By: Dallas Frohrib
How to Clean and Lubricate to Save Your Life
This is not rocket science, and it’s sure not voodoo.
Keeping your gun reliable is one of the simplest parts of shooting, but sometimes you’d almost think understanding it required membership in a secret club, or a science degree. Trust me, it doesn’t.
For you, almost everything in firearm reliability comes down to one thing: minimizing friction.
There’s some nuance to this, and a few additional points to cover, but the unfortunate reality is the gun world is packed with inherited myth, misunderstanding, genuinely bad information, and far too many “tactical experts” pushing their way as the only ‘legit’ way to keep guns running. What complicates this for you, is many such experts and instructors actually do have strong expertise in gunfighting and security – and they may honestly have zero idea of just how off-base their weapon-reliability beliefs are.
The truth is there are several paths to the top of the gun-reliability mountain, but almost all of it comes down to reducing friction.
The majority of exceptions will come from worn-out magazines or bad ammo. Always number your magazines to see if malfunctions are matched to a specific mag – they are consumable items that wear out over time, and you can’t tell just by looking at them, so keep them numbered. Ammunition issues generally involve improper sizing (especially with reloads), or having too little power. Neither of these are common in factory-made new ammo, but it is still critical to test ammo before relying on it – especially before carrying it for defensive use.
As long as you are using good ammo and good magazines, over 90% of all gun malfunctions are friction related. Most of the time, this reality gets misdiagnosed as people mistake symptom for cause. Things like “failure to feed” and “stovepipes” are perfect examples. Most of the time, these are merely symptoms of friction slowing the moving parts too much, to the point where there’s not enough energy to kick an empty casing out with authority, or slam home properly in chambering.
Having touched on magazines and ammo, how do you reduce friction?
Clean, and lubricate. That’s all.
The cleaning part is simple – an old toothbrush, some paper towels, a handful of cotton swabs, and any kind of “gun solvent” from your local gun shop are all you really need. Your job with these tools is to clean off any of the blackish fouling caused by firing. This is critical – the fouling is a combination of abrasive carbon; soft metals like lead, copper, and brass; and unburned powder. All of it grabs at your gun’s moving parts, sometimes like powdered sandpaper, other times like burned egg on a pan.
And just like a pan, lubricant keeps that fouling from sticking, and keeps the metal parts from grabbing at each other as well, as they slide across one another.
Regarding what kind of lubricant to use, as the president of a gun lubricant company I can tell you that no part of the gun world is more full of misunderstanding, errant dogma, or hype. And I can also tell you that you don’t need our lubricants – you can use motor oil, automatic transmission fluid, and any ‘gun oil’ you have. These will all keep a gun running. The biggest difference is for how long, and under what conditions. Our products may be engineered to give five to ten times as much shooting without cleaning or re-lubricating over anything else, but they aren’t the only way to keep your gun running – never let anyone tell you there’s only one way or only one product to make your gun work.
Here’s what you need to know about using whatever lubricant you have: put it on the shiny rub spots, and where you know the parts are sliding and rubbing against each other. Your friction surfaces. Apply more if it dries out; clean and lubricate your gun after every trip to the range. That’s all.
As I mentioned, it’s not rocket science.
All you’re doing is making sure that your gun’s moving parts are moving as smoothly as possible, by keeping those parts clean, lubricated, and as friction-free as possible.
Next issue: Common Myths About Gun Lubrication