We all know that going to the range and firing off a few boxes of ammo is always fun. But how many times have you gotten home from the range or a hunting trip and told yourself that you will clean the guns tomorrow?
Then tomorrow turns into the next day.
The next day turns into next week.
Next thing you know you have dirty guns sitting in your gun safe (or wherever you store your firearms) and they sit there until the next time you go shooting.
Even worse, that gun you just shot at the range and didn’t clean is your daily carry gun. If you ever have to use your gun in a self defense situation, you want to make sure it is functioning properly and one way to ensure that is to keep it clean.
Now there might be some people that clean their guns as soon as they get home. There’s a guy in a hunting lease I’m a member of that cleans his rifle after EVERY hunting trip before he heads home even if he didn’t fire it. Personally I’m not that OCD but to each his own.
In the end, you forked over your hard earned cash for these firearms. Shouldn’t you be taking care of them? I had a friend that once pulled a Kel-Tec from underneath his truck seat to shoot at the range and it was so gunked up and nasty that it wouldn’t even fire. I have no idea what he did to it but I’m sure it had been a long time since he every disassembled and cleaned it, if ever.
So how can we make cleaning our guns more enjoyable so that we don’t procrastinate and keep our investments clean and functioning properly?
1. Setup A Specific Area for Gun Cleaning
The first thing I did to get over the procrastination of cleaning my guns was to set up a designated area for gun maintenance. I have a desk in the garage that was set up for fly tying. After having a son last year I didn’t have a much time for extracurricular activities like fly fishing let alone tying flies so things just started piling up on the desk. So I spent a few hours in the garage cleaning things up, tossing out stuff I haven’t touched in years and reorganizing my desks so that it could be a dual purpose fly tying / gun maintenance area. I also cleaned up enough of the rest of the garage to make my wife happy.
In the past I would just grab some newspaper and set up my gun cleaning station on the dining room table or coffee table in front of the tv but that was never sufficient. I would always wind up making a mess and my wife never liked that option either.
So find an area you can designate as your gun cleaning area so that every time you have guns to be cleaned, you know exactly where you will be cleaning them at. Carve out an area in your garage like I did or in an office or spare bedroom. If you don’t have any extra room like that then pickup sturdy folding table that you can set up somewhere. Keep your cleaning kit close to the table so that everything is in one place. Knowing exactly where things are when you need them drastically cuts down on decision fatigue.
You also want to make sure it is an area you will be comfortable in. My garage does the trick for now but once summer gets here it will be a bit toasty in there so I’ve got a fan next to my desk for when I need it. It also helps to have good ventilation so your significant other doesn’t find you face down, passed out from the fumes from solvents.
2. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need for the Task at Hand
Got Lube? Once you know where you will be cleaning your firearms at you need to make sure you have everything you need when the time comes. Here’s a checklist of what I consider must-haves for cleaning guns:
- Cleaning rods with PVC Coating
- Bore Brushes
- Gun Oil
- Paper Towels
- Gun Cleaning Brushes
You can also add some other items that help with the gun cleaning process and make your life a little easier. Here’s a few other items I have on my desk.
- Gun Cleaning Mat
- Chamber Brushes
- Stainless Steel Bowls
- Punch Set
- Screwdriver Set
- Allen Key Set
- Bore Snakes
- Second cleaning rod set
- Silicone Cloths
- Gun Vice
And sometimes you may not want to cheap out. For example, get a good set of study cleaning rods with PVC coating to help prevent scratching up your barrel. And while you are at it get second set so you don’t have to switch back and forth between brushes, patch holders and mops as much. I also like to use bore snakes so I don’t have to use as many patches which cuts down on cleaning time. Keep a couple of small stainless steel bowls around to keep parts in as you break your firearm down or to let them soak in solvent.
If you are cleaning rifles and shotguns, a gun vice like the Tipton Best Gun Vise is a great addition to your cleaning bench. It allows you to make sure the firearm is secure while cleaning it as well as organizing parts and tools while you are working on it.
3. Keep Things Organized
There’s nothing more frustrating than when you sit down to clean a gun and aren’t sure which brush to use. Some bore brushes have the caliber etched into them but don’t don’t. I learned this the hard way recently when I sat down to clean my AR. I had accumulated many brushes over the past years and just tossed them into an ammo can organizer. So when the time came to clean, I wasn’t sure exactly which brush was the correct one. Through trial and error I figured it out but having them marked or labeled is a big help.
I wound up picking up a nice gun cleaning kit at Academy that had bore brushes and mops in individual tubs with the caliber marked on the cap in a zippered carrying case. Now when I sit down to clean I can go right to the caliber I need and get started cleaning. Again, things like this minimize decision fatigue and makes cleaning your gun that much faster.
4. Knowing How To Disassemble/Clean/Reassemble Your Firearms
This may seem like common sense but make sure you know how to disassemble and reassemble your firearm as well as the proper way to clean it including what parts should or shouldn’t get solvent on them and what parts need some lube after it has been cleaned.
You should always make it a point to learn this when you first get a new firearm. You may be excited to get to your closest range to fire your new gun but I always like to get it home and give it a good cleaning before firing it. This allows me to get to know the gun, how to take it down, clean out anything the manufacturer left in it like rust inhibitor, etc. and get it ready for the range.
I always start with reading the manual that came with it but then I like to do a search on YouTube to find a good video that I can watch instead of jumping right in. If you bought a used gun that didn’t come with a manual you can just search online for the manual and find it. YouTube videos are also good for getting a quick refresher if it is a gun you haven’t handled or cleaned in a while.
5. Clearing to Neutral
Clearing to neutral is a pretty simple concept but I’m willing to be a lot of us don’t use it. Basically it means clean up and organize your area so that the next time you sit down everything is ready to go. I do this with my office desk before finishing work everyday as well. Coming into my office to a clean and uncluttered desk makes getting to work that much easier. So I’ve applied this to my gun cleaning area as well. After cleaning your gun, make sure you put all the brushes and mops back where they belong. Throw away all the dirty patches and q-tips. You want to get everything back where it belongs so you don’t have to deal with it the next time you sit down to clean guns. And I’m sure your significant other will appreciate you not leaving it a mess which is another plus.
Obviously you should clean your gun every time you shoot it. If it is your daily carry gun you should give it a good cleaning every few weeks even if you don’t shoot it. Cleaning your guns shouldn’t be something you dread but it happens to the best of us.
Using the 4 tips above and setting yourself up for success will help make it a bit more enjoyable. Now that I have my designated gun cleaning station setup I’m going through each gun in my safe to make sure everything is cleaned up and ready for the range.
Last night after my wife and I ate dinner she asked me to put something on the tv that she didn’t want to watch while she washed dishes before we watched one of the shows we both watch (24: Legacy). Instead of putting on an episode of MeatEater (which I have on as I write this article) I figured I could clean one of my guns. So I grabbed my Ruger LCP and slipped in the garage. Now that everything is setup and organized, I was able to get the LCP cleaned before she was done with the dishes. (Don’t worry, I’ll be doing the dishes tonight since it is my night to cook.)
What tips or tools do you have that help speed up your gun cleaning process or make it more enjoyable? Let us know in the comments below.