During a defensive shooting class that I conducted for a young couple last week, the husband’s gun failed to function properly several times. In his first trip to the firing line, the malfunction was a simple stovepipe, which he cleared properly, so I didn’t intervene immediately.

But then he experienced two more failures to feed during that same magazine. At that point, I made the range cold and brought him back to the preparation table. After he cleared and unloaded the gun, I had him do a field strip and place the components on the table.

For starters, the young man’s gun was not just dirty; it was filthy. Old powder residue was visible on the breech, around the front of the slide and even in the top half of the magazine well. The magazine itself was also dirty, especially the follower. Perhaps even worse, the gun was bone dry.

I’m not exaggerating. The gun appeared as if it had not been lubricated in months, if not longer. This is not as uncommon as you’d think. But I still have trouble comprehending how anyone would ignore even the most basic maintenance, especially on a gun intended to protect his or her life.

Maintenance Is Always a Good Idea; With an EDC Gun, It’s Mandatory

Since his wife hadn’t shot yet, I decided to check her gun at the same time. Interestingly, upon safety-checking and disassembling her gun, it turned out to be spotless, with a nice film of oil on all the important parts. When I complimented her on this, her husband gave an embarrassed smile.

I always bring a basic cleaning kit to the range, whether I’m conducting a class or merely doing some practice on my own. So (after some good-natured teasing) we proceeded to thoroughly clean and lubricate his gun. Then, back to the firing line. No surprise, he was able to fire off several magazines of target ammo without a hitch.

Then, just to be certain, I had him load a couple of magazines with his normal defensive ammo, which I always advise students to bring to class. Again, no malfunctions of any kind. The gun performed flawlessly, as it should have.

In recent years, manufacturers have released a cascade of new cleaning and lubrication products. Marketing strategies vary: Some stress ease of use, while others promise superior results. Still others claim to be eco-friendly or organic. Honestly, just about any quality solvent/cleaner and lubricant will do the job … but only if you USE them regularly.

One Last Thing on Gun Maintenance

Just because you haven’t fired your gun recently doesn’t mean it is A-OK. Carrying a gun for extended periods can result in oil evaporating, not to mention all sorts of grit, lint and crud getting into your gun’s inner workings.

Even just sitting idle, humidity, dust and other issues can expose a gun to rust. It’s a good idea to clean and lubricate your gun at least monthly, whether you’ve fired it or not.

Bottom line? There is simply no excuse for carrying a dirty or dry gun. I can field-strip and do a quick cleaning on almost any of my pistols and revolvers in less than 10 minutes (five when rushed).

Be smart. If you don’t know how to maintain your gun, learn. Take care of your gun, and it will take care of you.

About John Caile

John Caile, contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine, has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. As communications director for the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, John was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. Certified through the NRA as an instructor of Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home, John continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida. He has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is frequently published in the press.

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