The more I test and use handguns the more respect I have for the operating reliability of these machines. Tolerances held by Kimber, Colt, Springfield, Ruger, Smith and Wesson, SIG and CZ are excellent. When we use these handguns on the range we should have every confidence that they will fire time after time without any type of problem. The Colt 191, for example, is famous for operating when soaked in mud or snow. The SIG P226 has come out on top of the field in a rigorous test in which 228,000 cartridges were fired in a grueling test program. Just the same- these handguns need maintenance. Many will run dirty but they will not run dry.
If a handgun isn’t cleaned properly, eccentric wear will impede function. Normal wear is simply even wear; the finish is tarnished and the pistol becomes worn as it is used. Eccentric wear is different. The finish or the handgun’s parts are gouged by foreign material. Dirt, grit and unburned powder make for eccentric wear. The pistol simply will not be as accurate if the operating mechanism is filled with powder ash from firing. Lead buildup is even worse. This is why quality solvent and lube are essential. Due to the powder used in this caliber, the .22 is the dirtiest cartridge in common use. Few .22 handguns will go more than three hundred rounds without a malfunction if they are not cleaned. A modern 9mm self loading firing good quality factory jacketed bullet loads may go several thousand rounds before function begins to become sluggish due to the buildup of unburned powder- but we really don’t wish to abuse our firearms. Even handguns that will perform well without cleaning at a high round count still demand lubrication.
I think that folks overlook choosing the proper cleaning solvent and lubricant and tend to grab the first thing on the shelf. This isn’t good and may lead to serious wear and function problems.
Joseph Ventimiglia has worked hard for over thirty years to develop Shooter’s Choice products that will clean the firearm thoroughly and leave it as clean as the day it left the factory. The first Shooter’s Choice products were developed from a special formula used by bench rest shooters. This shooting discipline is demanding and the rifle bore must be clean in order to promote the best accuracy. Bench rest shooters clean the bore between shooting strings and are very careful in order to preserve the life and accuracy of the rifle. Those of us firing more ordinary rifles such as varmint guns would be well advised to adopt the same product.
As for myself most of my cleaning revolves around handguns. When the chamber begins to look cruddy and the bolt seems greasy with lubricant and powder ash I clean my MKIII. I use Shooter’s Choice Polymer Safe Quick Scrub for initial work. Since I own a few polymer pistols I may as well order the Polymer safe version. I spray the pistol over a bed of white cloth and the gunk runs out. Then, I use the cleaning brush and a soft bristled bore brush to get the pistol clean, really clean, and then proceed to dry the pistol. Then I add lubricant.
I do not purchase the cheapest lube oil at the parts store and I do not run cheap stuff in my quality handguns. I have used FP10 for many years. I run it along the bearing surfaces of the Colt Series 70 Government Model – my favorite carry gun. Be sure to lube the barrel hood, cocking block and the barrel where it meets the bushing. This is an essential program to be certain the handgun remains reliable and promotes long life.
There are different levels of lubrication. For storage a light covering is all that is needed. At the range you will lubricate the handgun more heavily because you may fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition. A carry gun is best served with a thin application. I fieldstrip, wipe down and lubricate my carry gun after every practice session. It gets a thorough field strip and inspection every five hundred rounds or so. When you are faced with a critical incident and the events have gotten out of control, there are many factors beyond your control. One thing you can control is that the handgun will be clean, ready, and well lubricated and in top firing condition.
The bore of the handgun is where most of the cleaning is needed. Powder and lead deposits are found in the grooves of the barrel. It takes a bit of effort to clean the bore even if you have used only full metal jacketed bullets. There is nothing wrong with lead bullets, they are both accurate and economical, but they do leave more deposits in the barrel. Get the brush sopping wet with solvent. I run the brush through the barrel several times, loosening the deposits in the bore. A mixture of solvent and powder residue will run from the barrel. I switch to cotton patches next. Some of the first patches will be black with powder ash. Keep going until the patches come out clean. If the deposits are heavy you may move back to the bore brush. If fairly light but consistent then soak the cotton patch in solvent and run it through as well. The final patch should have a light coating of gun oil. This helps preserve the bore from rust.
The procedure is modified with the revolver. While the barrel is cleaned in the same way each individual chamber of the revolver cylinder is cleaned. The area at the chamber step often collects powder and lead residue and should get particular attention. The recoil plate of the revolver gets dirty and may impede function.
It is important to wipe the slide rails and long bearing surfaces. The feed ramp and the outside of the barrel should be clean. Check the cocking block and the locking lugs. The cocking block is the section of the slide toward the rear that cocks the hammer during recoil. The locking lugs are the part of the barrel that locks into the slide. Look for collected grit, powder ash and lead. The firing pin channel collects powder ash and even brass particles, so be sure to check the firing pin tunnel occasionally. The breech face of the self loading gets dirty and must be addressed as well. This area should be cleaned often. You do not have to bathe the handgun in solvent but be certain that you use an adequate amount in cleaning.
Once you have cleaned the handgun it should be lubricated. I use FP 10. If I am firing for long periods and certain handguns such as the 10mm that take a pounding I will use grease instead of oil as it will not run off.
A final note- I use several shotguns with choke tubes and a 1923 Remington M11 with poly choke. The only damaged barrels I normally see are those damaged from choke tubes and fittings that are never to seldom cleaned.
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