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By Mark Winslow

I clean my guns outside, because my wife can’t stand the smell of Hoppes #9 in the house. We live in a townhouse, and it’s close quarters – both inside and out. Our back yard can be seen easily by those around us. To keep the harmony going, I use the table out back on the patio. The nice thing about it is I have an open space I can spread out, and the umbrella shields me a bit from any neighbors who might be wondering what I’m up to . . .

Today was hot – 92 and humid. Thank God my wife got a fan for the patio. I set myself up with all my cleaning supplies and cranked up the fan and brought out my first subject for cleaning. An all-black Charles Daly .270. As I walked out to the table with it, I imagined what anyone seeing this rifle might say: “Oh my God – he’s got a sniper rifle!” Hoping no one was looking, I quickly laid it on the table where it might be out of sight and thought, “Yeah, well you haven’t seen what’s coming next.”

For me, cleaning my firearms is a Zen-like experience. I’m taking the accumulated carbon and dirt off an object and making it pristine again. This takes time and the time I spend cleaning my firearms makes my investment in them deeper. There are those who would argue that taking time to make instruments of death pristine is wrong, but I see it as sacrosanct. These are my rifles. I take great pride in taking care of them and seeing my boys hit targets at great distances with them. Speaking of which, recently my oldest son has shot the caps off of 2-liter bottles at 100 yards with the .270. So there.

Next was the Rock River Arms LAR-15. This might be the scariest one to see out your window. I quickly take it to the table and remove the lower – better to take it apart before someone figures out what it is. For those of you who live away from others, please bear with me – I have no compunction about standing up for my rights as a gun owner in Virginia, but I also don’t want to freak out my neighbors, who will be running to me for protection when the zombie apocalypse comes. Yes, we know, don’t we?

So the RRA got torn down and cleaned in a flurry of Hoppes and brushes, Q-tips and more Q-tips, pipe cleaners and more Hoppes, and rags. And then I use special tools to clean carbon off special parts and SHIT – these things are a BITCH to clean! But I still love it – wouldn’t trade my AR for anything. (Did I mention I’d fired about 500 rounds through it?) Still, she’s a dirty girl. Back in the gun safe goes the AR and then…

I brought out the real deal. There’s something about walking into your back yard with an M1A that just says something. Something that doesn’t really wash in suburbia. If you see it out your window you’ve probably figured out that the apocalypse is coming or there’s a maniac out back that’s going to shoot up the whole street. But I don’t want to talk about that, I just want to clean my toy. I’m hoping there isn’t someone looking out their window thinking, “Oh my God – he’s got one of those!’ Face it, it’s a scary looking gun. That’s partly why I bought it. That, and the fact that it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot.

So I break down the M1A and start cleaning. That’s when it hits me – this whole process is good for us. We thrive on the ability to have good tools, good machines, and if we care about them, cleaning should be a positive thing. I’m pulling flakes of copper out of the receiver and feeling like I’m doing something good. What’s wrong with that?

Living in a tight space is a challenge when you’re a firearms enthusiast. Note: (I was going to use the term ‘gun nut’ but realized that was way too over the top). Yet I feel that if we can’t be ourselves, then who can we be?

I get the barrel and action cleaned, and reassemble the M1A and am happy with the sound I get when I cycle the action. CHA-CHUNK. You can’t beat the sound of well-cleaned. Do my neighbors know? I’m not sure, but I know I did a good thing today.

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    • I feel it, but I think it’s mostly inadequacy, my cleaning stuff fits in one of those plastic ammo-can style boxes with the Sports-Store’s name on it (and that includes the spray cans and tubes).

      If I was one of your neighbors, I’d be like whoa, you can’t open that kit back here! What about the kids?

      ; )

      • I do agree with the author of cleaning my firearms, especially once i am all done, lol. it just feels good to take care of a tool that my life depends on.

    • Yeah. Hoppes 9 is a neurotoxin. There are multiple, really good products on the market that are completely safe, completely odor-free, and that you can use inside without bothering anyone. This Stuff has continued to work very well for me.

    • Do you mean Ml-Comm? [No paid endorsement here, but my hat and t-shirt size is XL ; ) ]

      I L O V E


      And big blonde women (in case we’re allowed to multi-task on this blog) : P

  1. The less your neighbors know about your gun collection, the better off you are.
    Maybe you can clean your guns when your wife is away for a while. Or, you can move to good old Kalifornia, pick a fight with your other half, and then she can call the “a tora teez” and tell them that you have a gun problem. Then they will confiscate your collection, and you wont have to worry about your neighbors anymore

    • Yeah, I’m with Gunr here. My neighbors don’t need to know ,and I don’t want them to know. (1) I can see the asshats across the culdesac ‘swatting’ me. (2) I can see a few of my more unsavory neighbors up the street trying to visit my house whilst I am away.

