No one can OVERestimate the importance of cleaning their firearms. However, I discovered the importance of properly maintaining my Glock firearms the hard way—and it was nearly as painful of a lesson as it was when I discovered at the age of 19 that I was actually supposed to be changing the oil in my car. (I can assure you that driving all alone, cross country, in the middle of snow storm near Vail, Colorado in a little Volkswagon Rabbit is NOT the time to figure out that a car needs oil!) Bottom line, cleaning your firearms is significantly more critical than cleaning your room because, I assure you, such a habit WILL make the difference between life and death someday.
So, how does “the laziest prepper you will ever know” clean her favorite firearms? I’ll tell you in a moment… but first…
The ONLY rule related to cleaning your firearms is to do so with safety in mind! Far too many foolish and tragic accidents have occurred because folks got careless in their safety checks prior to cleaning their guns. In the name of safety, you should always conduct a three-point check of your handgun before cleaning.
Check #1: check the chamber/magazine well for cartridges;
Check #2: in front of the primer pin; and
Check #3: check down the barrel—looking down from the action port—not from the front of the barrel. All three of these checks should be visible by opening the action. You should NEVER look down the barrel of a gun that’s attached to ANY other part of the firearm. (By the way, this is a necessary three-point check that I ALWAYS do prior to handling a firearm in the classroom. I do my three-point check, hand the firearm to my assistant who also does a three-point check, and then when they return the firearm to me I do the three-point check again—WITHOUT exception. The moment I let the firearm out of my possession (other than to verify the Three Point Check, of course) then the three-point check is done AGAIN when I take possession of it.
Please remember that when you’re checking your firearm, all other rules of safety still apply—the more important of which is that you still treat the firearm as if it’s loaded. As such you never point it at someone/thing that you do not intend to destroy! I don’t care if it’s fully stripped and you personally checked it three hundred times—you never point it at something you don’t intend to destroy or kill. It’s NEVER a bad thing to practice that habit of safety, but if you get lax in an area at a casual time, then you’ll be lax about safety at a critical time. Think that’s “overkill”? (Pun intended) Think again. I can tell you with absolute certainty that there has never been an accidental shooting that didn’t result directly from violating one of the standard safety rules of handling a firearm. And as an example, you can take a look at one of the more famous occurrence of a firearms instructor shooting himself in the leg while teaching elementary school kids about gun safety that would certainly NEVER have happened if he had done the three-point check. (See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjVOTjg1rm4 )
OK. Safety rules out of the way, now continuing on.
Every Firearm Is Different
Other than the standard safety rules, there really aren’t any other hard and fast rules on cleaning your guns. The bottom line is you’ve got to consult with your owner’s manual to determine the best way to clean it. For example, you can actually gum up an AR 15 or an M 16 if you clean it too often. Also, if you clean firearms that have softer metal, such as the older Kimber 1911 models, then you will do some “wearing” damage as well. Some firearms should be cleaned after every couple of uses, some rifles should be cleaned after 20-50 rounds during the breaking in period. It really does depend on the type of gun it is AND the type of environment in which they are used and stored. Humidity will eat away at them a heck of a lot faster than a dry environment. And heat beats up on the stocks over time as well. So please, please reference your owner’s manual or the internet for the best way to care for your firearm. Of course there’s not a Glock ownership manual anywhere that tells me “Dishwasher safe”, I confess. But I’m sticking with this method.
WHY Should You Clean Your Firearms?
Just as you have to have your oil changed, you must clean your firearms in order for them to operate properly. Dust, wear and tear, storage rot, rust, toxin degradation, etc. are all enemies of a properly functioning firearm.
For the same reasons as you would never try to make whipped cream in your Kitchen Aid mixer that hasn’t been cleaned after making a batch of chocolate chip cookies, your gun must be clean. Just as the smallest amount of oil in that mixer will cause your whipped cream to FLOP, so too can excess oils in your firearm cause it to malfunction.
Just as you would never rely on a dirty diaper to last 4 hours, you should never entrust your life to a dirty gun. (Dads…you do know that a dirty diaper should last that long, right? *grin*)
To put it simply, the oils, gases, and gunpowder builds up in the action portion of the gun with each use. The barrel can even back up into the magazine as well and prevent proper cycling of your cartridges. Combine that with the oils from your hands as well as the dust and moisture and other components of your shooting and storing environment, and you’ve got the makings of a useless tool when you need it most for self-defense. A dirty gun is useless in a crisis—unless you’re Jason Bourne, of course. We can all agree that Bourne would still be able to use a firearm as a deadly weapon in a firearm, right? Typically, most handguns should be cleaned after each use and ALL firearms should be properly cleaned prior to putting them in long-term storage.
For the same reasons why you actually have to clean the hair out of the drain trap, you must clean your firearm. In the midst of a crisis you’ve already got SO many other things that make your self-defense challenging. Fine motor skills delay, shortage of oxygen, not to mention the actions of your assailant. So let’s be sure that we don’t do anything that will compromise our success of surviving a crisis. OK??
Cleaning your firearms is a MUST. Got it?
