Cleaning (and Maintenance) Schedules; When Do You Do It?

Tom R
by Tom R

Another topic wreathed in myth and lore among firearms enthusiasts is the cleaning of their toys and tools. Some say never clean it, some clean every X number of rounds, some clean after every trip. Some swear by Hoppes #9 (and I’ll admit there is something deeply nostalgic about the scent), some by motor oil or crisco, some by lubricant pens, some by dry lube… We can use bore snakes, cotton patches, ginormous cotton swabs, and brushes made of metal and synthetics. Maybe we dip the parts in brake cleaner or autoclave them. Maybe you just take the slide off and bang it on a hard surface until chunks of carbonized filth fly off, reassemble and keep running it.

Honestly I run my guns dirty… Should I? Probably not–but then again who is to say. I run them until they start feeling “dry” or “gritty” (and if I ever had one that started malfunctioning, I’d do it then). But until that point, I drop in a little lube and keep going. I’ve been running SLP2000 for a while now, and just haven’t really needed to focus much on the cleaning side (nor maintenance). I feel like I should have some sort of maintenance schedule, but am also curious to see how long they will run before failure (I keep a pretty accurate log of the round count on all of my weapons). If I ever kept one in storage and pulled it out, I’d give it a once over, but most of my hardware stays in pretty constant usage. Also if I shot corrosive ammo I’d clean after ever trip.

How often do you clean? And why? It is the way you were taught? A routine you have developed? Am I flat wrong (and if so, why, in your opinion, am I)? Do you think pistols need a different cleaning schedule than do carbines? Shotguns? Precision rifles?

Tom R
Tom R

Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he teaches wilderness medicine and runs an on-demand medical staffing business. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it--he is known (in certain circles) for his curse...ahem, find the breaking point of anything.You can reach him at tom.r AT or at

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  • Mike Lashewitz Mike Lashewitz on Mar 19, 2016

    I clean my weapons after every range trip ans they are kept in a dehumidified safe when not in use, oh except for those located strategically around the house. Which too go to the range every trip.

    With recent videos showing typical AR platform failures, EG galling and meltdown I prefer properly cleaned and lubed rather than guessing, "Is it OK?" Also I want to make sure the pork based lubricants are fresh. I most certainly would not be accused of rancid lubricants causing infections in self defense scenarios..... One has to set their priorities somewhere.

  • Brian M Brian M on Mar 21, 2016

    I only clean my weapons under 3 conditions:
    1. I'm using corrosive ammo.
    2. I'm going away for a prolonged period.
    3. I'm seeing lots of unexpected malfunctions.

    I do not clean after every range trip. The only time I clean immediately after a range trip is if I've been using corrosive ammunition, because that's the cost of maintaining a functional weapon while saving meaningfully on ammunition.
    I'm a student who is gun owner, which means I'm without my firearms for prolonged periods of months on end. Naturally, I clean and lubricate them before I go off so as to make sure the guns are in proper working order before I leave, to make sure they are lubricated before I go, to protect them from rust in my absence, and to ensure that if anyone in the family somehow has need of them, or wishes to go shooting they're all good to go. That is actually why I refrained from buying corrosive ammo for a while until I had set up a permanent range bag with commercial ammo ready to go.
    I will clean if a weapon suddenly starts malfunctioning a lot. I did this only one time, and that was when I first shot my M57. The factory lube, if it was even present in the first place, was simply not cutting it. So I took it home, took it apart, and gave it a bath in automatic transmission fluid. So nowadays, all new acquisitions get a nice soak in a bucket of ATF.

    I won't lie -- I am one of the world's laziest men when it comes to routine tasks. I do something like cleaning when it's clear I need to do it, like when I'm seeing carbon deposits in a shiny barrel, or I'm wondering if I'm looking at rust. Part of the reason I make use of corrosive ammo is not just the savings, but also so that I guarantee that I will end up ultimately ramming the responsibility of proper maintenance through my thick skull. So far, it's worked.