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It's gun cleaning season

| Friday, Jan. 16, 2009

Let's face it, guns aren't getting any cheaper. In fact, in many cases the value of used guns is increasing by leaps and bounds. That's why it's makes good sense to give the guns in your collection the best possible care.

For the most part, hunting seasons are over, at least until spring turkey. That's not the case for the avid varmint shooter, who will keep throwing lead all year long, but most shotguns and deer rifles have been put away to be stored for months to come. Now is the ideal time to give those favored shooting irons a well-deserved cleaning.

If there's one rule for good gun cleaning, it's this: Don't skimp on the quality of your cleaning products and materials.

Sure, you can cut that old T-shirt into a dozen or so cleaning patches, but when you get down to it, those kinds of rags just don't get out the grit and absorb grease and grime like good cotton flannel patches cut to the right size for the job.

Perhaps the best place to start with cleaning components is with rods. Most low-cost cleaning kits come with three- or four-section aluminum cleaning rods. They're best sent to the scrap yard for salvage value. Aluminum rods are known to do more harm than good. They often leave traces of aluminum in the barrel and have been known to cause undo wear to the muzzles of guns that cannot be cleaned from the breach.

Brass rods may be a cut above the cheap aluminum deals, but they're not much better. The best gunsmiths and those who really know guns insist on using one-piece steel rods. Some of the better quality steel rods are coated with a substance called Corvel. They certainly cost more that the cheaper aluminum or brass jobs, but they are a lifetime investment and the extra money spent will pay off in terms of additional useful barrel life of the firearm.

The same could be said for rod accessories -- jags, brushes and mops. When it comes to brushes it's a good idea to buy the best quality brass brushes available. A good brass brush will handle 90 percent of all gun barrel cleaning chores. One exception is cleaning copper fouling out of a barrel. Most copper-removing solvents are ammonia based and require nylon brushes.

Once the copper fouling is removed, run a few dry patches through the bore and clean as usual. When it comes to rod tips, jags, brushes, and mops, use the size recommended for the caliber or gauge you are cleaning.

If not available locally, steel cleaning rods and accessories may be purchased by mail order from such companies as Midway or Brownell's.

When it comes to cleaning solvents, virtually everyone is familiar with the old standby, Hoppe's No. 9. Certainly Hoppe's No. 9 will dissolve and remove powder residue from every gun barrel, but it is not effective on copper fouling or heavy lead fouling, and should not be used to clean blackpowder arms.

There are a number of good copper- and lead-removing solvents on the market. One time-proven favorite line is Shooter's Choice. Shooter's Choice offers both a copper and a lead remover and each works exactly as advertised when used as directed. Moreover, Shooters Choice also offers its Choke and Shotgun Tube Cleaner that eats right through the plastic residue and carbon foulings that are the bane of scattergun users.

When it comes to blackpowder residue, there's always the old standby, soap and water. Most dish detergents work well to remove blackpowder residue. However, commercial solvents worth recommending are Ballistol, T&C 13 Cleaner, and Hoppe's No. 9 Plus. (The latter is made specifically for blackpowder and not to be confused with Hoppe's No. 9). Dixie Gun Works also offer a variety of blackpowder cleaning solvents including its Blue and Gray, a solvent which is diluted with plain water before using.

One word of caution. "Gun Scrubber" and similar products are fantastic when it comes to removing old oil, grease and dirt build-up. However, they will also flush out all necessary lubricants from the action, making it necessary to re-lube actions or movable parts.

After cleaning the bores and actions of guns, the outside should be given proper attention. Gun barrels and stocks can be given a fine coating of old fashioned furniture wax (which works well in most cases). Brownell's offers its Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax and Cleaner, too. The wax can be used on gun metals, wood and leather. Exterior metal may also be given a fine coating of Shooter's Choice Rust Prevent in place of wax.

When put away for storage for a few months or longer, bores should be coated as well. Such products as Break Free CLP, Hoppe's MDL or Shooter's Choice Rust Prevent are excellent for keeping rust and moisture out of bores.

It's also a good idea to store guns in a gun case or chemically treated gun sock. But again, a word of caution. Storing handguns (or rifles or shotguns) in leather cases or holsters is an invitation to rust. On foam-lined gun cases you can spray the foam with a light coating of WD-40 or Shooter's Choice Rust Prevent. The key here is "light coating." There's no need to overdo spraying exterior surfaces.

Perhaps there's no better or safer way to remove surface rust on firearms without damaging the bluing than by using a product called Big 45 Frontier Metal Cleaner. It's a coarse, stainless steel scrubbing pad of sorts and works great to remove surface rust. The product is $5 post-paid and is available from: Big 45 Frontier, PO Box 90947, Sioux Falls, SD 57109, or by calling 800-324-1548. A few strands of the steel pad work well to remove rust and lead without damaging the bore.

In short, use good common sense, and use quality products. Take good care of your guns and they will look good and function well when it counts for decades to come.

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