The Real Reason You Need to Clean Your Carry Gun On a Regular Basis

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Should you clean your handgun after every use? Most modern-day service handguns are built to handle tremendous abuse. They’ll continue to function even when they’re filthy dirty. Just Google your favorite polymer pistol and the words “torture test.” So why not wait for a leap year to clean your handgun? Or simply don’t clean it at all?

Most folks clean their handguns because everybody tells them if they don’t the Baba-Yaga will come for them. They’re told that a dirty handgun is a hundred thousand times more like to malfunction than a squeaky-clean pistol. You’ll aim your filthy firearm at the bad guy and…CLICK.

That ain’t it.

While a clean gun is a happy gun — and yes, somewhat less likely to stop working than a dirty gun — as long as you keep it lubricated, the main issue you face is simple wear and tear.

Guns are mechanical objects. Mechanical objects degrade with use. Parts can and will give out. It’s only a matter of time. Maybe a lot. Maybe a little. But there’s no avoiding it. In some cases, when these small parts break, they render the weapon inoperable.

The real reason you should clean your handgun on a regular basis: to inspect small parts for abnormal or indeed normal wear and tear, to avoid a catastrophic failure.

Even the simplest handguns are complex machines at their heart. When you have the important bits in front of you, you can see cracks in plastic pieces, metal burrs developing or excessive wear. You can replace mission critical parts before they give out.

A lot of folks reading this have no idea what parts they should be inspecting. While the basic concepts are similar across various types of handguns, they’re all slightly different.

You can find most modern service handguns’ owner’s manuals online. YouTube is lousy with gun-specific cleaning and maintenance videos (no guarantee on their validity). Gun-specific forums can be a useful resource, too, as is a quick heart-to-heart with your favorite gunsmith.

Once you figure out what replacement parts your handgun may need, I suggest keeping a small parts replacement kit in your range bag. If you have a mechanical problem on the range you’ll have a chance to make it right.

GLOCK slide parts kit
GLOCK slide parts kid (courtesy Brownells)

[NB: Some manufacturers only sell spare parts at armory levels or require the user to ship them the handgun for repairs. If you can’t find at the very least a replacement recoil spring, you might want to question your purchase.]

I recommend creating a regular maintenance schedule. What’s an appropriate cleaning and inspection interval? That’s down to round count.

Your round count at range sessions will vary. Sometimes you’ll only fire 50 rounds. Other times, say during training, you might send 500 rounds downrange. Set  standard. After X rounds I’ll clean and visually inspect my firearm for potential issues. For me that’s a thousand rounds.

Otis gun cleaning kit
Otis I-MOD Series Cleaning Kit (5.56MM/9MM)

After every thousand rounds I fully disassemble, clean and inspect my handgun. I replace any part I feel has reached the end or near end of its service life. (In between this interval, I oil the crap out of my guns. I put way more stock in a dirty gun properly oiled, than a clean gun with little to no oil.)

Take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you. Truly knowing your gear is the secret. If you know and understand how your firearm operates — which parts do what, where they go and what they should look like — you have ability to keep your handgun in its highest state of readiness.

Most gun owners don’t have the time or inclination to gain the knowledge and practice the discipline required to properly maintain their handgun. Don’t be that guy.

 

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned to the world at large. He is the president of Trident Concepts in Austin, Texas. 

 

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67 COMMENTS

  1. I must be getting dyslexic. I saw Baba-Yaga and read Baby Yoda.

    The real reason you should clean your EDC is the same reason you should change your underwear occasionally.

  2. Don’t forget to inspect and clean even if you haven’t shot recently. I have a friend who, years ago, gave his dad a Star PD in .45 ACP. He carried it condition one. One night he was accosted by three ner-do-wells. He focused on the leader of the pack. Snap! Bad guy, “It ain’t loaded! Get him!” Instead of a tap-rack-bang my friend’s dad simply recocked the hammer and pulled the trigger. Bang! Bad guy puppies, “Damn! Now we need a new pack leader!” It seems lint had built up around the firing pin from concealed carry. The first hammerfall only compacted it. Murphy loves a gunfight.

