Copyright 2013,14,15,2016 Tim Siewert

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Tim Siewert LLC- Products for the passionate shooter

You don’t need a gunsmithing degree to be able to properly maintain your precious investments.  What you do need are the right supplies and enough information.  Whenever handling firearms the “Four Rules” should be strictly adhered to; see “Defensive Handgun 101, part 1”.  The following are my recommendations for what is necessary for good gun maintenance.

First, the right supplies:

#1- Oil and grease: most guns are made of steel; all barrels are made of steel; and oil is steel’s best friend.  But as far as guns go not just any oil will do.  A light weight, non-detergent oil is best.  My number one choice for gun oil is Marvel Mystery Oil®.  MMO is a petroleum product but it has additives that enhance its’ lubrication and rust preventative properties.  I use Break-free CLP on my AR; mostly because CLP was originally developed for use on the AR rifle.  I also use Kano Kroil® occasionally, mainly because I got some on a deal several years ago.  Kroil, according to the manufacturer, “creeps” into crevices.  I have not witnessed this phenomenon but it is a decent product.  While there are other “gun oils” available I have never found them to be any better than those I just enumerated.  For many special applications I use regular white, lithium-based, grease; usually on bearing surfaces where there is a lot of movement; more on this further on.  A 1 pound tub of grease will last a long time.  I also use “Blue” grease as well; it seems to enhance the finish on blued guns like Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers.  There is one other product that falls into this category that I would like to mention: G96 Gun Treatment.  I used this product many years ago but have not lately because for a long time I had no source.  If the formula has not changed it is a good product specifically designed for use on guns.  It is pricey though, I recently saw some at a gun show and the price was $15.00 for an 11oz. spray can.

#1A- A little side note here about lubricants: if you own air tools (pneumatic tools) all manufacturers of these tools recommend lubrication before each use session; a half dozen drops or so into the air inlet.  There is oil marketed as “air tool” oil.  Yet, you can do just as well by using Canola oil to lube your tools; Canola is much cheaper than air tool oil.  Canola oil was originally developed during WWII as a substitute, general purpose, lubricant because petroleum was in such great demand for fuel for the war effort.  Canola oil was never intended to be food product.  “Canola” stands for “Canadian Oil”.

#2- Cleaners: I have used a plethora of bore cleaners over the years and I still prefer Hoppes® #9 for general cleaning.  Hoppes does not contain ammonia and has additives that preserve the steel to a certain degree; not that you should forgo oil though.  I think Hoppes has a pleasant odor as well.  Generally, I do not use cleaners that contain ammonia except for WWII vintage GI bore cleaner and Tipton® “Truly remarkable bore solvent”.  GI bore cleaner is the preferred cleaner to use after shooting old surplus, possibly corrosive-primed, ammunition.  I do cut the GI bore cleaner with a product called B-12 Chem-tool; available at Wal-Mart.  GI bore cleaner is becoming increasingly hard to find and the B-12 stretches the bore cleaner without diminishing its effectiveness.  I use the Tipton product for heavily leaded revolver barrels; and shotguns to remove plastic fouling.  Ammonia corrodes steel quickly so I follow the GI and Tipton cleaners with a round of Hoppes immediately.  I also use Birchwood Casey® spray-cleaner and non-chlorinated brake cleaner aerosol for those hard to reach places.  Brake cleaner will cut any dirt, grease, or fouling and dries quickly leaving no residue but should be followed with either Hoppes or oil immediately.  When using brake cleaner, plastic gloves should be worn; do not allow brake cleaner to contact any body part; even the non-chlorinated stuff is toxic.

#3- Bore Guides 
The necessity of bore guides.... There are two parts of the barrel of any firearm that have a direct affect on the accuracy of said firearm: the throat and the crown.  Care should be taken to prevent damage to these two areas at all times.  Incorrect alignment of a cleaning rod can damage these two areas when cleaning the barrel; this is where the use of a bore guide is so important.  

Whether cleaning the barrel from the muzzle or the breech end, a bore guide properly aligns the cleaning rod with the bore of the firearm.  My bore guides are made from Delrin plastic and aluminum to insure years of service and have been designed for optimal alignment of the rod with the barrel to prevent any damage to the crown or the throat of your prized possession.

#4- Cleaning rods: First, I recommend never using a steel cleaning rod; steel cleaning rods are far more likely to cause damage to the bore of the firearm as well as the aforementioned throat and crown.  Like many other things, a good assortment of cleaning rods is wise.  While having a rod for every gun in your arsenal may be overkill, having at least one specific rod for every different barrel length and/or caliber is good planning.  First, cleaning rods should be of one piece construction; segmented rods are good for packing along on forays to the range or field as long as the rod is not steel and only used occasionally.  Segmented rods will abrade the barrel at the rod joints; the same is true for cleaning “chains” that are designed to be dropped down the barrel and pulled through; also, segmented rods tend to break, and strip, easily at the screw ends.  Second, I prefer rods made of either brass or graphite; I do not recommend steel or stainless steel rods.  Even Teflon coated, steel rods are not advisable because the Teflon coating will wear off exposing the steel rod.  Some, but not all, cleaning rods are made with a ball-bearing, swivel end either at the handle or business end; these are best.  1 ½” diameter PVC pipe is good for storing cleaning rods; schedule 160 is sufficient.

#4A- Rod attachments: jags, slotted ends, and brushes.  As far as a jag over a slotted rod end; I use both; it’s personal preference as long as these attachments are made of brass or aluminum.  Bronze bore brushes are a necessity; more on these later.  When using a bore brush always completely stroke the bore; never reverse direction in the barrel; reversing direction of the stroke of the brush in the barrel will cause the brush bristle ends to dig into the barrel which will leave tiny indentations in the barrel.  Do not use stainless steel brushes and the nylon brushes don’t work as well as the bronze brushes.

