Quite a few years ago I moved away from carrying a 1911 to a polymer framed modern pistol. I never looked back. The 1911 shoots like no other, but they demand more maintenance than more modern designs. For myself, I migrated to the polymer pistol for the increased capacity and the reduced weight. A gun with twice the ammunition capacity and only half the weight has some appeal when you carry it all day.
Another benefit that came along with the new half-plastic gun was a dramatically improved resilience to rust. I did not think much of it at the time; avoiding rust was just part of the routine. However, in retrospect, I am amazed at how quickly rust can form on metal that is pressed against your body all day. Here I offer some tactics for preventing damage to your gun due to rust.
To begin, make no mistake about it, modern pistols that have polymer frames and also employ advanced and resistant finishes on their slides are much more impervious to rust than older designs. I will also let you know that there is nothing particularly stainless about stainless steel. It is indeed more resistant than simple blued steel, but stainless will indeed rust. Any of the modern coatings are more resistant to rust than is stainless steel. Therefore, if you carry a classic pistol or revolver design that is all steel and finished in traditional bluing or in stainless, you will need to apply more preventative care than if you carry a modern design. Is that a reason alone to abandon revolvers, 1911s, and the like? I don’t think so, but it just requires some due diligence. Moreover, while newer finishes are more resistant, they ultimately need some maintenance occasionally as well.
Carry Location and Holsters Matter
The body position in which you carry your gun will absolutely contribute to the rust issue. Outside-the-waistband holsters that put the gun on top of a layer of clothing make it less likely to form rust than do inside-the-waistband holsters that put the gun directly against your skin. Even if you do wear a tight-fitting undershirt between your inside-the-waistband gun and your skin, the close proximity will indeed make the gun more prone to rust as perspiration will inevitably make it onto the weapon. Likewise, pocket carry will also put the gun in a position that will collect moisture, even though there is a pocket holster and a layer of fabric between the gun and your leg.
Holster designs also make a difference. Holsters that use a sweat shield of some kind to shield the slide area of the gun from pressing directly against the body will reduce the formation of rust. If using a holster that provides such a shield, however, be sure that it does not obstruct the formation of a proper grip on the gun. Some holsters do incorporate efficient sweat shields that do not hinder the draw, and these do aid in rust prevention. However, be aware that leather and cloth constructed holsters will collect moisture throughout the day, and these materials do not protect the gun from the causes of rust as well as does kydex. This is one of several reasons why I am a fan of kydex holsters.
Maintenance for a Concealed Carry Gun
No matter how you carry, if you do indeed to carry concealed daily, you will need to maintain your gun so that you avoid the formation of corrosion. Depending on the gun, the way you carry it, and the climate in which you carry, you will have to maintain the weapon periodically to a greater or lesser extent. Back when I carried an all-steel 1911 in a hot southern state, I wiped the gun down nightly, literally, or rust would form on the frame. Now, carrying a plastic fantastic in an environment where I don’t sweat that often, my need to wipe the gun down is almost zero.
However, for about a year more recently I carried an all-steel stainless revolver, and I was amazed to find myself back to wiping a gun down, although in this case doing so once a week was all that was needed. Your own circumstances will be personal to you and dictate your maintenance demands.
Wipe It Down with Lube
When performing routine maintenance, I find that any particular lubricant will do. I like to use a light and thin lube like Rem Oil or something similar just for wiping down the gun. Thicker oil that is used to lube the internals can add a film on the surface of the gun that only collects more dust. Even WD40 will work if that is all you have on hand. Wiping the finish of the gun down with a generously doused cloth with such a lube works fine, and it will prevent the accumulation of rust.
On a modern pistol with a polymer frame and a tough finish on the slide, you may only need to do this once a week, if that. With other guns that have older fashioned bluing, or even stainless steel guns, you may find doing this daily is necessary. This is simply part of the concealed carry lifestyle.
But You Still Have To Clean Your Gun
Beyond just wiping down the outside of the gun, bear in mind that sweat and other moisture can settle in the internals of the gun, so you should thoroughly clean it once in a while. Another area that you might find needs attention is under removable grips, like on a 1911 or revolver. To prevent rust, I removed the grips with these types of guns to thoroughly lube the underlying metal once a week.
Preventing corrosion on any metal tool that sits close to your body is just a fact of life. There are a lot of great products available on the market to make it an easy process. So be sure to take care of your carry gun so that it will take care of you should you need it.