“For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse, the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider, the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
At AP, we believe in proper equipment maintenance. Without it, you lose. Period.
Cleaning guns isn’t very cool or sexy, but it’s my favorite part of shooting. Right next to after hours barbecue and whiskey. Cleaning weapons is about as cool as the “Department of Horseshoe-Nail Acquisitions”, but, I take this time to inspect and tighten up my gun. I even marvel at my weapon’s utility, our birth rights, what they represent to our nation, and the meaning for western civilization. I take pride in all my gear, especially if it’s made in America. I fix all problems immediately. Consequently, I saw two guns go down because of poor maintenance during the last “Fighting Kalashnikov Course” offered by Brushbeater Training. 100% operator error. Totally avoidable. Properly torque your optics, stocks, pistol grips, and muzzle devices. You need a torque driver, or torque wrench for this. There are many different brands. The engineers didn’t make these numbers up for no reason. I use the one linked below. Buy once, cry once.
During normal business hours, AKA peacetime, the average shooter doesn’t use much in the way of patches, solvents, or gun oil. I can assure you, when you are running around in the woods getting rained on and sleeping on the ground, you will go through patches, solvents, and oil with regularity. Multiply that by two, or three, and you have a bit of a logistics problem on your hand. When you sleep on the ground, the moisture from the ground is drawn to your weapon because of the difference in temperature. This will cause your weapon to rust even if you live in the middle of the high & dry deserts of Wyoming. Plus, you will spend time near the water. For obvious reasons…
You’ll go through all your field patches pretty darn quick. I went through 40 or so patches the other day cleaning 2 Carbines. That adds up… The patches I use come in 200 piece packs(Linked later in the article). That’s 5 days of cleaning during periods of overtime and night shift. BTW, bore snakes are almost useless. I keep one handy, only if I have water, or dust, in my barrel from a mounted patrol and/or a swim. Then you will want to give it a good sweep or three with a snake. Cleaning corrosive ammo with a bore snake isn’t a good idea, if so, mark that bore snake with some pink nail polish as a warning, and remember to wash it out with hot water and some light soap. A bore snake won’t remove a mud plug from your barrel. You need a cleaning rod for that. Cleaning rods are mandatory field kit. You’ll never get a stuck case out of your chamber or a mud plug out of your gun without a cleaning rod of the proper length.
Logistics win wars.
A rusty barrel in the field=First Round Point Of Impact (FRPOI) shift. Which means you just missed your bad guy, his buddy, his truck, and the machine gunner. Plus a large, bright, red rust cloud flies out the end of your gun. You can see the problem here adds up real quick. All for lack of a proper weapons cleaning kit and some discipline. Firearms aren’t cheap, and the ammo isn’t either. It’s poor practice to not care for our tools, toys, and training aids.
Yesterday, after cleaning a few guns in storage, I threw away a 12 gauge bore brush, a handful of old 5.56 bore brushes, a 5.56 chamber brush, and a few .30 cal brushes. I don’t normally clean my 12 or 20 gauge shotguns after every single trip to the range, but I do use the 12 gauge brushes for cleaning other parts of my guns. Just the same way that I don’t own a .17 HMR caliber firearm, but I keep those little bore brushes around because those things are great for cleaning those little hard to reach places.
You’ll also need targets and a couple extra rounds nearby to keep those weapons zeroed. A site sponsor, Brownells, has great deals on cleaning supplies and targets. I probably have $1,000 in cleaning supplies and targets laying around. Here are some of my favorites. Targets are my next topic, for another post later this week or early next week.
1) Let’s start with the first thing I was ever issued by Uncle Sam to clean an M4. The not-to-bad “Militec Oil”. This stuff works pretty well, but the cap doesn’t stay on. It literally just comes off for no reason.
2) Next, we have the ever faithful “Break-Free CLP”. CLP stands for Cleaner, Lubricant, and Protectant. It is probably the industry standard for cleaning weapons in the field. The carbon just falls out of the firearm. It’s pretty amazing stuff. But it’s pricey and like most “all-in-one” products, it fails in some areas, like cleaning, and excels in others, like pack weight and volume. I primarily don’t use it anymore because its not a good bore solvent. It takes a while to act on the copper and lead fouling and it’s frankly a little time consuming. Good for packing into the woods, not so good for the work bench and target shooting.
