling as well as the bristle style does.
Cleaning rods come in brass, aluminum, coated, and carbon fiber.  Metal cleaning rods are available in segmented and one-piece styles. 
  • Rods made of softer materials may embed particles, potentially causing scratches to the bore.  
  • With segmented rods the joints often don't line up and can present an edge to the inside of the barrel.  
  • One-piece cleaning rods, in addition to being more challenging to store, are often more expensive than segmented ones -- sometimes significantly so.
Another cleaning tool is the bore snake, which consists of a caliber-specific length of material with built-in bronze bristles. In use, it's treated with solvent, the weighted end is dropped down the barrel, then the body is pulled through.  This combines the function of both patch and brush at the same time, which is useful for a quick cleaning at the range or in the field. However, it's much less thorough than dedicated, individual tools.

In addition to the above items, there are other tools and supplies I’ve found useful:
  • First and most important is a bench mat. This is a dedicated, pliable, cleanable surface on which to perform firearms maintenance. These mats shouldn't be used for any other purpose, and should be wiped clean after each use. This not only preserves the mat, but also reduces the chance of grit or metal fragments getting stuck in the mat and scratching the finish of a firearm.
  • Any firearms that have to be cleaned from the muzzle will benefit from a bore guide, which helps protect the barrel crown from being damaged by the cleaning rod. The crown is the last thing the bullet touches when it leaves the barrel and is an important element to accuracy.
  • A set of quality, properly fitting screwdrivers is a must for disassembling many firearms past the field strip stage.  They should be hollow ground so that they lock into the screw heads instead of damaging them.
  • Punches, especially roll pin punches, are another must-have. 
  • A small double-headed brass and nylon hammer is a good companion for these.
  • Finally, there are all sorts of picks, hooks, and scrapersdental pick sets can often be found for a reasonable price. These are excellent for getting into small nooks and crannies.
One of the best old-school scrapers is home-made by taking an empty brass cartridge casing and hammering the case mouth flat. I always have several in my kit, with various edge contours, for removing carbon buildup from differently shaped surfaces.

I hope this helps you with building a gun cleaning toolkit.

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