A follow up to the cleaning post

Yesterday, I told you to stop cleaning your guns all the time.  I mean it.  But because people have asked, I do want to explain that there is a difference between “not cleaning your gun all the time” and “neglecting your gun”.  Also, there are different levels of cleaning.  When I say “don’t clean your guns every time you shoot them” I’m not talking about muzzleloaders or guns that you shoot corrosive ammo through.  Of course you need to clean those.  If you have a safe queen that you only shoot once a year and the rest of the time it sits in pristine condition in your safe, clean that when you shoot it.  Should you protect your guns from rust if you shoot them frequently?  Absolutely.

What I’m really railing against are the people that fire a box of ammo through their Glock/Beretta/FNH/whatever at the range once every couple of weeks and then carefully field strip the gun to clean every single teeny part.  To me, that’s excessive cleaning.  I’m not opposed to running a bore snake through the barrel after 250 rounds – you don’t need to, but you’re not going to hurt anything.  In fact, as I’ve mentioned in two places, there is one type of cleaning that I’m absolutely OCD about – the cylinders on my competition revolvers.  This is one area where it pays to keep a specific part of the gun clean and shiny, because dirty cylinders can cause rounds to stick on a reload and that will kill a stage at an IDPA match.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

Believe me, I’m not saying that you can’t clean your Glock every 100 rounds if you enjoy doing that.  It’s your gun and your time, and you’re free to do whatever you want.  But for what it’s worth, every single person I’ve met that shoots guns for money and shoots those guns lots and lots doesn’t clean them but every few thousand rounds or so.  So protect your gun from fingerprints, and protect it from rust, but you definitely don’t need to strip it and clean it every time you go to the range (unless you only go the range 2 times a year).


  1. I used to be that guy who cleaned after every range session, since that’s how my dad is (and thus how I was taught).

    I’m not sure I agree that gun’s “can’t be cleaned too much.” Now, I’m a mathematician, not a gunsmith, but I have asked this question of Benny Hill of Triangle Shooting Sports (and Benoverse fame) when I ordered an AR15 for three-gun. It seems to me that every time you run a brush down the barrel, you wear down the bore a little . . . probably the same as if you fired a round. So the procedure I learned as a kid (ten two-way passes with a wet patch, ten with a brush, ten with a dry patch; repeat these 30 push-pulls until the dry patches come out white) probably took thousands of rounds off the effective life of my .270. For that gun, a range session often consisted of 20 or fewer rounds!

    Mr. Hill recommended (for that AR) to clean the bore no more often than every 300 rounds. I clean my pistols every 500-1000. And everything gets field stripped, examined, lightly cleaned and lubed every six months if it hasn’t been fired.


  2. I used to clean after every session, but I’ve lapsed on that lately. On the other hand, I don’t use a brush every time either. Generally, I run a couple of patches soaked in Hoppe’s down the barrel, then a dry patch to get all the solvent off, then a lightly oiled patch for some moisture protection. Same for the feed area and other parts that get dirty. Moving parts also get enough oil for lubrication.

    A brush only gets involved when a gun gets significantly dirty (like the one time I used Wolf ammo, which won’t happen again). Cleaning like this can extend the time between needed uses of the brush, too.

  3. You have no idea how sad this post makes me.

    I’m the “1 shot or 1000 shots, the pistol / rifle will be stripped, cleaned with a micro-brush, inspected for fingerprints inside the chamber, and put away with a generous (but not overly so) coat of lubricant, even if I’m planning on taking it back out tomorrow” guy.

    Sad fact – I have friends who have let me borrow their pistols because they knew I’d clean them before I gave them back.

    NO MORE! Well.. we’ll see. It’s now habit. Might be hard to break.

  4. I am a devout cleaner, and (I’m sorry to say) that since last hunting season the only shooting I’ve done was to shoot a snake in the front yard as I was going to the mailbox a few weeks ago.
    Only exception to this is in Hunting season, I check the sighting of my rifle and revolver and those guns do not get touched until end of season, as an oiled barrel can shoot slightly off from a dry, fired, barrel. I also use Break-Free CLP, which does seem to give pretty good lasting rust protection if applied for a couple of days and allowed to “dry in” to the gun before re-coating. The ‘cleaning’ part leaves much to be desired IMO but the lube and preserve parts seem great!

    My biggest caveat to this whole discussion is if you shoot cast lead bullets, many will literally fill up the groves in your barrel and require vigorous scrubbing and often specialized removal methods to get rid of it.
    Keep the velocity down and the alloy hard!

  5. I clean my pistols after every trip to the range.

    When I shoot IDPA I never have mechanical difficulties. A couple of the guys I shoot with are in the “every 1000 round” school of thought and they always seem to run into some glitch or another just about every match.

    I use coated rods, nylon brushes, and MPRO7 non-toxic, bio-degradable cleaning and lubrication products. I am doing no harm to my guns and they behave for me. Don’t think I’ll be changing my habits any time soon.