  3. I’ve always fully cleaned and inspected my guns after every trip to the range or desert. Lifelong habit, I suppose. Can’t imagine just putting a gun away after a workout without a cleaning.

    • On rare occasions I’ve been known to wait until the next day after a range trip to clean the weapons.

  4. One of the filthiest firearms I’ve encountered was a Gen3 G19 LE trade-in I purchased sight unseen from Big Tex. The price was a steal but the firearm was beyond grungy both inside and on the grip surfaces. The trigger pull was pretty crunchy.

    After a complete detail strip and some TLC using M Pro-7 with various brushes and swabs it was returned to near-new condition. With the addition of new night sights and a trigger bar/connector/safety plunger polishing job using Johnny Glock video tutorials it’s very nice.

  5. I’m not OCD like I was a few years ago. I give all my gun’s a good clean n lube as needed. No I don’t go crazy after each range trip(much more often as my buddy considers me his guru-I’m not). Gonzales lost me on Youtube. Dang near everything gun wise I learned from YouTube. Invaluable for a nervous novice with zero help our instructions…

  6. When my wife is not looking, I throw my Glock in the dishwasher with the super dishes. We run it over night and I am always the first one up in the morning. Keeps the brass casings nice and shiney, also.

  7. Disagree.

    The vast majority of people won’t notice many mechanical problems “in the offing”. They’ll find them at the failure point. Not because these people are stupid but because they don’t really know what to look for and/or just don’t really pay that much attention.

    The real reason to regularly clean a gun is for the consistent reinforcement of handling experience, that is, keeping yourself familiar and comfortable with the platform so you know the handling of it like the back of your hand.

    It’s the same logic as putting the parts to a few different guns in a bag, mixing them up, then assembling them blindfolded. You’re learning to know the tool by touch and become very familiar with it using that sense because if you have to use it then there are times where you’ll be blindly grabbing for it, grappling over it or manipulating it without looking at it (or when you can’t really see it, like in the dark).

    • In a perfect world we would carry a New York reload in case of a serious malfunction. That bastard Murphy waits until just the right moment to step in.

      • Two gunm use is best applied after consuming copious amounts of liquor . I practice drawing from the stumble as well as the flat on the back reverse prone.

      • In a perfect world we’d have flawless materials and engineering and never need a NY reload due to malfunction and I’d get my toaster slot with a bagel option.

        Still, I maintain that your primary issue is going to be one of handling since the majority of catastrophic parts failures will “come out of nowhere” due to metal fatigue that can’t be detected with the naked eye.

        Some of them will take the gun out of the fight, some will just necessitate that you alter your handling. All will require that you can handle this thing, at least party, by feel.

        Also, possum, you need to advance your skillset to the face-plant bullseye.

    • Pretty sure it has been several years since I cleaned my EDC LC9, I occasionally push a cotton ball or whatever through the barrel with a drop of some kind of oil and then run the ball over slide surfaces. Rack 3-4 times, dry fire a couple, reload and back in the holster. I plan to get exactly one shot, more is gravy. Also, I feel that if EVERYONE had one 9mm shot available at all times, crime would be a thing of the past.

    • Agreed. Went to a Military school. To pas MT class we had to disassemble and reassemble an M14 totally blindfolded and do it within 60 seconds. I set the school record.

  8. The average gun moron does not even bother to look at the inside of the firearm and realize that some designs are very prone to serious problems with the collection of lint, grit , dirt or even too much lube.

    Take the Glock for instance. The striker channel is wide open letting in all kinds of dirt and lint etc. And to make it even worse the hole in the bottom of the grip is a highway right to the striker channel. Contrast this to many hammer fired guns like the 1911, High Power, CZ 75 etc. etc that have their firing pins enclosed and not open to the elements.

