Remember what we’ve said about maintenance before: a gun is a machine, and maintenance is like maintenance of any other machine. Every firearm contains several classes of parts. Some of these parts may be so over-engineered they’ll never fail; other, parts that the manufacturer expects that you will replace (like the battery in your car, or springs in your gun, or wipes in an old-style suppressor); and still other parts can be expected to wear out depending on how hard you use them — parts that will fail due to wear or fatigue if not replaced pre-emptively.
Failure from overstress is another thing entirely. You can blow up any gun with Uncle Bubba’s Dynamite Hot Loads, even a perfectly produced firearm straight out of the box for the first time with the dealer’s hang tag still dangling from the trigger guard.
The parts you need to prepare to replace are the ones subject to physical wear and to fatigue failure. And there are several ways to do it. You can replace parts that are subject to wear and fatigue failure:
- When they actually fail. A lot of people do this, and if it’s not a machine that you depend on for life, Replace On Failure works just fine.
- When an inspection reveals that the parts are showing signs of imminent failure. At the risk of overstating the obvious, this means you have to conduct inspections on some sort of a schedule timely enough to find bad parts before they fail… or your Replace On Condition plan becomes unplanned Replace On Failure.
- When a certain interval has passed, which might be a calendar schedule or might be number of operating hours or cycles. This approach is called Replace On Schedule; and whether it’s a good or a bad plan depends on the devilish details of the case.
Modern firearms are much more reliable than their historical forbears. And modern ammunition is, as well, plus it also tends to be noncorrosive.
Another part of maintenance is cleaning. How frequently should you clean your guns? The answer may surprise you. Given modern designs and materials, noncorrosive ammunition, and reliable modern systems, the real requirement to clean an AR or a Glock is this: when it absolutely needs to be cleaned because the mung buildup has begun to interfere with the firearms’ functions.
Here’s a picture of Kyle Defoor’s glock, as it came up for on-condition maintenance and was immediately scheduled for a cleaning.
The pistol was essentially never cleaned. You’re looking at 7,500 rounds of baked-on range mung, and it was still working, but the slide had started slowing down.
Many people overclean their weapons, wearing the protective finish off and exposing their guns to the risk of corrosion. How come, when Kyle’s pistol shows it’s not necessary (and many others, Mountain Guerrilla comes to mind, have gone even longer between cleanings on rifle platforms). If it’s designed right, manufactured right and assembled right, it’ll keep rocking, or, as in this case, Glocking.
So why do we overclean? History, and culture. Used to be priming compounds like fulminate of mercury or lead picrate, and some chemicals in propulsive powders, were deadly to firearms. Thorough, frequent cleaning was the last line of defense. Now it’s come full circle — cleaning can actually put fine old firearms at more risk than leaving them alone!