This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of The Illinois Shooter
When shooters are asked about how they cleaned their guns, they likely reply that it was done on just the barrel bore and included a typical outside wipe-down. That at least covers the basics, but some mechanisms are so complex that few are attempting anything approaching disassembly. Some offers for gun cleaning at local shops are nothing like a complete teardown, but instead some combination of soak, scrub, or spray. The clue is that the price is too low for professional shops, where experienced gunsmiths know to thoroughly disassemble and inspect the parts after cleansing and before reassembly and testing.
When more in-depth work is done in non-professional shops, it is usually just a field-strip removal of major assemblies. However, the assemblies get no more than a soak, spray, or toothbrush scrub to remove accumulation. A few do extended soaking or even an ultrasonic cleaner dunk, but, again, without removing parts. There can be no in-depth flushing of recesses, blind holes, and screw threads while parts still occupy those spaces. Consequently, there is no assurance of removing crud that could cause malfunctions. That type of cleaning is no more conducive to longterm results than bathing a baby without removing the diaper—the cleansing and inspections will be incomplete. Such shortcuts are only an expedient method for limited-term results and not one that provides long-term reliability. This cleaning might be considered as “spray-n-pray,” since the owner hopes no hidden problem will chafe him shortly thereafter.
As luck might have it, the residue (looks like a bit of straw at the right end, as well) found when the mechanism was opened showed that dried mud could block the full motion of parts. The blockage of the locking was so severe that the trigger connector was out of position to the degree that prevented trigger function. This was fortunate since the barrels were not fully closed and firing in this condition could be harmful to those parts. Brushing free this clod works, but if this section received unintentional contamination, consider what might have fallen into the opening below and migrated farther into the internals.
Some of the lower parts showed enough residue to warrant deep cleaning, but due to the design, there was little ingress (of mud and straw) because of tight gaps that restrict the grit from passing through. The parts that extend (such as the two chromed pieces) may block motion like a tennis ball under the brake pedal, so external crud can still impede the gun’s operation. There is, however, no assurance that any design can be free from firing residues, dirt or field residue, and moisture. Lubricants, protectants, stainless metals, and coatings can help slow corrosion, but for the gun to continue functioning as crud builds up requires room for the residue, where it will not reach a level that the motion of the parts is severely affected. For example, the Mossberg 500 design with part gaps (590A-1 version passing mil-spec testing) and the Swiss watch that can be stopped by an eyelash are at opposite ends of the dirt-tolerance spectrum.
Using shortcuts to reduce the pricing may be a tip-off that other work is being shortchanged. The gun owner does not know what crud remains hidden in an abbreviated cleaning, but he should know that it could affect the reliability and accuracy of the work. A cheaper shortcut may end up costing more than the priciest deep cleaning.
It is only possible to know the exact condition of a complex frame mechanism when it has been completely dismantled. Nothing short of thoroughness is required to ensure that your gun problems are dealt with appropriately. Make sure that the shop you patronize gives you precise information upfront on how they will clean your gun. You will avoid disappointment later.
For more gunsmith advice from Kirby Schupp, visit The Shotgun Shop at http:// theshotgunshop.net or contact him at theshotgunshop@ hotmail.com.