    Pre-loaded striker fired guns like the Glock, Walther P99 and dozens more copy cat designs have very, very weak ignition systems as compared to hammer fired guns and even old, old fashioned full cock striker fired guns. It was no fluke or accident that the newer Sig P320 adopted by the U.S. Military was a full cock striker fired gun. Sig wanted the ignition system stronger than the Glock.

    The pre-loaded striker fired guns are more prone to misfires under very adverse conditions and/or too much lube especially under low temperatures or accumulation of dirt on the lube, because of their weak ignition systems and open striker systems. Sorry Glock-O-Philes but the propaganda advertisements about Glock Perfection are a cruel joke on the average uneducated Glock owner.

    Glock owners and owners of copy cat designs should use a good low temperature lube and very sparingly and of course frequently inspect the gun for accumulation of lint and other contaminates. The Glock 19 is not a 1911 by a long shot (pun intended)

    And before the uneducated and brainwashed Hill Jacks start screaming that think every weapon ever made was more perfect and reliable than the creation of the Universe I encourage these Morons to test out a Glock v/s a good hammer fired gun like a 1911 or High Power. Most hammer fired guns will drive a high seated primer down into its primer pocket and still have enough energy to fire the cartridge which translates to more reliability in cold weather and an over lubed or dirty gun. Try that with a Glock and it will fail the high primer test. In my own testing 3 different Glocks and one Walther P99 all failed the test 3 times in a row and all on the SAME PRIMER being constantly hammered repeatedly by the striker.

    The good news is that if a Glock is kept clean it should fire even in very cold weather and as long as its not over lubed.

      • Do I dare mention who hasn’t been seen around here in about a month?

        • Has Vlad been around?

          This guy’s posts are basically the same thing, just with “Hill Jack” inserted for “Jethro”.

      • This one’s at least a change from the usual “Anyone who doesn’t recognize that the oppressive gun restrictions of civilized countries keep their subjects safe [because no country in history has ever used its monopoly on firepower to violently oppress its people] is insane, and 110% of everyone sane agrees with me” rant.

    • “Most hammer fired guns will drive a high seated primer down into its primer pocket and still have enough energy to fire the cartridge which translates to more reliability in cold weather and an over lubed or dirty gun. Try that with a Glock and it will fail the high primer test. In my own testing 3 different Glocks and one Walther P99 all failed the test 3 times in a row and all on the SAME PRIMER being constantly hammered repeatedly by the striker.”

      There is no such thing as a “high primer test”. Its a made up thing.

      I have two dozen hand guns. A mixture of Glocks, Sigs, 1911’s, a couple of Walther’s, Taurus, S&W.

      No, its a myth that hammer fired guns drive a high-seated primer “down into its primer pocket” (as opposed to striker fired guns). Its high-seated nature means its less stable for seating so its position simply changes because its seating is less stable. Just about anything that hits it with firing pin strength will cause it to shift to various degree. It happens with striker fired guns too.

      The only difference for firing a high-seated primer is the contact with the firing pin happens just a little sooner. If you have a hammer fired or striker fired, it does not matter. If the weapon is properly maintained and in tolerance it will have the necessary impact force to fire a high-seated primer, if it doesn’t then something is wrong and you need to fix it.

      Of the six different Glock’s I own, I have never had one of them fail to fire a high seated primer. Of all the other Glock owners I know I have never heard of them having an issue with firing a true high-seated primer. I have never had any information from Glock that reported an issue with firing a high-seated primer. None of my firearms have ever failed to fire a “high-seated” primer, and I have fired it on occasion when I get it for nothing from a guy that does reloading because he messed up the primer seating so he lets me fire it and return the brass to him.

      There can be a “light strike” (AKA “light primer strike”) with a Glock (just like with about any gun with a firing pin) and sometimes this might fail to fire a “high-seated primer” or really any primer, but this is due to either a worn firing pin (kinda rare), weak spring, or the firing pin channel is dirty (about 99.9%) of the time. Then there is just sometimes crappy or defective ammo with crappy high seated primers that simply fail to fire with anything other than just about a sledge hammer hitting it. Primers that are high seated can be that way either because that were not seated properly or they are defective.

