A clean sweep: there's no shortage of items to make firearms maintenance easier than it was in days past.
Molycoated bullets, non-corrosive primers, mega-potent solvents, lead scrapers, copper busters, bore snakes and wonder sprays have, it's safe to say, taken us past the "don't let the sun set on a dirty gun" philosophy--a work ethic hammered into me by my dad (which was, no doubt, hammered into him by his dad).
But even though you still have to do the hands-on drill eventually, products out on the market can definitely reduce the amount of elbow grease you'll need (hard work may never have killed anyone, but why take chances?). Any bottled fluid, aerosol, angled gizmo or chemical-impregnated cloth item to make the chore less onerous rates as highly desirable in my book.
First for me is Tetra Gun's Action Blaster, an aerosol degreaser/cleaner. I used it for the first time after pulling the trigger group from a heavily used Benelli Super 90 for the first time, and going yecchh after seeing lots of carbon fouling, unburnt powder flakes and petrified lube goo. A long squirt and everything was quickly flushed out, and what was left was considerably brightened up. One caveat: Don't forget to re-lube after going crazy with this or any other degreasing agent.
Black Rain Ordnance, along with their Premium Cleaner & Solvent, has an aerosol rust preventative/ lubricant billed as "Water Displacement for Firearms." It's formulated, as the label says, to "protect firearms from saltwater and freshwater in the most extreme weather conditions." Although obviously marketed toward hardcore LE and military types, this should be a natural for waterfowlers-- particularly those small-craft aficionados addicted to hunting sea ducks (eiders, old squaws, buffleheads). Cold wind blowing saltwater spray can penetrate every crease and cranny of your pet fowling piece--and the results can really start to show after you've returned home to a warmer environment. Kind of like what happens to car bodies in the Midwest after a hard winter of driving on salted roads. Plus, Black Rain has put the stuff in a small, easy-to-pack 4-ounce can so you'll be less likely to leave it out of your gear bag.
On the optics side, Black Rain also offers a 2-ounce spray container filled with what they refer to as Premium Anti Fog & Lens Cleaner. It does a bang-up job on scopes, binoculars, shooting glasses and--despite its "tactical" billing-- even the reading glasses used by optically challenged magazine editors.
Gun specific seems to be the order of the day when it comes to aerosols. Mil-Comm Revolver Blast is a cleaner/lubricant formulated to keep your revolver running. It's synthetic, non-toxic and does an excellent job of keeping cylinders spinning, ejector rods kicking out empties and all moving parts on your pet Smith, Colt, Ruger or Taurus moving smoothly.
Birchwood Casey of Shoot-N-C target fame has a couple of items that, at least for me, have become indispensable. The first is their Lead Remover & Polishing Cloth. As the name implies, this is a 6 x 9-inch cloth which--when applied with manly vigor--removes burn rings and carbon residue from around the muzzles, ports, cylinders and top-straps of revolvers--not to mention the ejection ports, chambers and slide rails of auto-pistols (and shotgun choke tubes).
The cloth is recommended for stainless and nickeled guns--which can get to looking pretty blacked-up and scorched after a couple hundred rounds. Once cut in appropriately-sized squares, the cloth can also be used to scrub light lead deposits from bores, charge holes and forcing cones. If you want to keep your stainless gun looking, well, stainless, this is what you want. Just remember, this item is not recommended for blued guns, as heavy use of it will thin or abrade the finish.
Speaking of scrubbing, for years I used a worn-out toothbrush dipped in solvent as kind of a one-size-fits-all tool for sweeping gunk out of slide rail recesses, from under revolver ejector stars, off bolt faces, in magazine wells and around the mouths of chambers.
Well, to be honest, one size really doesn't fit all, which is why Birchwood Casey's Angled Cleaning Brushes make all kinds of good sense. They come in a set of three (each in a different length) and feature bristles made of stainless steel (for hard metals), plus nylon and bronze if you're worried-- cosmetically speaking--about something getting scratched. They're solvent and corrosion resistant--so you won't have to worry too much about them eventually coming apart.
When it comes to cleaning a bore, pulling makes more sense than pushing. Probably more old guns have had their bores damaged by tweaked cleaning rods (usually jointed) than through benign neglect. This brings us to the Hoppe's Bore Snake. Consisting of a brass bristle-loaded, braided pull cord with a weight (to drop down the barrel from the breech end), these things have pretty much supplanted cleaning rods in my maintenance arsenal.
I say "pretty much" because some heavy-duty rifle-cleaning chores (such as dealing with ultra-horrible copper fouling) still require a cradle, high-quality cleaning rod, correctly-sized brushes and a bore guide. But my days of breaking all that stuff out after each and every casual shooting session are pretty much done. Used in conjunction with a foaming bore cleaner or solvent such as Sweet's or Hoppe's, the Bore Snake--available in all of the calibers or gauge sizes any responsible adult could ask for--is one of the truly great, "Why didn't / think of it?" gun gizmos. When the Bore Snake gets dirty and impregnated with whatever it's yanked out of your bore--and it will--just throw it in the wash. But put it in a bag or sock first so it doesn't get wrapped around your washing machine agitator.
"Quite often 'Campfire Tales' becomes very personal, and at first I was hesitant to start such an endeavor. But to me, the most rewarding thing is all the readers I have heard from who found a particular topic really resonated with them, or really brought up memories from their lives. Good shootin and God bless, John."
Every gun magazine worth its subscription price needs a flagship columnist. Usually you'll find him on the last page (that's why so many true believers start thumbing through each issue back-to-front). And our last page (OK, two pages) just happens to be the designated parking spot for John Taffin's Campfire Tales. John has been amusing, educating and otherwise entertaining GUNS readers since the first installment back in September 2001. Now his many fans can have the entire compilation in an easily-downloadable PDF format for $15. Simply go to this link: www. gunsmagazine.com/store/products/ campfire-tales-2001-2013-pdf.
Black Rain Ordnance, Inc.
P.O. Box 1111
Neosho, MO 64850
7900 Fuller Rd.
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
Bushnell Outdoor Products
(Hoppe's Bore Snake)
Overland Park, KS 66214
8 Vreeland Rd.
Florham Park, NJ 07932
Mil-Comm Products Co.
2 Carlton Ave.
East Rutherford, NJ 07073
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