  6. I’m a fan of aerosol gun cleaner and bore snakes.

    After each pistol match or session it gets a long blast of cleaner then a few passes with the bore snake. With some clever folding you can even use the boresnake to clean the breech face and feed ramp.

    After shooting my mil-surps with corrosive ammo they get a heavy blast of cleaner and a bore snake with the tip soaked in GI gun cleaner. Then when I get home I can do a more detailed cleaning if necessary.

    Minimal tools and minimal time. Call it a compromise between the no-clean and detail-clean camps.

  7. You need to clean a Glock?!

    Seriously, tho – I clean once, maybe twice a year…

    When I do, I detail strip, change the springs, and check for wear. I shoot roughly 1000 rds a month.

    I don’t even bore snake it…

    My Ruger Mk1’s see at least 1000 rds a week… I just use a bore snake…

    Again, once a year, I’ll break ’em down to pieces and detail clean/inspect.

    The only gun that stays super clean (and hardly gets shot) is my carry gun. Since I live in Illinois, it is pristine.


  8. The only other exception is if you shoot lead bullets, especially in a pistol. You have to clean to remove the lead. Usually after about 200 +/- rounds depending on velocity.

    And I use Strike-Hold for my cleaning and lube, as it helps prevent leading, and does a great job of cleaning and protection from fingerprints. It is no better a lube (and a bit better cleaner) than most other CLPs, but it is a better protectant

    (full disclosure: I used to sell the stuff , but no longer do. I still believe in the product though.)

  9. Caleb: In general I agree with your comments, but there is one exception and that is the guns carried for self-defense. Besides the obvious concern of reliability, a ‘clean’ gun versus one that has been fired answers the questions of who actually fired rounds in a dust-up. If you’re an armed bystander, who doesn’t crank one off, but are stopped by the police and found to be carrying, do you want them thinking you’re a suspect with regard to recent social interchanges?

    Additionally, on carry guns it always good to check and clean them routinely even if you don’t shoot them because of the inadvertant dust-bunnies.

    As for my AR-15’s, well, they are ‘grunge’ machines and will likely stay that way.

    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

  10. One other exception – .22s

    They get dirty very very quickly, and it can seriously impact performance.

  11. David, a single outing with my 22/45 and I can start getting minus signs rather than nice, neat little holes toward the end.

    However, my insistence of taking it apart and running it under hot water while using tiny, Dora the Explorer toothbrushes I stole from my daughters is probably overkill.

  12. One gun I am anal about cleaning is my .22 Colt SAA clone. But that’s because it was a gift from my father and it spends most of its time sitting in the rack not getting shot.

  13. “As for my AR-15′s, well, they are ‘grunge’ machines and will likely stay that way.”

    And they actually go “Bang”? What brand do you shoot? I might have to get one!

    And the comment on having a clean carry gun is a good idea. Never thought of it a “Hey, it wasn’t me!” insurance when cleaning.

    I see alot saying they use Bore Snakes, I being old school (and just plain old) was always taught to use a one piece steel rod to clean guns, a sectional one in a pinch, and to throw away any aluminum rods or bore snakes for real cleaning chores as they can cause more harm than good.
    Was always told a bore snake was for emergency use in the field only and carrying a sectional rod was a much better idea by far.
    Thoughts on this?
    Have snakes improved over the years? (think since 1980)

    Also, came across a neat idea for pistols a few years ago. A ‘screwdriver’ looking tool with storage in the handle for a short sectional rod, jag, brush, and a flat blade screwdriver as well (I left out the crappy driver in favor of a second brush and jag for multi caliber use) and enough space to cram in some patch material. Small and great for cleaning in the field, a cleaning kit that fits in a pants pocket, can’t remember the brand, anyone know if these are these still made?

  14. I don’t shoot a lot of lead ammo, so bore snakes work just fine for me. If you shot lots and lots of lead, then you’re eventually going to need some good old fashioned elbow grease to get the fouling out.

  15. @Zermoid – I think the “damage” from boresnakes is purely from not keeping them clean. They cause damage when you get some grit embedded in the snake and drag it through the bore.

    They are machine washable. I throw mine in with the dishrags, my junky jeans, and camping clothes. Also store/carry your snakes in a bag/box.

  16. Zermoid: as for the AR-15 that runs dirty, it’s my Lewis Machine & Tool “Monolith”. I clean it once a year whether it needs it or not. Two caliber gun; one in 5.56x45mm and the other is 6.8SPC. Runs well in either.

    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

  17. I usually pull a bore snake through all my guns before leaving the range. I mostly shoot my carry gun so I clear the barrel, ramp, and breach face before reloading my carry ammo and putting it back in it’s holster. My precision rifles get field stripped after a range visit to make sure the locking lugs and gas system will be up to the task the next time I go to the range or deer fields.

    As far as a detail strip goes, MAYBE once a year. All those little clock work parts are going to suffer more from the dis assembly than they will from sitting in their own protective lube and if you aren’t dropping them in the dirt, how are they supposed to be getting dirty anyway?

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