      High-seated primer ammo is considered “defective” ammo but not beyond use. Is it possible a high-seated primer will fail to fire in a Glock or other striker guns? Yes it is, but overall no more than any other firearm even hammer fired guns.

      Stop making stuff up. If your Glock is not firing a “high-seated primer”, its your fault and not the fault of the weapon. Clean and maintain your firearm properly.

      “It was no fluke or accident that the newer Sig P320 adopted by the U.S. Military was a full cock striker fired gun. Sig wanted the ignition system stronger than the Glock.”

      No. Just no no no.

      • Wait, now, Booger, let me get this straight. You seem to be saying that lil’d is full of bazonga, or maybe a moron, perhaps lost and confused, or perhaps merely an incompetent liar. I’m thinking that may be repetitive here.

    • He does not own any guns or shoot them. Find it ironic he is trying to give out advice on the subject. Maybe Chris can tell us more about how great Republicans are at protecting gun rights next. We truly live in clown world.

  9. My LCP is always carried (Max mostly now) and I break it down once a week (you know- when i change pants).

    It does take a little time to corral all the dust bunnies.

    My 43 gets a similar treatment but doesn’t pick up the lint and dust since it is IWB.

    I agree it gives you a chance to notice anything hinky with operation.

  10. The Glock manual advises against too much oil – collects lint. Some firearms – like the 1911 and AR15 – run on LOTS of oil. There are choices.

    An EDC must have enough oil for it to cycle for the task at hand; if that’s more than 10, I suggest more time at the range or perhaps moving away from Mogadishu.

    However, the article makes a good point – occasionally look inside your EDC. Lint happens.

  11. Whenever my gunm gets to filthy I go to “Dacians Bar&Grill” and swap it out for different one. If he’s out I can always catch his wife at her garage sale.

    • I don’t even think I could get it up for the skank little ‘d’ has at home.

      Not even if she offers it ‘Possum Style’, on all fours, down in the wet and nasty ditch… 😉

  12. Guess old habits die hard. Field strip and inspect/clean weekly, and fully disassemble after about 500 rounds for carry weapons. Strip/inspect/clean/lubricate anything coming out of or going into the safe.

  13. They were interested in him being a useful idiot and with his chances of being the head of the ATF dashed he’s now just a useless idiot so there’s no interest….wwwsmartcash1.com

  14. I’m pretty smart I think. I clean my edc before I plan to shoot it at the range. I don’t often run more than 50 rounds in a range session. I finish the range session by running a mag of my preferred edc defensive ammo. I then load up that mag, chamber a round, throw it in my holster and stick it in my pocket. I’m not an idiot, but if I somehow booger up the reassembly I’d like to know before I need to use it. So I guess I just prefer to carry a dirty gun.

    • AGuyWithAGun,

      I have the same concern/philosophy that you do.

      I want to be absolutely certain that my self-defense handgun will go “Bang!” when I need it. If I have not function tested it after disassembling and reassembling, I really cannot know for certain if it will work. That requires that I fire it a few times after cleaning and reassembly.

    • I wonder about another possible strategy to this approach. (Granted, this is kind of getting into the weeds.) If you had to pull the trigger in righteous self-defense and yet the legal justification will look sketchy to an over-zealous prosecutor, it could be an advantage that your firearm is dirty. Why? Suppose that you normally carry a “clean” handgun all the time. If you shoot, the police show up promptly, and they confiscate your handgun as evidence (which is virtually guaranteed), the fact that your handgun is dirty proves that you shot it since it is normally clean.

      Now consider that scenario (police snatch your handgun as evidence in a righteous self-defense shooting) if you normally carry your handgun dirty. The fact that your handgun is dirty does not prove that you just fired your handgun because it is always dirty.

