A few years ago, I sustained an injury while on duty which caused my Colt Government Model to become submerged in soupy mud. Although the firearm would have still functioned if necessary, it had become thoroughly soaked and was eventually affected by corrosion on its internal components.
Brownells provided me with prompt assistance, but it still took a few days to obtain the necessary replacement parts, leaving my firearm temporarily out of commission. Consequently, I learned to keep several spare parts on hand for my 1911.
Regardless of the type of firearm you rely on, it is essential to be prepared for routine maintenance and possible part failures. Regularly changing the lubricant and springs is a standard practice that will help to prolong the lifespan of your handgun.
As a firearms instructor and sometimes a gunsmith, I have encountered numerous firearm malfunctions, with the majority of them resulting from operator errors. However, many failures could have been prevented by proper maintenance, including changing the springs and providing adequate lubrication. Neglecting these basic practices can significantly reduce the effectiveness and useful life of your firearm, and even worse, it can lead to a malfunction during a critical incident.
Keep it simple
Keeping your firearm clean is one of the most important aspects of firearm maintenance. Neglecting to clean your gun regularly can lead to various issues that may impede its function, reduce slide and bolt velocity, and even cause a failure to extract. If there is debris under the extractor or particles in the firing pin channel, it can cause the firing pin to stop short, resulting in a malfunction. Additionally, if there is debris in the action, it can stop the action altogether.
Furthermore, if your firearm is exposed to salts and not cleaned or oiled properly, it can cause corrosion on the metal components. Over time, this can lead to a reduction in accuracy and can ultimately affect the lifespan of your firearm. If the bore is not scrubbed clean of crud, lead, and copper deposits, it can significantly reduce your accuracy. Moreover, certain parts of your firearm, such as the 1911 barrel bushing, Beretta 92 locking wedge, and AR-15 locking lugs, are more prone to breakage if they are not cleaned properly.
When it comes to maintaining your firearm, it is important to treat it like you would a well-maintained vehicle. Just as a vehicle requires regular oil changes to keep it running smoothly, your firearm requires regular cleaning to ensure that it functions properly. Lubrication is also a crucial part of firearm maintenance, as it helps to reduce friction between moving parts. However, lubrication can wear off over time, especially if you have been carrying your firearm for an extended period.
In addition to regular cleaning and lubrication, there are certain parts of your firearm that may need to be replaced over time. Grips, for instance, can crack and become worn over time, and it is important to replace them as needed. Model 1911 grip screws are a common replacement item that you should always have on hand. Magazines also have a limited lifespan and will eventually need to be replaced. It is a good idea to have a spare magazine on hand in case of an emergency, but make sure that it has been tested on the range before you store it away.
It is also worth noting that some magazines may require additional testing and tweaking before they run smoothly. While it is rare for a Glock, SIG, Beretta, or HK magazine to fail when new, it is always a good idea to check and test them before relying on them for self-defense or other critical situations.
Gun oil recommendations
Gun Butter gun oil is an excellent choice as it reduces wear, extends the lifespan of your firearms, and provides rust protection for up to two years. This high-quality lubricant adheres well and can be used safely on all types of metal-to-polymer and metal-to-metal firearms. It’s made from a unique blend of synthetic lubricants and can withstand extreme temperatures ranging from -20° F to over 400° F.
M-PRO 7 LPX
M-Pro 7 Gun Oil LPX is a premium lubricant and protectant specifically designed for advanced military and law enforcement weaponry used in extreme environmental operations. This oil is perfect for cleaning surface fouling without using solvents and is ideal for removing surface carbon buildup in the field. It also protects against wear, humidity, moisture, and even salt water. The oil leaves a long-lasting film that repels dust and dirt, making it great for long-term storage.
Shooters Choice FP-10
FP-10 Lubricant Elite is another top choice for gun oil. It’s designed to prevent friction and wear while protecting against metal damage, which eliminates most malfunctions due to unlubricated parts. It creates no build-up and does not change the tolerances of moving parts. The lubricant has been successfully tested in temperatures ranging from -76°F to more than 500°F.
Overall, using high-quality gun oil is essential for maintaining the lifespan of your firearms and preventing malfunctions. These recommendations are some of the best options available on the market, and each has its unique benefits that cater to different needs.
Practice versus combat
To ensure that your handgun performs well and safely, it’s important to maintain it properly. This involves cleaning and lubricating it at home before heading to the range for practice. You can also use snap caps and dummy rounds to check the extractor and feed function, as well as inspect for any issues that require addressing, such as grit under the extractor or improperly functioning springs.