3) I personally use this product linked below. Lucas Oil Gun Oil for the field/kit/vest. These things are great. I keep one in my field cleaning kit. It hasn’t leaked or bent or broken to date. It’s wrapped up in a few rags just in case it does. That seems to keep it safe and sound from the harsh world. The cap is similar to the Elmer’s glue “screw top” cap. It works great. “Field-Proof” is a word that comes to mind.
4) I use these needle oiler bottles linked below. I ordered the 3 pack, but I should have ordered 6 of them. They work great, are pretty small, and the cap stays on surprising well considering the size and the contents. Any small needle oiler will work, but these are well made and appear to be quality. I keep High Performance synthetic motor oil in them. I have no shortage of HP Mobil One laying around.
Gun oils have rust protection additives, so motor oil isn’t a true substitute during long term field use, but it works just fine if you regularly clean your guns at home or in the field. I try to clean one of my guns every other day or so. Just to inspect them and practice my manual of arms. It keeps me dangerous.
5) My favorite solvent is this stuff below, good old Hoppe’s #9, I like the the smell and it works great. Let some marinade in the barrel for a few minutes, or maybe 5-10, if it’s really cold out, and keep running patches through till its clean. Dedicated bore solvents are the best, they work very well because they have a high molar concentration of additives and solvents. You can use the bore mops, or cattails as some people call them, those are the furry bore brushes that don’t work very well in my personal opinion. They come in most combination kits. I think it’s best to just scrub your barrel a few times and run a patch covered in solvent down the barrel. Repeat till the barrel is bright and shiny. This stuff comes in cases of 6 bottles. You should buy a whole case. It goes pretty quick, but you only need to use it after you fire live ammo or blanks. I remember cleaning .22s with my grandfather using this stuff. Reminds me of the Maryland Eastern Shore on the Wye River every time.
On to the topic of patches. These things can be hit or miss. I’m gonna let you know how I feel about bore brushes soon enough, but the damn patches are my least favorite cleaning accessory. First, Let’s talk about thickness; There needs to be a standard, but there isn’t, so you can waste a bit of time dealing with this. I prefer to use the “Allen” 3 inch Shotgun and General Cleaning Patches from Amazon or Chinamart.
6) Type this into Amazon, using our link in the sidebar, I had trouble linking for whatever reason “Allen 200 Cotton Gun Cleaning Patch Absorbent General Cleaning” Get the 3 inch patches. Trust me, I love cleaning guns. I wrap them around used bore brushes sometimes and use them as half brush/ half jag combo. They work great. These patches are tough, they scrub nicely, they are big enough to get around the bull barrel on my free-floated bolt guns, can be trimmed to size, and they don’t leave cotton threads on everything. They come in a resealable bag of 200. They survive multiple passes down a barrel, so you can really make sure they are dirty before you toss them out. They rock. 10/10
Remember, one pack of 200 patches is only enough patches for you, two buddies, and two-three gunfights or range trips. It’s that simple. You can’t beat logistics.
7) On to bore brushes, chamber brushes, and jags. There are two things to know. First, there are two different thread pitches for brushes and rods. The military is a bunch of geniuses and had to have their own thread pitch. Second, don’t buy the cheap brushes at the gun show. They are almost worthless and you pay top dollar. Check your thread pitch first. One is military; The other is commercial. The military guys probably noticed that sometimes their brushes fit, and sometimes they don’t. Now you know.
These 12 packs of Brownells house brand linked above are the way to go. $20 bucks for 12 brushes? Yes please. I ordered one pack of damn near every size they have. And I ordered 6 5.56 and 6 7.62 AR chamber brushes. You can clean basically any weapon chamber with these things, and detail quite a few other hard to reach places as well. Some people argue that the “Nylon Brushes” and the tornado style brushes are good. Maybe I’m just old school, but I frankly haven’t noticed a difference, and you pay more.
8) The brass/nylon brushes on the twisted wire stick/loop work well, I have a few of those that I bent at a 90 degree for cleaning my M1A chamber because it’s not an “open style” of action. I run it like a ratchet, It works better than you think. That’s linked below. This is a good tool for field use with a pistol.
9) On the topic of tactical toothbrushes and detailing wire brushes, I have never noticed one is significantly better than the other. (Link Below) When I clean my piston head on my piston guns, I use a small wire wheel on my cordless drill, and it works like a beast. That’s not a good solution for the field, obviously, but I can not carry enough ammo to notice anyway. So that’s not an issue for me personally. Very clean, bright, and shiny is perfect before the big game(or preseason kickoff) These brushes below are industry standards right here. You’ll get years of use out of them.
