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By Jason M.

Call me crazy if you want, but I personally find cleaning handguns to be almost as much fun as shooting them. I know many people, my wife included, who look at me like I’m crazy when I say that. I have friends who have firearms that go unshot for months at a time because they don’t want to clean them when they get home. To me this is unfathomable. While it is true that I don’t clean my guns after every trip to the range, I do clean them fairly often, especially my carry gun. To me, cleaning my firearm is another way to become and stay familiar with it . . .

Most shooters look forward to taking our weapons out to the range, loading them up and shooting countless holes through cardboard boxes, regulation targets, or maybe even exploding targets. Shooting, and shooting fairly frequently, is required to stay familiar with the use, operations, and limitations of a given firearm. Through cleaning the same firearm, I believe one can grow even more accustomed to their chosen weapon.

For those who hate taking a weapon down because it’s difficult, disassembly only becomes easier with time and practice. If it doesn’t, watch an informational video on the internet, that’s what I do.  But more importantly than being proficient at disassembly, when one takes down their firearm of choice, inspects it and cleans it, the shooter can see where the wear points are on the firearm.  In doing so, one can catch any problem signs and hopefully prevent any catastrophic failures that may occur.  Discovering that a spring is worn or a screw is loose during cleaning is a whole lot better than having the gun break, or worse, during use.

Frequent cleaning is especially important with a carry gun. I carry a Bersa Thunder 380 on a daily basis in an In Waist Band holster. Dust and lint constantly gather around the hammer and the trigger making for almost daily cleaning. Not a full strip down, mind you, but a surface cleaning to prevent the dust and lint from working its way into the guts of the gun.  This preventative maintenance assures that my Bersa will function properly in an emergency situation.

I enjoy cleaning guns so much that my boss has had me clean eight of his pistols.  These are weapons that do not belong to me and that I will probably never get to shoot, yet I enjoyed cleaning them. Why? Guns are some of the most amazing gadgets ever created!  Dangerous if improperly handled, but amazing gadgets none the less.  The intricacies of the moving parts, the timing and lock up on a revolvers cylinder and the reciprocating slide on a semi-auto are incredible feats of engineering. Cleaning the boss’ guns has exposed me to models that I’d never seen, let alone handled before.

We as shooters often take these incredible pieces of equipment for granted. When something does go wrong, shooters tend to whine and complain that it takes too long for the gunsmith to fix our prized weapons. When shooters take the time to sit down and clean and inspect their firearms, an appreciation for the craftsmanship and engineering emerges. Shooters can begin to understand why a gunsmith should take their time to ensure a proper repair. Again, taking the time to strip down ones firearm may prevent the costly repair from being necessary.

It’s a matter of pride, I think, having a clean and polished pistol.  Whether it is my own firearm or someone else’s, cleaning firearms gives me a better appreciation for the inner workings of the machinery I rely on to protect myself and my family. Call me crazy, but cleaning is almost as much fun as shooting. Almost.

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  1. My OCD makes the cleaning part take a lot longer than the shooting session part…by a long shot. Friends think I’m crazy and I’m inclined to agree. And, with very small exceptions, I don’t enjoy the cleaning part, but it has to be done.

  2. I could not have expressed my feelings any better than you have already. I do the same thing and feel the same way about my daily carry as well as my others squirreled away. But they get handled and checked out as much as I can, just for the joy of it.

    • I ALWAYS shoot after cleaning, but NEVER regret it.

      I always shoot my defensive guns after cleaning so I know they will go bang after reassembly. How sure are you something did not go wrong during takedown and reassembly, and that you lubed all the correct places. I would rather carry a gun that has just run 50+ rounds than one that has just been reassembled.

      • That’s a really interesting point. Never thought about that. Will I change my routine? No, simply because its not feasible for me to go out and shoot my 1911 after every cleaning session. If I could, I definitely would though.

