A revolver and handgun laying on a pad in preparation for a cleaning

Maintaining Your Firearm: Tips and Tricks for Longevity

Proper gun maintenance is a vital part of protecting your weapon and extending its longevity. Every time you squeeze the trigger on your performance firearm, you’re unleashing the power of a small explosion. It exerts pressures and rapid temperature increases on the weapon while sending a projectile rocketing down the length of the barrel, guided by friction into a spin that will take the bullet toward its target. Then you’re doing it again and again–hundreds of times during a range visit. If the entirety of your upkeep is taking it home and putting it in your gun storage safe, you’re doing both it and yourself a disservice.

The Importance of Firearms Maintenance

Gun maintenance doesn’t just affect the longevity of your firearm but also its precision, reliability, and safety. Far before its usable lifecycle ends, you run the risk of experiencing a maintenance-related failure in one of its core functions.

  • Accuracy – Your gun may start to throw shots wide, especially on longer-range shots where the bullet relies on smooth action, proper aiming, and the right spin being imparted by your barrel rifling.
  • Feeding – Debris and gunk in your chamber, loading ramp, or bolt assembly can cause rounds not to seat properly or even fail to enter the chamber properly.
  • Cycling – A poorly maintained gun may not be able to effectively expel a round, chamber the next round, or, in the case of revolvers, advance the cylinder.
  • Stability – Rattle, rattle, rattle. Poor maintenance leads to wear that causes ill-fitting parts that can move out of position, impact accuracy further, or not properly catch.
  • Integrity – A catastrophic weapon failure is a scary thought. When a round goes off, all that force has to go somewhere. From burst barrels to separating slides and blown-out gas tubes, there’s a lot that can go wrong if you don’t respect your weapon.

The Role of Storage in Proper Maintenance

Gun storage is an often overlooked part of proper gun maintenance. How you store your firearm can directly impact how protected it is from the elements, dust, or wear from the storage medium itself. 

  • Rapid Deployment Storage – The weapon is ready to be grabbed and/or used at a moment’s notice. While this may be the right tactical choice, it often gives you the least protection.
  • Short-to-mid-term Storage – The weapon is secured and would take time to obtain, assemble, or load. It’s better protected but still accessible.
  • Long-Term Storage – Long-term storage is all about preservation. Readying the weapon for use may take an extended amount of time that includes additional cleaning, assembly, loading, or other preparations. 

Basic Gun Maintenance Steps

Gunsmith disassembling a handgun with all of his gun cleaning supplies in the background

Always start your gun maintenance by unloading the weapon and verifying that no round is in the chamber. This vital safety step can prevent accidental damage or a tragedy. Next, gather your tools and gun cleaning supplies and make sure you understand the basic functions of your weapon and proper fieldstripping/disassembly before you start taking anything apart. While some weapons may require specialty tools, the bare minimum can often be found in a standard firearm cleaning kit.

  • Cleaning Rod – This long rod usually has a threaded tip that accepts a brush, sponge, or patch-holding attachment. Look for one that’s long enough to move completely through the barrel of your weapon.
  • Bore Brush and Other Brushes – Bore brushes are stiff, wire brushes that you’ll use to manually remove residue inside the barrel of the weapon. Other brushes may have similar wire bristles as well as softer fiber or nylon bristles for removing dirt and debris from other areas of the weapon.
  • Screwdriver, Punch, or Take-Down Tool – Take-Down tools are designed to help you disassemble or field-strip a weapon. Many times they’ll come with your gun if they’re required. For some components, a small punch or screwdriver may be needed. 
  • Patches – These strips or squares of cloth are made from an absorbent material, usually cotton, and serve as a matrix to hold solvents, lubricants, and protectants for cleaning your weapon.

In addition to these tools, your cleaning kit may have come with a selection of solvents, lubricants, and protectants. The small sizes frequently included won’t last long, so you’ll want to make sure you replenish them with full-sized versions, as each performed a different function but is vital to your gun maintenance.

