A subject that students and instructors alike tend to consider secondary in the evolution of training is equipment maintenance. In the case of an EDC sidearm, when the need arises, it must work flawlessly, from the first shot to the last shot, without deviation.
“Maximum operational readiness” is the phrase applicable to the seriousness in which a defensive weapon must be maintained. A clean and pristine gun means that it is functioning as well or better than when it came out of the box. Regular maintenance, consisting of cleaning, inspection and lubrication, followed by a function check, will go a long way toward ensuring the weapon will perform in the expected manner when needed. Your life, after all, depends on it.
“Maximum operational readiness” is the phrase applicable to the seriousness in which a defensive weapon must be maintained.
One of the better ways to get familiar with maintenance is to read and comprehend the owner’s manual. Aside from safe-handling procedures, it will address field-stripping, which will allow you access to the inner workings of the gun for periodic maintenance. Instructions for cleaning and lubricating the pistol are included in the manual, which, if followed, will preserve the finish and keep the gun functioning properly. The manufacturer will also make recommendations as to when specific parts will need to be replaced. On that note, it is a good idea to keep an approximate count of how many rounds you put through the gun.
Firearms instructors should be able to expand on owner’s manual recommendations with tips and techniques gathered through their research and experience. This will help students narrow down their many choices in maintenance equipment.
Location and Frequency
The cleaning and maintenance location need not be complicated. In fact, after a practice session (while still on the range) is an excellent time and place if there is a well-ventilated, flat surface available. This allows a shooter to leave the range with a gun in a condition of maximum operational readiness. This is important simply because we never know when or where danger will present itself; it could be encountered on the way home. Another advantage that often goes unrecognized is that barrel fouling is easier to remove when the barrel is still warm, especially after shooting unjacketed lead bullets.
The cleaning and maintenance location need not be complicated. In fact, after a practice session (while still on the range) is an excellent time and place if there is a well-ventilated, flat surface available.
Invariably, a question comes from a student who carries every day but only shoots on an irregular basis as to how often maintenance needs to be performed on his or her gun. There is, of course, no single answer to that question, as the variables approach infinity. It is helpful to suggest inspecting the gun weekly or when it has been exposed to an abnormal condition, such as inclement weather, heavy perspiration or an unusually dusty and dirty situation. Any condition that allows oxidation or corrosion of metallic parts or leaves a build-up of foreign material in or on the gun is a signal that the gun is overdue for maintenance.
Any time a firearm is the focus of attention, safety should be the primary concern. Whenever maintenance is being performed, the first thing to do is ensure the gun is unloaded and all ammunition is stored out of reach. Safety glasses should be worn to protect the eyes the same as when firing, and it is a good idea to wear nitrile examination gloves to protect the hands from chemical contaminants that may be present. They also make cleaning up after maintaining the gun a little easier.
Once the gun is field-stripped, brush or wipe all visible firing residue from the exposed surfaces. Anything that did not come from the factory needs to be removed with a nylon brush and cleaning patches. Cleaning solvent may be used as an aid to the brush or patches to help expedite the process.
Whenever maintenance is being performed, the first thing to do is ensure the gun is unloaded and all ammunition is stored out of reach.
The interior of the barrel should be cleaned from the chamber end with a bore-fitting brush treated with cleaning solvent to loosen carbon and bullet fouling. Once the scrubbing and chemical actions have loosened it, the remaining residue can be removed by pushing a few tight-fitting patches through the bore from the chamber to the muzzle.
When the gun is clean, it is ready for inspection. Look for loose or missing parts, cracks, gouges, deep scratches or other irregularities that catch your eye. If present, these need to be reconciled before going any further. Notice normal wear marks which are smooth — where the finish appearance has changed since the gun was new. These are a result of friction coming from the normal operation of the gun and will need to be lubricated before reassembling the gun.
The Great Debate
Firearms lubricants are primarily designed for friction-reduction and surface preservation of metallic parts. As long as the lubrication is visible and obvious to the touch on the area requiring attention, it is sufficient for most applications.
Everybody has an opinion on cleaning solvents and lubricants for firearms. The simple answer to eliminate a lot of discussion is to suggest buying a product designed to be used on firearms for the application needed and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. There are many varieties of each, but few have any real advantage over another.
One means of lubrication and protection that is worthy of consideration is treating the EDC with a dry lubricant. Dry lubricants will not evaporate or contaminate clothing or holsters, and they do not have an odor — all are benefits to the concealed carrier of a firearm. These dry lubricants are a viable alternative to conventional lubricants with additional benefits. But fair warning: They are more tedious to apply.
A Mutual Benefit
While we’re talking maintenance, never overlook the magazines of the semi-automatic pistol. The gun depends on each one to function properly without fail. Just like the gun, they should be disassembled, cleaned, inspected and treated to preserve the metal parts from oxidation and corrosion.
Once the maintenance procedures are complete, a function check should be performed to validate the mechanical operability of the gun before putting it back in service as an EDC. If you take care of your gun, it will take care of you.
Hoppe’s Nitro Powder Solvent No. 9
No doubt, every gun owner has a bottle of Hoppe’s No. 9 stowed away with his or her gun-cleaning supplies. But where did it come from — or, better yet, who invented it? The answer is Philadelphia native Frank August Hoppe. A longtime soldier of the Pennsylvania National Guard, Capt. Hoppe saw service as a sergeant during the Spanish-American War. After the war, he set out to uncover a solvent that could clean the army’s high-power M1903 Springfield rifle. The result was a chemical that could clean a rifle of smokeless powder residue without causing harm to it. He filed a patent for the cleaning compound in October 1904. “Hoppe’s Nitro Powder Solvent No. 9” soon became the leading gun-cleaning solvent. Hoppe died of a stroke at the age of 51 in 1921, but Hoppe’s No. 9 has continued in production since its introduction more than 100 years ago. —Frank Jastrzembski, Associate Editor