Every Six Months:
Every six months you should unload and disassemble all of the firearms that you may trust to save your life, whether they be the ones that you carry on a daily basis, or that are locked in your safe or strategically stages and hidden throughout your residence. Wipe all of the old lubrication off an apply fresh lubrication. Run brushes and patches, or a Boresnake through your barrel several times, and then reassemble your firearms.
Unload the magazines that you have kept loaded in these firearms for the past six months. Rotate your ammunition to fresh magazine(s). Wipe down the old magazines and put them back in storage.
Replace batteries in any EDC flashlights, weapons mounted lights, and weapons optics that you use frequently, whether they need it or not. If a light is seldom used then you can change it out annually.
Spring Forward & Fall Back:
There are a few chores in our lives that need to be done at regular intervals. Rotate tires, change oil, change batteries in smoke detectors, pay bills, pay taxes, etc. I use my birthday as a reminder to replace the batteries in my smoke detectors and to check the pressure in all of my fire extinguishers.
If you carry a firearm or have any firearms staged in your home for self-defense then there are a couple of other chores that you should do too. Several of these should be accomplished at least twice a year. To make it easy to remember I choose to do them when we change the clocks back and forth between standard time and daylight savings time (fall & spring).
Wipe Them Down And Lube Them:
Hopefully you are able to routinely practice with your defensive firearm(s) and are disciplined enough to properly maintain them after each practice session. You may not have had the chance to practice lately (shame on you…shame), or you may practice with one weapon, but others don’t make it to the range. On several occasions I have witnessed someone bring a firearm out to the range after it has spent an extended time in storage and it won’t function correctly. Many times I have seen empty casings that stuck and wouldn’t fall free from a revolver’s cylinder, and cartridges fail to feed or a casing fail to eject from a semi-auto. Usually I will let the shooter struggle for a few minutes before I ask if I can help (I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence or try to give advice to G.I. Joe who is just home from the war). I always ask when was the last time they shot it. “I dunno…a year or two ago. I cleaned it before I put it away. I can’t figure out what’s wrong.”
I know what’s wrong.
Many petroleum bases lubricants deteriorate into sticky varnish over an extended time period. A year or two ago the shooter cleaned his gun, and afterwards its action was slick as warm butter. Two years later the residual lubricant in the chamber and on the moving parts has turned into a thin, film of goo, similar to the consistency of maple syrup. Rounds may fail to completely charge into battery, or empty casing may get stuck in the chamber to a point that the extractor can’t pull them out. Slides may drag and move sluggishly on frames and not move as freely as they should. I have on several occasions helped a shooter break down their firearm, scrub its parts with an old toothbrush and some fresh gun oil, and then run a brush and patch through the chamber and barrel until they were clean. After a good cleaning their guns always run like a scalded dog (southern slang for really fast). It’s bad enough when a gun that was cleaned two years ago acts like that. Imagine if it was put away dirty and all of the gunshot residue (GSR) impregnated oil turned to varnish. It ain’t gonna shoot.
So what does this mean to you? If you have firearms that you intend for self-defense purposes (carry on your person, or staged at home) you should keep them cleaned and lubricated on a regular basis. Just because it was cleaned a long time ago and then put into storage does not mean that it is still a dependable self-defense tool. Twice a year I fully disassembly any firearms that I might stake my life on and give them thorough cleaning and detailing. Is this overkill? Maybe, but I’ve seen “clean guns” fail too many times, but every time that I shoot my recently maintained firearms they always go bang. Coincidence?
Rotate Your Magazines:
If you are going to keep magazines loaded in your carry gun or home defense gun, I would suggest rotating magazines every six months in order to keep the magazine springs from loosing strength. Many believe that with modern metallurgy the magazine springs will not develop memory when compressed over long periods of time, however my equipment is expensive and my life is too important to take a chance.
Regardless of you metallurgical beliefs, your carried magazines will accumulate dirt, lint, and salt from sweat. After six months of duty it will be a good time for you to disassemble and inspect your recently carried magazines for cracks or dents, and to clean out any dirt or lint that collected in it while it was loaded. You may choose to use a gun oil and rag to wipe off the magazine spring and wipe out the inside of the magazine body to help prevent corrosion, but be sure to wipe them completely dry inside and out before reassembly. Any buildup of oil can penetrate cartridge primers and diminish reliability.
When we change the clocks in the Spring and Fall seasons, I rotate my magazines. I have my magazines numbered with a paint pen and simply download the magazine(s) that I’ve carried for the last six months and then upload the next magazine(s) in sequence.
Everyone knows that they should replace the batteries in the their smoke detectors each year. How about the batteries in the your EDC flashlight, weapons mounted light, and firearms optics? If it concerns a firearm that I might have to trust my life to then I will change out the batteries once a year when I change the batteries in the smoke detectors. Figure out a day of the year that you won’t forget (New Year’s, birthday, etc.).
If I use a light or optic frequently then I will replace the batteries every six months, whether they need it or not. I use the old batteries in other range guns or the kids’ toys.
I like to make sure that my self-defense firearms are cleaned and that my loaded magazines are rotated twice a year when I change the clocks with the time change. Change the clocks = change the mags. We just had our time change last week. Go ahead and detail your weapons and change out your mags. Make a point to do it again in the Spring when we change the clocks again.
Don’t get stuck with a “clean” gun that won’t shoot.