  • Solvents/Cleaners/Degreasers – These cleaning agents are meant to dissolve or remove the grit, gunk, deposits, and oils that build up in and on your firearm.
  • Lubricants – Lubricants help make the moving parts of your weapon keep moving by creating a barrier between parts that overcomes friction.
  • Protectants – These chemicals are designed to form a barrier between the parts of your gun and harmful elements, like chemicals, moisture, and debris.

The primary basic gun maintenance process is the field stripping and cleaning of the weapon after a day of shooting or when the weapon has been in a rapid deployment or short-term storage space for several months.

  1. Unload your weapon and ensure the chamber is clear. Take down your weapon, which usually involves separating the upper and lower receiver. For pistols, you may also need to remove the barrel and recoil spring from the upper receiver for the cleaning process, although some pistols have the barrel fixed to the lower receiver while the recoil spring and guide rod remain in the slide.
  2. Liberally spray gun cleaner into the barrel and chamber so it can begin loosening the powder residue and other debris present. Clean your chamber first using a nylon brush, then moving onto a patch. Next, grab your bore brush and cleaning rod. Push the brush through the barrel completely, then draw it back through and out. Never change directions inside the barrel, as it can damage the rifling. Do this several times, then move on to a patch, swapping them as they become dirty until the patch you use is no longer becoming overly soiled.
  3. Move your attention to the rest of the weapon. For semi-automatic pistols, solvent and a nylon brush or patch should make short work of cleaning the interior surface of your slide assembly around the ejector, bolt assembly, and port. For revolvers, clean the residue from the outside of the force cone, the end of the cylinder, and any potential buildup on the top strap or around the firing pin, hammer, or cylinder advance. Semi-automatic rifles are similar to pistols in that you will want to remove residue from the bolt carrier, gas tube, and ejector port.
  4. Clean the outside with a little cleaner and a lint-free cloth. Between all the shooting, dust, and your greasy hands, it needs a little TLC to remove substances that can mar the finish.
  5. Lubricate the moving parts of your weapon completely, but be sure not to overdo it. Too much lubricant becomes sticky, gumming up the works and attracting dust and lint. A light coating is all that’s needed for reliable gun maintenance.
  6. Apply protectant to keep your gun safe from the elements, case dings, and holster wear.

Periodic Maintenance Checks

Close up photo of a man disassembling and cleaning his handgun

Sometimes your weapon may need a little more in-depth care. This can include a more complete disassembly and cleaning of the weapon piece by piece. It may help to have build schematics on hand. This is a great opportunity to look for signs of stress or wear that wouldn’t be found during normal cleaning and storage. Make sure you understand your weapon before tackling this project and only go as far as you are comfortable with.

Restoring Your Firearm

Over time, parts can wear out and need to be replaced. Usually, if you can disassemble the gun far enough to find the damage, you can fix the damage with quality parts, the right tools, and a little bit of dedication and effort. Some of the most common replacements include:

  • Barrels – If your weapon spends most of its time in a gun storage locker as a “safe queen,” you may never need to change a barrel. As bullets travel down the barrel, being spun by friction with the rifling, they will slowly wear down these grooves. Eventually, accuracy will suffer. Swapping out an older barrel for a new precision barrel can be as easy as field-stripping and switching parts for some guns, while others may require the removal of a pin or nut that retains it. 
  • Springs – Springs need to return to their uncompressed form periodically to stay healthy, so even a seldom-used gun usually in storage may need to have a spring replaced after an extended time under pressure. Meanwhile, an often-used weapon may see its recoil spring start to get spongy after tens of thousands of rounds. Luckily, most springs on the weapon are easily located and replaced. When storing firearms long-term, plan to either make sure the springs aren’t under load or periodically release the tension as part of your gun maintenance schedule.
  • Trigger Assemblies – Also a popular weapon upgrade, new triggers can restore a smooth even pull to a much-loved gun that’s developed more play or travel than you’d like. When considering a trigger replacement, take the time to look at what’s available, as you may even want to upgrade to a sharper tactical trigger at that time or a high-performance pull-release trigger mechanism.

Quality Firearms Parts and Accessories

When you’re ready to upgrade your weapon with custom parts, we have you covered with gear and accessories from some of the best in the business. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for the hottest deals straight to your inbox. Order your performance gun parts from JSD Supply today.