      It doesn’t help that on range days 8 trucks show up at my house loaded for WWIII. All those black cases and GI ammo cans in the beds are certainly unmistakable to anyone who knows 3 cents about FAs.

      People suck.

  2. AMEN! Gun cleaning is a cathartic experience….it does put you in a “Zen like” state as you methodically move from piece to piece.

    I’m in total agreement with the M1A as well….there is NOTHING like good American steel and walnut being brought together in the rapturous symphony that is the M14 and M1A!

    • Ya, cathartic, as in holy cow, when I first disassembled that Kimber Pro II I had parts stuck in my kitchen ceiling, and I got it all back together. Whew!


  3. Its all dependent on where you live. And at the end of the day, if your neighbors freak out because they’re snooping on you, well, then they can go to hell. Snoop on me and don’t like what you see? then don’t look into my backyard/garage/porch.

    • Until you are swatted by your terminally progressive greenie neighbors (if you happen to suffer from that affliction). Two Prius’ in the driveway is a dead giveaway.

  4. If you really love your guns: Frog lube or Fireclean.

    I know, I know; you’ve been using Hoppe’s (or whatever oldschool chemical) since forever and it’s the absolute best.
    But all the independant testing I’ve seen indicates that both of these are even bester.

    Plus you can clean you rifles indoors whenever needed- nosy neighbors, nightime, bad weather, etc. and your wife won’t mind the scent at all.

    just sayin…

  5. Not feeling this article either, but I do love the M1A. If your neighbors don’t like it tuff sh*t. They can mind their own business.

  6. “There are those who would argue that taking time to make instruments of death pristine is wrong…”

    If they’re calling them “instruments of death” then they’ve already proven their ignorance and therefore the worthlessness of their opinions on the subject.

  7. I like cleaning out on the deck. Of course I don’t have any neighbors. Once the meter guy pulled in and waved.
    Fewer people around makes everything better.

  8. Why do you care what your neighbors think? Tell them to mind their own business.

    Then clean your equipment while wearing a thong.

    • Having thought about it a little bit more, maybe you could use this as a “teachable moment” for the gawkers, if you’re inclined. Perhaps wave them over, or later, go approach them pointing out that it appeared they were interested in your hobby. Walking through disassembly/reassembly of a firearm reinforces it’s just a tool and can be a gentle introduction. Next step might be a quick range trip. If they’re the shy type, it might take a time or two – “Hey, the last three times I’ve cleaned, I’ve noticed you watching me….”

      If they’re just being nosy busybodies, then you can ask them to mind their own business, move into a garage if your townhouse has one, change solvents, etc.

      • Lol. If I invited my ‘special’ neighbors over they would know it was an Admiral Ackbar moment. They’d be looking for plastic sheeting on the floor 😉

      • I kinda thought in the same lines. Put up a sign, in big letters, “cleaning my guns. Bring your own!” Of course, I AM in Texas.

    • There are two ways to look at it. Either it’s “You have rectify that” or “nothing worse than going against a man with one gun”

  9. Here’s an idea, Clean your guns in the “buff”, you that is, not your guns. You might also want to put on an extra 100 lbs. or so. You will then look so disgusting that your neighbors will never look at you again, even when dressed.

    • Lol. Naked fat guy reference.

      Now you are not just getting swatted, the men in the white coats will also be coming for you 😉

  10. I use one of those heavy ammonia based solvents for the dirty work so I completely feel you on the wife thing. Gun cleaning is cathartic though, anything other than my pistols (clean those with CLP) gets relegated to the gargae. I back one of the cars out and shut the garage partially so that prying eyes stay away but enough air moves under the door if I open backdoor leading the yard. I also do this because my garage door has wnindows so I raise the door enough to where no one could see in from the top either. Out back I have a privacy fence but every house behind me has a second story and windows that can easily see my porch and I just don’t feel comfortable displaying my collection to the neighbors. I don’t know what kind of company they keep or where they fall on the spectrum, regardless, I just like to keep a low profile.

    • my wife loves the smell of napalm in the morning, but breaks-out in hives when arround hoppes. all-in-all, trading hoppe for napalm was a good deal.

    • My wife doesn’t like Hoppes #9 either, but I don’t think I can pull off catching another smart, sexy, gun-loving latina.

  11. I clean my guns outside for the same reason and no one seems to really care. My advice. Don’t act like it’s a big deal and it won’t be a big deal. I do have to ask one question. How long have you been doing this? If you have lived there for any time at all, then your neighbors don’t really give a big rats bottom either.

