As a gunsmith and firearms expert, I am often asked about gun cleaning products and how often one should clean their firearm. First let me address the product question. There are many gun cleaning and lubrication products out there. Most will do what they claim to do but some can kill you in the process. Good old Hoppes #9 comes immediately to mind. Use a product that is safe and appropriate for your weapon and the environment you’ll be in. Also, please avoid using magic formulas found on the Internet that consist of motor oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, kerosene, etc. Think about it. Do you really believe that any such mixture, posted on the internet by a guy, who knows a guy, who heard from an old-time gunsmith, is actually superior to the plethora of products available from companies that design, test, and manufacture products made specifically for the firearms industry? Please.
In my shop I mostly use Gunzilla. (TopDucks LLC, www.topduckproducts.com, 2902 Sanders Rd, Lansing, MI 48917, Phone: 517-322-3202). Gunzilla is a completely safe, plant-based cleaner, lubricant, and rust preventative. It removes all types of fouling, carbon, dried oil/grease AND rust (more on this later). While regular Gunzilla will breakdown and dissolve copper fouling, a severely copper fouled bore may require letting it sit in the bore for an extended period of time. This is why I also have some Copperzilla handy. Copperzilla is specially formulated to dissolve copper quickly. Both Gunzilla and Copperzilla are safe to let sit in a barrel indefinitely. Gunzilla dries to a thin film lubricant and rust preventative that, over time, bonds with metal and aluminum surfaces to make firearms foul less. I know it sounds too good to be true but it is. We have had guns come into the shop covered with rust. If the rust is not too deep Gunzilla will remove it without damaging any of the blued finish. Just spray on and leave wet overnight, wipe off in the morning, and repeat. I’ll post some before and after pictures in another blog.
The product recommendation also depends on what type of firearm and the environment the operator is planning on being in. Grease and products like Frog Lube can harden in cold conditions. For that reason, I never use Frog Lube. Weapons with heavy operating rods (M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, M1A, Mini-14, etc.) like to be well greased for optimum reliability and accuracy. The smoother the action cycles, the lower accuracy robbing vibrations will be.
In general, after cleaning, leave enough lubricant on the mating surfaces so that it looks wet but is not runny. Weapons being used in hot and/or sandy environments should not be lubed with anything that stays wet and attracts dirt and dust. Either a dry lube or wet lube that evaporates to leave a dry residue should be used.
Also, there are some products that should not be used in various applications. For instance, RemOil, while very popular, should not be used inside of barrels. RemOil contains Teflon which is a plastic and plastics get gooey when heated.
Precision rifle bores, after break-in, should only be cleaned with 1 or 2 passes of a CLP wetted bore snake after use. Bores have imperfections that will get filled in as the bore becomes fouled. You will notice that a barrel that has been cleaned to bare metal will initially not hold as tight a group as is potential. Once the imperfections are fouled, groups will reach their tightest. When groups start to open up, or fliers emerge, it’s time to clean to bare metal again.
Tactical pistols like Glocks, Sigs, and others may never actually need to be cleaned. I have seen several examples of range guns at shooting schools or department training centers that have never been cleaned and work fine. I like to clean my pistols with a wet bore snake after each range session and do a thorough cleaning every 500 rounds or if any malfunction occurs.
Hunting rifles and shotguns should be deep cleaned one a year. It’s important to get under the stock line at least once a year to make sure there is no rust developing. This is particularly important with hunting or sporting rifles and shotguns that spend significant time outdoors. If a rifle or shotgun (or any firearm for that matter) gets dropped into water or is exposed to rain detail clean it immediately. Hours count here.
I grew up in a small town in western Massachusetts where I began gunsmithing at the age of 12, working on military surplus rifles with my father. I received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and went on to a career in technical sales and marketing, but guns were always a hobby. An opportunity to make a career change led me to gunsmithing. Gunsmithing combines my skill in hands on labor with my training as an engineer. I’m trained by the American Gunsmithing Institute and I received additional one-on-one training from a former SOCOM master gunsmith. Having a familiarity with other gunsmiths in the Greater Boston area, I opened Saxonville Armory in 2012 with a focus on providing a more professional gunsmithing experience to gun owners. I am particular fond of working on AR15s and other semi-automatic military rifles. The precision of these rifles speaks to the engineer in me. Building custom rifles and handguns and creating custom Cerakote designs and engraving have become my specialty.