Earlier during muzzleloader season, I made an amateur mistake. The perfect opportunity presented itself, with a decent size buck 35 yards upwind walking broadside. I pulled my muzzleloader up to my shoulder, I took my time and placed the reticle of my scope slightly behind the shoulder. I was positive that I had this one in the bag and later on that day I would be enjoying delicious back strap for lunch.
I slowed my breathing, took a deep breath, and peered through my scope. I pulled the trigger, and only the cap went off… The buck looked up, and all I saw was that iconic white tail darting through the woods. Stunned as I was, I immediately knew what the culprit was; I had failed to clean my muzzleloader after shooting it earlier in the year at the range. The creosote that had built up blocked the percussion cap from igniting the black powder.
As I went home, I took my muzzleloader apart and saw the issue immediately, and I thought to myself how could I have made such a rookie mistake. I thought back to my experience in the Marine Corps and how disappointed I was in myself. From day one in the Marines, you are taught that your weapon is the most important item in your possession.
They often said the pyramid of importance was weapon, body, gear. First, you clean your weapon, then you clean your body, and after that, you were to clean your gear. There was rarely a day during my two deployments to Afghanistan that I didn’t sit down with my gun and at the very minimum perform basic weapons maintenance, whether that was lubing up my M-4 or removing all of the dust with a brush.
There was always some form of weapons maintenance that had to be completed. We were constantly breaking down our weapons and cleaning them until they were spotless, failing to have a clean weapon in Afghanistan could be the difference between life or death in a firefight.
While the cost isn’t as high deer hunting, I still failed to keep my muzzleloader clean, and it cost me a full freezer. That day I went home and went on a binge of sorts and brought all my guns out and went to work cleaning them all. There are three main reasons to maintain a clean weapon at all times.
First and foremost, when you take a firearm out, you need it to work how it was designed. Whether you were deer hunting like I was, or you conceal and carry every day. It doesn’t make a lick of sense to carry a dirty firearm that you cannot rely on when you need it. It may be even more so important for someone who conceals and carries on a regular basis.
If the situation does arise and an active shooter or a crime is taking place, when you pull your firearm you need to know that it will work. Otherwise, you are carrying around a 3 lb paperweight and failing to have that gun ready to roll when it is needed may ultimately be the last mistake you ever make. That is why every day in the Marines we cleaned our weapons to ensure that they would work when the time ultimately came.
Some guns are meticulous and require a great deal of attention, others are not as particular and only require basic maintenance. Either way though, it is important to give that gun a good cleaning and oiling to ensure that it is ready to go when the time comes. A gun is a tool, and it is only as effective as you make it, even if you spend every day on the range and consider yourself an amazing shot, if the gun fails to work you are useless in a dangerous situation.
Extend the Weapon’s Life
Hopefully, we are all lucky enough to have that .22 that has been passed down from generation to generation, or if you are new in the firearms world, maybe you would want to pass your firearms down to your children. To keep the tradition alive, you must maintain the firearm and cleaning the gun regular basis will help to ensure that the gun can be passed on your children’s children. Failing to do so will only lead it to rust and start falling apart. That’s why it's important, especially after every time you take it out that you sit down and clean it.
If I put a gun back in the case generally life gets busy, and I forget to clean it as I did with my muzzleloader. Following my hunting incident, I started a new method where I put the gun on my workbench and get it cleaned either that night or the following day before I store it back in the gun cabinet.
Cleaning a firearm lets, you see the inner workings of your gun. Understanding the weapon not only helps to make a better firearm owner but an all-around better shooter. In the Marine Corps, you did everything with your weapon. You slept, ate, and even used the bathroom with your weapon. The weapon never left your side, and It helped built an extreme level of familiarity with the weapon. After years of carrying the same weapon around you can disassemble and reassemble the weapon blindfolded and having that level of familiarity really helps to detect any issues you may be having and how to fix them.
Building up that familiarity helps to troubleshoot issues you may be having. When you clean your gun and see the inner workings, you will be better prepared to diagnose and possibly correct issues on your own, instead of taking the gun to a gunsmith and having them correct the issue. It generally helps to give you a better understanding of your firearm and makes you a better firearm owner.
Essentials for Cleaning
Investing in a good cleaning kit is important. My gun cleaning kit is simple, and I have all the basic pieces to maintain all of my firearms in different calibers. I have a good brush; I usually buy mine at Walmart or CVS, CLP (Cleaning Lubricant, Protectant), a kit with the different brushes meant for different calibers, as well as a good bore snake.
These basic pieces can maintain just about any firearm in almost perfect condition. Some more advanced pieces include a bore light, Rem action cleaner, or a good wax to maintain the walnut stock on your grandpa’s 30-06.
Maintaining a clean gun is important no matter what you are doing in the shooting industry. Whether you are a police officer, conceal and carry daily, or a deer and duck hunter, that weapon is a tool. To ensure that it works appropriately you must clean it regularly. Taking care of that weapon will ensure that is works when you need it. It will also help you familiarize yourself with it and in the end, it will help it last for generations to come.
A gun can be a long-term investment if you take the time to maintain and clean it on a regular basis. Otherwise, you are throwing money down the drain when you don’t clean your guns.