  12. The suggestions for alternate, less-aromatic cleaners are helpful, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that most women who complain about “the smell” of gun solvents and oils are really using that as a cover for “You are NOT taking that filthy, greasy thing apart on my dining room table!” You can go ahead and bring home a can of peach-scented SuperGunLube2000, but I’ll bet you’re still going to be sent outside to clean that rifle.

  13. In the summertime I’ll clean mine at a table on the front porch, right next to the sidewalk. Of course, this is small town America, and everyone’s got at least one gun in their home.

  14. Speaking of cleaning your guns, I had a dude tell me that when he gets a gun that is really dirty, he will use carburetor cleaner on it. Anyone ever try this? Two problems I see with it. It might take the bluing off a gun, and it would take all the oil out of the metal so you would have to make sure that it was oiled properly when you are finished. On the surface it sounds like a good idea but I am a little apprehensive trying it.

    • Some folks use carb cleaner to de-cosmoline military surplus guns. It’s a very aggressive solvent, though. Brake cleaner is a better choice, since it’s a little less aggressive, but both should only be used on metal, don’t get ’em on any plastic or wood. It’s actually pretty good at stripping wood finishes, which is obviously not desirable for general cleaning. Use only in a well-ventilated area, too – those fumes are pretty nasty.

    • For the tough gunk, I use cheap non-chlorinated brake cleaner from Walmart. Works as well as that break free stuff formme, but cheaper. I don’t use it near plastics and wood, but for BCG’s, gas tubes, etc. it works for me. YMMV.

      • Thanks, guys, I have a whole bunch of really nasty .300 Blk, dirtiest stuff I ever recall, something I could spray, rinse, and then begin would be nice. I’ll try the brake cleaner, hope for the best.

  15. I really dislike cleaning in general… not that I live in layers of filth, but it’s also not my idea of fun. My wife is the opposite – she actually likes to clean! (works for me)

    I agree however, that cleaning GUNS, is actually enjoyable. Very Zen like, the care of a machine. Especially if it’s an older gun.

    • My wife’s the same way, loves to clean. Her two favorite words: “Bacteria” (everywhere!) and, “Scattered!” (All my stuff)

  16. I love cleaning my guns.

    I do it right at the table after the kids are asleep and the misses is in the master bedroom for the night.

    I used to clean them weekly, but now I do it about every month or two, and that’s counting one,sometimes two, trips per week to the range.

    I’ve got two lubricants/protectants, as follows:

    Hoppes #9
    Breakfree CLP

    Love the smell out of that old fimiliar orange bottle. I grew up watching my dad use it. Thus, I use it on my firearms.

    • I wanted to try Break-Free, but the warning label about its toxicity steered me away. Weapon Shield is supposed to be nontoxic–not that I would taste it. It does have a pleasant smell, though.

      • I’ve heard great things about Barristol (dunno if that’s spelled correctly or not) and FrogLube, as well.

        • Barristol (or ballistol – whatever it is) works great but smells…I can’t tag it in my nasal memory. It has a smell of it’s own, and it is terrible.

          Froglube is one of the best I’ve used. It smells great. Made of food grade ingredients too, so if you get hungry and don’t want to walk to the kitchen, it’s there. I cannot vouch for the taste however, I haven’t been that hungry yet.

  17. there is only one rifle i own that i dread cleaning and thats my mosin after i shoot surplus ammo ….

      • Well, TELL us, Gunr, I heard you wash the whole thing down with common soap and water, dry it off, and proceed to lube. Actually sounds like fun.

        • Na, I got a secret that nobody knows about, till now. URINE!, Yes! Just piss down the barrel, let it stand a few minutes, pour it out, and your barrel is like new!

  18. I actually just cleaned the cosmoline out of my Mosin Nagant yesterday. I did it outside, but nobody really even looked twice at me, excepting my neighbor next door (he’s a veteran and a woodworker, and he complimented it) and my neighbor’s kid from across the street (he helped me when I needed three hands.) All in all, nobody seemed scared or anything, even though we have joggers that come through fairly frequently.

  19. One of my rural subdivision neighbors is a SWAT officer for a neighboring county. The truck he drives is basically a rolling armory, but it’s absolutely nothing to look at. Plain grey service truck with no obvious lights or insignia, but very, very secure compartments.

    I rolled by his house one day when he was cleaning out the compartments. He had 5 AR’s lined up against the front wall of his garage.

    Now THAT got some second looks:-)

  20. Use a Patchworm, if they make them for the larger calibers. I ONLY clean with them. Easy to use and pretty much certain to not damage the barrel.

