Thursday, January 25, 2018

Gun Maintenance: Kicking the tires and checking the oil.

A gun is not a mythological and magical device.  It isn't powered by voodoo, unicorn tears, or fairy dust.  It's a mechanical device that contains and harnesses an explosive force caused by burning propellant to both move a projectile and cause itself to mechanically cycle.  Mechanical devices take some lube, some maintenance, and some attention to insure they continue to function reliably, especially when such devices are carried daily and subject to pocket lint, dust, sweat (salt, very corrosive), heat, and humidity.

Cleaning is deceivingly simple.  If you see anything but pristine metal/plastic, clean it.  Carbon is a natural byproduct of discharging cartridges, and it will be abundant in a well shot firearm.  Any decent cleaning kit should include a nylon brush (old toothbrush works fine) and that will clean most loose carbon very quickly.  I keep an old tee shirt handy to clean the brush itself so you aren't just smearing around dirt.  A bit of cleaner or oil (more kinds than can be listed, I like Ballistol personally) may be required to loosen stubborn or baked on carbon. A brass brush may also be necessary if a little more aggressive measure is required, though care should be taken as this may disfigure a gun's finish (on internals or a stainless gun, this is obviously less of a concern). The point is to clean out any debris and dirt, not to move or disfigure metal.

Lubing is where the court of public opinion starts to weigh in, as each person's own experience comes into play.  Some like to run a gun "wet", practically dripping oil.  You only need to get a spritz of hot oil in your face a single time to see that isn't preferable all the time, though some will insist their gun ONLY runs when dripping wet with lube.  I would argue their gun has a mechanical problem they are trying to mask.  Some insist their guns can and SHOULD be run dry.  Metal + metal - Lube = premature metal wear and more friction.  Since most of the firearms we would consider for carry use run off of either recoil and spring pressure (modern handguns) or a myriad or small tight tolerance parts (double action revolvers) the complete absence of lube is a really bad idea.  For a carry gun, I place just enough oil to lightly coat moving parts.  Using a precision bottle helps to prevent over application and helps get the oil exactly where it needs to be.  I typically apply oil, cycle several times, wipe everything out I can leaving only a thin smear.  If a gun can't run with an absolute minimum amount of lubrication, then I say something is going on that needs to be addressed.  You'll also appreciate not over-oiling a gun on laundry day when you have to get gun oil stains out of your pants and shirts.

Lastly is parts replacement.  Semi auto firearms run off of a carefully balanced ballet of forces and counter forces, which relies heavily on springs.  With every cycle, these springs wear (though not visible in many cases.)  When the spring tension/pressure is appreciably altered, they should be replaced by either a well informed gun owner or a gunsmith.  Failure to do so will result in decreased reliability.  You revolver guys aren't out of the woods either, it isn't magic that makes that hammer rotate and smack a primer when you pull the trigger.  Opinions on how often to change certain springs in certain firearms varies wildly.  Suffice to say, if you're shooting and training regularly, your firearm will give you more than sufficient indication it would like some attention at your earliest convenience.  Neglecting the warnings will cause it to become more vocal until it refuses to cooperate at all.

Gun maintenance isn't rocket surgery.  A little bit of cleaning, which I recommend following EVERY time it is discharged, keeps things running fairly smoothly.  I also make a point of cleaning a gun if it's sat unused for 60 days, which gets some fresh oil on to keep corrosion at bay and lets me check for rust or other oxidation.  Leaving your gun sitting in a holster in a sock drawer for six months to a year is a sure way to start the process of ruining a firearm.  Lubrication isn't an exactly science, but a necessary part of your firearm's care and feeding.  Enough to keep things from being gritty, not so much that it's dripping, and there is a fair tolerance between the two that keeps things happy.  Above all, do not neglect your firearm to rust away in a closet nor ignore it when it starts to complain.  Either behavior will almost guarantee a firearm that is not ready to defend your life if it is called upon. - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Brand new to guns?