There’s ALWAYS Time To Clean a Firearm
I don't use my lazy method to clean all of my firearms this way, but I DO definitely clean them. It’s not a bother. It doesn’t feel like it’s taking up precious time because there are so many other things I can be doing while cleaning my firearms—such as when your daughter introduces you to her new boyfriend, right? Hee hee Just kidding. What I mean to say is that you can clean your firearms while watching a movie with the family or while you and your sweetie are talking about your day. Or perhaps while you’re on a sales call and your customer is trying to decide whether or not they want to buy an insurance policy from you. Hee hee. Again, just kidding!
Ok. I think we’ve sufficiently covered that.
One of my favorite cleaning kits is the Otis cleaning kits. I only say that because I KNOW that some of you will inevitably ask me.
Sure, cleaning your room may not be a life or death event—in spite of how many times my poor mother would have liked me to believe otherwise—but taking care of that firearm IS!
So what’s my dirty little secret about cleaning my preferred handgun, the Glock?
I keep telling people that I’m the laziest prepper they will ever meet. It’s all about EASY-PEEZY in my household. If you give a lazy man an easy job, they will always find an easier way to do it—particularly when I have 20 Glocks to clean after a firearms training class. I put them in the dishwasher—why? BECAUSE I CAN! Yup. You read that right. I put them in, all by themselves, with no soap or detergent of any kind other than some vinegar and soft water salt to soften the water a bit so it’s not so abrasive. I let them run through a complete cycle, including the drying cycle, and then oil them up afterwards while I’m watching “Shark Tank” or reruns of “Frasier”. I do this because I value my time AND because I don’t want to handle the nasty cleaning solvents any more than I absolutely have to. The dishwasher approach solves that problem.
OK. Take a moment to close your mouth from your jaw dropping open. I’ll wait. Compose yourself. Are ya good now? Thank goodness I can’t hear some of the swear words I KNOW are being hurled at my direction in front of computers all over the world as people read that statement. But it’s true. I unabashedly clean my Glock firearms this way, followed by appropriate polishing and oiling where/when necessary.
Now before you go nuts on me wondering in the comment section of this article, freaked out about the “yuck factor” or additional wear and tear on the firearms, I’ll address those concerns now.
Question: Aren’t there unprotected steel parts on the gun that will rust?
Answer: No, the metal won’t rust. I don’t keep them wet, of course. You dry them and then oil them properly afterwards. (When I originally introduced this notion on my firearms related blog, I had several readers who use similar methods. One of our readers is a black powder revolver shooter and uses a big tub of hot boiling water to clean hers. The bluing finishes do need to be dry and then coated properly with oil. She also fires some jacket bullets through her firearms to get out some of the residue before washing. Another reader shared that he uses the dishwasher for his HK USP with no problems, he just is certain to remove the springs first with another military man who uses this same method for his Berettas. Many of the handguns out there have finishes that are rated for continuous salt water immersion. Most polymer frames should be fine using this method.
Did you know you can even shoot a Glock underwater?? Yep. Tried it. It was pretty cool and yet one more reason why I rely on Glocks as my preferred handgun to save my life.
Question: Is that a spare dishwasher? If not, you’re killing your kids with mercury and lead poisoning no matter how many loads you run through it afterwards!
Answer: This notion is just one more indicator of how little people understand about firearms and their proper operation.
A very small minority of obstetricians have advised pregnant women not to shoot or be at a gun range in their last trimester, but that’s about the hard reverberation that the baby is exposed to, NOT because of any lead or mercury poisoning risks. Ironically, such doctors advise pregnant women not to handle any of the firearm cleaning solvents.
Place your recently fired GLOCK in a bowl of hot water for about 20 minutes. Then remove it. Then do one of those handy dandy tests and measure the lead and mercury levels in the water. Now, do that SAME test on just plain tap water from your sink. You will see virtually NO difference. I know. Cause I DID it!
Also, mercury is typically only seen in the residue if one uses mercury-fulminant based primers which may be found in ammunition manufactured in Eastern Europe and used in the Middle East.
And here’s another thought on that. If cleaning your handgun was so dangerous, then wouldn’t ALL faithful gun-cleaners have lead and mercury poisoning from cleaning them by hand? I know very few people who use gloves when they clean their guns. I wear gloves when cleaning them, but that’s more about protecting the gun than protecting me—though I am particular about protecting the manicure. Hee hee
This is something that I do occasionally when I have more than a couple of GLOCKS to clean, so far. (I have several of them because we need that many when we do firearm training classes. Insurance says I have to provide the firearms used in order to control the environment.) I use this method because of the make-up and materials used in the Glocks. I also NEVER shoot lead ammo or frangible ammo through my firearms either. Furthermore, since I’m an instructor, I get tested every year in my physical for lead levels in my blood AND I take good care of my liver and adrenals all throughout the year with a daily liver cleanse regimen. *wink* I’m good.
And that, my friends, is my dirty little secret. *grin* Stay safe. Keep on prepping. And may you find all the peace that you need in this crazy world as a result.
CAUTION: The dishwasher method is NOT appropriate for any other firearms that I know of.