    • Clean after get back from gun range, lubicate before going to the gun range.
      Use FrogLube, smells like mint, cleans, lubs and prevents rust. I have no financial interest in the company. Just like the product because it is pleasant to use and I enjoy taking care of my weapons

      • Gonna have to check that stuff out. If it keeps my guns running smooth AND smells minty fresh I will be a customer for life! Nobody likes a gun with halitosis.

  3. I agree with virtually everything you’ve said Jason M. I find a Zen like state both from shooting and cleaning guns. Others sometimes remark that the innards of my EDC are so clean that if it weren’t for wear the weapon would appear to have been unfired. That said I have some filthy guns, workhorses for whom cleaning consists of being hosed out with CLP and wiped off (a certain Russian military rifle comes to mind). I’m not sure why I carefully pick and polish some while somewhat neglecting others, but it is so.

  4. I also clean my firearms after each trip to the range, but I cannot share your enthusiasm for it. I’ll admit there is a certain zen to sitting down and going through the steps of breaking each weapon down, thoroughly cleaning, inspecting and reassembling them, it can get tedious when I take more than 5 guns to the range….More of a necessary evil IMO. My carry pistol, a G19 and my back up Kel-Tec PF9 get semiweekly cleaning and oiling sessions. A matter of both pride and practicality.

      • Love my P228, it is more of a “take to the range” or “keep in the truck” gun though, as are my CZ-75s since they are such boat anchors and I carry IWB. Ditto better safe than sorry though!

  5. I always clean every firearm after every outing, and I ALMOST enjoy it as much as the shooting part. What’s not to love? I love taking them apart, figuring out the inner workings, and marveling at the engineering involved. My cleaning regimen definitely takes more time than my range outing (on a 2 to 1 basis), but I find it very peaceful, serene, and calming. It’s almost like doing an hour of yoga for me.

  6. I love my Mark III too, but it is a major PITA to disassemble and clean. I mean a hammer and paperclip are required. Need I say more?

    • After a few times, and the gun loosens up, you just about stop needing the hammer. The first time i broke mine down, i could have made a sailor blush. I kinda think bill ruger was a bit of a sadist.

  7. Amen. I sit in front of a computer all day, so I like getting my hands on some real machinery. I’m not even mechanically inclined, but there’s something about disassembling, cleaning and reassembling a gun that centers my busy mind in something real.

  8. I clean my duty gun at the range after shooting, and detail clean it prior to inspections and other special events. I clean and lube my CCW pieces regularly. I really don’t enjoy cleaning – particularly a DGI AR-15 with a high round count. I do however, enjoy having an immaculately clean firearm. I also enjoy an immaculately clean car and motorcycle, but I suppose that’s off topic.

  9. I treat my firearms with varying levels of respect when it comes to cleaning.

    Any gun that gets carried or used for home defense gets cleaned after each range use.

    My Glock 34 that I shoot competition matches and practices with gets cleaned very infrequently…maybe once every 2 months/1,000 rounds or so. Accuracy isn’t paramount for me with it, and it has never failed to work due to being dirty.

    My 1911s tend to get cleaned much more often than the Glocks, usually after a range trip or two. Their closer tolerances and higher price tag make me feel bad about letting them get dirty. Plus they look so nice clean.

    My AR15 gets cleaned after a few range sessions. Again, it’s accuracy isn’t as paramount to me, and it always functions. But, it also gets very dirty quickly, so don’t like it to get too mucked up. I’d probably clean it more often if it wasn’t as time consuming (bolt carbon, arg!). Kinda moot since I can’t afford to feed it lately.

    My bolt action target rifle gets cleaned after every use. Want to keep the bore in as good a shape as possible. It’s also quick to clean since it has so few moving parts and the action stays very clean when shooting.

    My M1 Garand also gets cleaned after every use, because it’s awesome and I want to treat it with respect. I plan on having this rifle for life, and it’s going to be much more expensive to replace once CMP inventory dries up. So I want it’s barrel to stay pristine and it’s moving parts to stay clean and greased.