In the circles I travel, firearms are a common and well traveled topic.  I carry just about every day, and am intimately familiar with firearms, as it would be fair to say many of the people I know are.  For us, the concept that a person DOESN'T know about firearms is not something humorous, but more something we have trouble wrapping our heads around.  It is because of that we often forget to reach out to the new guys and bring them along in this world we live in.

What to buy, and how to buy it:  While I'm always keen on finding a deal, I never recommend a used firearm for a first timer.  Quite to the contrary, I recommend you Google or check your phone book, and get a list of ever local gun store within a reasonable distance of your home.  Treat this like buying a new car, you aren't going to buy the first car you see at whatever price the salesman insists is a great deal.  Go, admit you're a first time purchaser, listen to what he/she has to say, then politely decline to purchase and go to the next store.  After a few different points of view (because if you're asking for a recommendation that's what you're getting) you may be ready to drop some cash.

Regarding that recommendation, here's mine and I doubt Andrew would recommend much different: buy a full sized handgun or revolver from a known manufacturer, spend the money, and vigorously decline (or just walk out of the store) any recommendation to buy the smallest gun they have on hand.  For anything but a concealed carry gun, size is not a huge concern.  You need to pick a firearm you can comfortably grip, the controls and trigger are all within reach of your fingertips, and the weight is not so severe that you can not bring it up to shoulder level without your hands trembling.  That's it, no modifiers for brand, striker fired or hammer fired, revolver or semi auto.  Those are all personal choices, but for goodness sake do not buy a J frame revolver or a sub compact for a bedside gun.  You're sacrificing muzzle energy and capacity with no other benefit.

While you're in the store, get a cleaning kit.  It doesn't need to be fancy, but I am expecting you'll spend time training and shooting this gun (if you aren't, leave it in the store and spend the money on a home alarm, or a large dog) and that will demand it be cleaned and lubricated afterwards.  I even recommend you field strip, clean, and lube a brand new gun so that you can insure it is ready for use and you're familiar with the takedown procedure.  Also, if you bought a semi auto and it has less than three magazines, remedy that.  Magazine springs are wear items, enough use will cause them to not reliably lock the slide back on an empty magazine.  If that happens, bench that magazine until it can be remedied: that's why you have multiple mags.  If you have a revolver, I recommend a speed loader or two (see our Youtube vid for speed loaders).  Safariland Comp J2's are my pick personally.

Please resist the temptation after you've dropped this much money to cheap out and only buy a single box of ammunition, or buy the cheapest ammo on the shelf.  What you're looking for is a hollow point premium defensive round from a popular manufacturer.  Some other kind of ammo may be the current new hotness around the gun store, but sticking to something like Hornady Critical Defense/Critical Duty, Federal Hydrashok/HST, Remington Golden Sabre, or similar (make friends with a local cop and ask what his department issues) will guarantee you at least a sufficient choice.  No, it won't be cheap as defensive ammo typically runs $0.60 - $1.00 per bullet, but what is your life worth?  I'd say buy a box of 100, and a few boxes or cheaper "range" or plinking ammo.  It isn't milk, it doesn't spoil, it's almost never cheaper to buy the day after you bought yours.

And after you've spent $400-$500 on a handgun, a few hundred on ammunition and spare mags, some more on a holster (We covered that on Episode 46 of our podcast) I'm going to beat your wallet up once again for you to pay $100-$150 for some training with your local firearms instructor.  I dislike the NRA with nearly religious fervor, but an NRA certified instructor will have a reasonably good curriculum with which to baptize you into the ranks of safe firearm owners.  Do not skip this step unless you have a friend that is VERY proficient and safe and willing to take you under their wing.

If all of the above hasn't completely scared you off, and it shouldn't, know that "gun people" tend to be very enthusiastic and helpful towards other gun people.  Most of us, being faced with a new but open minded person, will happily offer advice and assistance to the best of any of our abilities.  Andrew and I have both extended offers to others to bring them to the range and help them get started.  Hopefully the above has given you a good jumping off point, and if you have any questions I certainly hope you'll come find us in our Facebook Group and not be shy asking for help. - Phil Rabalais