Field stripping is necessary for cleaning a self-loading firearm thoroughly, and it’s important to learn how to change the springs as well. Firearms are complex machines with many parts, and even a small malfunction can cause the entire machine to shut down.
If you find that you don’t have the time for the level of maintenance required for a self-loading firearm, a manually operated firearm may be a better option. These firearms, such as pump action shotguns, bolt action rifles, and revolver handguns, still require maintenance, but the regimen isn’t as demanding.
Regardless of the type of firearm you choose, it’s important to give it attention even if it’s not fired. Neglect can lead to malfunctions that could potentially be life-threatening. For example, one student in a class experienced a failure to fire because of a hard object, possibly a breath mint, that was lodged in a pivot of the trigger. In another case, a pistol’s safety became rusted shut due to lack of maintenance. Stainless steel firearms aren’t completely resistant to corrosion and still require cleaning and lubrication. Other firearms were found with brass shavings and debris that caused malfunctions.
Regular maintenance and inspection can prevent these types of malfunctions, and ensure that your firearm performs reliably and safely when you need it most.
Find a safe location for cleaning your gun
When cleaning and maintaining your firearm, it’s important to find a safe and quiet location free from distractions. Choose a surface that won’t absorb cleaning materials, and consider using a TEKMAT mat for handguns as it includes a schematic of the pistol for reference.
For cleaning, consider using Sharp Shoot R green cleaning materials, which work well without the strong smells of conventional products. It’s also important to thoroughly check the firearm for proper function, ensuring no lint or debris is in the action and nothing is stuck under the extractor. With a carry gun, it’s important to replace the lubricant often, especially when carrying muzzle down as the lube tends to run forward.
Create a schedule for gun maintenance
Just like how a family car may indicate when it needs repairs or maintenance, a handgun also provides signs when it requires attention. One of the most noticeable signs is when the slide velocity of the firearm increases, indicating that the recoil spring may be weak and needs replacement.
On the other hand, a slowing slide velocity may indicate that the pistol is dirty and requires cleaning. It is important to note that recoil springs should be replaced after losing a free inch of travel, and it is easy to find replacement springs at fair prices from reliable sources like Brownells.
To maintain the proper function of a handgun, regular replacement of certain parts is necessary. For instance, it is recommended that recoil springs be replaced every 3,000 rounds, while firing pin springs should be replaced every 5,000 rounds.
Additionally, the extractor in a 1911 and the CZ 75 in most renditions should be replaced at approximately 8,000 rounds. Magazine springs are more challenging to gauge, but a noticeable decrease in the force required to load the magazine is an indication that the spring needs replacement. A weak magazine spring can result in feeding problems and improper locking of the slide lock on the magazine follower.
It is highly recommended to have a minimum of three magazines for a personal defense firearm, with one in the gun, one on the belt, and one resting. This ensures that there is always a functional magazine available when needed. Keeping these maintenance practices in mind will help keep your handgun functioning properly and reliably, providing peace of mind in critical situations.
Consider spare parts
It is important to keep spare magazines and clean, fresh ammunition readily available. Along with these essentials, it is also wise to keep a recoil spring and firing pin spring in your kit. Additionally, it is a good idea to have spare stocks or grips as they are prone to cracking over time. For more specific recommendations, it is important to note that short slide pistols are harder on recoil springs, and the shorter the slide, the higher the momentum that needs to be controlled.
On the other hand, the new Glock-type recoil spring/buffer seems to be more durable and seldom gives trouble. For 1911 pistols, grip screws and bushings are a must-have for spares, and a spare extractor from Ed Brown should also be included in your kit. It is important to specify Series 70 or Series 80 when ordering, and a barrel bushing is also recommended for those 1911s that use one. Make sure that the extractor and barrel bushing are pre-fitted, as fitting will need to be done.
For the Beretta 92A1, it is wise to keep a spare locking wedge (locking block) on hand, as they can crack at around 3,500 rounds. It is a good bet to have one available just in case. For the AR-15, an extractor is a good idea, and an NP3 coated bolt from Sharps Rifle Company can solve long-term wear problems.
If you own a Remington 700, it is recommended to keep an extractor and plunger in your kit. Glock fans should keep the trigger return spring on hand, and for K frame revolvers, a set of springs (service power) from Brownells is recommended. For other firearms, it is important to do some research and carefully consider the weak and strong points of each design. Studying the availability of parts before you make a purchase is also a wise decision. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your firearms are well-maintained and ready to perform when needed.