Looking After Your Handgun

January 18, 2012


The following is a guest post that was submitted to You Can Carry. To submit a guest post contact us.

Note from You Can Carry: I prefer to organize my cleaning supplies in a fishing tackle box. This keeps things organized and portable. I had so many cleaning kits and brushes for different calibers that I couldn’t keep everything straight. When I switched it made cleaning much easier and more enjoyable. When I get started I lay a towel down and work on one gun at a time (I usually will clean multiple guns in one sitting). I put on a show as I clean and it can make for a fun evening. 

Looking After Your Handgun

Cleaning your concealed carry gun is important for it to work properly when you need it. Those of us who carry a concealed weapon do so in the hope that we will never have to use it. Nobody wants to have to face a life or death situation where you are forced to draw your weapon and shoot somebody. However, having a weapon on your person can mean the difference between your life and the life of somebody you care about, or that of a violent criminal.

You might carry because of your job, such as a security guard, or carry because of a personal conviction in the 2nd Amendment, or maybe you simply are a driver and want to lower your courier insurance, or just to ensure the safety of you and your family. Whatever your reason, carrying a weapon that is not reliable because of jams or doesn’t fire when you need it to, can be worse than not carrying a weapon at all. The good news is that if you have purchased a reliable weapon, then you can care for your gun to minimize the risk of failures in the gun. The cause for most weapon malfunctions is simply a lack of maintenance, so making sure the weapon you carry is properly looked after will prevent it from letting you down when you need it the most.


The most important maintenance required to keep a handgun in good working order is cleaning.  Cleaning is essential, not just to prevent a good from malfunctioning, but also to ensure accuracy and to make sure the gun lasts for many years to come. You should ideally clean your gun every time you use it, but this may not always be practical, depending on how often you shoot, but you should make sure you clean it at regular intervals. Even a gun that hasn’t been used will require regular cleaning, as dust will gather in the barrel and working parts, so even if you haven’t fired your gun in a while, giving it a regular clean will make sure it remains in good working order. When you first get a new gun, you should clean it and take it to the range to identify how the gun likes to operate. Some guns prefer to be very clean and “wet” (very oily), while others prefer to run a little more dry. Before you ever carry a gun you should identify how the gun prefers to operate and then maintain the gun in that manner.

It may sound obvious, but it is a point worth reinforcing – never try to clean a loaded gun. Always follow proper firearm safety rules.  The magazine should be removed and the gun should be checked to make sure no ammunition is in the chamber. You should also remove all live ammunition from the room your are cleaning it in so that you have to consciously re-load the gun once you are finished. A mistake here would at best put a small hole in something you don’t want to have a hole (perhaps your tv) and at worst could be deadly.  Once the weapon is unloaded, open the chamber again and clean from the chamber end to the barrel using a cleaning rod. This will prevent the muzzle end from wearing and will prevent you pushing debris into the action and frame.

Use a toothbrush, cut up rags/t-shirts, firearm cleaning brush, or cotton swabs to clean the action and frame and make sure you get into all the hard to reach places where carbon can build up. Gun cleaner or other solvent will help break down any hard to remove residues. If you are cleaning a revolver, make sure you clean the front of the cylinder and breach of the barrel, as powder often builds up in these areas.

A light coating of oil on all metal parts will add protection and prevent corrosion. Again, the amount of oil you leave on the firearm should depend on how your gun functions with the oil on it. You should also clean the outside of the gun, using a lightly oiled rag to remove fingerprints, as these can cause rust. Once the gun is cleaned, don’t forget to check the firing mechanism to ensure everything is properly assembled and working correctly.


Guns also need to be stored correctly to ensure moisture doesn’t creep in and cause corrosion. Most people store their guns in a lockable steel case or gun safe, which is fine, but placing a few silica packs will help keep moisture at bay. If you are storing a gun for a prolonged period of time without use, coating it in gun grease will prevent rusting, but the gun will need a thorough clean when you remove it for use.

Ammunition needs to be stored carefully too. You should keep all ammunition in a cool, dry and dark place. This matters less if you use your gun regularly and are continually buying ammunition, but if you do go through a lot of ammunition, make sure you always use the oldest stock first because if shells have been in a box for a long period, they may fail. Ammunition has both a shelf life and a service life, and these should be noted. While most small arms ammunition has an infinite shelf life, this is only applicable to ammunition stored correctly. For long-term storage, an ammo box with a good seal will make sure the ammunition is kept cool, dry and dark. If ammunition has been stored for a long time, it’s also worth giving it a clean before use. When storing ammunition in a magazine for extended periods of time it would be wise to reduce the number of rounds by 2 below full capacity to avoid excessive wear on the springs inside the mag.

Following these simple guidelines can help keep your firearms in safe, working condition so you can rely on them for when you need them the most.


Rob is the Founder, Editor, and writer for You Can Carry. He became interested in concealed carry, self-defense, and emergency/personal preparation as he got married and had his first kid. His new-found desire to protect his family and keep them safe led him to getting a concealed firearm permit from the state of Utah, which began an increasing love for firearms and concealed carry. He is a NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and a Utah Concealed Firearms Permit Instructor. Connect with Rob on Google+

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