10) For cleaning dust off my gun, and my optical lenses, I use a small, clean nylon paint brush that I cut the handle off of. Plus the countless lens polishing wipes I have. This saves weight and space. I had a few of the military barber brushes laying around, but they started to rot and fall apart so I threw them away and use a small nylon paint brush like the one I use on my work tools. The nylon paintbrush is much, much better for sweeping your gun and optic. Make sure you brush the gun BEFORE you put oil all over it. You don’t want oil on your gun mixing into your brush. Works good for brushing electronic screens and keypads too.
For optics, I make sure the battery cap is tight and the lens is clean. Wiggle the optic to check for loosening. During the winter, and summer, you will notice that if you run outside with your firearm, the optic fogs up immediately. Test this right now. See what happens. I already know the answer. I promise your optic fogs up in 30 seconds. It also happens during mounted operations in vehicles with A/C or heat pumps. I had it happen to a hunting revolver I had under my riding jacket once, and one time I checked the horses and had a very foggy rifle optic.
Good luck keeping the wolves away with a foggy optic… This problem is caused by the temperature change. Military optics are dense, and have a considerable heat sink. You’ll spend a considerable amount of time wiping fog from your optic, your eye pro not so much. Have you factored this into your home defense plan? The waxes that are used by divers and snorkelers are the best. I like the little jars of green/blue/yellow wax. They work great. And I use a soft clean, optics wipe to clean off the excess goo. Eventually the wipe gets enough wax on it you won’t need to add much for it too work. So the process speeds itself up. If you acclimate your weapon, by an open window for instance, this can be avoided if you lack the proper anti-fog.
11) Type this into Amazon “Z Clear Lens Clear 3 pack”. You need this stuff. Good luck responding to your neighborhood defense plan with a foggy lens, foggy eye pro, and foggy NODs. Have fun unscrewing your killflash, wiping the lens, and screwing it back on before reacting to contact. I learned this lesson in Baghdad MANY times. You should too. It can occur during ANY time of the year especially after a rain with a temp shift.
12) Cleaning tools and cleaning rods come in a mix of quality. All things Amazon and Walmart are basically junk, but not useless. Unless you have spares, I wouldn’t risk my life on that stuff. Buy some quality rods, and a good set of jags. I don’t care for the loops. They take WAY too long to clean a weapon in my experience. The style linked below is best, in my opinion. I bought two sets just in case I misplace or lose one. But you can wrap an old bore brush in your solvent patches and skip the extra weight and have less items to keep track of on your kit. One or the other works in my experience.
Any style of rod, preferably extra long for rifles, and short for pistols is best. There are free spinning versions, with bearings, and fixed varieties for different tasks. The free spin variety prevents the brush from unscrewing in your barrel. This is a safety issue. I have seen an AR pop because a bore brush unscrewed from the cleaning rod. The weapon completely detonated, and the shooter lost a few pieces of his hand, and some dignity, in front of 200 shooters. The fixed variety is nice for scrubbing chambers and those other nooks, niches, and notches in your firearm. You don’t have to worry about damaging your barrel or chamber. The amount of energy you are exerting on the weapon is nothing compared to firing a cartridge. Just be careful not to excessively offset your rod from the centerline, and you’ll be just fine. The important thing is to clean your weapon, because this is the best way to extend the service life of your investment.
13) Remember, You need to clean your weapon three or four times to fully detail it after hard field use, or an expensive day at the range. Don’t forget to pick up some packs of 500 cotton swabs. They are cheap and have a million uses.
The most important thing to remember is to protect your barrel, lube your weapon, and fog proof your lens. That’s 90% of the struggle right there. Your eye pro, and your NODs too, but I’m not gonna ask you to do that. Call the manufacturer first and listen to their directions for fog proofing NODs. Honestly though, the product is just wax. It provides a hydrophobic coating to the glass.
Don’t forget to wear eye pro when working on weapons with liquids and springs under pressure.
14) Also, wear latex or nitrile gloves. Anything that touches your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream within 30-60 seconds. Solvents full of lead powder and sulfurs included. Don’t die of liver failure or some horrible brain disease. We are trying to win; Not lose. This is a long-term struggle gentlemen. Expect to spend somewhere around $500-$1,000 bucks when this is all said and done. It’s worth it. My weapons and optics are better than brand new, they are clean, well worn, accurate, and shiny in the right spots.
The video below is great. I use the same presoaked patch trick he uses. Great Idea.