  21. Living in a slave state, the stakes are raised even higher. A nosey anti gun neighbor can ruin your life. Dropping a dime on you would bring SWAT teams, arrest and potentially prison over cleaning with intent to terrorize. In a slave state folks draw curtins. They move firearms to the car at nite in black contractor garbage bags. They never speak of their hobby to non family. Fear. It is all about fear.

  22. I do my cleaning at the range. My son likes to help me with this task. The reasons why I clean at the range are:

    1) The gun is still warm from the match.
    2) It fills in the time between the match and the clubhouse getting opened.
    3) The smell of the solvent (Sweets 7.62) is overpowering in the house.
    4) A group of us clean the guns together “shooting the breeze” while working.
    5) No chance of the neighbours seeing guns and reporting it to the police.

  23. I usually clean mine out on the front porch. Usually there are no more than 1-2 cars that pass by before I get through. My neighbors know that I have guns though because I just walk out the back door when I want to shoot some rounds.

  24. Its a ritual of sorts at my house, after a day of shooting, me and my buddies go back to my place and clean our guns on the patio and drink beers and bbq, But my back yard is secluded and very private..I dont think i would want my neighbors to see my hardware.. Bad idea..

  25. I live in a small “Mayberry like” southern Indiana town. I’ve had the local LEOs tell me that if I’m having problems with a neighbor, I should take my shot gun outside where they can watch and give it a thorough cleaning. You gotta love small towns and good ole boy cops! (BTW it does seem to work well in giving the quarrelsome neighbor a little “added” respect.) 😉

  26. Anybody else use Ballistol? It seems to work good for me, Cleans and lubes with one Spray. It has worked well for me so far.. On topic though i dont clean my guns outside cause i dont want the neighbors to see. Most know i own guns, but i figure out of sight, out of mind. I wish i could sit on the deck and clean though.

    • I have tried looking for that stuff around here in Missouri (I mentioned it above and called it “Barristol”, lol).

      Can’t find it anywhere.

      Is it true its organic, as well? And does it have to be ordered online?

  27. I clean my ak with a garden hose in the front yard(initially to get corrosive salts off). I have yet to hear peep from anybody. You have to be careful because you never know when that closet mda nag next door, that you didn’t even know about… And so on.

    • I can respect that. But at some point we have to simply stop hiding perfectly normal activities, and just do normal activities as though they were normal. Come and get me.

  28. Some years back I’ d put about 50 rounds of undoubtedly corrosive 8mm through my old Yugo Kar 98 Mauser. I opened up the garage door, got a bucket hot soapy water and a pull through and went to work. I’d just finished cleaning the rifle and put the bolt back into the receiver when three Jehovah Witness ladies walked up the driveway. I couldn’t have timed it better as I closed the bolt and said “Good morning ladies. How can I help you?” One lady who was obviously the leader dropped her Watchtower magazine and said “I think we have the wrong address.” The three turned and ran as fast as they could. Those folks must have a crazy people list because I lived at that address for about 10 more years and never saw another member of that church.

    • I had a very similar experience with that. I also think that list gets passed around. Twice now, I have had that happen. At the houses years upon years later I have watched all manner of Jehovah’s, Mormons and what not just keep walking.

  29. I use Gun-Werkz. It is 100% biodegradable. It does a great job of cleaning and lubricating and has a fresh minty smell.

    • “Fresh minty smell” Try mixing it with a little Creme de Menthe liquor, and maybe a dash of carburetor cleaner. Makes a great after dinner drink.

      • Doesn’t need the Creme de Menthe liquor as it already has the “fresh minty smell”. Carburetor cleaner? Kind of defeats the bio purpose. grin Seriously though, this stuff works great.

  30. I’m a bit OCD about cleaning. I do live in a semi slave state(south of Chicago). So NOBODY sees or hears anything except my for $200 Pardner Pump. Racking it would scare the s##t outa’ almost anyone 🙂

  31. Just cleaned my AR the other day, actually. I now remember why I usually clean it (at least the BCG) after every trip to the range. Surprisingly, the smell of Hoppes #9 really doesn’t bother anyone in my family. Personally, I like it. I still want to put up a bench for cleaning in the workshop though, as the island in the kitchen is way too small…plus I want an armor’s vice.

    My nearest neighbors are too far away to see me cleaning outside…unless they’ve got a telescope or a 12x scope. Which is extremely possible…I’ve got cool neighbors.

  32. I know it’s easier said than done, but you really need to have enough of a part in your marriage to say that you want to clean rifles in the house.

  33. Try Fire Clean or Frog Lube. Both are awesome but I like the Fire Clean more. It breaks down carbon like a hot knife on a butter. M-Pro 7 are like Hoppee’s without the smell.

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