      Like I said, this is kind of getting into the weeds. Who knows, though, it could be an advantage if an over-zealous prosecutor is looking to unjustly punish you. After all, it is hard to get a guilty verdict on someone if you cannot prove that they actually pulled out and shot their self-defense handgun. Why make the prosecutor’s job easier?

      • Uncommon:
        Haven’t you ever heard of the ballistics test wherein they fire your gun and compare the striations on test bullet with the striations on bullet in the victim to determine whether or not it was you (and your gun) that did the deed?
        Clean or dirty before firing has nothing to do with it. Of course, if your gun is still absolutely clean after the incident (and you haven’t had time to clean it), maybe you’re automatically off the hoop.

        • I always wanted to know how the popo can tell by the rifling on the expended bullet matches the gun it was fired from and how it is different from the other million of guns the company made just like it.
          It all Sig P320s have the same rifling, all the fired bullets from each would be identical IMO. All one would be able to tell is it came from one of a million of same model guns. I think it’s Police BS

        • Country Boy, interesting concept. I am sure you are not correct in every instance, but in some cases I think you may be. Hammer forged barrels seem like they should all have the precise same markings, for example. I have an XD-M which has a barrel which looks like a mirror inside, how one would produce a fired projectile detectably different from another I cannot imagine.

        • DaveG,

          First of all, matching the rifling on a bullet to a specific barrel is anything but an exacting and reliable “science”. Second of all, your bullet may have missed or passed through your attacker and police could easily fail to find it. Third, bullet deformation can make it virtually impossible to examine rifling marks on the bullet.

          How do I know that bullet deformation can make it virtually impossible to examine the rifling marks on a bullet? I recently helped a student in a forensic science class fire and retrieve bullets for the explicit purpose of providing specimens for the class to measure bullet diameters and the characteristics of their lands and grooves.

  15. S&W in a pocket holster picks up enough lint fast enough that it could obscure the laser sight if not cleaned regularly.

  16. Shoot at range once a month and clean after.what’s so hard about that? Always practice with your carry pistol.

  17. Baba-yaga or Papa Legba…I bought a Les Baer Bullseye gun that had been shot in competition many years and NEVER CLEANED. It ran like a US MADE Singer Sewing Machine. I could not believe how effing dirty it was when I broke it down. It took me two days to clean. I also had a Ruger Security Six that the trigger/sear engagement surfaces “broke” and it would still shoot. Had the same thing happen with a Taurus model 85. It would not shoot. Guess which one I still own? Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’.

  18. I caution my relatives about cleaning their carry guns; I do it annually when I visit, and just tell them “DON’T!”. I’m far more worried about them making a reassembly mistake that disables the gun than I am lint interfering with function.

    They aren’t gun people, and won’t put 100 rounds through the gun in between annual checkups by me.

    YMMV.

  19. Dust, is compised ofroughly 90% shed skin cells we generate 24/7. Especially with IWB, those cells collect on the gun. Put on your clean gun in the Am, and when you take it off in the PM, you’ll notice a fine layer of small white debris collected in the nooks and crannies of the gun.
    I give my P365 a blast of canned air every evening (a refillable can I can refill with a small compressor).
    Once a week, I do a thorough clean, and use as much dry lubricant as I can.

  20. I clean my guns after I shoot them.
    I will often put some wipe out or just clp down the barrel and let it soak a day or 2.
    I enjoy taking them apart and cleaning them until they look completely clean.
    I will admit that I have stopped scraping the carbon off the tail of AR 15 bolts.
    Seems have no effect to leave that stuff there.

  21. I actually use the dishwasher on my Ruger stainless revolvers. Unscrew the grips and one cycle through the washer and then lube. I use synthetic motor oil. . works great. Learned this from a co-worker who was a cowboy action shooter.

  22. Hey Guys, i’m making $4000 per month with this awesome home based system, enough for me to make a living.
    You don’t need to invest anything, It’s totally FREE! you just have to download it, here’s the link… http://www.jobs70.com

    • That real nice Peter-Eater Buttgauge but should’t you be in your office at the Dept of Transportation (of Incurable STDs)?

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