    So, I’m all over the map. I somewhat enjoy cleaning when I clean, but I’d rather be doing something else. I admit that sometimes I shoot less than I would if I didn’t have to clean.

  10. If you’re crazy because you enjoy cleaning your guns after a trip to the range, then I must be in the looney bin because I thoroughly enjoy the many hours I’ve spent cleaning cosmoline out of old military rifles. I have fond memories of sending one of my mother’s baking pans to Hell in a hand-basket when I was a true novice; I used it to boil and scrub the cosmo out of my smaller Mosin parts. Bought her a new one and it was water under the bridge.

  11. Wow: Watching the video, Ruger’s actually managed to make the MKIII MORE difficult to breakdown and re-assemble (internal lock, mag safety, loaded chamber indicator). I enjoy shooting my older model, and don’t find the breakdown problematic, but I still hate the re-assembly dance. I’d much rather clean my DEagle. (DEagle owners know how much fun that can be.)

  12. It’s odd, because I’m generally rather a slob (you should see the inside of my car) and I’m not otherwise interested in engineering (I don’t care how my car works as long as it goes), and yet:

    1. I have never in this life fired one of my guns without cleaning it that day.
    2. I never mind doing so, and often enjoy it.
    3. I find the mechanics of guns very interesting.

    Strange how guns can have that effect.

  13. Say, is there any harm in cleaning firearms less frequently — assuming you are putting only a few rounds through the firearm and shooting modern, domestic, smokeless powder?

    Here are some specific use cases that I wonder about:
    (1) What if you shoot 9 rounds through a firearm and then store it in a case or safe for 12 months without cleaning?
    (2) What if you shoot 9 rounds through a firearm a few times a year and only clean it once a year?
    (3) What if you shoot 9 rounds through a firearm a few times a year and only clean it every 5 years?

    • I’d say that it would depend almost entirely on the environment the gun was being stored in. Think of the jungle versus the desert, and that about covers it.

  14. The engineering is what i like most. So half of the reason i buy a gun is to mess with the innards. I rarely shoot, really (part of that is being a cheap bastard).

  15. Here’s a video with the single most important tip for breaking down a Ruger Mark II or Mark III for cleaning.

    Beverage & food warning . . . . . finish any drink, snack, or meal before viewing the video.

    • I don’t enjoy breaking down and cleaning my guns. But I would enjoy rusted busted guns less. When I’m wanting to shoot and feeling to lazy to clean I go to the rental range.

  16. Bloody ironic that this post came with a video on cleaning the Ruger Mark III. I have a Mark II and I absolutely hate giving it a full cleaning. It’s annoying to the point that it does not get the same level of care as my other firearms — instead, it mostly gets the bore wiped with CLR and the accessible mag/chamber areas swabbed with a solvent soaked lab q-tip.

    The Ruger might get a full cleaning once or twice per year, or if one of the kids has been especially naughty and I give them cleaning duty as punishment…

  17. I find freedom from the constant barrage of life’s worries in anything that requires my undivided attention, whether it is wrenching on my bike, cleaning my guns, reloading, etc. I think I should start a side business cleaning mosins…

  18. Cleaning revolvers & bolt actions are something I enjoy doing. 1911’s & Hi-Powers not so much.
    AR15’s & L1A1’s I find to be more of a chore, though the latter runs as well after 500 rounds without cleaning as it does when spit shined.

  19. Excellent article; I tend to buy arms that can be stripped and cleaned without much hassle, as I d want to maintain them in perfect shape. I HAVE on rare occasion, when totally drained and exhausted after a couple of hours of shooting in 90 degree heat, allowed a weapon to wait overnight, but never longer. I want everything to work perfectly if called on to defend my life. And fwiw, found that giving a seasonal coating of Sentry’s ‘bore kote’ makes that part of the cleanings in the future to go more easily. I figure, when I take a shower, I clean every part of me, even parts that haven’t been used in years. I want all of me, to be in good working order, too.


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