#5- Patch material and rags: I’m cheap; I save old skivvies, t-shirts, towels, sheets, pillow cases, etc. and cut them up for patch material and cleaning rags.  I have never bought gun cleaning patches or rags.  I keep a pair of small scissors with the rest of my cleaning gear dedicated for cutting patches and rags.  A supply of Q-tips® is great for applying a small amount of oil or grease and cleaning nooks and crevices; pipe-cleaners are also very useful for cleaning.  Extra-long Q-tips and pipe cleaners are available; check on-line for sources.  If you are going to follow my lead and cut your own cleaning patches, here are some general patch sizes: 3/4” for .22 cal.; 1” for .25 cal.; 1 ½” for .30 cal.; 2” for .44-.45 cal.; and 2 ½” for 12 ga.  All of these sizes are for square patches and you may have to adjust these slightly depending on your jag/slot end size.

#6- A rifle cleaning rest: I made my own out of a piece of 2”x12” stair material (clear fir) 4’ long.  Cut two 1’ pieces out of the 4’ piece, cut a U-shaped notch in one end of each 1’ piece centered: one notch large enough to accept the rifle stock, about 2 ½” -3” wide, in one piece and the other about 1 ½” wide, large enough for the barrel, in the other piece.  Attach each piece notch exposed to each end of the 2’ left-over piece with nails or screws.  Line each notch with a rag, felt, or scrap carpet to protect the gun.  Cut four triangular pieces of ½”- ¾” plywood 4” on a leg and attach with screws at the corners to stiffen the 1’ pieces.

#7- Of course you will need something to keep all of this stuff in so buy a tool box big enough to carry all of it.  I recommend this because not only will you have everything you need for cleaning in one place but you will also be able to take your gear to the range with you.  Many times I clean my rifle at the range before returning home.

*8- Other tools: a quality gunsmithing, screw driver kit is the first necessity.  Gunsmithing screw-drivers are different from standard screw-drivers.  These special tools are ground so that the driver engages the entire slot; this prevents the tool from buggering the screw.  Brownell’s, Midway, and Natchez Shooter’s Supply have excellent sets with interchangeable tips; these sets come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee; these will cover 90%+ of your gun needs.  One each: small brass hammer, wood, and leather mallets; small dead-blow hammer; a bench block; needle-nosed pliers, small and large is best; slip-joint pliers, assorted sizes; pin-punch set, preferably brass; dental type picks, for those hard to reach places; heavy-duty tweezers; old tooth brushes; small brass bristle brush.  Screw-drivers are not pry-bars, therefore one or two small pry-bars may be handy on occasion.  Depending on what types of guns are in your collection, you may need some specialty tools.  For example: a special tool is available to turn the barrel bushing of a 1911 to facilitate disassembly.  Any such tools can also live in your tool box.  If you are like me, you may need a second tool box.

#8A- Abrasives: a gunsmithing file set along with a needle file set; if you plan on doing some of your own gunsmithing.  Emery boards of the type used for manicures are also useful; these come in assorted grits just like sand-paper.  An assortment of small stones of various grits, shapes, and sizes are particularly useful for polishing bearing surfaces; sandpaper and steel wool of various grits for cleaning and polishing as well.  Lapping compound is like liquid sandpaper; it is designed to be used to “mate” bearing surfaces for a better fit; this is very handy when fine tuning actions; more on lapping compound later also.

Optional- An air-compressor and blow-gun are very useful in any shop; keep in mind though that compressed air is moisture laden.  Whenever using an air-compressor wear safety-glasses.  ¼” drive torque-wrench, one that is graduated in inch-pounds, may be needed for certain applications; i.e. the screws on certain scope mounts are specified to be installed at certain torque settings. An ultra-sonic cleaner is great for cleaning small parts.  If you plan on investing in a significant number of rifles and plan on having optic sights on them then a “bore-sighter” will save you a lot of time and ammo when it comes time to sight in a scope-sighted rifle.  A torpedo level; sometimes this is helpful when installing a scope on a rifle.

How to ensure that a level is good: not all new levels are spot on.  If you are going to purchase a level, the correct way to check it is against itself.  To do this; place the level on a horizontal surface (this surface does not have to be exactly level for this) and read the level.  Now reverse the level end to end and it should read the same.  Then turn the level over and do the same thing.  If the level does not read the same all four ways it is no good.  Do the same thing against a vertical surface.  Be sure that the level is in the exact same position every time.  Some levels will not read all four ways, i.e. it will only read end for end and not upside down; do not buy one of these.

With all of this, you will be well equipped to professionally clean your guns and perform many routine gunsmithing operations on all of your prized possessions.

A word of caution here: do not clean your guns on your reloading bench.  Clean your guns at a separate location.  My reloading bench is in my house; I clean my guns in the garage.  If you don’t reload shame on you; you should start.

NOTE:  Bore guides: these are designed to be used at the breech or muzzle end depending on the firearm.  Many people foolishly forgo the use of a bore guide.  Use of a bore guide; particularly on guns that have to be cleaned from the muzzle, protects the crown from damage during cleaning.  Nothing will diminish the accuracy of a rifle faster than a damaged crown.  Using a bore guide in the breech protects the throat and will keep solvents out of the action.  If you are cleaning a glass-bedded rifle, oil and solvents will compromise the bedding job and will damage the stock finish.  I have a number of bore guides for my rifles and other guns; many of which I manufacture myself.

In the next part I will cover cleaning and other operations.

Gun Maintenance, Part 1

By Tim Siewert

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