Gun cleaning is an important aspect of gun ownership – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Beginning, intermediate, and advanced shooters are all responsible for keeping their guns in peak condition. Clean the gun your life depends on like your life depends on it — anything less is rank laziness and does not befit a firearms enthusiast.

Reason #1 – Cleaning a Gun Prevents Malfunctions

What exactly happens when you fail to clean your weapons? If you are running a Kalashnikov or a Glock, not much, but it still matters to ensure they’re always in proper working order. I have a Glock 22 converted to 9mm I have owned for a decade. I have brutalized that poor pistol, most typically with a sound suppressor hanging from its snout. Sound suppressors look cool and cut down on noise pollution, but they will render your guns invariably filthy. Increasing back pressure forces some of the carbon fouling that might otherwise vent into the atmosphere back into the action. The result is copious gunk and that gunk can lead to firearm malfunctions.

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Reason #2 – Your Life Depends on a Clean Personal Carry Gun

I do actually try to pay attention to my carry guns, but we all suck at this at times. If my RPK chokes while turning ammo into noise, it might elicit some good-natured grumbling. The same thing cannot occur with my Glock 42 while I am standing between some deranged meth addict and my family. Digging into the guts of a well-used pocket gun can be enlightening.

There isn’t a great deal of mechanical energy we are dealing with here, anyway. Let all the lube evaporate out of your favorite slim .380 defensive pistol then pack it to the gunwales with pocket lint and don’t be surprised if it chokes in the clutch. Holstered guns typically fare fairly well over time, but should you be in the practice of carrying a sidearm in your pocket that thing will get gross quick. I have been on occasion gobsmacked by the sheer volume of sundry grunge that will accumulate in a pocket gun over even a short month or two of regular carry.

Reason #3 – You Want the Magazine to Work Properly

The box magazine on a pocket gun sucks up filth like crazy. Slide the floorplate off and tidy up the inside of the magazine whenever you strip the gun.

Shoot your carry guns from time to time, and not just with cheap blasting ammo. It can be illuminating to go to the range and run your ready magazine dry in a high-mileage carry piece. I have had several unexpected stoppages during this exercise. There is one gun I no longer rely upon because of some dismal no-notice range performance. Defensive ammo is expensive, but it is worth the trouble to freshen up your primary magazine every year or two.

Strip it down and tidy it up on the first of each month. It won’t take you five minutes. You would willingly devote more attention to some medical machine if it were keeping you alive. If you are serious about packing a gun for protection, you need to keep it properly maintained.

Reason #4 – Clean Guns Will Function from the Range to a Combat Zone

I ran my first M16A1 professionally in 1984. I’ve had every type of stoppage imaginable with this weapon, including blown cases and a failed front sight base. The gun will run and run well, but it needs a little love. The rub is that the direct gas impingement system pumps all of the gun’s sundry funk right back into its entrails.

M16A1 rifles at the Ranger School at Fort Benning back in the 80s had been ridden hard, but meticulously maintained. However, I used one during a competition there that would not run more than three rounds at a sitting despite being spotlessly clean and lightly lubed. Stoner acolytes please forgive me, but this is, especially in its earliest iterations, a remarkably finicky combat weapon.

Let an AR get properly dirty and the results will show. Failures to extract, failures to eject, and bolt over failures pepper the fail-scape. The solution is obviously regular cleaning.

Scrub off the bolt, bolt carrier, bolt carrier key, and sundry small parts. Personally, I use a pocketknife to scrape the carbon fouling off of the tail of the bolt. Whichever way you choose to complete this task, make sure you’re doing so regularly.

Reason #5 – You Don’t Want to Have to Drop Hard-Earned Money on Repairs

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, an adage that is especially true in the realm of gun cleaning and maintenance. By cleaning a gun after shooting, you can offset the need for costly repairs later on – along with a few sideways glances from an unimpressed gunsmith. You’ve spent enough money on the firearm itself, so why pay extra to repair it due to negligence? Also, while your gun is off getting fixed it’s not in your possession when you may need it the most.

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